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Gossip Girl Producer Josh Safran on the Show’s New Episodes and Similarities to The Good Wife

Gossip Girl comes back from its hiatus tonight with the first of five new episodes, culminating in the season finale on May 16. To celebrate its return, we got on the phone with Josh Safran, Gossip Girl's executive producer, to talk about what's coming up, Blair's love life, Vanessa's and Jenny's disappearing acts, and the writers' room's love of The Good Wife.

So, Dan and Blair. Some people have not been happy about that! Do you care?
Some people got upset and some people loved it. It's hard to say how much you care because of course we care about our fans, but at the same time we also care about our characters. Dan and Blair felt right. I don’t feel like we forced it or manipulated it. I think it's been there for years, since season one when they talked about divorce in their families. We love our fans, and we also love the story we told with Dan and Blair.

Given that Blair has these connections with Chuck and now Dan, how seriously do you expect people to take the Prince, who is all over the new episodes, as a love interest?
I hope people take it as seriously as we meant it. As a personal fan of several TV shows, there are certain times when characters go down a road maybe I wasn't expecting, but I follow along knowing there may be a reason.

You've made a bigger effort this season to have more long-term story arcs. Why?
We looked at season three when the characters were sort of spread out — we had Dan, Blair, and Vanessa at NYU, other people at Columbia. We couldn't tell a clear arc that pulled everybody in. It was harder to do. We feel like season one was more of one arc. The first half and second half of season two also felt like their own arcs. Season three has more mini-arcs. We looked at that and said, "Let's try to find a way to make an arc for a whole season."

Do you think that will be your approach for next season, too?
I would like to continue to approach it this way.

Are Vanessa and Jenny still integral to the show?
I can speak to Vanessa, who's in the next two episodes. Her ins and outs have not been dictated for any reasons other than character. It made sense for us that, since Vanessa did this terrible thing, she had to run away for a while. Vanessa needs to run away and look at herself, and when she comes back she comes back pretty strongly. She came back wanting to apologize, and she's going to make some pretty bold moves. For us, the character serves a very distinct purpose.

But you've had characters do way worse things and just pop right back in. You could have done that for Vanessa.
Well, for this season, we did actually arc the season out, so we actually knew ahead of time that was going to happen from the beginning. During this season we never said, "Oh shit, let's bring that person back because we need them." We knew Vanessa's arc.

And what is going on with Jenny?
Jenny remains an integral part of the show. Her part of the story during the first half of the season had a logical ending.

In these new episodes, Serena's cousin, Charlie, is around. And she has a flirty thing going on with Dan. How many of Serena's friends can Dan bang, really?
What's funny actually, and also sad, is we’ve never had the thought in our minds. I read some stuff online about that today, but that had actually not occurred to me. You know, I grew up on the Upper East Side going to a small private school, and there's a small pool and people hook up with other people. We always thought it was sort of right. We felt like the pairings were organic and we never forced any of them. With the Charlie and Dan thing, by the way, I don't know exactly what you're referring to because that is not … Charlie and Dan have scenes together and stories together, but that remains to be seen where that goes.

Do you care about the proliferation of Gossip Girl spoilers?
I just want people to be surprised. I remember what it's like to watch TV and not know anything. I'm not, like, pre-Internet, but I just remember being excited and saying, "Holy shit, I can't believe that happened." I'd like to protect that as much as possible, because we will hopefully produce stories that surprise you in good ways. If it's all spoiled, it makes me sad.

In your own TV watching, do you not like spoilers?
Occasionally I'll want to know, if it's too tense on a particular show, but I still really try not to because I'm trying to lead by example.

Which shows have you done that with, looked for spoilers?
The problem with me is that I'm often looking for our own spoilers. But Friday Night Lights or the Vampire Diaries would be the most recent example of when it's just so tense that I can't take it and just want to know.

What other shows do you watch?
I watch 30 Rock, Parks and Rec. It's easier for me to get to the less serialized stuff at home because I have a less amount of time, and with the serialized stuff I have to pay more attention. I make an appointment to watch The Good Wife. I would say that's the one thing I watch no matter what, because I do not want that spoiled under any circumstances. I want to get to it before people are going to talk about it. And that show is very important to the writers' room and to us. We love it very much. We feel like it is similarly plotted to Gossip Girl. I appreciate that.

Photo: GIOVANNI RUFINO/ THE CW