Published on January 17th, 2017 | by Mike Brown1
‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ Binge Review
How is the Netflix Gilmore Girls revival? Mild Spoilers on the premise, nothing that isn’t revealed in the first ten minutes.
(This review was written in two parts.)
If you haven’t watched the original Gilmore Girls TV show, do so. It’s a fun family drama with snappy dialogue and realistic relationships set across a fairy tale land called Stars Hollow where people have fun and work together and not only accept, but celebrate each other’s quirks. If you watched Northern Exposure, Stars Hollow, Connecticut is a direct descendant of Cicely, Alaska.
Gilmore Girls is not the best paced, acted, or plotted show in history.
As a matter of fact, from a story standpoint, the show was often a huge mess, with moments happening on the periphery of the action and not necessarily showing the resolution to whatever issue was taking up Rory and Lorelei’s life. And many of the roadblocks to happiness did seem contrived. But there was enough information and reaction that the show didn’t spoon feed us information awkwardly to suit the weekly hour-long dramedy format. It worked because of the chemistry between so many of the characters and the great writing. It’s more like a series of interconnected short stories than a novel. And hell, not being formulaic is a good thing!
Three of the four main actors are amazing: Lauren Graham, Kelly Bishop, and the late Edward Herrmann, all old pros, even if some of the others were lightweights. Hell, Sally Struthers got to remind us that she is hysterically funny and learned her comic timing from some of the best ever in the business on All in the Family. And it would be weird not to mention that Melissa McCarthy really got her start playing chef Sookie, Lorelei’s best friend. And yes, McCarthy shows up in the revival, although not for too long.
I guess another thing that makes me think of Northern Exposure is the quirky supporting cast. Perpetual innocent Kirk, with a pet pig and a thousand jobs; Taylor Doose, the mayor of Stars Hollow and store owner, a guy who wants life to be simple, but governed by a thousand rules; Babette, who has an eye for the fellas and an opinion on everything; Miss Patty with a lot of divorces in her rear-view mirror, teaches the children dance and all about her past as an actress. There’s some top-shelf oddness here. One of the best moments in my life was when we saw Kirk’s night terrors at the shake-down for Lorelei’s inn, the Dragonfly.
And now there’s been a Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
Is it worth your time? Long review short, yes. But if you haven’t already watched the original show, do so.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is wildly successful in tone, instantly re-capturing the sharp dialogue, rapid-fire pop culture references, and camaraderie that made the original show so charming. In short, you are dropped right back into Stars Hollow and it feels just like home. This show is funny with jokes tumbling out of everyone constantly, even during the serious moments. Watch for matriarch Emily Gilmore’s cursing meltdown as a highlight of a funny moment with real drama behind it.
The plot, such as it is, is that Rory is working as a freelance writer and hasn’t quite found her place in the world. She majored in journalism at Yale and ran the Yale newspaper, so many people are interested in her, but it’s not quite working out. She frequently comes home for some soul searching with her mother. Also, Rory’s grandfather has passed away recently, sending his wife, Emily, and daughter, Lorelei, into an existential crisis and depression that lurches into quick fixes, self-help books that counsel to throw out everything you own, and therapy, which gives us some nice mother-daughter moments.
The first problem that isn’t a problem with the revival is that this isn’t four episodes or four mini-movies.
It’s a six-hour movie chopped almost at random into four episodes. Each of the seasons ends mostly without resolving the previous plot points. Hell, even after the end of the last episode, I don’t think anything is, strictly speaking, “resolved,” just lives have moved forward. The structure is, as it was with the original TV show, very strange. But this isn’t avoiding a formula. It’s a bit self-indulgent and could have used an editor. But it’s not bad!
Also, the sense of time is crazy. I constantly was wondering if things were happening the same day— watch for Rory traveling to Star Hollow from London without it seeming to take any time at all. Also the arbitrary cut into the four seasons — already maybe too cute — is weird because, say, Winter will end, and then it’s Spring, but it’s moments after our Winter installment, but now it’s Spring and I just didn’t feel like much time had passed. It’s not a big deal, but I do like to know when things happen. And the changing of the seasons is usually significant in something titled, Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall.
Ironically, I think that the structure of a hour-long network TV series suited the Gilmore Girls creators, giving them a time limit and the need to film weekly. Not having that time limit on the revival results in some “in” jokes going on way too long. Watch for the joke musical where I swear we had to actually watch ten minutes of bad songs to underline how bad the songs were. Two Broadway heavy weights were singing them, so it felt like the producers didn’t want to cut out their show business friends, but this scene would have benefited from taking the pinking shears to it. And there’s a few moments like that, self-indulgent moments going on way too long. But that’s something to do with Netflix and actually has happened on a few of the Netflix revivals, like the Arrested Development leaping to mind as pretty far up it’s own ass. With none of the structure of the network show, everything is paced and cut very oddly. It’s not bad, but keeps it from being an “A.”
I don’t know if this is true, but another issue I had with the show was that Rory is very quickly revealed to be having an affair with her ex, Logan. Rory has a boyfriend and Logan is engaged. What the hell, Rory? I want to like you, but that’s not okay. More than once we see Logan talking to Rory on the phone, all his attention focused on her, with his fiancé sleeping behind him. It’s not just that this was no fun, but it went on for so long that Rory was really starting to seem like a bad person. It’s not until Rory tells Lorelei about her affair that someone finally says, “That is very bad.” I know Rory is vulnerable after her Grandfather’s death, but yeesh.
Also, if you hated the Life and Death Brigade in the show— as I did— they are much, much worse in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
I could see the director having fun and making a sort of Moulin Rouge type moment out of them. But a group of men in their thirties dressed in steam punk, drinking themselves to oblivion, and buying their way out of any consequences with an endless supply of money, is beyond twee. It’s nauseating. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s supposed to be. One of the themes of the show is that there are these families that have so much money that they can do, essentially, whatever they want. But we had to watch them for a long time and it just got worse and worse. I sort of wish some of them would have died in their ridiculous, childish adventures.
While I’m piling on, and I don’t know why this bothers me so much, but there are some brutal fat jokes in Summer that didn’t fit with the “live and let live” ethos of Stars Hollow.
Rory is mean to one guy’s face! She calls him “Back Fat.” They make snide remarks in front of children. And part of the show is fantasy, including the very skinny Rory and Lorelei constantly binge eating junk food without gaining a pound. It seemed brutal to me to make fun of others for being fat and took me right out of the fun of the show.
Here’s a super dumb thing, Gilmore Girls would have a cold open, then opening credits with “Where you Lead” by Carol King playing. During all four of these movies, part of me was waiting for the cold open to be over and for the credits to start, sometimes even an hour into them. It’s possible that this was my own problem, but that song always seemed like a big part of the show. I think they quoted the lyrics a few times in the revival, so it was strange not to have it in there.
It should be known that this is not a wrap-up of the show.
I was expecting to find out who everyone ended up with and have some questions answered. But it wasn’t like that at all. Things were left very open-ended like there might be another season of Gilmore Girls in a few years. I know that sometimes stories close on a new idea. And certainly the new stories brought us full circle. But if felt to me like, no matter how coy everyone is being, if enough people watch this, Netflix will open up their continent of money to the creators of Gilmore Girls for another go at the trough. I’m totally in if they do!
But I forgive the show most of the sins I have mentioned.
(Although I still think fat jokes to be beneath the show.) But come to think of it, the first three hours were heavy on the scatological jokes. It’s fun to watch! All the issues come out later when you think about it. Once again, if you haven’t watched the original show, start with that. But if you have and you liked it at all, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life should make you smile again.
Thomas Wolfe was an idiot! You can go home again! And I have! Home to Stars Hollow, where I don’t have to worry about paying bills or being on time to work. All I have to worry about is whether or not Luke got Lorelei a nice present or what print is going to be on Lorelei’s dress. I love you, Gilmore Girls.
Answers to the one burning question from Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
Spoiler warning: This article contains MASSIVE spoilers. Do not read unless you’ve watched the series or don’t care!
1. What species was the alien that ate Luke?
I just put a fake question in, in case you were still reading but hadn’t seen the show. Spoilers! Wouldn’t you have been sorry if Luke had been eaten by a Jupitarian and you found out about it in this article?
Who is Rory’s kid’s father?
Okay, obviously the easy and obvious answer to this is Logan. We frequently see Rory abed with Logan including what we are obviously meant to believe is the night of conception, a “perfect” night with the odious Life and Death Brigade and coitus with Logan. I hate those rich jerks in the Life and Death Brigade! The one buys a tango club so that they won’t play any more tango music! Go to a different bar, rich jerk!
Even though Rory has a boyfriend, Paul, who she is constantly cheating on, I think we can all agree Logan is her boyfriend through these six hours. I hated to see Rory, she of the usually true north moral compass, paraphrasing the horrible “what happens in Vegas” crap that makes it seems like it’s all right to cheat on your wife with a legal prostitute just as long as no one finds out. Vegas is the worst! And Rory shouldn’t be using their ideals as a template for her relationship. Anyway, she’s having a physical relationship with Logan consistently through the show.
But there was a curious moment earlier in the series where Rory had her first one-night stand with a wookiee. First off, he could be the father. Rory and the wookiee had sex. The timing doesn’t work out a hundred percent, but time is a strange thing in the Gilmore Girls revival world. Spring, technically, goes to June 20th and Fall starts on September 21st, so Rory wouldn’t necessarily be showing. And TV isn’t above a few tricks. So I don’t think it’s the wookiee. But it could be!
So why do I bring it up if I don’t believe it?
Because it sets a structural precedent! Because none of Rory’s one-night stand was shown! We wouldn’t have known about it except that she told us. It’s actually kind of a jarring scene because I don’t think anyone expected her to come back and tell her mother she had sex with one of the weirdos she met researching her stupid “line” article. So there could be someone else that wasn’t shown. The story telling is setting us up to understand that we don’t know everything that happens. If Rory is cheating on her boyfriend with an engaged guy, who knows what else she is up to off camera? Hell, we know she ran into Jess in earlier episodes. Maybe they had sex off-camera? Could it be a Jess or Logan who is the father episode of Maury?
And although this would be really surprising, Rory did have a boyfriend for all but the last few moments of the six-hour movie. We have to assume that they saw each other sometimes and that a little loving might be in the air. She had been dating him for three years by the end of the last episode! He could be the father, although I guess no one would remember if he was.
Another obvious reason that Logan seems like the father is poetry.
Just as Lorelei has her rich ex who she did indeed love, Christopher, and her soul mate, the working class Luke Danes, who Lorelei ends up with after much sturm und drang; Rory has her Rich ex probable baby daddy, Logan, and her soul mate, the working class Jess Mariano, who is Luke’s nephew for Pete’s sake. So you could certainly make an argument that the show itself is telling us that Rory is going to make some mistakes along the way, but end up with Jess in the end. In other words, the show had come full circle, Lorelei is the grandmother, there’s a new Gilmore Girl (possibly a boy) on the way and the story is about to start all over again.
I said in my other article that I didn’t quite buy that Rory would be the other woman as she had already made that mistake and seemed to learn from it. Remember, she lost her virginity to Dean while he was married? And then felt terrible about it? And got mad at her mother for being honest that it was a crummy thing to do? There was a whole lesson!
Anyway, I think part of this was the show creator, Amy Sherman-Pallidino, getting out some of her ideas for a final season of Gilmore Girls. But for a lot of weird reasons, Sherman didn’t get to work on the last season of Gilmore Girls. For the rest of us, we had already seen Logan and Rory’s relationship fail, but Sherman didn’t get to write her version of it and I think she wanted to. I think the whole point was that “good” and “bad” are relative terms in affairs of the heart. But, sure, we get it. I still like Rory. But I saw her whole Logan relationship just a few months ago in Season 7. I was kind of hoping Rory had moved on in the, oh, ten years since then.
I just didn’t need the show to be set up as a greatest hits of Rory’s exes.
I didn’t mind it. But if there are more stories to tell with this new situation, we could meet Rory’s Max Medina, the guy that never quite fit but seemed okay when he was introduced. I don’t think anyone spends much time wishing that Max and Lorelei were back together. But I’m glad Lorelei went out with him!
By the way, part of me is hoping that there are more Gilmore Girls in our future. I’m reasonably confident a lot of people binged the new episodes the weekend they came out and are now ready for more. And Netflix seems to have more money than NASA. From a very practical standpoint, Jess is on the hottest new family drama of the fall, This is Us, so he’s not going to be available any time soon for another show. Maybe Rory gets a new boyfriend, someone we haven’t seen before? I wrote a whole article on how even though Gilmore Girls: Year in the Life was flawed, I still loved it. And I’m ready for more! I love you, Gilmore Girls!
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