There’s an undeclared civil war in our great nation. On one side is tradition, the financial industry, and great bagels. On the other is innovation, the entertainment industry, and the beach. Yes, the New York versus Los Angeles war has taken on many permutations: Biggie versus Tupac, old money versus new, black tie versus designer jeans, density versus sprawl. Now it has moved into a new terrain, teen dramas.
It all started in the early 1990s when Beverly Hills, 90210 chronicled the lives of a group of wealthy, fictional Southern California teens. The formula was revived for The O.C and the new 90210. Reality shows got into the act with Laguna Beach, which evolved into The Hills. New York’s very different elite wanted their piece of the pie, with Gossip Girl giving everyone a window into the lives of the old money crowd. Now the Upper East Siders are getting their own reality show, with Bravo’s NYC Prep. From the preview it’s clear that this real-life GG is going to be this summer’s major guilty pleasure.
We at fancast are here to enable your addiction to the young, the rich, and the vapid. But which coast delivers the best teen angst? We’ve compiled this handy guide.
HIGH SCHOOL DRAMAS
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These two shows have numerous similarities. Both were created by Josh Schwartz. Each perfectly captures the vibe of their setting. The O.C. was as mellow as day on the beach, with as much comedy as angst. Its characters didn’t think further ahead than the next party. Gossip Girl’s teens are mini-adults, as worried about their futures as their social status.
Romance: Let’s be honest. The O.C’s Ryan and Marissa were pretty lame. The tale of the foster kid and the poor little rich girl should have been Romeo and Juliet. But together, they were boring. Marissa was weak, whiny, and thanks to Mischa Barton’s performance, one-dimensional. No wonder the show killed Marissa off and the hilarious Summer and Seth ended up supplanting them as the show’s signature couple.
Gossip Girl’s Chuck and Blair have one of the most maddening, frustrating, complex relationships on television. The type A Queen Bee and the debauched amoral Bad Boy aren’t opposites. They are all too similar. Each has a pathological fear of being vulnerable. They spent a season and a half refusing to admit they loved each other.
School: Harbor High was an ostensibly elite private school that seemed no different from the typical affluent California high school. The cliques dissolved after the first season, as nerd Seth and poor kid Ryan befriended Summer and Marissa. Constance Billard features fashion forward uniforms, a brutal social hierarchy, a choir that sings Glamorous, and a bevy of strange rituals.
Advantage: Gossip Girl
Friends: The O.C’s Ryan and Seth had one of the sweetest, funniest male friendships in TV teen history. Ryan taught Seth to man up, while Seth encouraged him to relax and enjoy life. Summer and Marissa were similarly supportive of each other through good times and bad. GG’s Blair and Serena vacillate between being besties and plotting to destory each other. Chuck and Nate are often AWOL in each other’s personal crisis, though they usually come through for each other in the end. On the Upper East Side, friendship, like everything else, is a competitive sport.
Advantage: The O.C.
Families: Who didn’t want to be adopted by The O.C’s Cohens? Sandy was a fantastic father, cool enough to surf, compassionate enough to bring Ryan into his home, and full of great advice. Thanks to Kristen, the family was insanely rich. Sandy and Kristen were still crazy in love with each other. Plus, their mansion was gorgeous. All of the parents on Gossip Girl suck in their own ways. Lily jumps from marriage to marriage with little regard for how it affects Serena and Eric. Eleanor often seems to prefer Serena to her daughter Blair, leaving all the actual parenting to her maid Dorota. Bart Bass was openly contemtuous of Chuck. Nate’s Dad is a criminal. Even alleged foof father Rufus rarely has any idea what’s going on in his kids lives.
Advantage: The O.C.
Overall Winner: Gossip Girl, by a thin margin, because its sophomore slump wasn’t as bad as The O.C’s
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Laguna Beach was the reality version of The O.C., with pretty kids who partied in Mexico on the weekends and spent more time surfing than in school. NYC Prep is so clearly modeled on Gossip Girl that the cast seems to be consciously emulating specific GG characters. It’s hard to judge several seasons of LB versus a preview of NYCP. But we won’t let that stop us.
Star Crossed Romance: LB had the epic Lauren/Stephen/Kristen triangle, which featured such classic moments as Kristen pole dancing in Roasrito Beach to get his attention, and the not-at-all-staged shot or Lauren and Stephen placing a “do not disturb” sign on their hotel room door. NYCP clearly intends PC and Jessie to be the show’s Chuck and Blair. Unfortunately, PC seems to be sexually ambiguous and Jessie utterly lacks Blair’s charisma, wit and beauty.
Advantage: Laguna Beach
School: LB really had nothing to do with school. The show wasn’t allowed to film on the Laguna High campus and, other than a few conversations about grades and college applications, it had nothing to do with the show. Bloggers have already figured out which schools most of the NYCP cast attends. Ironically, “poor girl” Taylor’s public school, Stuyvesant, is far more prestigious than the second and third tier prep schools the others attend. But for those viewers who know the difference between Collegiate and Dwight, figuring out all of the insider references will be part of the fun.
Advantage: NYC Prep
Friends: Lauren and Lo’s relationship was part of the charm of LB. These two really seemed like they’d known each other forever and enjoyed each other’s company. Kristen had her own posse of slightly meaner girls. Their adventures including taking a limo to go bowling, a camping trip to Catalina, and endless trips to the beach seemed like a lot of age appropriate fun. The NYCP gang appears to be doing their best to act like 30 year olds. Farrah Fawcett-haired Sebastian has a “wing man” and brags about hooking up. PC takes Taylor to fashion week. It’s fun on GG but seems ridiculous when actual teenagers do it.
Advantage: Laguna Beach
Families: Adults are relegated to supporting roles on both shows. But the parents on LB seemed like nice people who spoiled their kids rotten. NYCP’s Kelli lives in Manhattan with her 18 year-old brother. Her parents only visit once a week. If they had less money, Child Protective Services would come after them.
Advantage: Laguna Beach
Fashion: O.C. is the land of label whores. The girls of LB frequented a fancy local mall, where they bought cookie cutter, expensive looks. The NYCP crowd is more sophisticated and fashion forward.
Overall: Laguna Beach invented the genre. It’s going to be hard to beat.
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If MTV hadn’t come to Laguna Beach High, Lauren Conrad would probably be just another fashion student mooching off her parents. The show turned her into a one woman industry, with her own clothing line and even a book deal. Lauren’s fellow Teen Vogue intern Whitney got her own spin-off in New York. How do they compare?
Romance: Lauren’s relationships on The Hills never lasted. It didn’t help that her real life relationship with actor Kyle Howard was featured in the tabloids but not on the show. The vile Heidi and Spencer romance has made Speidi into tabloid celebrities. Whitney dumped her lame boyfriend Jay in the season finale of The City.
Advantage: The Hills. As horrible as Speidi are, at least they make an impression.
Job: On The Hills, Lauren is portrayed as an entry level employee, even though her glamorous assignments bear little resemblance to the actual jobs fresh-out-of-college people get. Lauren pretended to work at Teen Vogue then at People’s Revolution PR. On The City, Whitney pretends she has a job at Diane Von Furstenberg. Neither is plausible, especially since viewers are well aware of all their outside ventures.
Advantage: The City, because Diane Von Furstenberg’s wrap dresses are a timeless wardrobe staple.
Friends: Lauren and Lo’s frienship has endured from Laguna Beach. Audrina is irritating. The true joy of the show is watching Brody Jenner and his pathetic band of “bros” show the world everything that’s wrong with L.A. men. All of Whitney’s friendships seem unusally producer engineered, even by reality standards.
Advantage: The Hills
Fashion: Grown up Lauren actually wears some pretty cool outfits. Heidi’s stereotypically L.A. tackiness is certainly in character. The Hills does a good job of showcasing the way rich Angeleno Westsiders dress. Whitney’s modelesque figure makes everything she wears look good, but The City’s version of New York fashion is far less interesting than Gossip Girl’s.
Advantage: The Hills
Overall: The Hills, by a landslide. Does anybody really like The City?