Blake Lively and Penn Badgley, Gossip Girl

Take that, Nielsens. Turns out the mighty ratings system has met its match in a plucky little lady named Gossip Girl (Wednesdays at 9 pm/ET, CW). She may not have the biggest numbers, but raging word of mouth, mad style and a rules-rewriting DVR draw have made the CW's snazzy adaptation of the novels — Dynasty, 90210 by way of the Big Apple — the stuff teen dreams are made of. And that's the sort of rep every girl would die for.

1. It's the smartest ensemble this side of Fashion Week.
Teen soaps usually have one weak link (no names, please!), but not in this cast. Blake Lively, as sassy Serena van der Woodsen, lives up to her name; Leighton Meester's broken-doll sadness saves Blair from bitch cliché; and Taylor Momsen is a find as the prep-school Eve Harrington nipping at Blair's well-heeled world. The guys ain't too shabby, either. Chace Crawford's soulful Nate and Ed Westwick's snotty Chuck are hot as buds born of privilege, and Penn Badgley simply rocks as adorable outcast Dan Humphrey. (And the show's parents — namely Matthew Settle and Kelly Rutherford — are equally convincing. And hot.)

2. Finally, a voiceover that doesn't make us want to scream.
As our unseen overseer, Kristen Bell's purr is the sexiest disembodied fun you can have without paying $4.95 per minute. Whether she's describing Blair's burlesque debut ("no matter how long you try to be good, you can't keep a bad girl down") or Sunday brunch ("it comes with champagne, a dress code... and 100 of our closest friends"), even the most mundane tidbits sound deliciously enticing.

3. This class has class.
There's nary a bare midriff or baggy jean to be found on these stylish teens, who instead rock the clas­sics — tuxes, frilly dresses, headbands — while Serena's boho-chic look leaves more to the imagination than most getups sported by girls her age. Here's hoping this will teach GG's buy-curious fashion fans that high-end elegance trumps trashy any day.

4. Ah, behold the joys of casual text.
Cell-phone pics, text messages, Guitar Hero showdowns. IMHO, no show has ever been so plugged in to how the IMing masses roll. And with this crew firing off updates on Serena's surprise return and snapping shots of Nate's secret clinches, they're the super­cool weapon of class destruction. :-0

5. Our iPods have never been happier!
Like Josh Schwartz's first dance with teen-culture vultures The O.C., Girl goes to 11 with the tunes. Only now, it's Rihanna and Justin Timberlake instead of emo. "The idea is to do for pop music what The O.C. did for indie rock," says Schwartz, who sees a Gossip Girl soundtrack in the future. Until then, you know you love it… we do!

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