Sex, Drugs and All the Good 'Gossip'

"OMG, when Blair did it with Chuck in the back of the car? And Nate got busted for coke? It was so ridic, I almost choked on my Pinkberry."

Exclamations like this are usually reserved for the actions of real people. But not when it comes to "Gossip Girl," the super-popular freshman CW series that returns from its writers strike-induced hiatus tonight. The way fans talk about the show, you'd think Blair, Chuck, Nate and the rest of the jaw-droppingly beautiful cast were people with whom they text, shop and take shots. No -- they're the stars of the most zeitgeisty high school drama since "Beverly Hills, 90210."

The premise: Privileged New York City prep school kids hooking up, going out and generally getting into trouble. While scurrying around the hotels of the Upper East Side, the shops of Fifth Avenue and the lofts of Brooklyn (someone has to live on the wrong side of the tracks), they use their cell phones to check in with Gossip Girl, a Perez Hilton type blog that chronicles the makeouts and breakups of their crew. Lest you be left out of the loop, read below to get up to speed on the major characters that make "Gossip" so great.

Name: Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester)

Stats: Queen bee of the most popular clique of girls at Constance Billard. With perfectly coifed hair and a wardrobe more fitting for a socialite 15 years older, Blair's the picture of Upper East Side royalty. But all's not well in her kingdom. Her dad recently left her fashion designer mom to be with one of her male models, and Blair's relationship with her long-time boyfriend, Nate, just fell apart.

Defining moment: Freshly broken up with Nate, Blair lets loose at a burlesque club with his best friend, Chuck. She jumps onstage, strips off her high-neck frock to reveal a sexy negligee, and gyrates to the cheers of the crowd. Seeming to have already lost her mind, she then loses her virginity to Chuck in the back of his chauffeured town car.

Current status: Phoenix ready to rise. Her social standing shattered because Chuck spilled about their hookup and her subsequent sex session with her ex-boyfriend, Blair almost flees the Upper East Side to live in the south of France with her dad. But Blair's best friend convinces her to stay and wreak havoc on those who did her wrong.

Name: Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively)

Stats: The Upper East Side's former It (and bad) Girl, Serena's reformed since she returned to New York after disappearing to a Connecticut boarding school for reasons unknown to her friends. Serena is the Kelly to Blair's Brenda, the Betty to her Veronica: blond and beautiful, she steals the spotlight from Blair without even trying. As Blair's best friend -- the two remain tight despite Serena's long-ago tryst with Nate -- she can swig a martini and rock a $5,000 dress with the best of them. But her real interests lie elsewhere: in Dan, her new Brooklyn-bred boyfriend.

Defining moment: Stumped on how to find a perfect Christmas present for Dan on his self-imposed budget ($50), Serena enlists the help of his friend and wannabe girlfriend, Vanessa, to create for him the gift that balmy New York City can't give: snow. Together, they use confetti and fans to turn Dan's dad's art studio into a winter wonderland. Once Vanessa leaves and Dan discovers the surprise, Serena gives her virgin boyfriend the best present of all: sex.

Current status: Blissfully in love. She and Dan just said the three little words to each other.

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