Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 23, 2020

Gilmore Girls warms hearts with wit and depth

By MORGAN OME | December 1, 2016

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JEFFMASON/CC-BY-2.0 A hefty stack, the box sets for the first seven seasons of Gilmore Girls were recently revisited by fans.

After nine years off the air, the pop-culture loving, coffee-drinking and fast-talking mother-daughter duo Lorelai and Rory Gilmore return in the highly anticipated Netflix mini-series, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

Gilmore Girls is a dramedy that follows the lives of the mother-daughter duo Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel), who reside in the fictional small town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut.

To complicate matters, there’s a tense relationship between Lorelai and her controlling mother, Emily (Kelly Bishop), and father, Richard (Edward Herrmann), that contrasts the close friendship that Lorelai and Rory have.

A Year in the Life launches us right back into Lorelai, Rory and Emily’s lives following the tragic death of Richard (Hermann passed away in 2014). All three Gilmore women are having difficulty processing Richard’s death and are unsatisfied with their current circumstances.

Rory, now 32, feels that her aspirations in journalism have not been fulfilled and her love life is chaotic. Lorelai is restless both in her long-term relationship with the lovable Luke Danes (Scott Patterson) and in her career as owner of the Dragonfly Inn.

Meanwhile, Emily is grieving from the loss of her husband of 50 years and unsure of how to live without him. And so begins the tale of three women, each at defining points in their lives, as they learn to navigate uncharted waters.

The show originally ran from 2000-2007 on The WB, and then briefly on The CW. Due to its more recent availability on Netflix, Gilmore Girls has amassed a considerable fan base over the past few years.

The revival departs from the network format of 40-something minute long episodes, instead opting for four 90-minute long movies (one for each season of the year).

It’s a little unclear why Gilmore Girls is being revived now, but fans have been demanding more since the conclusion of the seventh and final season. The show’s creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, and her husband, Daniel Palladino, left after the sixth season due to contractual disputes. A Year in the Life has been marketed as Sherman-Palladino’s way of finishing the story the way she intended to.

I’m probably one of the few fans who likes the way the series ended in 2007, but I was still happy to take a trip down memory lane back to Stars Hollow.

I stayed up until the episodes appeared in my Netflix cue at midnight and blew through “Winter,” “Spring,” “Summer” and “Fall,” laughing and crying.

As usual, I had a hard time keeping up with the fast pace of the show. Rapid-fire dialogue is a trademark of Sherman-Palladino’s writing. In A Year in the Life, we get more than our fill of snappy exchanges between Lorelai and Rory. But due to the longer format of the episodes, the characters also get time to breathe.

A particularly moving scene involves Lorelai, who usually talks a mile a minute, simply looking out into the mountains in silence. Emily, who is often brash and manipulative, shows a softer, more vulnerable side that is rarely witnessed in the original series.

Graham and Bishop provide the emotional core for the show with stellar performances. After Richard’s funeral, the two engage in perhaps the cruelest feud in the show’s history, and although it is brutal to watch, Graham and Bishop’s acting is some of the finest I’ve seen on television. Their therapy sessions are hilarious; Their screaming matches are heartbreaking.

Viewers also catch a glimpse of their favorite secondary characters. Liza Weil makes a triumphant return as Rory’s abrasively ambitious friend, Paris Geller. She’s exactly as I imagined Paris would be at 32: marching around in heels, quoting Stalin and instilling fear into the hearts of young high schoolers.

Fans of the original series will likely find delight in the plethora of nostalgic elements. Luke’s “No Cell Phones” sign, the town’s basket bidding fundraiser and even Graham repeating the line “I smell snow” takes us right back into Sherman-Palladino’s whimsical world.

Even the incidental music remains the same. In addition to the appearances by the original cast, there’s also plenty of cameos from people like Peter Krause (Graham’s Parenthood co-star) and Carole King, whose song “Where You Lead” serves as the theme tune for the show.

There are also some quirky bits that could only find success on Gilmore Girls, including a musical that chronicles Stars Hollow’s history featuring Broadway stars Sutton Foster and Christian Borle. While these moments do nothing to advance the plot, they’re full of pure charm and joy.

Despite the overall charm and appeal of A Year in the Life, the revival is not without flaws. There are many carefully choreographed musical montages that drag on.

After six hours, the show sometimes veers towards the saccharine rather than the sentimental. The sappy monologue Luke delivers stating how much he loves Lorelai is not as effective as the understated, yet meaningful way he declares his love in the original series, when he says “I’m all in.”

I also feel that the revival shifts in thematic content. In the original series, Lorelai and Rory’s respective love lives never undermine or overshadow the mother-daughter bond that is at the heart of the show.

Yet, A Year in the Life puts a great deal of emphasis on romantic fulfillment and settling down. This change feels out of place and unwelcome.

However, despite its imperfections, A Year in the Life is still a masterful piece of storytelling and television. When Gilmore Girls focuses on the mother-daughter relationships between the three Gilmore women, it truly shines.

It reflects the difficulties and rewards that come with family and shows us the strength that we derive from those closest to us. More so, the show dispenses warmth, wit and meaning — the very qualities that Gilmore Girls fans have been missing all of these years.

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