to get into clubs, Rodgers used to have to explain to bouncers that he’d written the songs the DJ was playing inside. Photo: PAL HANSEN/CONTOUR BY GETTY IMAGES
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The man with two brains: inside the strange mind of Nile Rodgers

Nile Rodgers is responsible for $2bn worth of hits – with Chic, Madonna, David Bowie – but he can’t switch off the noise in his head.

On the top floor of a hotel in London, Nile Rodgers looks exactly as you would want him to: two silver earrings, gap-toothed smile and dreads so tidy that they might be attached to his hat. We have been speaking for a few minutes when I realise he is contending with another sound in the room.

“Do you hear that?” (He emits a low, whooshing sound that connects in pitch with the mechanical hum of the air conditioner.) “That’s in my head now and there’s music going along with it,” he says. I am reminded of Warren Zevon, whose song “Desperados Under the Eaves” features an orchestral climax inspired by a particularly musical AC unit in an LA hotel room. What tune is Nile’s playing?

“Well, I’m not going to sing it in case it sounds stupid,” he says. “But it’s almost as if my brain is doing two jobs: talking to you and hearing this. I can choose to pay ­attention to it or not but it’s still going on, this stupid din.”

Can he hear drums with it as well?

“No.”

He hasn’t filled it out with a band?

“No. It’s probably why I don’t sleep,” he continues. “The blessing is that I always seem to have musical ideas. The curse is that I always seem to have musical ideas. And they’re not necessarily good ones.”

Rodgers gets about as much sleep as Margaret Thatcher did. He has been that way since he was six and a half, he says, when he was diagnosed as having “all three types of insomnia”: type one, when you can’t fall asleep; type two, when you sleep in fits and starts; and type three, when you wake up too early. Why did the problem start when he was so young?

“I can hypothesise,” he says, “but I don’t know.”

This unusual answer comes up more than once today. I expect him to tell me that he couldn’t sleep as a boy because his heroin addict stepdad was causing disruption in the household, or because their Lower West Side apartment in New York was full of beatniks, or the parties were too loud. (Rodgers must be one of very few people who’ve served drinks at their own mother’s 21st birthday – he was seven at the time.) But he thinks it’s because he wasn’t allowed to sleep with his glasses on. And he was convinced that there were monsters in his room. And, without his specs, he couldn’t tell exactly where they were. So he would keep his eyes open till it got light.

Now, Rodgers shares his sleepless moments by tweeting pictures of the dawn skies. I think of his fellow insomniac and hit factory Burt Bacharach, who was cadging sleeping pills off his mother by the age of 15. Perhaps it takes a certain kind of neurosis to write the sorts of songs that make everyone else feel instantly good inside.

But back to the air con. I ask him if musicians’ brains pick up on everyday sounds that the rest of us can’t hear.

“Hypothesis,” he says again. “Some people have told me it’s a variation on synaesthesia; something that’s completely audible to you and you alone. Like, I remember once – and thank God it was only once – I started hearing voices and they were clear as a bell. It was the one and only time that I suffered from cocaine psychosis. There was a voice whispering in my ear: ‘Nile, Nile.’ It was telling me that somebody was after me. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the film Goodfellas but there’s a great depiction of that, when you do too much cocaine, and he’s looking up at the helicopter. Anyway, the voice was telling me there were people coming to get me. That scared me to death!”

Was that before or after his cocaine overdose in 1994, when he is said to have died eight times in one night?

“Oh, it was after that. Well after that.”

So it was another reason to stop the drugs?

“It was the only reason. The overdose didn’t make me stop.”

In the past few years, it’s become common knowledge that Rodgers has had his fingers in more pies than you can imagine as a producer and songwriter: he is now
understood to be a legendary Quincy Jones-style figure. At Womad in 2008 I watched Chic (minus Rodgers’s musical partner Bernard Edwards, who died in 1996), in a kind of warm-up slot, playing “Good Times” and “Le Freak” in broad daylight while the crowd got a buzz on by eating vodka jellies. In June, before their first album of new material in 23 years is released, footballers and models will pay £360 a head to see them at an exclusive gig in west London.

Rodgers’s 2013 song “Get Lucky”, co-written with Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams, sold 9.3 million copies, more than Elvis’s “It’s Now or Never”. He tells me that if he were producing Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” in 2015, he’d get a co-writing credit on that, too, because the “sweetening” required of his role as producer – writing fills, strings, and so on – is now considered part of the songwriting process (that’s why tracks by Katy Perry and Britney Spears are often credited to half a dozen people). In the 1970s, he’d only get let into New York’s more exclusive clubs when he explained to the bouncers that he’d written some of the hits that were playing on the dance floor.

It’s been a strange life in many ways, balancing an anonymous role with the grand, puppet-master ego that goes with this kind of work. I have always been impressed by musicians who admit that they don’t listen to much music by other people but I had never come across one who explains that he doesn’t need to because he hears his own music playing in his head, all the time.

When Rodgers was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010, his doctor recommended long walks every day to strengthen his body for treatment. He would set off from his apartment on the Upper West Side in the early hours of the morning. Although he took no iPod with him, these were musical excursions. On his cancer blog, Walking on Planet C, he recalls that the first song that entered his head on leaving his house that first morning was “Let’s Dance”, the David Bowie hit that he co-wrote and produced. After 1.3 miles, he entered a diner and heard the entire staff singing along to Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family”, another of his mega-hits. When he paid his bill, he told the waiters that it was his song. He was so hurt to find out they didn’t know that he could feel tears coming. He cheered himself up by singing the track in his head, three times in its entirety, between the diner and home. Cancer may have knocked Rodgers off his axis temporarily but he was given the all-clear and, on 20 March this year, he released a new single, “I’ll Be There”, to coincide with the exact moment of the solar eclipse. As the moon passed in front of the sun, it seemed that the world really did, for a few seconds, revolve around his tunes.

Walking by his childhood home at Greenwich and Bethune, Rodgers noticed that the New York fire escapes were being phased out and the façades of the houses were cleaner than they used to be. Aged 16, he joined the Black Panthers. This was in 1968 –
the year of Martin Luther King’s assassination, the Oakland ambushes and the killing of Bobby Hutton; the year that J Edgar Hoover declared the organisation “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country”. Rodgers is keen to point out that before he joined the Black Panthers, he was in the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts.

“The Boy Scouts did exactly the same stuff that we did in the Black Panthers, except that in the Boy Scouts, you were doing it to earn merit badges and stuff,” he says. “The Panthers were just part of my childhood. I was socialised to care about people. It was basically a community organisation. My main job was sweeping up the sidewalk, cleaning apartments, fixing people’s plumbing. I was a really good cook, so when we started the breakfast programme for kids, a lot of times I would cook breakfast and we’d go into schools. That was awesome.”

No armed action?

“No way, Jose. I always look at the media perspective and I go, ‘Man, I guess the Panthers were really good at marketing, because that’s not what our lives were like at all!’ You know what I always think about?” he continues. “When I was a kid, there were always people to help across the street. They were just standing on the corner like this” – he
stands up and shuffles forward, feet together, and stops, his head down – “waiting for you to help them. And you knew it was your job. Nowadays, I never see anyone standing at the corner waiting for a young person to come along. Where have they gone?”

He belonged to the Panthers’ Harlem unit, which, he tells me, was an odd and colourful enterprise.

“My section leader was white, going by the name of Yellow Kidney. He was pretending to be a Native American – he looked like one – and his mom was a famous anthropologist. It was almost as if he had taken one of his mother’s stories and channelled that character. He wanted to be someone else entirely. He was fantastic. We had a very privileged lifestyle because our section was in their brownstone, which was right next to Anthony Perkins’s house. Perkins was our guy, used to come to our meetings. I knew the woman who would become his wife, Berry Berenson, all my life – right up until she died in 9/11.”

Rodgers has claimed many times that “the Hitmaker” – the 1960 Fender Strat he bought in 1973 – sounds like no other guitar in the world. A hardtail model without a whammy bar (hardtails were cheaper), it encouraged Rodgers to develop a unique playing style: the spindly, sparkling, wakka-wakka sound he calls “chucking”, which was one of the greatest influences on the playing of Johnny Marr. Rodgers’s model is made from a particular shipment of wood, he explains – thinner, lighter than it should have been. I ask him to tell me more and he says, well, here’s the rumour:

“It’s old enough that it was built under the auspices of the Fender creator, Leo Fender, and he was the cheapest guy in the world. If he saw a screw on the floor, honestly, he would pick up that screw and fit it into something. So they were offered this shipment of wood – alder – for a great price, up in Fullerton, California, and the only caveat was they had to go pick it up. When they got there, they found out that the farm was up a mountain so they had to rent a bunch of trucks to get up there and it wound up costing a whole lot more. Fender said, ‘Oh, man, I’ve spent so much money on this wood. We’ll cut the guitars just a little bit thinner, make a few more, and no one will ever know.’ So my Strat is lighter and thinner than any other Strat in the world.”

In 2013, the NME estimated that Rodgers’s guitar had produced $2bn worth of music. In October that year he left it on the Metro-North commuter train from Grand Central to Westport, Connecticut. It was recovered after several hours with the help of a ticket agent called Bob who “didn’t know me from Adam” and Rodgers went from devastation to celebration in a heartbeat. Given the instrument’s talismanic power, it is strange that he has only recently had copies made and still carries it around in a soft case.

Other areas of his life are guided by a sense of fate and superstition, including, apparently, the decision to play Chic’s music again without Bernard Edwards, who died from pneumonia, following years of hard living, straight after a concert in Tokyo celebrating Rodgers’s work as a “superproducer”. Rodgers discovered his body in his hotel room. A call from a Japanese promoter inviting him back to Tokyo a few years later came around the anniversary of Edwards’s death – “a sacred time of year, sakura, when the cherry blossoms come out. You know The Last Samurai, where the guy is dying and the cherry blossoms are falling on his face?”

Chic’s forthcoming album, It’s About Time, works up unfinished studio material featuring the original band back in the day. Rodgers communed with Edwards’s ghost by listening to the chatter picked up between tracks on the “talkback” microphone during the recording sessions. The subject of these conversations was “both ­topical and typical”, he says: at one point, the pair discuss the amount of weed smoked at Bob Marley concerts (“You couldn’t see the stage”). Rodgers says that whether they were producing a ballad or something heavier, they would joke through the entire session. “We were never serious, even when we were playing emotional music, because, I guess, you’re just trying to save face in front of the guys, you know what I mean? And because I wanted people to always come back to me.”

He tells me that for the past 24 hours he has been wrestling with the notion that making a new Chic album is the most self-indulgent thing he has ever done. “Because it’s all about me. And in those days, the spotlight wasn’t on me at all. My friends had to tell people I was the guy who wrote ‘Everybody Dance’! It shows you how fabulous anonymity can be,” he says, though there have clearly been times in his life when it didn’t feel so fabulous.

“Chic was all about being anonymous. Like Daft Punk. They’ll never get old, because you’ll never know who they are.”

Kate Mossman is the New Statesman's arts editor and pop critic.

This article first appeared in the 27 May 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Saying the Unsayable

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How Gossip Girl changed the way we talk about television

Recappers Chris Rovzar and Jessica Pressler reminisce about the Best. Show. Ever.

If you watched Gossip Girl from 2007-2012, then you’ll know it was The Greatest Show of Our Time. Silly, ridiculous, insider-y, and deeply New York, Gossip Girl was a show that lived and died on its in jokes. For so many of the show’s viewers, talking about this ridiculous Rich Kids of The Upper East Side drama was as important as watching it. But, premiering in 2007, Gossip Girl aired at a time just before social media dominated television conversations. Now, every viewer has a channel to make memes about their favourite show as soon as it hits screens. Gossip Girl was a show about bitchy teenagers mocking each other that cried out for audiences to tease them, too. They just needed a space to do it in.

Chris Rovzar and Jessica Pressler caught on to that fact early. TV recaps were still a fledgling genre when the Gossip Girl pilot emerged, but the New York Magazine writers could tell that this was a show that needed in-depth, ironic analysis, week on week. The most popular Gossip Girl recaps were born. These included the Reality Index (points awarded for, to take one episode, being “More Real Than Serena Sleeping With a Teacher After Less Than One Semester”), the cleavage rhombus (in tribute to Serena’s fashion choices), and the Most Obnoxious Real-Estate Conundrum of Our Time. If this is all second nature, you might even know what I mean when I say “No points, just saying.” It is these kinds of inside jokes that made New York Magazine’s Vulture recaps of the show so irresistible, and so influential. Each week, Rovzar and Pressler would run down the most absurd and the most spot-on New York moments of the episodes, and soon developed a cult following with a very devoted audience. Their recaps were became so popular that the creators responded to their burning questions, and the two were given a cameo on the show itself. They even also wrote recaps of the recaps, to include the best observations from hundreds of commenters.

Now the show is over, their work has spawned a thousand similarly tongue-in-cheek TV blogs: from ever-popular Game of Thrones power rankings to new versions of the Reality Index for other shows. A decade after Gossip Girl first aired, I reminisced with Rovzar and Pressler about their contributions to the Best. Show. Ever.

How did you come across Gossip Girl? Was it love at first watch?

Jessica: I had just moved to New York. Chris and I were thrown together at New York Magazine vertical Daily Intelligencer. He was much more of a seasoned New York person who knew what things were cool, and I was this yahoo from a different city. I was basically Dan Humphrey, and he was Serena. He got the pilot from a publicist, and he said there was a lot of a hype. The O.C. had been a huge show. So the fact the creators [were] coming to New York, doing all these real location shoots, and it was going to be a New York-y show was exciting, especially to us, because we were in charge of covering local New York news at that point. And it was really boring in 2007! Everything exciting happened the following year, like the Eliot Spitzer scandal, but in 2007 there was nothing going on. And Sex in the City had just ended, so there was a void in that aspirational, glamorous, TV space. So we were like, we’re going to hype this up, and then we’ll have something really fun to write about. And it was fun!

Chris: The CW needed a new hit, and it was the show that they were hoping would define the programming they would make going forward, so they really hyped it up before it aired. They sent us a screener. We watched it and realised that because they filmed it in New York, they were going to really use the city. It checked the boxes of Sex in the City and The O.C., with a young beautiful cast out in real world situations.

Jessica and I decided that this show was going to be a show that we wanted to write about, because it was so New York-y. I don’t think our bosses cared either way. Our bosses were grown-ups! They didn’t watch Gossip Girl! But from the very beginning, we called it The Greatest Show of Our Time, because we knew it was going to be a really iconic New York show. And it was very good at making these running jokes or gags, like Blair with her headbands, or Serena with her super tight dresses.

And the cleavage rhombus?

Chris: And the cleavage rhombus! We eventually got to know the costume designer and the producers and the writers. Once they recognised the things that we were writing about in the show, they would adopt them. The cleavage rhombus came up a few more times because they knew the audience knew about the cleavage rhombus.

Do you have an all-time favourite character or plot line or episode?

Chris: Our favourite character was Dorota. She was very funny and the actress, Zuzanna Szadkowski, was very well used. I think we were all rooting for Chuck and Blair. Sometimes with shows like Friends, by the end, when Ross and Rachel finally get together, you think, “Hm, I’m not sure I wanted Ross and Rachel to get together.” But the show was good at making Chuck and Blair the central romance, and you were psyched about how that ended up.

Jessica: Well, now, of course you look back and the Jared [Kushner] and Ivanka [Trump] cameo was, like, the best thing ever. It’s so nice to remember a time when those two were extras in our lives, instead of central characters. And then Nate, of course, went and bought that newspaper, which I believe was called The Spectator, which was a thinly veiled Observer. There was this succession of blonde temptresses brought in to tempt Nate. I don’t even know what he was supposed to be doing! I don’t know why they were there, or what their purpose was! But that was an ongoing theme, and that was kind of amazing. One was a schoolgirl, one was a mom. Catherine, and Juliet – and yes, I do remember all their names.

But for us, it was the real stuff that was really fun. They put in cameos of people only we would know – like Jonathan Karp, the publisher at Simon & Schuster. Or the couple who run The Oracle Club [a members’ club in New York] – I saw them recently and we talked about how we still receive $45 royalty cheques from our cameos because an episode aired in Malaysia. And Armie Hammer! They really went out of their way to involve real New Yorkers.

How did it work each week? Did you have screeners and write it leisurely in advance?

Jessica: No, no, we had to do it live! We had a screener for the pilot. We got them probably three times in the whole course of the show. We would normally be up till three in the morning.

Chris: My husband eventually stopped watching it with me because I was constantly pausing and rewinding it, asking: “What did they say? What was that? Did you see that street sign? Do you think that dress is Balenciaga?” It becomes very annoying to watch the show with someone who’s doing that. Each of us would do our own points and we would email them to each other and mix them up. That way you could cover a lot more stuff.

What made you decide to do the Reality Index? Did you ever really disagree on points?

Chris: It always more about wanting to say something funny than about the actual points. Very occasionally we would disagree over whether something was realistic or not. We were both adults, and there was a lot of trying to figure out what kids would do. Like in the first episode, they sent out paper invites for a party, and we said, “Oh, no, kids would use Evite!” And then a lot of readers were like “Are you kidding me? Kids would use Facebook cause this is 2007.” And we were like, “Oh yes, we’re not actually kids. We don’t know.”

Jessica: We came from different places of expertise. He had been in New York so much longer than me. In a cotillion scene, he knew the name of the band that was playing, because he knew which bands people had come to play at cotillion. I was more like, “This is realisitic in terms of the emotional lives of teenagers.” But the Reality Index stopped being about reality early on, and we had to just had to comment on the cleavage rhombus instead.

The comments were really important – how did you feel about all these people who seemed to have as intense feelings about the minute details of this show as you did?

Chris: We definitely weren’t expecting it, more so because internet commenters on the whole are awful. They’re mean and they’re angry and they have an axe to grind. Our commenters were very funny and wanted to impress each other and wanted to make each other laugh. They were really talking to each other more than they were talking to us. We decided, a couple of years in, to start rounding up their comments and do a recap of the recap. This was one of the most rewarding parts about it, because they were just so smart and on top of it. And they definitely disagreed with us. A lot!

Jessica: It did feel like people liked the Reality Index because of the participatory aspect of it. We became more like the moderators of this little world within a world. We couldn’t believe it - we thought it was amazing and bizarre. There would be hundreds of comments as soon as you put it up, it was like people were waiting. And sometimes people would email us, if one of us had overslept or been out to dinner the night before so couldn’t watch the show until the morning. And you got to know people through that – actual humans. I know some of the commenters now!

You wrote the “Best Show Ever” cover story on Gossip Girl for New York Magazine, which reads like it was incredible fun to write, and is now immortalised as a key moment in the show’s history. Every fan of the show remembers that cover image. What’s your favourite memory from working on that piece?

Jessica: Oh my God! It was so fun! We split them up – I interviewed Chace Crawford and Jessica Szohr and Blake Lively. Those kids were in New York living this vaguely Gossip Girl-esque lifestyle at the same time as the show was on, being photographed as themselves, but often in character during filming. So the overlap was fun. Ed Westwick and Chace Crawford lived together in a dude apartment! I think Sebastian Stan moved in. And Penn Badgley would hate me saying this, but he was and is Dan. He just never wasn’t Dan. He lived in Brooklyn and dated Blake Lively and girls who looked like Vanessa. It was so fun to have this show within a show going on in New York.

Chris: The fun thing about the kids, is that they were all really excited. For almost all of them, it was their first brush with fame. Blake Lively was the only one who had an acting background. So they were really excited to be in the city. It was very fun to hang out with them, and they all liked each other. It was fun to be out in the world with them. Leighton Meester is very funny, and a really fun person to be around, and after we did the story someone sent in a sighting to Page Six of us, where we had lunch. And when I went out for lunch with Chace Crawford, who’s also very nice, it was the first time I’d been in a situation where somebody tries to subtly take a cellphone photo of you. I was like: “Wow, I have done this, as a New Yorker, and it is so obvious.” You think you’re being slick and it’s very, very plain to see. And Chace was very gracious with everybody. I wasn’t there for the photoshoot but Taylor Momsen’s mom had to be there, because I think she was 16. And I remember when the photos came back, thinking, “Errr... we have some very young people in underwear on the cover!” But I guess everyone was OK with it! It was a really striking cover, and a really great choice with the white virginal clothes and the implication of the opposite. I love how it came out.

Can you talk about your cameo on the show? How did that work, what was it like?

Chris: That was really fun. I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect it to be so interesting and fun. They wanted someone from New York [Magazine], they wanted someone from Vanity Fair, and they wanted someone from another magazine, and I think they’d asked a lot of magazines if they would send an editor. I was at Vanity Fair, and they asked Graydon Carter, the editor-in-chief, if he would do it – and he said no. One of my friends from college was by that point a writer on the show, and she said to the producer: “You know, if you want a Vanity Fair editor, I know one guy who will definitely do it!” And then they asked me and I had to ask the publicist for Vanity Fair if I could do it. And she laughed! And I said, “No, I’m serious, can I do this?” And she said “Oh! Uhh… Yeah, OK.”

It was me, Jessica, and Katrina vanden Heuvel from The Nation. Katrina was the only one working the whole time: tweeting and writing stuff. Jessica and I were like kids in a candy store. We were running around checking out the set, opening drawers! They had us wear our own clothes, which was stressful.

Jessica: They put fun clothes on me! It was so nice, I got to wear a really good outfit! Which I wish I had stolen, actually. But we got to the set and they had made up our offices. We sent them pictures of what they looked like and they recreated it.

Chris: They completely recreated it, right down to the Post-It notes that I had all along my bookshelves. Some of the books that I had on my desk were there. It was really surreal. Sitting there with Michelle Trachtenberg and Penn Badgley was completely surreal. They were funny, we joked around, it took probably 15 minutes.

Jessica: My scene was with Penn, and I had a line that made absolutely no sense. And we were all like, “That line makes no sense!” And they were like, “Oh it’s fine, just say it anyway.” And I thought: “Ok, well they’ll cut it out later.” But no, it just… went in.

Chris: But so many cool people had done cameos already, like Jared and Ivanka and Tory Burch, and just a million New Yorkers you’d heard of. So it was cool to join that crew.

You had this cameo, and plenty of people who worked on and starred in the show confessed to having read your recaps religiously. Stephanie Savage even emailed in over the exact location of Dan’s loft – whether it was Dumbo or Williamsburg. What was it about these recaps that allowed them to enter the world of the show in a way that TV writing normally doesn’t?

Chris: It was a very early recap. There wasn’t the endless recapping that there is now, of every show. It was kind of a silly show to recap – it wasn’t like Game of Thrones, where there’s all this politics to analyse. So it was an unusually devoted account of the show, with a ton of attention to detail – and then all the commenters also had a ton of attention to detail. So it was a great way for the show to get a sense of what the audience was thinking. And I think it was just funny for them. When they made a joke, we would catch the joke and laugh at it and make a joke back. It became a fun game for them too.

Jessica: The creators were definitely trying to foster the same atmosphere that we picked up on. They said early on that their goal for the show was “cultural permeation”. So they did what they could to encourage us, in some ways, and responded to us when we had questions.

Do you think your recaps changed television writing? Have you seen anything by other writers in recent years that has made you think, “Oh, we influenced that!”? For me, the Reality Index was very influential, and I feel like it was instrumental in this tone that was, yes, snarky and mocking, but the kind of mocking that can only come out of genuinely, truly loving something – now, that’s how most TV writing sounds.

Chris: I think we definitely were early on the trend of having the audience feel like they had the right to have their opinion on the show known, that they could voice an opinion – and maybe at some point the creators of the show would hear it. I think also having a very specific structure to a recap was new. Over the past ten years you’ve seen a lot of people do Power Rankings or try different ways of doing recaps other than just repeating what happened. I’d like to think that the recaps helped break the mould and create a new format.

Jessica: I definitely see things that are called Reality Indexes, and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a thing before us, because it doesn’t even totally make sense as a concept. As far as tone, I think that came both from the combination of Chris’s and my personalities – Chris was more of the fan, and I was more of the snark. But also that was Vulture’s thing – I think the site’s tagline was “heart of a fan, mind of a critic”. It came after the early 2000s era of pure snark and sarcasm. But I just met Rebecca Serle, who wrote the series Famous in Love, and she said the Gossip Girl recaps helped inspire her career. I was like: “That’s amazing!”

Looking back, why do you think Gossip Girl and the conversation around captured the zeitgeist?

Chris: It had a lot of elements of the great shows. It had a core ensemble cast like Friends. It had a very soapy way of running the plots, that just meant that a lot happened in every episode, and not all of it was believable! And that’s really fun to watch. But unlike Ugly Betty, which was making fun of telenovelas, it took itself seriously, which let the audience take it seriously too, while at the same time laughing about it and appreciating how over the top it was. And I also think the cast was very key to it. They were so young and attractive and good, and you could tell they were all going to go on to bigger and better things. You were watching them at the very start of their careers. And they all stayed through the whole thing, and that was great. You knew the show was going to end the way the creators wanted, which made it feel like a great, rare moment in TV.

Jessica: That show captures that era of socialites in New York City, when it was like Olivia Palermo and Tinsley Mortimer and everyone was running around going to parties and being photographed. It was like an education about New York as I was arriving there. And they did an amazing job, especially now, when you look back at it. All those location shots! I don’t think people can afford those any more, they just aren’t happening. And the costumes! All of that was so enjoyable and fun. I’m not sure I fully appreciated how fun it was, like I do now, when everything is much more drab and Brooklyn-centric. But I felt a real kinship with Penn Badgley because we talked a lot over the course of things, occasionally about how we didn’t expect the show to go on this long! He wanted to go and play other roles and I wanted to do… other things, and we were both stuck with Gossip Girl.

And finally: looking back, how do you feel about Dan being Gossip Girl?

Chris: I was talking to someone about this the other day! I still don’t know if in the books, Dan was Gossip Girl. At the time, we didn’t really devote a lot of time to thinking about who Gossip Girl would be. It felt like they were just going to pick somebody in the last season – which they did. But I thought they did a good job of backing up that decision.

Jessica: Oh my God, I was just talking about this! I feel like, you know… It’s just a total disappointment, there’s no getting around it. They tried to play it like they had been planning for it to be Dan all along, and that was clearly false. So it was annoying that they postured in that way. But I remember maybe even just the season before, a character said “Gossip Girl is all of you! Look at you all, on your phones!” That should have been the ending, that Gossip Girl was everyone. That would have been the cleverer ending, in a way. But Dan as Gossip Girl gets a minus from me in the Reality Index. -100

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.