Much has already been written about Netflix’s reboot of Gilmore Girls, that much-beloved dramedy of the angsty ’00s. My Beautiful Wife and I watched it all Friday and Saturday, in two big chunks.
I am a well-known lover of Gilmore Girls. I had some mixed feelings about A Year in the Life. NOTE: Many spoilers follow.
1. It’s smarter than you think.
Lots of people who’ve never watched the show imagine Gilmore Girls as a puff of preteen candy floss. Lots of people who have watched a little can’t get past the saccharine Sam Phillips “la-la-la” incidental music.
But Gilmore Girls has really always been a comedy of manners, relentless in its skewering of American wealth and privilege through snappy dialogue. The verbal sparring matters more than the plot. It’s more Noel Coward than Garry Marshall, and that makes for some delightfully vinegary viewing.
2. It’s darker than you think.
Gilmore Girls has always been smart and screwball; at times, the jokes come fast and hard and inside enough to make John Kruk sweat. At times, the closest parallel on TV, in terms of the range and rapidity of the joking, was Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
But there was always a deeper and darker side to the show, and the revival has it in spades. If the final episode of Seinfeld revealed to the world what horrible people Jerry and his pals really were, A Year in the Life reveals what difficult and ridiculously entitled people our heroines have become, especially when confronting their mortality. It’s a short skip from Noel Coward to John Irving, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s hilarious and satisfying to see Emily Gilmore find post-Richard happiness when she trades terrorizing DAR-wannabe trophy wives in Hartford for terrorizing children with a harpoon in Nantucket. As if she’s found a socially acceptable channel for her rage.
3. There are lots of self-involved jerks in stars hollow.
Emily is a self-involved jerk. Taylor is a self-involved jerk. Logan and Paris and Mrs. Kim are certainly self-involved jerks.
Christopher is a jerk. I’ve always thought Luke was a jerk. Both totally self-involved.
To be fair: Lorelai and Rory are crazily self-involved, and are often, perhaps usually, jerks.
Even the non-jerk characters (Sookie, Zach) are totally self-involved.
Maybe that’s the underlying message of Gilmore Girls: We all fall somewhere on the self-involved/jerk spectrum.
Kirk is awesome. He is just a funny dude. Whatever Kirk is selling, I am buying.
5. Hep Alien has become a decent cover band.
The music on Gilmore Girls is still good and weird. The revival contains some beautiful Grant-Lee Phillips and Sam Phillips stuff, plus a handful of unexpected gems including Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” and Shonen Knife’s adorable version of that Carpenters classic, “Top of the World.” And it’s great to see that Hep Alien is still together, rocking the suburbs just like Joe Jackson did. Nice to see Zach and Lane doing a little jazz thing at the Secret Bar, too.
6. wait: this is gilmore girls?
Fat shaming? The whole town trying to out a character we’ve never been given to believe is gay in the first place and, in the second place, eww? The choice to give Emily Gilmore a whole family of lovable, unintelligible foreigners who just love taking care of her? What?
7. the more alarming flab.
There were, like, three good episodes of Gilmore Girls in six-plus hours of programming. So much fat. So crazily self-indulgent. The weird Life and Death Brigade sequence. The Wild stuff—amusing, but totally out of character for Lorelai. Even the Stars Hollow: The Musical scene, which I mostly adored, went on way too long.
8. All those cameos.
Most of them are welcome. It’s nice to see Jess and Dean and Mrs. Kim and Brian and Digger and Jackson and Sookie, of course. Not even April Nardini can ruin a scene.
9. Best cameo ever, though.
10. Those four last words.
First: Let’s be honest. Only three of those words mattered. One was a contraction, so you could easily have turned it into four. But still.
On the minus side, those four words would have played a lot differently coming out of the mouth of a 22-year-old Rory. Had Amy Sherman-Palladino had control at the end of the original series, who knows how they would have played (and what hijinks would have brought us to that point)?
Ten years later, those words seem shocking. They seem to confirm that Rory’s crazy, privileged rootlessness—was Emily bankrolling her all this time, because she sure wasn’t doing much paying work?—would now come to crashing halt. Rory sure doesn’t seem happy in her life, and this does not seem a happy ending for her.
Actually, it’s no ending at all for Rory. Who knows what she will become? Perhaps becoming a mother will ground her. Perhaps it will inspire her. Perhaps it will make her bitter, ultimately send her to a cold beach on Chappaquiddick, staring out at the sea.
I only hope it’s the end for us. I admire an uncertain ending; with The Sopranos, I was in the “great” camp. I like this ending just the way it is. I don’t want to analyze it, and I don’t want to speculate. I don’t want to know anymore. Let the Gilmore girls live their lives in peace. It will be quieter for all of us.