TV Review -Gilmore Girls, A Year in the Life

Have I mentioned how much I adore Gilmore Girls? It ranks second only to I Love Lucy as my favorite television series. And I’m not the only one, as even after its’ final episode aired almost a decade ago, it continues to not only maintain, but to grow its’ devoted fan base.

So, when the news was released that there would be a reunion show I, like other fans, was thrilled and eagerly and impatiently awaited the new episodes which would reunite us with my much loved “friends”.

The original series charmed millions with its small town and neighborly feel, it’s fast paced and reference laden dialogue but at its’ heart were the characters and the relationships between them which attracted millions of fans and cemented the show as a modern classic.

Much as I hate to say this, after enthusiastically anticipating the continuation of the Gilmore Girls story, I found myself fairly disappointed. I don’t want to focus too much on the many things which I felt were not only a waste of viewing time but in no way added to the story, like the cringe-worthy yet hilarious town musical, the reappearance of The Life Brigade, Luke and Lorelei’s (thankfully) short consideration of surrogacy, Rory’s ill-advised potential book partnership, Lorelei’s venture into the great outdoors, the unnecessary celebrity cameo appearances and the list goes on.  It was great to see so many familiar Stars Hollow faces and yet the appearance of many of them felt forced and unnatural, with the exceptions of Taylor, Kirk, Babette and Lane. Paris, as usual, added great interest and yet although for the most part this series stayed true to her character, I felt her role at the surrogacy clinic just didn’t fit and was very uncomfortable to watch. Plus, she had quite a bit of face time in the first couple of episodes, only to be dropped, with no explanation in the last one. I also found myself frustrated with Lorelei who after all these years hadn’t seemed to mature at all and actually came across rather selfish at times. Thankfully, she did finally show some growth in the end.

But the worst of all, is what the writers did with Rory’s character. In my opinion, they absolutely ruined her. The Rory in A Year in the Life has very little in common with the Rory from the original series. Where is our confident, well-read, goal oriented, cheerful, thoughtful girl? I had a very hard time finding her in all that mid-life crisis (isn’t thirty too young for a mid-life crisis?), thoughtless, moping, aimless, home-wrecking woman who still calls her mother her best friend. I think I understand what the writers were trying to do, show her floundering in a real-life scenario where life doesn’t always work out like you plan. The long-term relationship with a boyfriend she can never remember, the affair with Logan (who is engaged), the one-night stand with a Wookie. Remember when Rory was career oriented and goal minded? When did Rory become the woman who has nothing better to do than juggle all the men in her life (I won’t call them love interests because there is no love involved.) Although I am a Rory and Jess shipper, I didn’t mind seeing Rory with Logan, but even that was ruined because it wasn’t a real relationship. Speaking of Jess, I did feel that his brief appearances added some spark to the show. Despite his faults, Jess has always been the one who sees and understands Rory for who she is and challenges her to be true to herself, which apparently is still very necessary. But I won’t continue to belabor the point.

On a positive note there were some things I loved about this new series, in particular Emily’s story arc. It was so nice to see one of the Gilmore girls come to terms with her drastically new life and find happiness. Emily has always been a cold, prickly character, warmed up only by her relationships with her husband Richard and with Rory. Although she floundered after the death of Richard, she eventually found her independence and her heart and was able to move on in a meaningful way without changing too much. It was funny to see her finally find a maid she didn’t end up firing after all these years, and giving up some of her tightly fisted control. It was nice to see how she and Lorelei reconcile without changing the balance of their weird dynamic too much.

One thing I really missed was Richard Gilmore. His character, could be gruff and abrupt and yet he also had a sense of humor and compassion. He was often the intermediary between Emily and Lorelei and his passing finally forces them to deal directly with each other. I appreciated that even though Richard is gone, his presence is still very much alive and very much a catalyst in A Year in the Life. In fact, his memory plays a very large role in the story. When Rory finally sits behind her grandfather’s desk in the last episode, I admit, I cried a little bit.

Another bright spot, was seeing Michel, Lorelei’s lovable, irascible assistant. His character remained true to the original series but we also were privileged to get a  deeper look at his personal life. Sookie’s presence was sorely missed and yet her appearance at the end was a nice surprise. When the Three Musketeers of the Dragonfly were finally reunited it felt like old home week.

As usual, the relationships between the main characters remained the main thing, which is definitely the heart of this show. Luke’s patient, self-sacrificing love for Lorelei, the mother-daughter love and conflict among the Gilmore women, Rory’s friendships with Lane and Paris, even the weird and random love and acceptance for Kirk by the town. Friends and family are still the focus, just a very blurred focus. The consensus at my house is that this story could have been told in a two hour movie versus a four part (six hour) series. There were a lot of superfluous moments and story lines that could have been removed to tighten things up a bit. Honestly, I could have watched the last half hour of the Fall episode and been happy (minus the exclusion of Paris). In fact, I didn’t really connect with the characters until the last thirty minutes anyway.

I am still a Gilmore Girls fan, and even though I wasn’t impressed with this offering, I hope that they will produce additional episodes and continue the story. I love these people and I want to know what happens with Rory and Jess or Logan, with Paris and Doyle. I want to see Kirk finally be successful and more of Emily as an awe-inducing museum docent. Will Michel really pretend at being a dad or will he fall in love with his child? These characters still matter and I believe they will always matter. I know they say that you can’t go home again, but you can, especially when there is love.

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