Flashback Friday: GILMORE GIRLS

gg cast

Hey look at that! I managed to write another Flashback for the second week in a row! Go team!

In all seriousness though, Gilmore Girls is the perfect show for us to highlight this week because a) it’s back-to-school time and how better to revisit those days than with consummate student Rory Gilmore? and 2) it’s a show that meant a lot to all of us here at TYLL at various points in our lives.

It was a show about an ambitious single mom and her brainy daughter, but it was so much more. It was about the family you made and the family you rediscovered as an adult. It was about living in the perfect small town, but being allowed to pursue your big-city dreams. It was about first loves and lost loves and heartbreak and happiness.

So grab a seat and a cup of coffee from Luke’s, and let’s take a stroll down memory lane in Stars Hollow.

Couresy WB and, er, ebay.

Couresy WB and, er, ebay.

(I totally have a Luke’s mug from the Warner Brothers Studio store.)

Courtesy WB

Courtesy WB

Not so Quick Synopsis: Gilmore Girls premiered in 1999 on the fledgling WB network, when teen dramas were all the rage. On paper, it could have been controversial: Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) gave birth to daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) when she was just 16, and has been raising her on her own ever since, eschewing college and big career dreams to give her daughter the life she always wanted. That is, until top-of-her-class Rory needs to spread her wings at a school which will challenge her, and allow her to attend the college of her dreams, Harvard.

Hotel manager Lorelai reluctantly asks her wealthy parents Emily (Kelly Bishop) and Richard (Edward Herrmann) to help fund Rory’s tuition for a top private school, and in exchange she must agree to attend weekly Friday night dinners at their house with her daughter. It’s all the more complicated by the fact that Lorelai is more or less estranged from her parents at this point in her life, having rebelled against their stodgy mores, but ultimately her desire to better Rory’s future trumps her personal misgivings. Over the next seven seasons, there are laughs and there are fights, but the Friday night dinners continue well past Lorelai’s debt is paid off.

Courtesy WB

Courtesy WB

When the show first began, I remember being entranced by the scripts. Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has since become renowned for her rapid-fire dialogue, and with good reason: to this day, there’s nothing like it on television. (It’s like Sorkinese, with more caffeine.) It’s still instantly quotable. (Oy with the poodles already!) Where scripts for hour-long dramas typically ran fifty pages, Gilmore’s were regularly eighty. Rarely would there be silence on screen, and when there was, it was usually used to masterful effect by Lauren Graham. Lorelai and Rory spoke with the wit I could only dream of having, and uttered every comeback I wish I could have thought of on the spot and only realized two days after an exchange. They were clever and nobody on the show was afraid to use big words — sure, sometimes to an unrealistic degree, but it was part of the show’s charm.

No one was ostracized for being smart, and as a high schooler at the time, it was refreshing to see someone like myself in Rory Gilmore. I might not have been as well-read or as academically successful as her, but I loved to read and I was a geek and binge-watched TV before it ever had a name, just like Rory. And Lorelai was the cool older sister we all wished we could have had — completely attuned to pop culture, and able to down junk food with the best of them (also an unrealistic trait, I admit), yet wise in a way only someone who’s been through turbulence in their lives can emit — it just happened she was a mom. In a word, it was perfect to nerdy little me.

Courtesy WB

Courtesy WB

Of course, no dramedy would be complete without the love triangles. And boy, were there ever some doozies on this show. Lorelai may have been an adult, but she was still hung up on high school sweetheart Christopher (David Sutcliffe), Rory’s dad. Just when it seemed like she’d gotten over him (pre-series), they fell back into their old patterns, only to split once Christopher takes off yet again. (Curiously, Christopher never lost Emily and Richard’s esteem, despite the fact he, you know, knocked up their daughter at 16 and never took responsibility for his child.) Lorelai and diner-owner Luke (Scott Patterson) flirted like there’s no tomorrow, but denied their attraction for years, because they were too scared of losing their (so very sweet) friendship.

But, lord, readers, when they crossed that line — one of my ultimate fist-pump moments! I digress. We’re not there yet.

Then there were blips like teacher Max (Scott Cohen), and her father’s business partner Jason (Chris Eigeman), and that one time Jon Hamm was on, and Christopher again and again.

Rory wasn’t immune, either. She had Tristan (Chad Michael Murray), the misunderstood  poor little rich boy who taunted her at Chilton, but really just needed a friend. And Dean (Jared Padalecki), her high school sweetheart who was the ultimate First Boyfriend. And  Jess (Milo Ventimiglia), Luke’s bad-boy nephew who hid a deep intellect underneath, well, whatever the hell he was trying to pull. (James Dean? I don’t know.) And Dean again. And finally Logan (Matt Czuchry), yet another rich boy she worked with at the Yale school paper, who she was with on and off until just before the series ended. Never a dull moment. (Or, always a dull moment, depending on where you stand on the romances.)

Courtesy WB

Courtesy WB

However, as much as the show focused on their love lives, it was really the relationship between Rory and Lorelai, and by extension their relationship with the townies, that made the show feel whole. Rory’s best friend Lane (Keiko Agena) went through growing pains just as Rory did, yet she lacked the support system her friend had thanks to her strict immigrant parents. Lorelai’s best friend Sookie (pre-Bridesmaids Melissa McCarthy) was bubbly and sweet, and went from sidekick to business co-owner, and built her family in the meantime. Kirk (Sean Gunn) the town… whatever he was might be quirky and obtuse, but he sure made for good stories. Miss Patty (Liz Torres) was the bawdy former dancer-turned-teacher we all wanted to have a drink with. Babette (Sally Struthers) might have been a loud-mouthed neighbor, but you couldn’t ask for a better friend. Taylor (Michael Winters) might have been prissy, but he arguably kept Stars Hollow up to its pristine standards. And on and on and on.

Luke was the strong, silent type. He could have easily been the town grouch — and he often was — but it was obvious he loved his town deeply, and the people in it. One person in particular, in fact: Lorelai. Everyone knew he carried a torch for her, except for maybe Lorelai herself. But Luke never wanted to interfere with her life, which led to frustrating misunderstandings and missed moments. (And a disastrous short-lived marriage to his lawyer.) When he finally admitted he had feelings for Lorelai and wanted to pursue them? (Luke can see her face!) It was game over for me.

Courtesy WB

Courtesy WB

The run-up to the season 4 finale might be some of my favorite episodes of TV, ever. The slow-burn that turned into a blazing fire was delicious. “Luke can waltz!” is still ingrained in my memory, and has become my go-to phrase for situations when characters realize they’ve got the hots for each other. It’s not just that Graham and Patterson’s chemistry was palpable; it was that it was so sweet too. Sure, I loved the zingers they traded, but their courtship was old-fashioned in many respects, with Luke making it clear he liked liked her, and wanted to take her on a date (to his sister’s wedding!) to prove it. When he finally did kiss Lorelai, at her inn’s grand opening? Magic, people. That instant, where Lorelai retreats (after Kirk interrupts them), then tells him to shut up and kisses him back? I think I literally swooned. In fact, I think I probably would still swoon. It was an exciting time to be a fangirl.

Then season 5 started and they were trying to hide their relationship and failed miserably because COME ON! Also, Lorelai accidentally flashed the whole town when she walked downstairs into the diner wearing nothing but Luke’s flannel shirt. In any case, they were hot and sassy and still them — nothing changed other than that they shared the same bed now, and that was perfect.

Courtesy WB

Courtesy WB

All good things must come to an end, though. Like most TV shows, Gilmore couldn’t resist the breakup/makeup routine, and Luke and Lorelai fell into that trap too. Then there were long-lost daughters and exes who just wouldn’t stay exes and eventually it all blew up with Lorelai sleeping with Christopher, allegedly as a final “screw you” by Sherman-Palladino after being ousted from her job as showrunner at the end of the sixth season. With that, the show, for me, lost its heart, because everyone was just so damn sad for much of the following season. It’s alright to go through rough patches, but for a show that was ultimately about triumph, Lorelai’s spiral in the final season really was tough to watch, as was Luke’s heartbreak over losing the love of his life so disastrously. More than that, all this relationship drama in the final two seasons really put a schism between Lorelai and Rory, undermining the core relationship of the show in favor of what I’m guessing were the ratings stunts. It was more like Rory and Logan and Lorelai and Luke.

Luke and Lorelai did finally end up back together in the end, and while I appreciate the effort, in some ways it was too little to late, because the new showrunner only had a handful of episodes to repair a season’s worth of damage before the series took its final bow, which is a shame. On the other hand, I actually appreciate that Rory and Logan did break up towards the end. Unlike her mother, there was no big drama (other than a botched proposal, I guess): she and Logan were simply at different points in their lives, and weren’t compatible at that juncture. She was sad, but she also had her whole life ahead of her. Maybe she and Logan would reunite, maybe she’d meet some artist in Argentina, maybe she’d be a spinster, but at that moment, she was alone, and that was perfectly okay. That was one of my favorite messages of the last season.

Courtesy WB

Courtesy WB

So, sure, there were things I wish had gone differently. I don’t even care that Luke had a daughter he never knew about, I just wish they hadn’t made him such a putz about keeping it from Lorelai when it was nothing to be ashamed of. I actually really loved the idea of Rory screwing up spectacularly at the end of the fifth season, and the idea that she and Lorelai had to “break up” because they really were overly entwined in each other’s lives sometimes, because it could have led to some soul-searching. (Hey, maybe instead of being a reporter, Rory would be better suited as an English professor!) But then everything was fixed and she was magically able to come back to school after flunking finals and dropping out and didn’t even need to make up a semester — and her rift with Lorelai was fixed in one fell swoop with no lasting ramifications. I really wish Lorelai hadn’t broken up with Luke and slept with Christopher, but if she had to do that, I really wish she and Christopher hadn’t gotten married, because it made no sense and didn’t advance anything given that it ended so quickly after. I wish Lane hadn’t gotten pregnant so quickly after getting married, because she deserved to tour the world before settling down.

Courtesy WB

Courtesy WB

Yet, despite these gripes, I can’t help but love this show. The depth of these characters is second to none, and Stars Hollow itself was as much a living entity as any of the Gilmores. I cheered for Rory when she was accepted into her dream school, and when she was mature enough to realize it was no longer the place for her. I clapped when Lorelai graduated night school, and when she finally achieved her goal of opening her own inn. I was pained when Rory and Dean broke up (the first time). I raged when Emily drove a wedge between Lorelai and Luke, but felt for her when she realized her marriage to Richard was crumbling after four decades, or any of the times she tried connecting with her daughter she’d really lost so many years before. My heart went out to Rory when she didn’t get the internship she’d been working towards post-college, but felt pride when she decided to grab the bull by the horns and take a job opportunity that would finally allow her to reach for her dreams. (The fact that I was going through all that about the same time really struck a chord, too.)

And the final scene of the series really embodied the heart of the show: Lorelai and Rory alone in Luke’s diner, talking about nothing and about everything on the eve of her great adventure, just like in the pilot. All was right with the world, and we can believe it still is, as long as Luke is there to poor the coffee and our best friend is there to listen to our crazy stories.

Where you lead, I will follow.

(That’s it, that’s the show.)


Note: these posts aren’t typically going to be this long. This show was just that good.


 

Gilmore Girls is currently available on Netflix and DVD.

Nels
Nels knew how to operate a TV remote control before she knew how to talk. As a result, she has spent an inordinate amount of time pretending she actually lives on a soundstage. When she isn’t watching whichever show is currently capturing her heart, she is writing about how said show is currently capturing her heart. She loves pie.

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