Published on December 1st, 2016 | by Sarah Stefanson0
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
The fast talking Gilmore Girls are back with a new Netflix original series, A Year in the Life, reuniting fans (and haters) with Stars Hollow.
I have a friend who works in a psychiatric penitentiary, so when it comes to choosing a show to watch in the evening, she doesn’t want anything featuring people beating, raping, or murdering each other. She hears enough about that at work. Luckily for her, Gilmore Girls exists. The darkness of humanity has no place in the streets of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, the fictional town that spunky Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and her precocious daughter, Rory (Alexis Bledel) call home. Throughout the seven seasons Gilmore Girls aired on The WB and The CW, nothing much of consequence ever really happened. The girls repeatedly had their hearts broken, of course, and had minor roadblocks in pursuit of businesses and careers, but the harsh realities of the average person’s life were not really reflected in the show’s plotlines.
Among my circle of friends, there are as many Gilmore Girls haters as there are lovers and the funny thing is that it is this very lack of realism that is simultaneously the reason the haters hate and the fans can’t get enough.
I began binge-watching the show myself during a long period of depression and unemployment, because it provided a sufficient distraction from the bleakness of my situation, while also allowing me to express just a little bit of my mounting misery by bawling over Rory’s latest break-up.
The show was also popular because the lack of anything resembling grit and the age range of characters made it consumable by viewers of any age. Teenagers could relate to Rory’s dramas with boys, school, and work, while older audiences could appreciate the sacrifices made by Lorelai as a single mom who got pregnant as a teenager and left a life of privilege and wealth to strike out on her own. The show even had highly realized senior characters, something not often seen on television.
The original run of the show ended in 2007, after contract negotiations between the network and the show’s creators, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, broke down and the husband and wife team left the show. A lackluster final season followed that disappointed many die-hard fans. Almost immediately after the show wrapped, rumours began that a reboot was in the works. Cast and writers hinted at a movie or mini-series for several years afterward, but it wasn’t until late 2015 that details began to be confirmed. The Gilmore Girls family would reunite for four 90-minute Netflix original episodes to continue the story a decade after the show ended. Gradually, cast members confirmed their role reprisals via social media and the hype began.
The new episodes are titled Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life and were released on Netflix on November 25, 2016. Each 90-minute episode takes place in a different season. Starting off with Lorelai’s favourite time of year, ‘Winter’ begins with Rory on a quick visit home to Stars Hollow after giving up her apartment in Brooklyn to be a vagabond writer, crashing on various couches while working on a celebrity book proposal, trying to get an in at Condé Nast, and doing her best to avoid the dogged pursuit of the barely-out-of-her-teens CEO of a popular gossip website hell-bent on becoming the next Huffington Post. Lorelai and Luke Danes (Scott Patterson), owner of the town diner, are still together, but, much to the chagrin of Lorelai’s mother, Emily (Kelly Bishop), not yet married.
The most important plot point of the new series, and the one that provides an uncharacteristic sense of reality, is the passing of Richard Gilmore, Lorelai’s father, Rory’s grandfather. Previously played by the late Edward Herrmann, Richard was the unifying heart of the Gilmore family, keeping things together through a series of nasty clashes between Lorelai and Emily. The grief the ladies of the Gilmore family feel after the death of their beloved husband, father, and grandfather offers the first genuine sense of real world emotion the series has seen and provides the actors, especially Graham and Bishop, with some excellent opportunities to prove the range of their acting abilities.
But fear not, A Year In The Life isn’t all gloom and grief. The show’s characteristic fast-paced dialogue peppered with pop culture references is in full force as Lorelai and Rory encounter all of the characters fans had come to love. It is truly impressive that practically every member of the original cast was convinced to come back for the revival, some more central to the story than others. Even the two cast members who have had significantly more career success than others since the end of the series (Melissa McCarthy, who has enjoyed many high profile movie roles since playing Lorelai’s best friend, Sookie St. James, and Jared Padalecki, who played Dean Forester, Rory’s first love, who is now loved by many a fan of Supernatural) managed to make small cameos.
The fact that all of the original cast were not just willing, but anxious to revisit the world of Stars Hollow speaks volumes about how the show was enjoyed not just by the audiences, but by the people who made it. The show’s creators returned to write and direct the new episodes as well and their influence is definitely felt.
For fans of the show, it is incredibly heart-warming to again peek in on a Stars Hollow town meeting, to listen to the musical interludes of the town’s troubadour, to see Hep Alien rock out at practice while Lane and Zach’s twins scurry around the living room, to watch Paris terrify a class of freshman at Chilton and fight with Doyle, to groan along as Kirk starts another ill-advised business venture, to become mildly uncomfortable when Babette and Miss Patty flirt shamelessly with cute boys that are young enough to be their grandsons, to be a fly on the wall for Rory’s magical night of excess and debauchery with Logan and his insanely wealthy posse, to witness Emily finally accepting one of her maids as part of the family.
There are some low points. The overall arch is clunky and uneven. The rehearsals for the musical history of Stars Hollow in particular went on way too long, in my opinion. The excuse for Sookie going from a major character to barely a mention is kind of lame. The trivial speed bumps Rory encounters in her career that send her back to the safety of her hometown don’t seem serious enough to daunt a character with as much determination and tenacity as we’ve come to expect from her (but it does open up one of the best gags in the revival, the ‘30-Something Club,’ sons and daughters of Stars Hollow residents who have gone out into the world only to have it chew them up and spit them back into their parents’ basements).
All in all, A Year In The Life is a pretty satisfying revisit for fans of Gilmore Girls and conveniently leaves a cliffhanger ending suitable for future follow-ups, if the fates allow. I know I wasn’t the only one who stayed up until 4 a.m. watching it on Friday night, alternating between giggling and blubbering along with the Gilmore Girls. On the other hand, it will not stand on its own. Someone who is new to the Gilmore Girls world will not get much out of starting with A Year In The Life. My advice is to go back all the way to season one if you like your binge-watching frivolous and cute, delivered by characters who talk way too fast and know far too much about obscure aspects of pop culture.