By Nicole Block
While most of my generation watched “Gilmore Girls” growing up and have a sentimental attachment to the show, I’m a late bloomer and binge watched it this past summer with an unreasonable obsession, and have been looking forward to the revival since Netflix announced it earlier this year.
Netflix premiered their four-episode miniseries, “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life,” last Friday after a nearly decade-long hiatus and a series of promos that made me worry they were just exploiting their adoring fanbase for a profitable reboot.
In case you have avoided the show for the past 16 years like me, “Gilmore Girls” follows a mother and daughter, both named Lorelai Gilmore, growing up in their small, fictional Connecticut town, an enclosed bubble of eccentric townspeople, charming festivals and trivial drama. Lorelai (Lauren Graham) had Rory (Alexis Bledel) when she was 16 and ran away from her wealthy home in Hartford where appearances mean everything to her socially-elite parents. Rory and Lorelai have an extremely close-knit bond and revel in their quirks and their junk food habit, contrary to Lorelai and her mother, Emily (Kelly Bishop), who have a hostile relationship chock full of deep-rooted issues.
The show premiered in 2000 under Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband, Daniel Palladino, and ran for seven seasons, garnering a massive following for its complex portrayal of family and interpersonal relationships, as well as snappy dialogue and an excess of pop culture references.
Fans have every right to be wary of this the reboot after the last season of “Gilmore Girls.” Because the show switched networks and didn’t keep the Palladinos on board, other writers took over and tried to mimic the traditional “Girlmore Girls” style, but the season just lacked that spark and the ending didn’t satisfy.
Amy Sherman-Palladino stated that she knew the last four words that she imagined for the ending when she created the show, leading fans to wildly speculate what they were over the past ten years. Fans got her imagined ending, like it or not, since the Palladinos wrote and directed the four 90-minute revival episodes with nearly all of the original characters reprising their roles.
“A Year in the Life” chronicles four seasons of the Gilmore gals, as Rory, now a 32-year-old struggling journalist, moves back home, while Lorelai runs her inn and figures out her relationship with her meant-to-be boyfriend, Luke, and Emily copes with with her husband Richard’s death (Edward Hermann, who played Richard, passed away in 2015). The revival is driven by the women’s mourning and three generations grappling with self-discovery and happiness.
Let’s discuss the good things: Rory and Lorelai still have their spark, Luke is still his grumpy old self and wears his signature backwards baseball cap, Stars Hollow and its inhabitants are just as charming as ever, Emily is mellowing out and becoming more tolerable, and the audience gets to see the characters in present day.
As was one of the joys of the earlier seasons, the girls realistically handle grief, growing up, professional opportunities and their relationships. The show sometimes gets dismissed as a guilty pleasure (because not a lot really happens to these rather privileged characters) but it does portray complex female characters. The plots are messy, unpredictable and sometimes painful, and “Gilmore Girls” rises above formulaic crowd-pleasers with female main characters.
But of course, there are some issues. Some characters only had the time to be briefly mentioned, like Lorelai’s best friend, Sookie (Melissa McCarthy), Paris and her uncharacteristic split from Doyle, and Rory’s high school sweetheart, Dean. Logan’s rich, carefree friends from the Life and Death Brigade come to cheer Rory up in a strange dream-like sequence, and there’s a parody musical that takes up half an hour.
My major beef is that Rory was established as an extremely high-achieving young woman and a Yale graduate, but in the revival she stumbles and can’t find a permanent job. My generation relates to her rootlessness, certainly, but it’s irritating that this is her fate. By the third episode, she moves back home and her only job is running the town gazette pro-bono and writing an autobiography, eventually titled, “Gilmore Girls.”
Some of the drama, like Lorelai and Emily unhappily attending family therapy, Luke and Lorelai debating having another child and Rory sleeping with her now-engaged ex, is necessary. If everything was cheery in their lives it, wouldn’t be believable. The Gilmores have to struggle and face conflict, but at the same time, I yearn for everything to work out — for Sherman-Palladino to just give us the happy ending and the closure that we wanted. But of course, we can’t have that. The much-anticipated last four words change the meaning of the whole series and then cuts to black. It’s infuriating, but leaves room for more reboots, and for viewers to keep thinking about the show and imagining possibilities.