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'Gossip Girl' moves from Upper East Side to beachside in new LA season

In the season 5 opener of popular CW guilty pleasure TV series "Gossip Girl," the excruciatingly rich Upper East Side cast find themselves in sunny Los Angeles. The cross-country move may be the last gasp of a show running out of New York plot twists, or it may simply be a chance to watch the fashion-heavy show take a stab at at west coast clothing.

The complicated, lusty and largely unbelievable plot of "Gossip Girl" unravels like a soap opera. The series began in 2007 with the teens in an upper crust private high school, and through an array of backstabbings, mental breakdowns, drug addictions and designer shoes, the beautiful cast manages to make it to graduation.

Although the series' narrative is decadent and addicting, the real mainstay of the show is the clothing. While there may be some wealthy real-life fashionistas who actually spend $1,000 on Christian Louboutin booties, for the rest of us, the show's a chance to be a voyeur into a world of indulgence.

Michael Desmond / The CW © 2011 The CW Network, LLC

The season premiere opens in Los Angeles, and the Pacific ocean air looks good on Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively). She wears a new radiant tan, a flurry of brightly colored dresses and chunky jewelry. Although she steers clear of Downtown, freeways or seemingly anywhere in the city that's remotely dirty, her wealthy L.A. bohemia opens the door for new fashion opportunities and the obligatory L.A. stereotypes.

"Los Angeles is a plastic surgery layover, not somewhere you live," says Serena's best friend Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) from her penthouse home back in Manhattan.

The luckiest girl in Hollywood, Serena was literally plucked off the Santa Monica seaside and recruited to work for a successful director. She manages to work long days as a production assistant, running errands, making copies and getting coffee, all while wearing short, designer dresses and heels (Most P.A.s hardly have time to sleep, let alone shower and do their hair.)

Blake Lively discusses her character's new life in Los Angeles:

Appearance aside, Serena is working and sober, a pioneering step for the show's blonde rebel; "Everyone in Hollywood reinvents themselves," Serena says on the first episode.

Even Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick), the show's iconic bad boy, is inspired to change as he settles into his marina lifestyle aboard a luxury yacht which he won from Versace in a poker game. (Yes, that Versace.) Wearing white pants and leather jackets, Chuck's ascots may have changed color but his antics have merely adapted to a new landscape.

Los Angeles has spurred him to develop a new say yes to everything mantra. Given who Chuck is, this means a destructive path which includes swan-diving off a building in an impromptu stuntman attempt and recklessly speeding down Mulholland Drive on his bright red motorcycle.

Michael Desmond / The CW © 2011 The CW Network, LLC

Even for these characters who seem to have it all, California has something New York doesn't: medical marijuana dispensaries.

Although the Gossip Girl gang have had their share of run-ins with drugs in previous seasons, they find a certain novelty to a legal weed store. There is a quick scene that shows Serena and Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford) leaving a Venice dispensary.

"You gotta love California's laws," Nate says as they leave the store.

There is no shortage of shiny, familiar shots that include palm trees, sprawling beaches, blue skies and yacht-filled harbors that paint a picture of wealthy Los Angeles. Serena and Nate go to a Hollywood party at a mansion in the hills, where Nate is approached by a gaggle of squealing teens who are convinced he's a celebrity, and he ends up sleeping with a new character played by Elizabeth Hurley, who will be a recurring guest this season.

An infinity pool and an abundance of pretty people in bikinis and color-blocked dresses dot the party, and for the hip crowd, even Rilo Kiley makes an appearance, as do an assortment of Ray-Bans.

Across the country, the traditional drama continues with half the cast back in Manhattan, who are kept busy with a pregnancy mystery, royal wedding planning and a book publishing scandal.

As Serena, Chuck and Nate eat fresh fruit on Chuck's yacht, sip champagne and sunbathe, it seems, if only for a second, that Los Angeles may be a place for new beginnings — at least on TV.

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