After two bottles of wine one evening, my friend Tricia and I decided to watch something “sleazy,” which isn’t out of our usual realm of television selections. Imagine our delight - nay, our glee - when we found Bravo’s NYC Prep on Hulu (you’re welcome).
NYC Prep was a reality show which showcased a group of privileged teenagers wrecking havoc on the Upper East Side. The cast included the academically-driven Camille, the chanteuse Kelli, budding philanthropist Jessie, heart-throb Sebastian, the “public school” character Taylor (because apparently this type of character is always needed), and last but not least, the insufferable-bad-boy-yet-necessary PC. The show lasted for just one season, which is probably for the best. To get a taste, watch the trailer here.
The cast of NYC Prep
We settled into the couch, ready to revisit a show that we last watched in high school during an entirely different time period. It didn’t take us long to recoil at the tone-deaf comments. I have said and done my share of cringeworthy things as a teenager, and I give the benefit of the doubt to any young person (insert the how do you do fellow kids meme here). But damn. It was rough. It also elicited several “Where are their parents?”.
The first episode introduced us to teenagers who were living in Manhattan while their parents lived in the Hamptons, mentions of paying off admissions to get into a “good” college (Lori Loughlin is shaking) and dinners that put my high school Bertucci’s nights out to shame (I wouldn’t change those for the world). By the end of the episode, the aforementioned PC called his female best friend a CUNEXTTUESDAY, right after he threw a water bottle at her. He proceeded to say he was going to get a drink at the bar. He couldn’t have been more than 18.
NYC Prep most likely wouldn’t survive today. But it’s not hard to see why the show was so popular and alluring when it was on. It aired during a time when the American public had an obsession with wealthy, beautiful, young New Yorkers. And here they were - the real life versions.
NYC Prep was often dubbed as the “real life Gossip Girl.” Shockingly, I have never watched the salacious teen drama, probably because my TV monitoring growing up was so strict (yet somehow I snuck in Rock of Love?). I can certainly appreciate their 2008 advertising campaign. And while NYC Prep was certainly inspired by Gossip Girl, we can’t forget about another source of inspiration - Lisi Harrison’s The Clique series.
My collection of The Clique books, found at my parents house. The classics, if you will.
I hate to use the phrase “the chokehold it had” too liberally, but the chokehold this book had on pre-teen girls. My mom hated that I read - and loved - these books. I would spend far too long starting at their argyle-printed covers, trying to figure out which cover model represented each character. Trying to figure out if they were prettier than me.
The Clique series focused on the friendship (and I use friendship loosely) of “The Pretty Committee,” four friends living in Westchester, New York and attending the private Octavian Country Day School (OCD). We have Alicia, the raven-haired beauty, the lovable Dylan, the athletic Kristen, and finally the queen bee herself, Massie Block (it was made very clear that her name is pronounced Mah-see, and not May-see). Her witty comebacks, impeccable style and her rule with an iron fist made you as a reader both fear her and desperately want to be her. And then we have Claire - or Cuh-laire -, the obligatory “poor” character.
While The Clique offered aspirational escapism, looking back, I’m realizing it probably did more harm than good. The characters were constantly backstabbing each other, gossiping and picking apart their bodies. Dylan obsessed over her body and was berated over her food choices. She was a size 6.
From the books, I was introduced to every fashion brand under the sun - Moschino, Ksubi, Prada, Armani, Alice + Olivia - and subsequently I asked for a subscription TeenVogue. Pouring over every issues, scrutinizing every model, followed by scrutinizing myself became a ritual. Lena Wilson’s recent New York Times article highlighted this experience more. And much like Wilson, I have somehow continued to hold onto many things the series “taught” me.
So let’s review the timeline - The Clique’s first book was released in 2004 - the same year as Laguna Beach - followed by a movie in 2008; Gossip Girl in 2007; and finally NYC Prep 2009. Gossip Girl was revived in 2021, so perhaps our obsession with youthful, partying, rich Manhattanites isn’t quite over yet. Or perhaps it’s just the nostalgia.
If you enjoyed this post, give it a share, a like and subscribe!