TV – Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (Netflix)

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© 2016 Netflix

spoilers, sweeties

I started watching Gilmore Girls in summer 2005.  That’s right – just two years before it ended.  I was in an in-between time from college to graduate school, and had a little time on my hands.  Some channel (ABC Family?  The WB?) was showing it a couple times a day, and so I would gather my craft projects in front of the TV, and sit and just enjoy it all.  I don’t think I saw the episodes in order, and I certainly didn’t have a good idea of what happened when or where or what the significance was.  I didn’t watch new episodes as they aired, and just sort of enjoyed it for what it was.  A few years later, degree in hand and evenings free from reading up on acquisition policies for libraries and archives, I decided to give it another shot.  A friend lent me the DVDs (and I borrowed what was missing from Netflix, back when it did most of its business through the mail), and since the series had ended by this point, I went all the way through, enjoying myself thoroughly.

© 2016 Netflix

And I can honestly say that I remember very little of it.  Some of it is memorable – not lines, or scenes – but feelings.  Parents in every generation who don’t get it.  Children who continue to make mistakes.  Bad choices made, and hard lessons learned.  Professional leaps, and falling in love as well.  I wasn’t obsessed.  A year or two ago, someone recommended that I listen to the Gilmore Guys podcast, which is two guys – one a veteran fan, the other a newbie – watching every episode and enjoying it all.  I didn’t.  I’m sure it was and is good, but I was never as obsessed with Gilmore Girls as a lot of people on the internet seem to have been.  I was more into Bunheads – the ABC Family (now Freeform) show starring Sutton Foster as a Las Vegas showgirl who ends up in a small town teaching dance.  You can watch the entire series online, and you SHOULD.  It’s a gut puncher.

© 2016 Netflix

Anyways – last year, Netflix announced the Gilmore Girls revival.  People FREAKED OUT.  I was interested.  Excited.  Knew I would watch it.  But I wasn’t taking the day after Thanksgiving off, and wouldn’t be making a special effort to watch all of it right away.  I watched the first season (Winter) the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and over the next 12 days or so watched the rest of the episodes when I had time.

Guys – it was fine.  I’m sure there are lots of call-backs to the original series, but it’s not the kind of thing that I’m necessarily going to get as a non-obsessed insider.  I had honestly sort of forgotten how the series left things except for a) Rory following Barack Obama on the campaign trail as a reporter and b) Luke and Lorelai had finally gotten together.  That was it.  Reading recaps of the 7th season sort of left me blank.  Things like, “Lorelai got married?  WTF!”  So slipping back into the show years later didn’t leave me feeling like, “But what happened in between?”  Because I never felt that way about this show.

© 2016 Netflix

Interestingly, this short series seems to be a meditation on loss, self-awareness, and repeating mistakes.  The biggest loss is that of actor Edward Herrmann who played the patriarch Richard Gilmore.  All the main Gilmore ladies – Rory, Lorelai and Emily – all have to deal with his loss, and they do so in different ways.  Emily’s journey through the four episodes is one of the most interesting in my point of view – this man was her husband and the center of her world.  From the very beginning of the show we can see that everything is different for her.  She does open herself up to new things – Marie Kondo, a maid who finally seems to fit into her lifestyle, a new man, and eventually a new location and life’s work.  She goes to therapy, and works a while, and then when she figures out her own direction – goes on her own.  It’s not perfect, and she was bound to fall back into old patterns (depending on a man to be the center of her life) but I think by the end of the season, we see Emily is beginning to be her most authentic self.

© 2016 Netflix

Lorelai and Rory’s journeys are very bound up in each others – they were always sort of co-dependent and when they fought it was over the things that they hated about their own selves.  Lorelai would criticize Rory for not pushing herself professionally enough.  Rory would yell at Lorelai about opening herself up to the possibility of a real relationship with a good man.  But whereas Lorelai comes out of this short series looking like she’s starting to figure things out – deciding not to retread the possibility of having a baby with Luke, pushing herself professionally, and finally getting married (and on her own terms) – Rory is not there.

© 2016 Netflix

Rory is the problematic one in this series.  She starts the year at this sort of tip-top professional space where she’s written an amazing article, and is on tap to write a book with a fascinating woman.  Then through a series of events that were not entirely her own fault, but also were not helped by her own sense of pride and entitlement, she just free falls.  She is back living at home in her 30s.  She is having an affair with a man she should not be with.  She has too much pride to admit that she’s “back”, and so pushes away all the people who could help her out.  The Year and season ends with “The Last Four Words” – something I saw hyped on the internet everywhere, and didn’t really understand why they were so shocking.  As soon as I knew there were “four words”, I was figuring out how Rory being pregnant could be expressed that way.  Because it seemed obvious to me.  This is a show about repeating the mistakes that your mother made – for better or worse.

Who knows – maybe this is a purposeful thing – something that we were supposed to know was meant to happen because of the whole interlude with Paris (SO UNDERRATED) and her surrogacy business, and Luke and Lorelai’s flirtation with having their own child in the first episode.  Maybe it’s not and Rory will abort the child, or give it up, or maybe we’ve got the next generation of unprepared mother about to have a child – just like her mother.  She may be twice as old as her mother was when having her, but that doesn’t stop her from being in this state of arrested development that would make for potentially good television were it ever to become a full time series again.

© 2016 Netflix

I don’t know.  There are lots of other people out there talking about the revival who have more invested, who remember fondly all the little things, and appreciate them.  I’m more excited for the new direction that Emily is headed in, and the more focused, successful and happy version of Lorelai that seems to be on the horizon.  But conflict is what makes a story interesting, so I suppose Rory being in a pickle is where the focus would have to be.  Eh.  Anyone else out there watched Gilmore Girls already?  Were those last four words really so surprising?  I can’t be the only one who guessed them.  We could speculate on the father…or let Vulture do it for us.  Or if you’re a true blue obsessive – tell me what I’m not getting.

Details: Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, now streaming on Netflix

4 Comment

  1. Nicole Holstein says: Reply

    I have some good news for you – the Gilmore Guys are doing Bunheads next. Maybe that will be more up your alley. You should also give their 5 episodes on the new series a shot (one general reaction, and then one episode in depth for each “season”).

    You are spot on in so much here. I completely agree that Emily’s story is probably the most interesting. It rings true to what people go through after the loss of their partner in their elder years of life, and the struggle with depression and re-finding purpose. It was also nice to finally see Emily get some character growth and have a real arch after 7 years of…not.

    I also agree with you 100% that Paris is totally underrated. She’s the best and her scenes gave me such joy.
    There were definitely also a lot of fan service-y throw backs. Too many in my opinion, and they leaned too hard on many of them (the question of Taylor’s sexuality comes to mind. And the entire Life & Death Brigade fever dream bullshit was ridiculous and unnecessary). There were also like a bazillion cameos of people you would never, ever, ever, realize unless you were an ultimate devotee (like people who worked behind the scenes on the original series, friends of the cast, an a lot of superfans). I didn’t even recognize most of them; I just know about them because the Gilmore Guys talked about them all. They even had their own cameo as background actors in “Spring.”
    Jason Manzukas was probably my fav cameo because he is an ultimate fan of the show and has been a guest on the Gilmore Guys podcast like, 8 times. And he wanted to be on it in the first series too, and even had a meeting with the casting directors back then. But couldn’t get it to work. Carol King’s role, on the other hand, was dumb.

    You are also right that Rory is a monster. The worst thing is that I honestly don’t know if the writers understand that she’s problematic; they kind of continue to present her as sympathetic but she’s been just becoming a worse and worse human being since Season 1…..

    The last four word thing was important because the writers, Amy and Dan, didn’t get to write Season 7, but they’d had the ending of the series planned since the beginning. Amy always knew what those 4 words would be. So this revival was a chance for her them to wrap up the series the way they had always meant to (which means, she had actually intended Rory to become pregnant at age 22, just after college, which makes it a very different situation from getting pregnant at 32). Now, whether this was really a “wrap up,” or a subtle ask for even more new season is up for debate.

    I have a LOT of criticisms of the new series (and the old, for that matter). But I am still glad they made them. It’s light and nostalgic, and through both its strengths and weaknesses, provides a lot of fertile ground to think and talk about real life issues, like feminism, single parenthood, growing up, and dealing with difficult and emotionally fraught relationships of all kinds.

    1. maggie says: Reply

      Oh, it was definitely interesting, and I’m glad they made it – a fun watch. But you’re right that Rory getting pregnant just at college would have changed things significantly (and I remember reading that this had been meant to happen years earlier). Who knows.

      But it’s definitely time for a Bunheads rewatch. I’m not even sure that I saw the finale – that’s how shafted that show got by ABC-F.

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