This Thanksgiving I was thankful for many things – my friends, my family, my health, my job, and that there would soon be new episodes of Gilmore Girls available. Forget turkey and all the fixings – this is what I was most excited about during my Thanksgiving break. The fact that I held off watching the new episodes until 3 pm on Friday is a testament to my willpower and my affection for my sister-in-law, as I was she was having a Gilmore Girls viewing party. I’m not going to lie – I was very tempted to watch the four new episodes before I went and then just watch them again with everyone else. Thankfully I was busy binging another show – more on that in a later post – so that kept me on the straight and narrow until it was time for the party. Distraction is a good thing. Though it was a late-ish start, we still managed to get through all 6 hours of new programming. We are hard core.
Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed the new episodes; unlike other revivals of some of my favorite shows, Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life was not a disappointment. It wasn’t perfect – it was definitely a little uneven and messy in part and some of the cameos felt too shoehorned in – but when I heard the famous final four words of the series, I was satisfied with the journey (random detours and all). It was just really nice to spend time with these characters again.
All the actors seamlessly stepped back into their roles and though many of them look a lot different than they did when we left them nine years ago (Miss Patty (Liz Torres) is now super skinny!), the spirit of their characters are alive and well. Lauren Graham (Lorelai) once proves that she may be the only creature on the planet that can flawlessly carry off the rapid-fire dialogue of Amy Sherman-Palladino and company, with Kelly Bishop (Emily) and Liza Weil (Paris) a close second. Scott Patterson is instantly Luke, gruff and loveable as always and I didn’t know it was possible but Kirk (Sean Gunn) has somehow gotten even weirder. It feels like these people have been playing these characters forever, not picking them back up after a long absence. The characters have evolved a bit, but the same through line that made these great characters when the show started is more than present. That doesn’t always mean that the characters are more likeable; I struggled with the likeability of Rory (Alexis Bledel) occasionally during the original run of the show and that is still the case in the new episodes; ultimately you root for her, but it’s hard to miss that she is a bit entitled and lost during the revival. I’m still solidly #TeamLogan (Matt Czuchry), but A Year In the Life softened me tremendously on Jess (Milo Ventimiglia). That character has really changed the most, for the better. I’m surprised as anyone that I kind of like Jess now.
The 90-minute run time per episode were both a blessing and a curse; on the one hand, the longer run time allowed them to cover a lot of ground and made the story feel more fleshed out and complete in a few number of episodes. I really liked the framing device of the revival focusing on the four seasons of one year. That concept permitted the writers the freedom to explore stories with longer arcs and show the change over time; this is especially apparent in how the show handles how various characters handle grief; one of the most compelling story lines follows how Emily adjusts to the new normal of her life after the death of her husband of 50 years. It’s beautifully done and because the four episodes cover an entire year, you can really see her transformation.
The downside of the long runtime is that sometimes the show indulges certain storylines for a bit too long. One glaring example of this is the musical about Stars Hollow that appears in the “Summer” episode; it’s a funny joke that goes on for about two minutes too long. The performances are great, but the writers’ indulgence ultimately hurts the overall effectiveness of the joke. I was charmed by it, but then I was bored with it. Because of the longer runtime, the episodes sometimes feel a bit unfocused or like they are filling time to justify the length. I would have preferred a slightly leaner and meaner set of Gilmore Girls episodes that had the occasional diversion but that kept the writing tight and that knew when to move on. Sometimes the 90 minutes felt a lot longer than 90 minutes. Of course, watching all the episodes back-to-back probably exasperated this issue, so that’s partially on me.
My other critique of the new episodes is how they handled the Sookie situation. I understand that the writers were in a pinch, not sure if Melissa McCarthy would reprise her role and how long she would be available if she did, but that uncertainty resulted in some very disjointed story telling. The initial explaining away of her absence didn’t make a ton of sense, especially since her husband Jackson (Jackson Douglas) appears to be in Stars Hollow. The idea that Sookie would be around and not an active part of Lorelai’s life is unbelievable at best and absurd once she does eventually turn up only to disappear again. It was certainly a difficult situation to write around, but the execution ultimately didn’t work at all.
As for the final four words – which I won’t reveal – I was satisfied with them, though I think that they would have worked a little better if they had been used when the show ended its original run in 2007. There is certainly room for more Gilmore Girls episodes down the road, but I’m content with how A Year In the Life ended despite the fact that it didn’t wrap everything up. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at more episodes, but I don’t need them for any sense of closure. A Year in the Life succeeded in undoing a lot of the damage of the final season of the original episodes and paying tribute to the death of Edward Hermann. I’ll admit that we had a big reaction to hearing the final four words and it was initially kind of surprising that was how Amy Sherman-Palladino wanted to end the show, but the more I thought about it the more I liked it and thought it was fitting finale for the series.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life will make most fans of the original run of the series happy. It can be messy and uneven, but when it really hits its stride it rivals the best moment of the series. A Year in the Life does not feel like a reasonable facsimile of Gilmore Girls; this is not imitation or going through the motions, but it truly feels like going home again. If this is really it, I’m totally OK with that. I’m just glad that I got another six hours with these actors and characters and that Amy Sherman-Palladino got to wrap things up on her own terms. Where she leads, I will follow…if that’s another Gilmore Girls revival, I’m in. If not, I am more than happy with the state of affairs in Stars Hollow.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is currently streaming on Netflix.