TL;DR – Honestly it is a bit of a mess at times, but usually, that is part of the charm for Gilmore Girls, but this time round I don’t think they quite stuck the landing
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
It is one of my secrets … well not anymore … that in the late 2000s I binge watched all the episodes of Gilmore Girls over a couple of months. So while I enjoyed the series, got annoyed with the lukewarm ending, I wouldn’t say it is one of my favourites or indeed in my top 30, but it was still a TV show that I very much enjoyed. Honestly the fact that I am reviewing a new Gilmore Girls is quite a rare turn of events on many fronts, we have a series coming back from cancellation after nearly 10 years and we have the original writers and showrunners returning after leaving, something that is very rare in Hollywood. So after 10 years does the show still hold up, did bringing the creators back mean we will finally get the conclusion that we wanted … um yes and no.
So today I am reviewing the full season of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, so that is Winter, Spring, Summer, & Fall which means to do that and discuss some of the problems with the mini-series we will need to [ENGAGE SPOILERS] for the rest of the review. So just to be clear, we will be discussing the ending of the mini-series so if you don’t want to know about that then I suggest you stop reading.
It’s been 10 years since the last episode of Gilmore Girls aired, but thankfully the show is quite quick to set the stage and let people know how the characters and how Star’s Hollow is going. Rory (Alexis Bledel) has had some success as a journalist but is now living between places as she tries to find her future direction, Lorelai (Lauren Graham) is living with Luke (Scott Patterson) enjoying running the Dragonfly Inn but not a lot has changed in her life and direction, and Emily (Kelly Bishop) and by extension the rest of the family is still dealing with the sudden death of her husband Richard four months earlier. One of the great things about the mini-series is that it is that they used Rory coming back into town as a way of locating all the characters and what they are doing which is a big help to the audience.
Now because there were some issues with the mini-series I feel like it make come across that I am being quite critical of it, and well I will be, however, this is still a solid mini-series and there is quite a lot of things here that just work. First it is just nice to be back in this universe and characters, when you have such an interesting supporting cast you can’t really go wrong there. From the whole town hiding a secret bar from Taylor (Michael Winters) which needs lookouts so it can turn into an alleyway when he walks past is a great laugh, and as is indeed every town meeting. It was also great to see the return of that particular style of rapid fire delivery of the script. Finally, at the core Gilmore Girls was doing something quite remarkable back in the day for network TV, and is still remarkable today, and that is that it is a show about the relationships between mothers and daughters, and with the loss of Edward Herrmann and his character this is puts their relationships into sharp relief and at times that means some truly brutal exchanges. This is important because very few shows focus solely on these relationships, on what it means to be a mother or a grandmother, at best they are usually part of a larger story. I think we see this most in in Emily’s story, which also is the character that gets the biggest arc throughout the season. She starts as someone who has lived all her live being Mrs. Richard Gilmore, now she is all alone, and how do you start to relate to the world after that, it was really fascinating to watch.
However, while there is a lot of things that Gilmore Girls gets right, the more I think back on what I watched the more problems emerge of the both big and small variety. Some of the issues revolve around the characters and the motivations, and when you are a character focused narrative that’s a bit of a problem. For a lot of the show we are clearly meant to be sympathising with Rory, however, for most of the mini-series, she is involved in a long-term affair with Logan (Matt Czuchry) who is engaged to be married and also Rory herself is in a long-term relationship with Paul. You know if Rory was 16 instead of 32 this may have been fine, but the shows wants to go ‘oops Rory is in another love triangle’ but no what is happening is that Rory and Logan are cheating on their spouses with each other and I’m sorry but if that causes problems I’m not going to sympathise with you. As well as this the conflict between Lorelai and Luke always felt more artificial than an organic turn of events. From a production side of things there were also some odd moments, like when there are some characters talking but because of some really odd blocking and positioning, as well as the dialogue really makes it feel like they could not get both the actors at the same time so they filmed it separately or there was some oddness in the edit.
While these are issues are quite small ones, the big issues come with the structure of the mini-series. Unfortunately, in some respects it feels like there was content for two or three episodes that was then expanded upon to reach the four that we got. There was a lot of padding with plot points that ended not going anywhere, like Rory’s several failed attempts to find a job with people such as Naomi Shropshire (Alex Kingston). Now sure it is clear that they were trying to show that Rory was floundering and needed a new direction, but it still felt like padding. As well as this, there was a disconnect between whether the mini-series was going to be a wrap-up of the characters stories left hanging by season 7, or a platform to jump forward with a new TV/movie series. Unfortunately, it felt that the mini-series was trying to have its cake and eat it too. We see that clearly with the anti-climactic not-ending where the series abruptly ends before the wedding they had built up throughout the episode because of the reveal of “Those Last Four Words” as the internet is dubbing them. I have no problem with people putting in the groundwork for the future, but it should never come at the detriment of the current narrative. Also I don’t think releasing all the episodes really helped them here, and that it might have been better not to binge watch them all at once, but release one per season.
Look I know I have been quite critical here but that is only because I really liked the series and I really want to see them do well because we need shows like this on TV, that are different, yet engaging with strong casts and writing. So, in the end, can I recommend Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life? Well if you have watched the last seven seasons of the Gilmore Girls, then yes, of course, you should. However, can I recommend it to someone who has never seen an episode of Gilmore Girls in the past, um maybe? Because look I do feel that Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life didn’t quite stick the landing, but that does not mean the rest of the performance wasn’t fascinating to watch.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – Amy Sherman-Palladino & Daniel Palladino
Written by – Amy Sherman-Palladino & Daniel Palladino
Based on – Gilmore Girls created by Amy Sherman-Palladino
Staring – Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Scott Patterson, and Kelly Bishop, with Keiko Agena, Yanic Truesdale, Liza Weil, Sean Gunn, Milo Ventimiglia, Matt Czuchry, Jared Padalecki. Liz Torres, Sally Struthers, Michael Winters, Rose Abdoo, Alex Kingston & Melissa McCarthy