Saturday, November 26, 2016

New TV Show Mini Review: Gilmore Girls - A Year in the Life

Any fan of the original Gilmore Girls series will love this revival.

A Year in the Life picks up about 8 years after the series finale.  The course of the series follows the adventures of Lorelai, Rory, and Emily Gilmore through the course of the four seasons.  The series begins shortly after Richard Gilmore has suddenly died.  Because of an incident at the funeral, Lorelai and Emily's relationship is as frosty as ever.  Rory is wandering between journalistic jobs.  And Lorelai is navigating changes in her business and personal relationships.

But just as important is the town of Star Hollow itself.  Everything about this idyllic place is enchanting.  Even when the residents are infuriating, they are still as endearing as ever.

In the original series, my least favorite aspect was the devolution of Rory's character.  When the original series began, she was sweet and smart.  Once she became and unrepentant homewrecker, my affections for her never recovered.  And this series did very little change this.  Rory consistently insists that she is not a member of the "30-Something crowd," a group of millennials who are jobless and have moved back in with their parents.  But her insistence that she is not one of them only serves to highlight her own personal arrogance.  She thinks she deserves the most prestigious jobs rather than starting small and working her way up.  On top of that, Rory's romantic relationships are as disastrous as ever.  And all of this is because of her own poor choices.

Watching Emily's journey was heartbreaking.  The grief she feels is palpable.  She says "half of me is gone."  And everything that the script and acting convey makes us feel that with tangible effect.  Watching her break down and slowly try to rebuild her life was one of the most emotionally satisfying journeys of this series.

But the central character has always been Lorelai.  Her rebelliousness has been the source of her independence, but it is also is the source of her greatest flaw.  When it comes to her mother, she is reflexively dismissive and cruel.  When it comes to Luke, she is unappreciative and controlling.  When it comes to the problems she faces, they are mostly of her own making.  And yet, unlike Rory, I could not help but root for her.  I think the main difference is that Lorelai recognizes her flaws and at least feels badly about them, whereas Rory does not.

While there are some moral qualms with some of the shows plot lines, the morality it espouses is not preachy.  As a result, it doesn't serve to alienate the audience too much.

And even with its flaunting of much traditional morality, there are actually someone wonderful points made about things like marriage.  Emily harps on the fact that Luke and Lorelai are not married and calls them "roommates."  Lorelai is so insistent on not being like her mother that she pushes away the idea of marriage.  But her mother's insights on marriage haunt Lorelai throughout the entire show.  And her fear causes her to run away from this possible commitment rather than towards the permanent joys of marriage.

As a side note, one of the inside joys of this show was seeing all of the cameos from Amy Sherman-Palladino's short lived show Bunheads.  I counted at least 4 actresses from that show (who were not originally in Gilmore Girls).  And I became inexplicably giddy watching Lauren Graham and Sutton Foster share a short scene together.  I adore Sutton Foster and hate that she is currently in the horrible show Younger.  But on this show, she got to play a small and silly, but emotionally stirring part that still is sitting with me.

And this series ends the way Sherman-Palladino always intended.  Years ago, she was kicked off her own show and never got to end it the way she wanted.  She famously claimed that she always knew what the four last words of the series.  And this series ends with those four words.  And while I can imagine some viewers being disliking the ending, upon reflection, it is the perfect way to end the series.  And while the show gives a cathartic closure to a lot of characters, there is the open sense of possibilities and future stories that could still go on in Stars Hollow.

As a fan of Gilmore Girls, I watched each extra long episode of this revival, hoping that it wouldn't end.  And that is the sign of a good series

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