The ‘Gilmore Girls’ Revival Review: So, Is It Worth Watching?
Well, it depends on what you want to get out of it.
There are no spoilers in this review.
Watching A Year In The Life isn’t weird because Lorelai and Rory Gilmore are talking about catching an uber, it’s weird because it was never meant to happen.
For fans, re-entering Stars Hollow and watching Rory race around town looking for iPhone reception in Doosey’s Market and outside Miss Patty’s School of Ballet, seeing Lorelai have a full conversation with her dog, Paul Anka, and then rush off for the town meeting, is a thoroughly surreal and, at times, gasp-inducing experience. But it’s hard to shake the thought, ‘did we actually need more Gilmore Girls?’*.
It might be silly to judge pop culture in this way, because watching TV should be a pleasure (although sometimes it seems more like a puzzle to be endured) and thus shows don’t need to exist to fulfil a particular need; they can simply exist because they are fun to watch. We didn’t need a new Star Wars, but we’re all happy that we got one. But this revival was always framed as having a direct purpose: specifically, to make up for the fact that Gilmore Girls‘ creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, left the show just before its final season.
“It would have to be the right everything — the right format, the right timing,” she said last year at the show’s reunion panel at the ATX Festival. “If [a revival] ever happened, I promise we’ll do it correctly.”
By now, you know the general plot (and I think a hitman from Netflix will Bourne Idenitity me with the nearest magazine if I reveal any more): Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) is a jet-setting journalist who is aimlessly travelling the world on assignments (on the dime of her trust fund, I assume? It’s never addressed) and Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) is still the manager of the Dragonfly Inn in Stars Hollow, living with her longterm partner Luke (Scott Patterson). Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop) is a recent widow, after the death of her husband, Richard. That’s pretty much all you’re allowed to know!
So, is it any good? I guess it depends on why you’re watching it. Also, some advice from your pal: watching all of these episodes in a row is very difficult. It takes six hours to binge-watch the season. If you’re hoping to play some sort of drinking game while you’re watching it, the sheer length of A Year In The Life might actually kill you.
*(By the way, if you’re worried about it retroactively ruining the show for you, it won’t — because we’ve got bonds baby, just try to break them.)
If You’re Watching It To Make Up For Season Seven
First I should reveal my bias and say that I actually didn’t mind season seven. I think that many of the things that people didn’t like about Gilmore Girls‘ last season was actually set up by Amy Sherman-Palladino in season six: Luke and Lorelai’s break-up, Lane Kim settling down at age 22 and the mere existence of April Nardini.
But I really understand that without Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Dan Palladino, to many fans Gilmore Girls is just not Gilmore Girls. The Palladinos were notoriously strict in their writers room, only hiring people who had the correct “ear” for dialogue and making sure that “all the scripts pass through either my hands or Dan’s hands”. It’s clear that Sherman-Palladino considered it a betrayal that the show went on without her, and even found it too painful to watch (but she “heard about it from other people” that it didn’t match up with her original vision for the conclusion).
When it was announced that Amy Sherman-Palladino was making a Gilmore Girls revival, it was taken by some as an opportunity to right wrongs and end a beloved show the way it was meant to end (as if the ending of popular TV shows can ever really be done in a universally satisfying way) and by others as an exercise in ego, with Sherman-Palladino purely wanting to end Gilmore Girls on her own terms.
But if you’re looking at A Year In The Life as a season seven bandaid, you might be disappointed. While the classic Palladino tone and patter is back in full force — something that was definitely lacking in season seven — some of the actors (ahem, Alexis Bledel) seem to struggle with it now. A couple of derided characters are now redeemed. You already know that Melissa McCarthy isn’t in it for long, but it doesn’t make it any less sad. However, and it pains me to say this, there is no real emphasis on Lane.
The most controversial storyline in the history of Gilmore Girls is Lane being trapped in Stars Hollow through landing pregnant with twins the first time she had sex, instead of living out her rock star dreams. I truly expected the show to explore how this positively or negatively impacted Lane’s life, maybe out of some ill-conceived idea that she was ‘owed’ more and that Amy Sherman-Palladino would be determined to address this bizarre storyline. Lane is around, but she is not the focus at any point.
But! You will finally get to hear the final four words that Sherman-Palladino always meant to end the series with. And that’s what will keeping Twitter running for the rest of the year.
If You Just Want To Go Back To Stars Hollow
If you don’t believe that Gilmore Girls needed to atone for season seven/are just an abnormally chilled out fan, A Year In The Life will feel like you’re wrapped in a cosy blanket in an armchair that was made by your great-grandfather, also it’s Christmas Eve and you’re eating a warm pudding that your significant other baked you and maybe you have a cold medicine buzz. If that sounds saccharine to you, well, you probably didn’t like Gilmore Girls in the first place.
Lorelai and Rory, always two characters who were impeccably formed and whole, are exactly as you remember them. They make the same sort of jokes, make the same sort of bad decisions (when it comes to Rory, some of these aren’t interrogated like they should be — but we can’t talk about it, sorry sorry) and struggle with the same things they have always struggled with. Their motivations and actions seem (sometimes frustratingly) true to character, and their relationship has altered realistically over time.
I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much chemistry the major players — mainly Lorelai, Rory, Luke and Emily — still had in scenes together. Lorelai and Emily in particular squabble and bite at each other with abandon; the two actors seem to have an even more intimate connection than before and this allows them to react to the horrible, horrible things they say to each other in a way that genuinely feels like a verbal slap. Kelly Bishop deserves an Emmy nomination for her performance here.
It did irk me that lots of time was spent on some of the more ‘novelty’ residents of Stars Hollow than characters I genuinely still wonder about, but I also sometimes said “WAHOO!” when certain beloved characters wandered into a scene, spat straight fire, and then left. I was grateful that the revival allowed us to swim in Emily Gilmore’s orbit, which was nuanced and wasn’t afraid to swap quips for scenes drenched in believable grief, and even more pleasantly surprised that we got to drink in every bit of delicious nuttiness that is an adult Paris Gellar.
Maybe not all the characters act in the way that you think they’re ‘supposed’ to, but if you just feel like dipping a toe into this comforting, silly world, you won’t find A Year In The Life a terribly jarring experience.
If You’re Not A Gilmore Fan, But Looking To Be Converted
It’s not going to happen. You will not like this revival. A Year In The Life was obviously made for people who know the show very well and will appear pretty impenetrable to first-time watchers. The structure of the series — turning 42-minute episodes into 90-minute blocks — means that the speedy dialogue and constant pop culture references that you find slightly annoying in the original, will be even more grating for you now.
Gilmore Girls‘ snappy tone evidently suits a snappy running time, and when given almost an extra hour the show sometimes leaves scenes running for too long or spends time on subplots that would only warrant a few minutes in the original series. Amy Sherman-Palladino apparently threatened to quit the project over Netflix wanting to release the episodes all at once, which is the most early-2000s showrunner thing I have ever heard.
(By the way, give the first season a chance, go on.)
If You Want To See An Updated, 2016 Version Of Gilmore Girls
When we left Rory Gilmore in 2007 she was about to hit the campaign trail with Barack Obama, not knowing how many years she would be on the road if “Barack does well”. Well, if you had told me that the Palladinos had predicted that the revival would take place in Trump’s America I wouldn’t be surprised, because all references to Obama or Rory’s foray into political writing have been erased.
We know that Lorelai is still pretty much in the same place that we left her, so Rory’s story will be the one to bring Gilmore Girls into this decade. To be honest, I’m still a little confused about Rory’s storyline (once again, six hours is A LOT, do not binge this all in a row) but the disconnect from her season seven arc and her revival arc is very deliberate. For years Amy Sherman-Palladino has said that she had a “different path for Rory” so it makes sense that it would take a sudden turn. Also, if you’re not interested in which boy she ends up with, well you’re a classier person than myself.
Stylistically the show hasn’t changed that much (there aren’t any robots or morally conflicted ad men or chemistry teacher meth dealers, all which are prerequisites for contemporary TV I think) but the changed format of the show means sometimes fanciful sequences are injected into the show for no reason — particularly in the too-long plot of “Stars Hollow: The Musical” which you saw in promotional images earlier — which is shame, because Gilmore Girls was always whimsical without being twee.
In terms of 2016 political correctness, it still kind of feels like a show that was made in the early 2000s. There are several fat-shaming jokes that are weird and unnecessary. The overwhelming whiteness of the show is not addressed and when people of colour are in the scene, they are mostly playing caricatures of their race — and surprise, one of the caricatures involves a running gag about Emily Gilmore’s constant maid problems.
A Year In The Life is sometimes confusing, it occasionally feels like it’s operating in a snow globe and is always surreal. It’s a fun and frustrating experience and, for many people, the fact that it exists is reason enough to love it. Its flaws are magnified, because we’re looking at it in a different way now. But I think many fans will just be excited to hear from some old, messy friends. Where you lead, I will follow, etc.