Itâ€™s hard to believe, but weâ€™ve had almost a decade to mull over what became of the Gilmore Girls and all of those who orbited them. Maybe you imagined Luke and Lorelai lived happily ever after with twins, like that weird dream she had in season three. Maybe you imagined Rory regretted saying no to Loganâ€™s proposal and left her unfulfilling job as the metro editor at the Hartford Courant to follow him to California (Ha! Yeah, right). Or maybe you imagined Rory and Jess realized they were always meant to be together after they reunited at Luke and Lorelaiâ€™s wedding (OK, guilty as charged for this one. #TeamJess).
For better or for worse, the promos for the Netflix revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, have solved a lot of outstanding mysteries. When the series ended in 2007, after a much maligned final season without showrunners Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, we were left with Rory going off to cover the Obama campaign, suggestions of a Luke and Lorelai reconciliation, and Emily and Richard finally giving Lorelai the respect she always wanted. But weâ€™re pretty sure it wasnâ€™t necessarily the Palladinosâ€™ vision. Enter this new entry into the Gilmore Girls canon. Iâ€™m being very calm and measured about this, but let me be clear-â€” Iâ€™m stupid excited to see where this show was supposed to end up.
However, not to be a killjoy, but with revivals being all the rage these days, and with their historically uneven quality, Iâ€™m not going in thinking this is going to be complete wish fulfillment. Itâ€™s easy to be blinded by the obvious excitement of your favorite show coming back and end up ignoring the huge risk of it all. Remember Arrested Development? Or The X-Files? The Veronica Mars movie? Or, heaven help us, the Heroes reboot? So, people, Iâ€™m kind of nervous.
Just recently, reviews for the new Gilmore Girls episodes have come out, and although the reviews are careful to keep mum about any plot points, overall the reception has been mixed. Judging by other revivals Iâ€™ve watched, I have some specific fears about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Luckily, Iâ€™m not one to criticize before seeing something for myself (except the Veronica Mars movie, which was actually really well received by critics, but my best friend who I watched the series with texted me saying the movie was awful so that was the end of it for me because Iâ€™m a pathetic joiner.)
Here are things that I think about when I hear about a revival:
Quality of the original
Expectation of genre
Promos and cast buy-in
Quality of the original
Gilmore Girls was an excellent series. When the show got everything right, it was incomparable in its warmth, character dynamics, and humor. Great source material is a big pro on my proverbial Rory Gilmore pro/con list, and Gilmore Girls, especially the first half of the series, had plenty of that.
Unfortunately, the show lost quality as it progressed, and I fear the last we saw of the show is the baseline of quality to expect for the new episodes. We could write off the middling end of the series as the lack of Sherman-Palladino, but thatâ€™s not an entirely fair assessment. It would be dishonest not to admit that there were obvious weak spots in the Palladino-run seasons, season six in particular.
With the train wreck that was April (didnâ€™t we already have a teen try to keep Lorelai and Luke apart? Ahem, Jess?) and the painful half-season long split between Rory and Lorelai, Season 6 wasnâ€™t necessarily bad, but it was arduous. And whatâ€™s to say those weak spots combined with the obvious difficulty of recreating a cult status show isnâ€™t going to lead to a huge disappointment?
Essentially, whatâ€™s to say that Season 6 quality isnâ€™t the norm here, considering it was the last we saw of the Palladinos? Iâ€™m probably a bit more generous than other regarding the sixth season, in that I actually like the basic concept of a major rift occurring between Lorelai and Rory. Iâ€™m just not crazy about the execution, nor the fact that the reconciliation never really feels true, all the way to the end of the series. And maybe thatâ€™s just fact of life, that youâ€™ll never be close with your family and friends like you were when you were young, but it hurts us too. But that gives me a bit of hopeâ€” maybe this revival is the chance to really see the Gilmore Girls back together again.
Moving on the structure: itâ€™s critical to how TV shows work. Changing episode lengths or the structural patterns can throw everything off. This was a major problem I had with the Arrested Development revival. The move from 22 minutes to 30 minutes for a straight comedy was terrible. The episodes dragged. They were boring. Dull. Every minor annoyance was magnified. Consequently, the extended length of the Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life episodes is a red flag for me. An early review from Alan Sepinwall of UPROXX confirmed my fear: he reports that the longer episodes do nothing to help our story. Iâ€™m concerned that the move from 42 minute episodes to 90 minute mini-movies will flanderize our characters and amplify the bad. Optimistically, maybe it could also amplify the good.
Expectation of genre
However, in terms of genre expectations, weâ€™re in much better shape than other revivals. For one, Gilmore Girls was a show where not much happened. Thereâ€™s no pressure to maintain the twists in a more suspenseful thriller or sci-fi show. Itâ€™s also not a straight comedy where jokes can feel stale or specific interactions are necessary for a gag. If Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is a relatively low-key, if emotionally-driven affair, the highest stakes being Rory dealing with unemployment or Lorelai helping Emily reorganize her house after Richardâ€™s death, we might be in for something satisfying. I also think grounding the new episodes in Stars Hollow would be an excellent decision, since much of the later seasons of Gilmore Girls felt hollow, no pun intended, without the brightness that all the townies brought to seasons one through three.
Promos and cast buy-in
When the first full length trailer for A Year in the Life came out, I was in the â€œcautiously optimisticâ€ group. All the big notes seemed to be hit, nothing too gimmicky, etc. But there were some cringe-y moments in the trailer that I canâ€™t ignore. Lorelai hiking? It feels a bit too close to the scene where Rory and Lorelai play racquetball in the Season 7 premiere, â€œThe Long Morrow.â€ Or worse, when Rory claims â€œwe like to hit the gym when weâ€™re hereâ€ in one of my least favorite non-season seven episodes of the series, â€œA Vineyard Valentineâ€ (though at least Rory and Lorelai do just drink cucumber water and get massages when theyâ€™re at the gym).
However, Iâ€™m so pleased that the newest promos, including a longer teaser which includes Lorelai and Rory hazily listing all the types of food they ordered the night before and the super short teasers where Scott Patterson tells us Lukeâ€™s has new menus, have been delightful.
And that brings me to number three: cast buy-in. Everyone seems legitimately stoked to be doing this show again. Sure, theyâ€™re actors and theyâ€™re supposed to seem happy and promote their work, but you can tell when someone isnâ€™t proud of their movie or show. Itâ€™s a simple thing, but if the cast is excited, I feel excited. A full cast returning also means a better chance of recreating the chemistry that worked so well in the original series. Revivals without lots of returning cast canâ€™t always rely on what worked before; with almost the entire cast returning, weâ€™re in very good shape for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
Itâ€™s funny, but I think my deep attachment to Gilmore Girls is forcing me to remain skeptical on some level, presumably to prevent disappointment. But truly, even with my concerns laid out, I donâ€™t doubt that fans, myself included, will love this experience. Gilmore Girls was a magical show for a lot of people, the kind of show you bonded with people over. Honestly, if the feelings associated with it can be evoked again and if the heart of this show is still present in these new episodes, weâ€™ll already be there. Copper boom.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life lands on Netflix this Friday, Nov. 25.
We’re Back Featurette
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