It’s rare nowadays that a T.V. show emanates such joy and puts a smile on the viewer’s face so frequently. The pure passion and energy expressed by creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and stars Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel pay off immensely in this charming, spirited, quirky series about growing up.
Gilmore Girls is set in the small town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. The premise of the show is very basic: it follows the lives of Lorelai Gilmore (Graham) and her teenage daughter Rory (Bledel) as the two endure bizarre family conflicts, deal with the wackiness of their small town, and struggle to survive in a preppy high school as both student and parent. With dating, social lives, and some work subplots in between, this show makes the episodic formula work.
Many procedural shows like NCIS and Arrow (or basically anything on CBS) fall into the trap of just making the exact same episode 22 times in a season for 10-12 seasons in a row. Someone is killed, the team investigates, the team Yet, Gilmore Girls uses its 22 episodes per season to its advantage. Taking place over one school year for Rory, she typically deals with a particular conflict or theme of that year, like developing a romance or fighting off a school bully. That’s the overarching story. Meanwhile, Lorelai’s conflict at work or in town is the episodic funny bit. The show then uses a plethora of creativity to ensure that each subplot in town or at work feels original or fresh, to not repeat any jokes or storylines that may’ve been seen in previous episodes. Covering topics like a bizarre short film, a picnic auction, and an “adopt a dog day,” there is no shortage of originality in these subplots. The writers seemingly figured out the episodic formula, use it to their advantage, and set up the show for lots of rewatchability.
Despite how clever and original the writing is, though, the real truth is that this show is nothing without its actors. Lauren Graham is phenomenal as Lorelai, portraying happiness in vivid color without ever getting annoying. The pop culture references of the character added to the fast pace and depth of the actress make for a winning combination and, personally, my favorite character on the show. Alexis Bledel, as well (that rhymed), shows amazing talent for such a young actress, being only 19 when the first episode aired. The series serves as a fantastic spectacle of seeing a girl grow up into adulthood, and all the confusion that brings along with it. Bledel plays confused really well and seeing her come into her own as Rory is really something smile-worthy.
The supporting players in the show are phenomenal as well. Kelly Bishop and Edward Herrmann plays Emily and Richard Gilmore (respectively, duh), Lorelai’s parents. Playing the most eccentrically snobby people in recent T.V., the two are still likable and some of the characters who I either “loved to hate” or “hated that I loved.” Either way, they’re something. Luke Danes, played by Scott Patterson, is tied for my favorite character in the show. The Stars Hollow teddy bear, Luke shows such deep compassion for everyone in his life, even when they don’t deserve it. Seeing his tough guy exterior juxtapose that compassion makes him something really special. Sookie, Lorelai’s friend played by a pre-fame Melissa McCarthy is also great for comic relief. Ditto that to Kirk (Sean Gunn).
The show introduces a LOT of characters, some of whom come and go pretty quickly. Yet, they all come and go with a purpose. Though there are a few who seemingly disappear, each character (for the most part) appears to have a larger purpose that is fulfilled by the show’s end. I appreciate that and, again, have to give credit to such forward-thinking writers. Dean, Rory’s boyfriend played by Jared Padalecki, and Logan, portrayed in the show by Matt Czruchy, are simply delightful and have such amazing stories that never feel sidelined by the amount of other characters.
Though there are a few characters I didn’t particular like in the series (Jess… Michel…), Gilmore Girls really knows how to make you connect with each person who comes on screen. The show really presents both sides, so if characters get into a fight you can understand where each one is coming from and then draw conclusions on your own. Most shows don’t present shades of gray like that, but this one, once more, really shows that a competent team was behind making this thing.
I won’t harp too much on technical stuff, but the show’s production design was also stellar. If you visit the Warner Bros. lot today in Burbank, you can see the entire Stars Hollow exterior set which really is a sight to behold. The entire area constantly goes along with the sincerity of the program, always feeling vibrant and active. It feels like a real world in which these third dimensional characters truly exist. The directing also capitalizes on that. Though not as much as A Year in the Life (the four episode Netflix revival), directors optimize long takes to show you how characters react in real time, taking away an element of staged theatrics. Those long takes continue to show you more of houses, exteriors, schools, and the entire surrounding space as well.
Take those technical aspects and add them to a show that has clearly competent writing, a crew of superb actors portraying three-dimensional and lovely characters, and combine that with a great deal of rewatchability. Once you have solved that equation, you’ve arrived at Gilmore Girls. This show mastered the episodic formula and made it something I never have imagined would have worked so well. Despite the final season, which didn’t have those same clever writers/producers involved, this show boasts a claim to one of the best the CW has ever offered. Even if you think it sounds too girly for you, give it a shot. I’ll promise you’ll be smiling from start to finish.