Writing about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (starts streaming Netflix on Friday) is a slippery task. There's a confidentiality/embargo agreement which precludes giving "storyline information," so some specifics can't be revealed.
And then there's the whole matter of the show's appeal. It's review-proof, critic-resistant and utterly anchored in its appeal to a fanatical fan base. That means that what reviews say don't matter at all.
Well and good. But let's steam ahead, regardless. Why does Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life even exist? Good question and I'm glad you asked. As a character in the four-part series says, while doing a spot of decluttering, "If it brings you joy, you keep it, and if it doesn't, you throw it out." The original Gilmore Girls series brought joy to its fans, and while it was thrown out by the original broadcaster, it deserves being retrieved.
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That's the upshot. But, as anyone who has covered TV for more than five minutes can attest, Gilmore Girls was never a hit show. It never made the Top 10 most-watched list. It was a minor cult show.
Here's the thing – Gilmore Girls went off the air in 2007 and its ending coincided with the arrival and rise of social media. A show that had a small but loyal audience suddenly seemed bigger, more profoundly missed than it was in any true sense. It seemed to be in the Top 10 most-missed shows. This was an illusion but the attention drew people to the show online and in box-set DVDs and the result, thanks to social media, was an apparent hunger for more.
Along comes Netflix and it is part of its business model to satisfy hunger for shows that nobody else has the inclination to revive. Thanks to Netflix's savvy use of social media promotion, suddenly the return of Gilmore Girls seems to be the TV event of the year.
It isn't – the show is charming but shallow; silly but not utterly trivial.
The new series begins with admirable breeziness. The familiar and cheery theme music starts and before you can say, "Oh, look, Stars Hollow hasn't changed," you realize that really nothing has changed. Everybody is a bit older but behaving the same way. Mom Lorelai (Lauren Graham) has the first of her many cups of coffee, daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) arrives and immediately there is all the banter, fast quips and pop-culture references that fans and admirers expect. It's nice. Really nice.
But if you're not a fan you might be taken aback by Lorelai saying, "Haven't done that for a while!" It's a wink to the audience, a self-consciously cute acknowledgment that the old gang is back and delighted to be doing it.
The gist, such as it is, involves both mother and daughter re-examining their lives and, maybe, making changes. Lorelai claims she's happy but, you know, she and her chap could be a little happier still. Rory seems to have had a successful career but now that she's in her 30s, she got a touch of the mopes. "This is my time to be rootless," she declares.
And, of course, her mom's comeback is, "She's Jack Kerouac. Pass the peyote."
Thus, if you're an admirer, you know that this revival delivers exactly what you wanted – the same jolly, vaguely witty and wise banter. And yes, almost every male character from past entanglements returns, too. Otherwise, there wouldn't be much point in putting Lorelai and Rory back together for further mother-daughter adventures.
Gilmore Girls was and is ersatz drama of a very middling grade – enjoyable and aspirational, glib but not self-important. What strength it had was in the occasional outbreaks of pain, when the characters sometimes spoke with an authenticity of emotion that seemed at odds with the cozy, little, oddball-filled town of Stars Hollow surrounding them. That grain of strength is there, too.
No one can begrudge fans of the show getting more. The revival was fanned by social media and, like a lot of things on social media, the reality isn't that important at all.