Exclusive

Exclusive: Gossip Girl Flirts with Dan/Blair Romance

Spotted: an unlikely twosome on the Upper East Side. As first hinted in last month’s fall finale, Gossip Girl will explore a deepening bond between mortal enemies Dan and Blair when the show returns on January 24. Although executive producer Stephanie Savage declines to say just how close the two will grow, she believes that the relationship is rife with potential.

“The Dan and Blair connection is something that’s been there from the earliest episodes,” she tells TVLine.com. “Their relationship to Serena, and the degree to which they’re polar opposites and represent everything that the other hates, makes their dynamic really charged. At the same time, they are characters that have a lot in common. They are the most book-smart characters. They share a lot of the same interests. And as much as they might want to hate each other, there are a lot of reasons for them to like each other. So it’s a really fun dynamic to write.”

And to watch. The recent episode that turned the pair into junior detectives attempting to unravel the Juliet mystery confirmed what I’ve been saying for years: Penn Badgley and Leighton Meester have enough chemistry to ignite an entire laboratory. “We were inspired a lot by ’30s and ’40s screwball comedies, like The Philadelphia Story with Katharine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart,” says Savage. “You basically have two people that hate each other but are smart enough to enjoy each other’s banter. “

Of course, not everyone is salivating at the prospect of a Dan/Blair pairing. Savage is well aware that there’s a large segment of the show’s viewership that would prefer for Dan and Blair remain at odds. “I would say that those issues that fans are struggling with are the exactly the same issues they’ll see Dan and Blair struggling with,” she says. “There’s a lot of ambivalence and even revulsion on their part.”

Embarking on such a polarizing storyline is “definitely nerve-racking,” Savage confesses, “but it’s also exciting, and that’s kind of the tightrope of working on a show like Gossip Girl where fans are so passionate. On the one hand, you want to keep people happy all the time, but if you don’t try new things, people get bored.”

Well, unless you’ve been living under the chip on Jenny’s shoulder for the last fourth months, you know that Gossip Girl‘s fourth season has been anything but boring. Much of the credit for the show’s creative resurgence belongs to a compelling and expertly plotted A story revolving around Katie Cassidy’s Big Bad Juliet. But with Big J (and Little J, for that matter) out of the picture, at least for now, how does the CW soap plan to maintain its momentum during the latter half of the season? In addition to the Dan/Blair arc (which involves the pair working together at a fashion magazine), Serena will attempt to make a go of a romance with her wrongly accused former teacher (and Juliet’s bro) Ben, Lily will begin the long journey back from the doghouse she has found herself in (with a little help from her returning ex, Billy Baldwin), Nate will adjust to having his divorced former jailbird father as his quasi-roommate, and two new characters — the Donald and Ivanka Trump-esque father/daughter team of Russell and Raina Thorpe (Michael Boatman and Tika Sumpter) — will shake up Chuck’s personal and professional worlds.

And getting back to Jenny, what part — if any — will Dan’s MIA sis play in all of this? Savage says the size of Taylor Momsen’s role on the show is “something we’re figuring out as we go along.” Is there any set date for her return? “Nothing that I want to talk about,” she says. “I liked how in the first half of the season people didn’t know when she was coming back. I think that helps the storytelling.”