On the 21st anniversary of Gilmore Girls’ premiere, here’s a throwback on the much-loved series and why it still holds a special place in all our hearts.
Gilmore Girls (GG) debuted on October 5, 2000, and was a subtle yet witty reminder of how family and community was of utmost priority. A beloved memoir of the Y2K era, Gilmore Girls survived the onslaught of various other content because it managed to evoke joy within the hearts of millions over the years. Creator Amy Sherman-Palladio carefully crafted characters that were not only relatable but also spoke directly to audiences through their pithy dialogues. On its 20th anniversary last year, she took to social media and extended her heartfelt thanks to the show’s loyal fan base, “Your kindness and devotion to this show brought me so much joy over the years.” The creators’ table at GG reflected of a collective that believed in carefully building emotionally nuanced narratives that not only showed vulnerability but also ways of dealing with them.
Having said that, it’s a fact that GG never got off to a splendid start. It did not hit the top-ranking charts immediately after its premiere (unlike Friends). In fact, during its seven-year run, it never reached mass audiences or picked up any Emmy Awards, it wasn’t nominated for any major categories either it was never a pop-culture topic that invariably made it into the listicle of “Top 10 must-watch shows at present”. GG’s appeal grew at a languid but steady pace. The continuous DVD sales of the show, coupled with millennial nostalgia and of course, Netflix’s involvement with the franchise in highlighting the show and greenlighting the 2016 reboot Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life – all contributed to the growing allure of the show. Netflix’s exposure brought in new fans who had no idea about the show’s premise became curious and ventured into Lorelai and Rory’s universe.
The main crux of the show revolved around a nerdy teenage girl whose closest confidant was her 30-something mother. An idyllic Connecticut town was chosen as the setting, with oddball inhabitants who had hearts of gold. The show’s tone was set to a mix of character-focused drama and wry humour. By Sherman-Palladino’s own admission, GG was the celebration of the mundane. A former writer on Roseanne, Sherman-Palladino carried a pithy quote along with her during her days on the sets -- “Make the small, big, make the big, small.” Full episodes were dedicated to banal conundrums like Rory sprucing up in inappropriate clothes for Rory’s new high-flying prep school or Rory getting a D on her exam. The show purposely veered away from plotlines that were sensational or big on hyper-dramatic tropes.
Steeped in pop culture references, GG was all about the fast-paced conversations that tick-tacked between the mother-daughter duo. The show’s signature moves of drawing bad television show allusions coupled with callbacks to amazing books and multiple historical eras were a cherry on the icing. These elements combined to make an attractive narrative on the idealistic family setup that allowed for its members to genuinely care for and love each other. For example, a sole episode on GG would consist mentions of The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, Nikolai Gogol, punk band Agnostic Front, Fiddler on the Roof, David Hockney and the Franco-Prussian war.
What made GG lose out on Emmys may have been the fact that the show passed off as “too girly” for some sectors, coupled with the fact that WB showed less interest in the series as compared to its Nielsen behemoths like Friends and American Idol. It also did not help that the era was marked by middle-aged antiheroes like Tony Soprano.
The 2016 revival was understandably taking on considerable expectations when announced. But the show’s release was followed by a lot of flak, with most loyal fans dissing the series for distancing itself from the light magical realism. Stars Hollow, the main backdrop for the show, was always a go-to for disgruntled souls to find solace in, away from the bearings of reality. Though Netflix pumped the reboot with $750,000 per episode on Alexis Bledel and Lauren Graham, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life was sans its original appeal.
The second innings was branded as self-sabotaging and damaging of its original equity. Some even found it misogynistic and hostile. For example, in a particular episode, Rory explores the one-night stand space with a Comic-Con nerd in a Wookie costume. But she promptly follows it by submitting a reported piece on female trends of “picking up” men from such conventions. Similarly, women going to fertility clinics were termed “breeders.” Many such insensitive references went down very badly with critics and followers alike.
Despite the unfortunate follow-up, Gilmore Girls’ original charm stands tall and proud. Every time one needs a sumptuous dose of hugging and feel-good vibes to counter the Monday-morning blues, the show is always an obvious go-to.