TV review: Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, Netflix
Can we move to Stars Hollow now? Amy Sherman-Palladino recaptures the magic with this four-part revival
'Haven't done that in a while,' Lorelai says, as the first scene of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life comes to a close. She has just completed a mile-a-minute pop culture-filled diatribe which managed to reference Goop, smart watches and the world's upsetting fascination with tiny purse dogs without stopping for breath. 'Felt good', Rory agrees, a little breathless from her equally rapid and lengthy response. It only takes a sip of Luke's coffee and the promise of tacos to rejuvenate the pair, and they are ready for a nostalgic walk through what may well be the most beloved fictional town in TV history: Stars Hollow.
This is the first time the girls have been back on our screen in nine years, and it does indeed, feel good. A little under a decade ago, Gilmore Girls fans saw season seven end in a happy, comfortable place. Rory (Alexis Bledel) had graduated from college and was ready to grab the journalism world by its unmentionables. Lorelai (Lauren Graham) was back together with Luke (Scott Patterson), the baseball-capped, eternally grumpy diner owner that stole the hearts of women the world over. Emily (Kelly Bishop) and Richard (Edward Herrmann) were back on speaking terms with Lorelai, and Kirk (Sean Gunn) was, well, Kirk.
When a good show ends, it should leave scope for the characters to develop in the imaginations of the fans, and so it was for the Gilmore Girls. For nine long years, lovers of the show have speculated over whether Rory ended up with one of her old boyfriends, if she ever did become a success, or indeed, if Lorelai and Luke could go the distance. When it was announced last year that Netflix was picking up the story again, then, it was a risk: would the writing be as funny? Would the characters' lives go in the direction the fans imagined? Will Stars Hollow be as charming and relatable now, in the cold, harsh light of Trump's America?
These concerns, though valid, are quashed in the first 20 minutes of this new four-part special. Amy Sherman-Palladino is back in the writing seat, after leaving the show in the last season due to contract differences. She created these characters, and wrote them perfectly for six seasons: when she picks them back up again now, there is a confidence to their life plans that makes fans feel as though the right choices have been made, even if they are perhaps not what they expected. It's set over four seasons (starting with Winter), and as the year goes on, the storylines get better, and the threat of a brand new Gilmore addiction grows stronger.
Sherman-Palladino always had a way with balancing the women's successes with their struggles, and this is something that is expertly unpacked in this new series. From work life struggles to romantic difficulties, the girls have been through them all and then some, and this ripples through the revival forcefully, and yet somehow, sensitively. That's the genius of Sherman-Palladino's writing: even when she knocks the characters down, she is actually setting them up to show the world how to handle mistakes – practical, emotional and otherwise.
Relationships and their functionality is the key trope explored in Gilmore old and new, and this new season hones in on that. After the death of actor Edward Herrmann, his character Richard Gilmore was written out, too. The death of the character casts a shadow over the whole series, and what is interesting is how present the paternal figure is in his absence – Emily is forced to readjust to life alone, Lorelai grapples with her long-standing battles with him, and Rory simply tries to digest it.
The most touching relationship of all, though, is that of mother and daughter. Even nine years later, Lorelai and Rory have a unique connection that sees them through good times and bad, while Lorelai and her mother Emily still struggle to see eye-to-eye. In this turbulent world, it's good to revisit Stars Hollow, to see that some fictional relationships can stand the test of time, and that you can't keep a Gilmore down.
A Year in the Life has come at exactly the right time, and though the pop culture references are now about Kardashians, Uber and Amy Schumer instead of The Barefoot Contessa and Cher, it feels very natural to have more Gilmore to binge watch, even years down the line.
Oh, and Kirk has a pig.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is available on Netflix from Fri 25 Nov.