Well, great TV spirits be thanked/damned, it finally arrived. NYC Prep! The show about Real Life rich kids who are real life Girls who sometimes Gossip. Even the two boys, Sebastian and PC, are Girls. Who Gossip. Let's talk.
It's hard to recap a first episode, because we're just meeting all the youngsters—getting to know their peculiar BO stink, the weird way their tight little faces try to make facial expressions, their cockly eyes, their billowing girl-magnet manes. One thing we can be certain of, one constant like the Pole Star, is that teenagers fucking suck. Teenagers are horrible creatures whom nobody likes and who like nobody. Well, OK, that's not exactly true. Teenagers like each other in fits and starts, sweaty lusting and sad desperate clawing towards one another, the kind of thing that makes you glad that, even though you are feeling old and cancerous and haven't left the house for two days, you escaped that age. That you busted out and figured out other people at least somewhat, at least halfway, and so nothing is as fraught as it once was. Nothing is as exciting, either, but that's the compromise of growing up.
We met these kids in media res. PC the urban dandy and his trusty and loveless assistant Jessi met to discuss things like boys and girls and dating and loving each other. This was supposed to establish their rapport as friendly but sharp, with PC as the witty-but-mean dilettante and Jessi as the hardened New York fashion lover with a tiny pinhole prick in her heart for this dark, caustic Oscar Wilde. But mostly we saw a young boy trying very, very hard. Every little cock of the head and withering smile so practiced and childish, his face and limbs still lanky with baby fat, everything squirming in those trussed-up fashion garments. And Jessi was just sad for PC, sad in love, sad in loss. She looked at him as best she could and she knew he was gone, but it didn't matter, dear Diary. It will never matter, never ever. She'll always keep chasing.
The pair discussed going to some sort of fashion-art event and they both agreed it would be good to be there, to network as 18-year-olds, to make a go of it. Deep inside Jessi thought And to kiss! To hug and kiss and let the rest of the world fall away! Oh, just once! But she buried it down and talked to the camera about fashion. It is very important to her. Clothes are like her children. And, in the future, her children will be like clothes: boring after a few years.
Anyway, let's leave them in their leather banquette corner for a bit. Over to Kelli and Camille, two best bitchy friends who never know what the hell they're talking about. Camille is the glass-eyed go-getter, a girl as driven-yet-purposeless as any of those lonely Tracy Flicks you knew in your high school. Right now the plan is Harvard, then Genetics (right?), then at 40, kids and a hubby. As if nothing gets in the way! I bet it'll be Middlebury, maybe, and she'll study drama, and then she'll bounce around lonely in New York for a few years, smoking too much weed, but having no reason to stop. Eventually she'll meet Ruth at a yoga class she decides to go to one lazy, drizzly April Saturday afternoon and the two will get to talking. "Didn't I see you somewhere?" Ruth will ask, her bangs falling in her face (a phenomenon that Camille will come to cherish and adore, but she won't know it then). Camille will laugh darkly and say "Long story..." and then she'll tell it over coffee and though she'll never tell that one particular story ever again, she and Ruth will end up having coffee forever, and that will be a life. But for now, it's Harvard and genetics. We'll see.
But anyway, in the here and now. Camille's friend is Kelli, a girl with pointy features and screwed up everything else. See her blonde ice queen mother and toothy father live in an enormous summer palace in the Hamptons year-round. But Kelli wants to sing and her older brother wants to I don't know what, so their parents said oh sure what the hell, live in an apartment in Manhattan all by yourselves. We'll come see you once a week and we'll order Chinese, like every week is Jewish Christmas. Which is such a good idea! For kids to be kept lonely in some apartment, staying out whenever they want, never feeling the tug of responsibility or, oh what the hell, love. Ugh.
Evs. Kelli went to dinner with her two no-name friends and they sat there like Carrie Bradshaws or Blair Winkerwonks or whatever and drank soda pop and then from the doorway emerged some golden god of sandy beaches and warm rumpled bedsheets. It was Sebastian, the long-maned stuff of teenage girl catnip. Confident and breezy, boyish and dull in just the right measure. There's nothing terribly cute about Sebastian, I think we're allowed to say that, but you kind of get why all the girlies lurve him so. Because he acts like they want to act: comfortable. It's that simple. Kid just doesn't give a shit. Or is at least very good at pretending that he doesn't. Either way, it just gets everybody's brand new delicates in a knotted bunch. Especially, that evening, Kelli's. See Sebastian leveled his caramel gaze on Kelli and decided that she was the next one. And the minute he did so, she was hooked.
The pair went on a date downtown so she could buy clothes. Sebastian sat there on a black leather couch and commented on her outfits. The one we saw was a dangerously low-cut black dress that he said looked nice and she said she didn't like it because she wanted it shorter and Sebastian's gear-eyes turned and you could see he was figuring out a new tactic, realigning his strategy ever so slightly because oh maybe now she was easier than he'd thought. Kelli didn't really notice, or did and liked it, so she invited him to a party she was going to at a Japanese restaurant somewhere downtown. (Was it Japonais? I think it was.) He casually said he would go and inside Kelli everything did bellyflops and a door flew wide open.
The girl, who was having the party? Her name is Rags McTattershanty, and she lives under a bridge eating bugs and canned lima beans. Rags goes to a public school called Professor Shitbox's Idiot Academy for Nobodies, where all the trashcans are on fire and hobos teach you Hobo Arithmetic and in gym class you learn how to jump boxcars. Rags really hates it because she wants to be one of the rich kids just like the private schoolers are, plus her mom is a mean old goat (literally, a goat wearing a necklace and carrying a purse) that keeps trying to eat her BlackBerry. It just sucks so bad being her, and being so poor, and having all her best hats can-openered open and all her gloves getting their fingers cut off and sometimes when it's very late at night and one star shines brightly in the tarnished tin sky she fondles her bindle and dreams of Mexico.
But for now she's dreaming of a party and while the mean old goat doesn't want her to have it, she's a goat and what can she do, really? So it's off to the bash at the upstairs lounge of Japonais. The party looked really fun. Who doesn't want to sit in a darkened room with a bunch of high school girls who won't talk to each other because everyone's awkward and everyone is wearing dumb dresses meant to hide terrible rolls of things and that's it? There's probably soda pop and no one eats because it's a 15-year-old girl's birthday party. Camille and Kelli show up and Camille doesn't really know how to talk to anyone. See, whenever Camille is around other girls she gets this cotton-mouthy feeling and she starts uncontrollably trembling and her stomach squeals and ties and she gets warm all over. She just doesn't get it! (Once, one morning when Ruth has decided to call in sick and the two are lying knit-up in bed, Camille will tell her about this feeling and Ruth will turn and kiss her eyelids and say "Yeah, me too." And then they'll groggily and excitedly plan what to do with the rest of stolen day.)
Anyway, all the girl tension was broken when, like a colt coming galloping out of the barn on a misty spring morning, in sauntered Sebastian. A nervous hush fell across the crowd and everyone gurgled and Rags' favorite hobo love song played in her head:
Beans, baby, beans.
Do you know what it means?
That from fava or lima or kidney or chick
You're the only bean that I'd pick?
Forget knives and trains and jamboree fires
You 'n soup is alls I requires.
And Sebastian too was thinking about some sort of love song—this one about fingering under the bleachers after lacrosse practice, far less romantic—so he immediately turned on the ol' Floppy Haired Charm and Rags smiled and began to tap her foot a bit.
Remember the story of Junkpan Zeke
Met a girl and couldn't speak
So he cut open a doggie-do's heart
Now he 'n Lady Bootstrap never do part.
Kelli can tell when a hobo is falling in love, just always been something she could do, and she can also tell when asshole rich boys are losing interest in you, just something you can tell, and so she and Camille stormed out and Kelli cried softly on the street and another girl was ruined forever. Sebastian meanwhile played all cool and got the Rags' digits and, well, another girl was ruined forever.
So then it was time for the big Fashion-Art Party that was going fine until a bunch of stupid teenagers with camera crews decided to crash the damn thing. (Or maybe, you know, the whole party was arranged for the stupid teenagers with camera crews.) Jessi had been having dinner with her fart-faced friend Marissica. She and Marissica have a mutual love of fashion and so they find lots to talk about. Like how Marissica is willing to wear $20 clothing because she's "so downtown." I don't think "downtown" means anymore what people think it means. I mean, it sort of does... But... Ugh, white people. Jessi also complained that she had been written about on some sort of wannabe Gossip Girl site that said "Saw Jessi getting out of a car." Scandalous! Jessi hated that she was being written about on websites. Jessi loved that she was being written about on websites.
Then Marissica brought up the topic of PC. You know, 'cause Jessi and PC are such good friends and they used to date "such a long time ago." You know what annoys/tickles me more than anything else about teenagers, maybe? How if they're 18, something that happened when they were 16 was "such a long time ago." Like they're old seasoned pros now, and that was just their wild past. I know that time is stretched out in weird ways during high school, but it's just so funny. And annoying. It is both! Digressions! You could tell that Jessi is still butt-crazy in love with PC and she will be blinkered til the day she dies about what sort of .... proclivities ... he may or may not have. (But we're not talking about that today! I promise!) Outside a rainy car honked its bleary horn and it was PC waiting to go to Fashion-Art (Fart!).
At the party Jessi turned her eyes upward to all the professional fashion types, while PC had to look below him to feel cool. This is how his pecking order works. Someone older and more experienced in the ways of absolutely everything would find PC ridiculous. But two younger girls, girls like Camille and Kelli!, would find him... oh, ha, completely ridiculous. Well, at the party they didn't, but later... Before Later happens, Jessi saw PC chatting it up and boy oh boy did she get mad. Not because she was being ignored, not because she was supposed to have a wingman for talking about Fart. No, it was simply because she loves PC dearly and she wants him only with her, only a part of her, never using his questionable charms (PC said something earlier about talking like a snake but eventually being "bitten by the creature" and he thought it was so clever and wicked and I just put my head in my hands because kids are so dumb) on anyone else but her. But Jessi can't articulate any of this because she knows, deep down, what the answer will be, what it will always be, so instead she sulks and pouts and tries to make the drama exciting, tries to make the drama something fulfilling and whole in its own right. If I can't be in loved, I can at least be sad and angry, totally completely butt-crazy sad and angry. Whatever works, babe.
So she stormed off and PC acted like a regular bitch and condescended knowingly to his little compatriots and said they should have dinner. So they did have dinner! Jessi was mad when she found out, but again hid it under the potato field of her face, buried it in the loamy Idahoan soil of her cheeks and smiled a toothy, sandy smile. So at dinner PC acted a regular fool, asking the girls if they were 12 (they are) and offending Camille with his sunflower-faced sensibilities. ("I knew then. I think I knew then," she'll say thoughtfully to Ruth as they stare out over the Adriatic, happy and full of memory on a sunsetty vacation.) PC just thought it was ridiculous and funny that they still get grounded and he's so old and Kelli's face crumbled like it was on a mountain face in New Hampshire because, why were boys like this? And another girl was ruined forever, again.
Speaking of girls being ruined, forever, Sebastian and his lame wingman Peter Pettigrew went to Kurve to woo some new ladies. Kurve is an empty spacestation Thai restaurant around the corner from my old apartment and it is always so sad because no one is there. They must have pissed themselves when Bravo showed up, brandishing clipboards and sweet, sweet publicity. Anyway, Seb and Scabbers devised a system wherein Seb would grunt and muggingly toss his hair toward the "one he wanted." The "one he wanted" turned out to be a toothy thing by the name of Celine who looked at him with calf-eyes and flirted the way she'd seen in movies. Sebastian wooed her with his French, saying filthy things and translating it as "I want to marry you tonight," and Celine coyly twirled her iced tea and said "Where would we go on our honeymoon?" Sebastian hopefully thought Third base... but instead said aloud "The South of France, of course." Then the kids talked about girlfriends and boyfriends and Sebastian said he wanted a girlfriend when he was old and ready to settle down, like when he was 25 or something. Then I shot myself and my roommate sent my mother a lovely corsage in condolence.
No, actually what happened was that another girl was ruined, forever.
Of course eventually all of Sebastian's ways will blow up in the face of the one who truly loves him, poor dejected Rags McTattershanty. She'll stare off into the flickering dusk there under that bridge and sing an ancient hobo lament.
Apple cores and bean poles
Hat shops and ant holes.
Clam digs and found teeth,
Mud pies with rocks beneath!
All good things, and all that's left,
Since you gone and made me bereft.
She'll pull her thatched newspaper blanket over her shivering shoulders and fall asleep. She'll dream a dream of Jell-O sculptures and succotash saucers. Creamed peas and open gates. She'll dream lonely Hobo dreams, stray dogs licking at her toes, Matchman Bob strumming his banjo made of bones.
Also what happened is that Camille got her SAT scores back and they were decent, so good for her. Maybe everything really will happen. Maybe all will fall into place and she'll think it's grand. But what she'll miss will be immeasurable. The trip to Orono to meet Ruth's parents, the trip when she fell while hiking and when Ruth ran over and saw Camille in bloody pain, the sudden stricken look of pure wild love that Camille saw streak across Ruth's face. The day, while walking down Bowery looking for a lamp, that Ruth got the call and found out that yes, the procedure had taken and there was to be a baby. All these bits of one life. Belonging only to itself, and to none other.
Later PC threw a water bottle at Jessi and Jessi got upset and then they made up and the cars of Columbus Circle roared on by and two kids disappeared into a particular night.
I don't know how thrilled I was by this episode, honestly. I think the show has great potential, and the preview clips make me believe as much. It looks as though those wicked Bravo producers are indeed setting us up for something, um, about PC, wink wink. And there will be Sebastian being a jerk and spitting in the street and many, many more girls will be ruined, and I'm hooked! Just getting to the end of that sentence, I'm hooked.
I do wonder, though, what these kids will think of it. Or what they did think of it last night. You know, time moves so slowly and yet so fast then. Years change you then like decades do later in life. Now that, for some of them, high school has become a dull, thin membrane receding into the past, like Staten Island fading behind you as you arch across the Verrazano, I wonder if they realize what a silly mistake it was. A permanent tattoo of something so mercifully fleeting. Because they are older now. And presumably (hopefully...) they've changed, grown up a bit.
Ah well. Beds have been made. Now let's go lie in 'em.
Um, you know, not creepily.