There is no magic formula for what makes a successful television show. Good writing and a good cast helps, but sometimes it’s all about timing and luck. There’s a certain kind of magic involved in captivating an entire audience week after week with stories about fictional characters, but that’s what Gilmore Girls did and is still doing years later. So much so that Netflix deemed it worthy of four revival episodes running at roughly 90 minutes that would explore what the Gilmore girls and their quirky neighbors in Stars Hollow have been up to since the show went off the air in 2007.
When the revival debuted on Nov. 25, the questions that super-fans like myself had, was would the magic still be there so many years later? Moreover, would the episodes live up to the massive amount of hype that has been building for the show?
I knew it was impossible for the show to live up to all of my expectations, so I tempered them. I took a “take it or leave it” approach, taking what I liked about the revival and leaving anything that did not resonate the way I wanted it to. Now, almost two weeks after the revival premiere, I am able to say with some objectivity, what I liked and disliked about it— complete with spoilers.
Take It: The Returning Cast
Unlike other shows around the same time, like Friends and Will & Grace, Gilmore Girls was never really known for having special guests. The show thrived on the strength of its stars and this was still true in the revival. Some of the cast can be seen elsewhere on TV. Like Liza Weil, who returns as the enigmatic, scene stealing Paris Gellar, but can also be seen playing Bonnie Winterbottom on ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder or Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Rory’s (Alexis Bledel) rebellious ex-beau and Luke’s (Scott Patterson) nephew Jess Mariano, but stars in NBC’s new hit This Is Us. The show even managed to get Melissa McCarthy, now a comedy movie darling, back to play Lorelai’s (Lauren Graham) best friend and business partner, Sookie St. James, for one quick but perfect scene. Seeing all the cast back together again made my little fan heart flutter as they exchanged the lightning-fast banter like no timed had passed.
Leave It: The Newcomers
With the return of veteran Gilmore writer Amy Sherman-Palladino, came the audition of some new characters. For example, Kerry Butler as Claudia, the therapist who tries to unravel the tricky web that Emily and Lorelai seem forever entangled in. Or Smash alum Christian Borle and Bunheads alum Sutton Foster as the Carl and Violet, the leads in Stars Hollows Summer Musical. But the planting of these actors seemed to reap little dramatic pay-off. The therapy sessions abruptly stopped with no resolution except for Claudia to confront Lorelai in public, something a professional therapist would never do. And the Summer Musical felt like it ate up valuable time that could have been spent more productively.
Take It: Character Development
After spending seven seasons with this beloved cast, we thought we knew all there was to know about them, but still there was more in store. Sherman-Palladino gave Lauren Graham, Scott Patterson and Kelly Bishop plenty to work with and the trios acting chops brought Lorelai, Luke and Emily to the next level. We even got more of a glimpse into the grumpy but lovable receptionist at Lorelai’s Dragonfly Inn, Michel Gerard (Yanic Truesdale) as he finally spoke openly about his significant other, Frederick. Furthermore, fans got to see what Rory’s ‘frenemy’ Paris is up to these days as Liza Weil stole the show in Paris’s new role as a fertility doctor for the rich and famous.
Leave It: Character Regression
We knew some characters would have to stumble. In a realistic world, not everything works out for everyone all the time. But many fans have expressed disappointment in the fact that Rory seemed more out-of-place than ever in the revival. Her journalism career was spotty at best, with a few successful articles here and there but, more often marked by failed interviews and unprofessional behavior, like falling asleep on the job? Arguing with a potential employer over the phone? These things weren’t typical of Rory and while her life seemed in disarray, from her love life to her missing underwear, we’re used to see Rory succeed and it would have been nice for her to have a little of that.
Take It… or Leave It: The End, including those “Final Four Words”
Most fans came into the revival hoping for closure. Will Luke and Lorelai finally get married? Will they have kids? Will Rory end up with Dean, Jess or Logan? What will Rory’s job be? How will Emily fare without her husband, Richard Gilmore, played by the late Edward Herrmann? The revival gave fans answers to some of these questions, but not all of them. We got the Danes-Gilmore wedding, but as a montage, not as the big celebration we were hoping for. Emily seemed happy at the end, drinking wine at her place in Martha’s vineyard, but the rest of it was up in the air. Rory has working an unpaid job churning out the Stars Hollow Gazette while planning to publish a book on her and Lorelei’s life aptly titled “Gilmore Girls,” Luke and Lorelai were simply going to try for kids and, as if that wasn’t enough uncertainty, Rory and Lorelai’s last conversation on the steps of the gazebo through it all into disarray, leaving fans wanting more.
But maybe that’s the point. Maybe we’re supposed to keep talking and thinking about the show. Maybe the ending was perfect in the way that it all came full circle. Maybe Rory’s book and the TV show are somehow the same entity. We can all imagine how things will play out for the three generations of Gilmore Girls but what we were truly left with, and what we always knew would happen, is that we never wanted to leave Stars Hollow at all.
Gilmore Girls, as well as Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, are now available on Netflix. Let us know what you thought of the revival and whether it left you wanting more in the comments below!