The dramedy Gilmore Girls (2000-07), which debuted on the late W.B. Television Network 14 years ago today, was a favorite show of mine. I watched it loyally from its second season (I got hooked by its lead-in to Smallville) until its series finale five years later. Ten years ago, I even bought the first three seasons on DVD, but I ended up not watching them as often as I thought I would. I knew that Gilmore Girls developed a devoted following, but I was unprepared for the Internet’s explosion of excitement when the series was made available for streaming on Netflix at the beginning of this month.
Thanks to this welcome cyberspace hullabaloo, I was inspired to watch my Gilmore Girls DVDs for the first time in a long while. And I was pleasantly reminded of why I like the show so much: its cozy ambience, its superb cast, its witty rapid-fire dialogue, its fully realized characters. I’m now happy to be reacquainted with the series. It feels a bit like catching up with a good friend after a long absence.
|Lauren Graham as Lorelai (left)|
and Alexis Bledel as Rory
For those who don’t know, Gilmore Girls follows the day-to-day travails and triumphs of Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham), an inn manager in the (fictional) town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. Lorelai’s wealthy mother and father, Emily (Kelly Bishop) and Richard (Edward Herrmann), live very well in Hartford’s high society. Years ago, they groomed Lorelai to be a part of that world, but she was too much of a free spirit to belong in such a conformist, repressive environment. When she was 16, Lorelai became pregnant, and after the birth of her daughter — also named Lorelai but who goes by the nickname Rory — she ran away from home to get away from her controlling parents. As the series begins, Rory (Alexis Bledel) is now 16 herself (making Lorelai a very youthful 32) and an excellent student accepted to the prestigious (and very expensive) Chilton private preparatory school. Unable to afford Chilton on her own, Lorelai goes cap in hand to her parents. To get their estranged daughter and grandchild back into their lives, they loan Lorelai the money on the condition that she and Rory have dinner with them every Friday. These dinners become the locus of most of the story-driving tensions from episode to episode.
Lorelai’s life in the quirky town of Stars Hollow includes her managing job at the Independence Inn and her occasional romantic relationships, especially her will-they-or-won’t-they flirtation with hunky local diner owner Luke Danes (Scott Patterson). Meanwhile, the episodes also chronicle Rory’s days in the equally repressive and controlling environment of Chilton (and after she graduates, Yale University), particularly her ambivalent association with her frenemy Paris Geller (Liza Weil). Another story line concerns Rory’s on-again/off-again relationships with town good boy Dean Forrester (Jared Padalecki) and city bad boy Jess Mariano (Milo Ventimiglia). Gilmore Girls’s hook is the wisecracking, pop-culture-referencing rapport between the whimsical Lorelai and the more down-to-earth Rory, a relationship more like sisters than mother-daughter. When selling the series, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino pitched a show where a mother and her daughter were best friends.
Because Gilmore Girls is decidedly woman-centered (a number of commentaries credit it for passing the Bechdel test with flying colors), I’m not surprised that — as in the days of the show’s first airings — its following is mostly female. In the years when the show was on the tube, I would surf the Web for Gilmore Girls discussion groups. In all cases, the cyber communities were overwhelmingly populated by fans with XX chromosomes. This was fine, but their on-line discussions tended to be limited to the romantic relationships on the show (the favorites among the fans were Lorelai-Luke and Rory-Jess), which didn’t leave much room for discussion of the show’s other merits. If I had first heard of Gilmore Girls through these discussion boards, I would have thought that the series in question was nothing more than a soap opera. Also, popular culture at the time (e.g., Saturday Night Live sketches) seemed to harbor the idea that male viewers of Gilmore Girls were mostly gay and equally fixated on Lorelai’s and Rory’s love lives.
I thought that Gilmore Girls’s reputation as a show with an almost exclusively female and gay-male audience was a huge disservice to such a well-crafted and searingly insightful show. Despite Gilmore Girls being undeniably estrogen-powered, there was no reason, I thought, why my fellow heterosexual men couldn’t be equally spellbound by the series and rid it of its undeserved reputation as a “mere” chick show, as a show primarily about romantic relationships, tugging heavily and blatantly on the heartstrings. With its fully fleshed-out characters and its keen, nuanced glimpses into the machinations of social hierarchy, among other elements, Gilmore Girls was so much more than that. (Obviously, it’s a statistical probability that the series must have had many other straight male viewers, but we seemed to be M.I.A. whenever the show was discussed by the media.) So, on one of the Gilmore Girls discussion boards, I posted a satirical piece about straight men being excessively stigmatized for liking the show. I titled what I wrote (drawing upon Gore Vidal’s neologism for heterosexuals) “Grims for Gilmore Girls,” which I’d love to repost, but the discussion board has vanished from the Internet, and I can’t find a copy of the piece anywhere nearby.
|The third Gilmore girl:|
Kelly Bishop as Emily
|Michael Winters as Taylor Doose|
Thinking of the show also reminded me of the number of times during its production that I bumped into cast member Michael Winters, who played Stars Hollow busybody Taylor Doose, at my local diner and made small talk with him. The weekend after the first broadcast of the episode “They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?,” I ran into him at a local restaurant and we had a brief conversation about the episode. He spoke highly of its director, Kenny Ortega.
At the same diner on another day, I also ended up sitting at a table next to Alexis Bledel. She munched on a salad and never took her eyes off her laptop, which she viewed with an increasingly consternated look on her face. She appeared as though she were reading bad news on the display. Had she looked more relaxed, I might have gone up to her and told her how much I enjoyed Gilmore Girls. But since she didn’t look happy, I gave her space.
|Bledel and Graham reunited in 2010 for an ‘Entertainment Weekly’ photo shoot|
Welcome back, Gilmore Girls. It’s been too long. And I’m glad to see that a TV show with crackling dialogue and such well-drawn female characters is still so fondly remembered and can generate such enthusiasm and excitement.
Gilmore Girls, Interrupted: Since so many viewers were disappointed by the show’s seventh, and last, season (the only season without Sherman-Palladino), especially its awkwardly retrofitted series finale, the aether has swarmed with rumors of a Gilmore Girls feature film that would conclude the saga of Lorelai and Rory in a more polished manner, closer to the way envisioned by its creator. After luxuriating in all of the buzz about Gilmore Girls’s new availability for streaming on Netflix, I hope the Powers That Be in Hollywood copper-boom and such a movie soon sees the light of day.