I Re-watched the First Episode of Your Favourite Teen Dramas

Teen dramas: they were a staple of growing up. In many ways, they matured along with us and so we judged them kindly. That ends today.

My computer is charged and I have my pencil in hand, snacks beside me. It’s time to re-watch and critique the premieres of four infamous teen shows.

Gossip Girl

I’m convinced that Dan’s haircut is the reason for all his life problems. He started making friends as soon as he grew it out. Coincidence? I think not. As for Nate Archibald, his pretty face lets him get away with a lot. He jumps at the chance to cheat on Blair with Serena, but Serena’s the one who takes all the heat for it. Nate you fool, if you’re lucky enough to be with Blair Cornelia Waldorf you don’t let her go. Chuck is completely unlikable which only makes his eventual growth more impressive. I am in awe of how they managed to turn his character around because they definitely made it hard for themselves.

Queen B reigns supreme. I used to think Blair was unlikable in the first few episodes of the show (before she went on to become the best character) but this time I liked her right away. You can see how her feelings of desperation and loneliness drive her every action and it’s both heartbreaking and compelling. Dan and Serena’s relationship is adorable. There’s one distinct moment when Serena and Dan are about to go on their first date; she walks out in her sequin gold dress, sees Dan looking at her with adoration and gives him the purest smile. It melted my icy heart just a fraction. But the shining star of this episode is Jenny Humphrey, I forgot how likable she was in season one. Taylor Momsen is spectacular. The way she portrays herself as a scared wannabe trying to project confidence? Perfection.

The Verdict: If you can get over a few cheesy lines and the characterization of Nate and Chuck, this is a well-paced episode. It’s nothing revolutionary but it’s a whole lot of fun.

Glee

I’m a Gleek so this pains me to say, but that was tragic. The first episode put me in less of a singing mood and more of a screaming mood.

Remember the glee teacher you’re supposed to like and root for? He planted marijuana in a kid’s locker to force him to join the club. Remember the star quarterback? He changes his mind faster than Troy Bolton from High School Musical. And our diva Rachel Berry? She reports a case of pedophilia to get a teacher fired, only because she’s jealous he gave someone else a better singing part than her! With the exception of “Don’t Stop Believing,” every song is lifeless and uncoordinated. I don’t think the glee club is supposed to be good from the start but those songs were a whole new level of painful. The bizarre thing about the episode is that for all its faults, it’s still entertaining. The scenes move at a breakneck pace, and some of the jokes really land. I think I’m supposed to dislike Sue Sylvester because she mercilessly taunts our main characters, but most of these characters are so unlikeable in the premiere that I find myself rooting for her. She is a high point in this episode exuding presence, style and originality. But what kind of fan would I be if I didn’t give the gold star to Rachel Berry? She’s selfish, pretentious and extremely obnoxious. I can understand why people hate her, and yet I love her more for all her faults. It’s so common for main characters to be lifeless and boring but Rachel oozes personality. The first episode never tries to make you love Rachel and I would argue that you’re not supposed to. But her starting point sets up the conflict and emotional development for the rest of the show. And I’ll be damned if you don’t like Glee’s rendition of the Journey song “Don’t Stop Believing.”

The Verdict: A train wreck, equal parts awful and captivating.

The Vampire Diaries

The bad? Stephen and Elena are saved by good dialogue because they have no chemistry in this first episode. There, I said it. And look, I know they have chemistry in later episodes – I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. Judging by the premiere alone, it just wasn’t an immediate spark. They have a standout moment when Stephen tells Elena that “[she] won’t be sad forever” about the death of her parents, but the long stares are more uncomfortable than romantic. Stephen as a character really doesn’t hold up on a re-watch. He acts as though he’s a “good vampire,” but he’s there to stalk his ex-girlfriend’s human doppelganger. Own your villainous side, Stephen! I love his overarching series development but I can’t take him seriously when he complains about his brother being a bad guy. He’s done all the same things as Damon, just at different times in his immortal life. On the flip side, it would be so easy to say that Elena is a basic “it-girl.” And admittedly, that’s what I thought when I first watched the show, but my perspective has changed. The legend herself, Miss Caroline Forbes, calls out the fact that Elena is seemingly perfect but we know that’s not the case. She’s a girl trying to go back to being perfect and realizing that she can’t. Nina Dobrev is pure talent. I’m convinced that half of the reason Elena’s character works is because Nina can sell any line of cheesy dialogue. The other characters are well established too. Bonnie? A badass Salem witch. Jenna? The cool aunt trying to be responsible. Jeremy? The mopiest mophead you’ve ever seen, but we will give him a pass because he’s a sadboi. The soundtrack deserves an award as it’s perfectly atmospheric without being intrusive.

The Verdict: Stephen’s 1980s romance stare isn’t great, but it’s not enough to ruin this fantastic first episode.

Pretty Little Liars

Me, while watching Glee: Nothing can be worse than this.

2 Hours Later...

Me: Uh oh.

I’d like to report a series of murders. The victims include acting, scriptwriting and my sanity. “Taking this one to the grave” is a good summary of how I feel about this episode, but let me try to unpack it further.

The show opens with our core group of girls who are sleeping in Spencer’s creepy and unfurnished den even though she lives in a mansion because...reasons. When their friend Alison goes missing, Spencer says “I think I heard her scream” like she’s reporting the morning weather and it kind of made me laugh – so points for unintentional humour? We have our main character Aria, who has the personality of dry toast. The romance between Aria and her English teacher Ezra makes every other relationship to ever exist look like a masterpiece. There’s also a terrible cliché of the “deviant and promiscuous lesbian” named Maya who meets Emily. At least we have Spencer who *checks notes* always falls for her sister’s boyfriends? Er... okay, but Hanna! Nope, she shoplifts for fun. God, are any of these main characters remotely likable? And why are all the men on this show attracted to underage women?There really isn’t anything great about this premiere besides the iconic theme song. What I will say is that the cast, for the most part, is really trying. The actress who plays Hanna is especially strong in her more sullen scenes. They’re given terrible dialogue and character motifs to work with, but their effort is commendable. Ian Harding, who plays Ezra, is good at showing conflicted emotions and vulnerability. It’s a shame about his character. There’s one touching 30-second scene between Emily and Aria, both expressing their feelings of loneliness, and it’s the closest thing to emotion in the entire episode.

The Verdict: You’re better off watching the theme song on loop for 45 minutes.

With that, I have officially ripped off my nostalgia goggles. It was surprising and at times cringe-worthy, but getting to share my thoughts with you made it worthwhile.