GILMORE GIRLS: A YEAR IN THE LIFE Review
I love GILMORE GIRLS. All of my best friends love GILMORE GIRLS. Thanks to Netflix, this show has managed to weasel its way back into the cultural zeitgeist right when a generation of discouraged college kids needed it the most. We all picked our dream boyfriend and allowed this beloved dramedy of the ‘00s to transport us to Stars Hollow, where the biggest problem was Lorelai twitching during the Festival of Moving Portraits. Buzzfeed made a quiz recently (do not @ me) and a response to the question “What’s your favorite thing about the original series?” was “The way my brain melts into a comfortable mush when I watch it.” Despite my strong opinions on most aspects of the show (“Hard pass on Dean, all in on Jess, Logan can straight up go fuck himself” — Jason Mantzoukas, 2015), the absolute best part of GILMORE GIRLS is being able to have insightful discussions about Lorelai’s id while sunken into your couch, elbow deep in a tub of ice cream, feeling inexplicably at home in the girls’ small Connecticut town.
This deep connection is what influenced fans to demand a revival. While our culture is drowning in revivals, sequels, and reboots that no one asked for, GILMORE GIRLS is an outlier. Fans were begging for more time in Stars Hollow after the series was added to Netflix two years ago, and creator Amy Sherman-Palladino was more than happy to oblige. She left the show after the sixth season and wasn’t able to give GILMORE GIRLS the proper, perfect ending she felt it deserved, which is what she set out to do in A YEAR IN THE LIFE.
God, grant me Gilmore genes
Revivals suck. On principle, they suck. The new episodes of your favorite show are never going to live up to expectations because the longer the show has been off the air, the more each viewer has glorified the original content. Because of Netflix, GILMORE GIRLS has become more accessible and therefore more relevant in the last two years, making it easier for viewers to remain active. Listening to the podcast GILMORE GUYS has encouraged me to think critically about the show and to accept it for its flaws. My friends who have been re-watching have realized that they don’t sympathize with Rory as much post-graduation, or they find the Gilmores’ relationship too codependent now that they’ve developed an adult relationship with their mothers. Most of the flaws in the revival derive from underlying flaws throughout the series that could no longer be ignored.
I will say, having a viewing party made binge watching almost six hours of content a lot more bearable than rolling my eyes alone at my laptop. Not only did it help to have a chorus of friends to sing the woefully abandoned theme song, it felt good that I was not alone in heckling the screen over the increasingly poor decisions of Rory Gilmore. Everyone loudly complained when we realized that we had to sit through the seemingly endless Stars Hollow: The Musical sequence, and there was a beautiful camaraderie found in booing the most unwelcome guest appearance by Mitchum Huntzberger. There were laughs and groans when we all predicted that Lorelai was going to “Wild” herself, and when it became clear that Rory would make it her raison d’être to save the Stars Hollow Gazette — two obvious plotlines that were so painfully in character it made us question how we watched seven seasons without snapping. It was probably in my friend’s best interest that we all separated to watch episode four, as I don’t think her television would have made it out alive after that final twist.
I just…. needed this here
The strongest parts of the original run remain the strongest in the revival. For one of the first times in the show’s history, Michel received a solid B-plot and it was exceptional. Liza Weil returned as Paris Gellar as if not a day had passed, and the townies didn’t miss a beat in maintaining their singular quirkiness and charm (Kirk’s second film was… iconic). My dream boyfriend Jess was underused, per usual, but with one emotionally charged glance he practically confirmed a second season of A YEAR IN THE LIFE. The show finally grew up and admitted Rory’s struggles with entitlement and Lorelai finally got called out for being, well, Lorelai. Also, Sookie came back, thank God.
The absolute best part of A YEAR IN THE LIFE was unquestionably Kelly Bishop’s return as matriarch Emily Gilmore. Bishop has been an unshakeable pillar of GILMORE GIRLS from the beginning, but this revival presented uncharted territory for Emily: her husband Richard’s passing and her newfound position as a widow. The nuance of Bishop’s performance is indescribable — an act as small as carefully removing an out of place leaf on Richard’s casket instantly brought me to tears. Bishop and Lauren Graham still perfectly complement one another, and the two scenes in which Lorelai recounts memories of her father and Emily quietly listens should earn Emmy nominations for both of them. The original run of the show lacked attention on Emily, and to finally see her receive the character development she always deserved was deeply gratifying.
Before you ask, yes, Emily Gilmore in jeans is the most bizarre part of the revival
A YEAR IN THE LIFE did what it intended to do: it brought us home. But coming home is complicated, it opens the audience up to a range of emotions. It’s too easy to be hypercritical and overly sentimental, but the GILMORE GIRLS audience already knows to balance the good with the bad. Rory’s entire arc in the revival was a hot mess, but so was her affair with Dean in seasons four and five. The useless Paul storyline pales in comparison to April. On the other hand, Luke and Lorelai’s impromptu wedding was on par with Richard and Emily’s vow renewals in season five, and the girls’ make-up feast in episode four rivals their emotional reunion in season six. The Gilmore Girls were never perfect — not the show and certainly not them — but it was their flaws which drew us to them in the first place and keep us coming back.
Ultimately, if you love GILMORE GIRLS, you’re going to watch A YEAR IN THE LIFE. Drop by Stars Hollow for a few hours, check up on Miss Patty and Babette, peep how all the ex-boyfriends aged, and you’re done until the inevitable second season.