Have you heard? Gossip sells.
That’s about as deep as Showtime’s Gossip gets. This breezy but too narrowly focused survey of sensationalism begins with a tantalizing tidbit about how New York Post gossip-columnist diva Cindy Adams once upon a time balked during a magazine cover shoot because she’d have to share oxygen with others not on her level. (Of what?)
“I’m not mean. I’m fun,” Adams protests. I’m not sure about the first part, but she obviously amuses herself and Gossip’s filmmakers, who devote most of the overlong four-part series’ energy to her and the Post’s controversial history since being acquired by Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch. (Despite being a money-loser, the paper reportedly remains his most treasured possession.)
Gossip exists mostly as a modern history of the tabloid, the rivalry of Adams and the late Liz Smith, and the ascendence of the unsparing Page Six column, taking us from the depths of Woody-vs.-Mia and Trump divorces to the tawdry brand management of Paris Hilton. They often helped set the agenda for scandal from the 1970s through the 1990s and the disruption of the Internet age, when bloggers and anyone with an Instagram account could play the game. (The fourth episode is the best, when the focus expands beyond New York City tabloids to the even more pernicious tone of TMZ and its ilk.)
Cindy Adams, now 91 and still plugging away in a penthouse office wallpapered to the ceiling with her past tabloid headlines, is undeniably a character. Lately, she’s been making the most of this series’ blinding new spotlight, granting long and quippy interviews to the likes of The New York Times‘ fawning Maureen Dowd. But as Gossip points out, almost admiringly, Adams made her name as a willing and well-connected puppet of dictators and scandal-ridden politicians whom she considers friends. She often colludes with and coddles notorious subjects whose reputations she burnishes, when she isn’t busy settling scores.
You heard it here first.
Gossip, Docuseries Premiere, Sunday, August 22, 8/7c, Showtime