A Non-Spoiler Review of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

Friday Netflix premiered Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. I laughed, cried, was surprised, shocked, and tickled by the numerous forms of wish fulfillment.

 I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls since 6th grade, but it’s only since my recent career shift to writing that I have truly felt a kinship with the characters. This reboot didn’t fail to enhance the warm and fuzzies I have for the Lorelais, I mean Gilmore Girls. Early this morning between Thursday’s Parade, Christmas Classics and Hallmark Holiday Movie Marathons (not so different from Lorelai’s Lifetime Movie obsession) I squeezed in around 7 hours for my Girls. 

The story begins in Winter 2015 without the Carol King theme song, which does not play until the end off the final episode (Fall). Rory is still struggling with poor relationship choices and where she wants her career to go. Lorelai is managing the Dragonfly Inn, living with Luke (who is still managing the dinner). The biggest character change is for Emily Gilmore. She is struggling to find her place in the world without her husband of 50 years Richard. It is that plot point that has me pondering what show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino would have written if Ed Herrmann hadn’t died in real life.

The entire Emily story line is based on the passing of her husband. The Lorelai-Emily dynamic revolves around this tragic event. Rory finds herself pondering her grandfather’s opinions on her life choices. Luke is even having his life effected by the passing in ways many audience members might find surprising. With all those factors, it is clear we’d be watching an entirely different show if Herrmann was still here. May he rest in peace.

Don’t worry it is not all doom and gloom followed by Eat, Pray,  Love style self rediscovery. The cameos of best friends and boyfriends past actually move the plot along and several characters are central to the women’s lives. This is most prominently seen in Rory’s story line. Her high school friends and her boyfriends from her 15, 17, and 20 year old self. In terms of her friends, Lane is unfortunately a very small part, but there is a healthy dose of Paris and her lovers. Unfortunately, Tristan is played by a stand-in because Chad Michael Murray had scheduling conflicts, but otherwise the Paris thread is woven in delightfully well. In terms of boyfriends, Logan gets the most screen time, followed by Jess but both are bitter sweet due to continuing to fail at having a relationship with Rory. There is a cute bit with Dean towards the end but otherwise he is not in the show.

Lorelai’s friends and former boyfriends also make cameos but they have very little screen time, except Michel who is still rocking at life at the Dragonfly Inn. Sookie is played by Melissa McCarthy, one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, so one scene is all we get. It is a wonderful scene and they do build up to it from the opening of Winter (episode one). In terms of Lorelai’s boyfriends, Max Medina is 100% missing in action. There are scenes they could have inserted him into at Clinton and elsewhere in the show but he is sadly left out. We do get a bit of Christopher but it is again one short scene. His second daughter, Rory’s half sister is merely mentioned although there was real potential for a plot line there.

Luke’s daughter April is also mentioned, but only twice and has one short scene. She was a great part of the end of the original series she is barely a footnote in this reboot. She is not mentioned, invited, or shown in the big ending in Fall. Again this was a plot development that would have been enjoyable to watch unfold and she should have been in many since with Jess in the final episode. It actually felt awkward to not have her there.

Spring and Summer are full of awkwardness due to edits and directorial choices. These choices forced segues and made for often nonexistent transitions with up to seven second black screens.

Many other viewers thought that the Parenthood and Bunheads cast cameos were awkward and unnecessary. I loved it. The show is about life going full circle and is full of audience and story line wish fulfillment. Why shouldn’t it give Lauren Graham  (Lorelai) and the show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino some wish fulfillment and life coming full circle for themselves?

To me the writing issues lay in three aspects. One body shaming scene in Summer. An ongoing vaguely racist bit by Emily. An upper crust CT women being vaguely racist is true to life and her character. I simply dislike it because they don’t full develop that story line and it leaves off with a mini-mystery. Finally I disliked an Across the Universe style dream-esque scene between Logan and Rory. The transitions in edits and directing are so bad that is hard to follow and lacks flow.

I rolled with laughter at the now infamous framed tale of a local musical. This is a non-spoiler review so I won’t go into details. The complaints are that the cast are not locals and the bit goes on too long. Somehow I felt like it was just right. It let my non-fan friends and family jump into my binge and instantly understand the show’s sense humor. It also reminded me of past seasons’s local shows and Edgar Allan Poe Night, which were absolutely classic episodes.

The fairs and local residents of Stars Hollow are the heart and soul of the show. Most reviews for this show were written by men and people in big cities, but the majority of viewers during Gilmore Girls hay-day were in small towns, suburbs, and rural America.I grew up in a place like that. I knew my neighbors, had a favorite diner and inn, loved the fairs and our version of the town gazebo, and I was on first name basis with the mayor and editor of the local paper. The charm is not just in the characters but it the fact that it feels like home, our home. Many viewers live in Stars Hollows at least in our nostalgia-filled, idealized, and rose-colored glasses versions of our towns and our lives.

As a New England girl, it is this charm that reminds me of Little Women. Jo March has a similar career path, full of struggles like Rory. She also faces economy and class issues. The writing Rory does in this reboot and that Jo March did mimics the journey of their creators in a heartfelt way any writer can relate too. Both women move to New York in their twentys and long to travel. Rory does get to travel to Europe in the original series and does quite a bit of traveling in A Year in The Life but like Jo March, family keeps bringing her back home to New England. Both main characters are complex and have sweet stories that I longed to go on enjoying. Thankfully there were numerous books on the life of Jo March but it is unclear it Gilmore Girls will continue.

Ratings are not in yet. Even if the viewership is high the show ended in the foreseeable way Amy Sherman-Palladino planned. The story has come full circle and has a bittersweet ending that is perfect, but you will be left wanting more.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is a must see for fans and non-fans alike.

For more from Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, keep an eye out for the premiere of their new show on Amazon. The pilot description for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,  says that this is about the adventures of a housewife who becomes a stand-up comic.

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