When a friend of mine found out I liked Gilmore Girls, he said, “Really? What’s it about? It’s just a mother and daughter, right?” How does that represent what’s probably the best dramatic series on TV right now? Isn’t that like saying, “The Godfather is just another movie about organized crime”?
Gilmore Girls is indeed about a thirty-something mother, Lorelai, and her 21-year-old daughter, also Lorelai (but everyone calls her Rory). Men name their sons after themselves all the time. So when Lorelai, the mother, when she was only 16, gave birth to a little girl, she decided to name her after herself. A sizeable quantity of Demerol also bore upon that decision.
Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) live in the tiny Connecticut town of Stars Hollow, along with a cast of characters just wacky enough to fall in love with. Sookie (Melissa McCarthy), Lorelai’s business partner and closest friend, is a master chef who as much a danger in the kitchen as a maestro. Luke (Scott Patterson), is Lorelai’s other best friend, and is also the sexy and grouchy proprietor of the town diner, which keeps Lorelai in coffee and food, but mostly coffee. Of course, now that they’re engaged—long story, over 5 years worth—the coffee is a lot closer. Lane (Keiko Agena) is Rory’s childhood best-friend, who has her own stories told throughout these episodes. That’s not even half the cast, and I’m running out of time.
Creator-producer Amy Sherman-Palladino has woven in Gilmore Girls a deeply complex, character-driven story, full of charm and abundant doses of humour. The show is also known for its numerous Gilmorisms, cultural allusions sprinkled throughout. It’s popular among young adults and teens, but does not talk down to the audience. (Actually, I think kids these days are smarter than they frequently are given credit for.)
Each episode can be appreciated on its own, but you’ll appreciate it a whole lot more after you’ve seen it in context with the other episodes. I actually started watching the show, during its third year, because I saw that Edward Hermann stars in it, as Lorelai’s father, a rich and proper gentleman named Richard Gilmore. I don’t know how it happened. Before I even knew it, I was hooked. Back then, Rory was in her last year at the Chilton School, in the middle of a number of conflicts, about to graduate and close the first book of the story. WB was also rerunning episodes under the title Gilmore Girls: Beginnings, and I was starving for back-episodes. But the earliest episodes I missed, as I did a certain pivotal episode—the dance marathon ep—which contains a major plot point. And when the first DVD’s were released, I was too poor to afford them. Finally, ABC Family began rerunning all the episodes, in order, from the first, and I watched every single night. I have since remedied the situation with the DVD’s, which I have watched over and over again.
The first three seasons of Gilmore Girls represent a unified story arc, as do the episodes starting with season 4. When Amy Sherman-Palladino started a new story in season 4, it was a bold, brave move, or at least it turned out to be. At the time, I too thought season 4 was lackluster. Ratings for the show dropped in that season, and things could’ve turned out like Firefly. But someone at WB was enlightened, and the show is now in its sixth season.
The reason the fourth season seemed lackluster was because the focus had shifted. The story was no longer about Rory getting through Chilton and Lorelai becoming an entrepreneur. Both of these storylines started in the pilot and wrapped up in the final episode of the third season. That last episode has a sense of finality to it. We came back in the fourth season to a brand new story, one about the changing relationship between mother and daughter, a relationship that’s changing because both mother and daughter are themselves changing. In retrospect, for a lackluster season, the fourth has an awful lot of classic episodes.
But what is “classic” in a show like Gilmore Girls? It’s easier to count the episodes that are just so-so, which I can do on my fingers. Out of over 120 episodes, that’s a pretty good record. Much more difficult is it to avoid watching any episodes, even the so-so ones, since the storyline pulls you along from one episode to the next. Gilmore Girls is truly a classic series.
Now, what I’ve really wanted to say since the beginning of this review, I haven’t been able to say. I couldn’t say it because it would have sounded insincere, or gushy, or just plain creepy. But now that I’ve laid the groundwork, hopefully, it won’t seem too extreme: Amy Sherman-Palladino is a storytelling genius.