Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, stars of ‘The Gilmore Girls: A Year in The Life’ tell USA TODAY’s Bill Keveney about filming the reunion mini-series without Edward Herrmann. Video by Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY
The world has changed in the 20 years since “Gilmore Girls” debuted on WB on October 5, 2000. Mostly, we’ve grown older.
The series, about teenage mother, Lorelai (Lauren Graham), who grew up to have a close relationship with her own teen daughter, Rory (Alexis Bledel), has remained a pop culture institution since it went off the air in 2007, spawning a sequel series on Netflix in 2016, “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life,” which returned to the beloved enclave of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, to find Rory a lost thirty-something and Lorelai struggling in her commitment to Luke (Scott Paterson).
I first watched “Gilmore” as a child and young teen, and loved every minute without much criticism. Rewatching all 153 episodes as an adult was a vastly different experience. Some things seem very different. Some are comfortingly the same. Here’s everything I learned.
Alexis Bledel as Rory and Lauren Graham as Lorelai on ‘Gilmore Girls.’ (Photo: Mitchell Haddad, The WB)
Rory is not naive – she’s privileged
As a bookish, brunette teenager, Rory Gilmore was my idol. All she had to do was sit under a tree reading “Moby Dick” or “Madame Bovary” and a cute boy would come up and ask her out. She went to an elite private school and an Ivy League university without taking out a single loan. She had a wealth of opportunities and love in all directions. And she throws it all away.
When I was younger, I watched Rory’s fall from grace with frustration but didn’t read between the lines. In the later seasons, I realized Rory was as much of a privileged rich kid as her late-series love interest Logan (Matt Czuchry), and her actions were those of a person who always had a cushion to fall back on. For all her studying, Rory is one of the least intelligent characters on the show. She has such a limited understanding of the real world that she ruins relationships by being insensitive and handicaps her own progress.
I may have been angry at Rory for her bad choices when I was younger, but now I have a hard time liking her at all.
Jess is Rory’s best love-interest, but he’s also the worst
There’s a great debate among “Gilmore” fans about who is the The Very Best Rory Gilmore Boyfriend. Is it Dean (Jared Padelecki), with his loyalty, good looks and low-key smothering? Is it Logan, with his good looks, spirit of adventure and entitlement?
The answer is none of the above. Her best boyfriend is Jess (Milo Ventimiglia), the bad boy and poetry and music lover. Jess and Rory may have fought constantly and not lasted very long as a couple, but Jess didn’t push Rory into a life of excess, and she actually liked him, two points that were lost on Logan and Dean. Jess also sweeps back into Rory’s life when she’s at her lowest, and reminds her of who she really is.
But the fact that Jess is the best is not cause for celebration. He’s disrespectful to Lorelai and doesn’t understand the give part of “give and take.” As Rory fumbled her way through life in the original series, she fumbled her way through three romances that weren’t meant to last.
Can we all finally agree that Jess Mariano was the best boyfriend on “Gilmore Girls” for Rory Gilmore? (Photo: CAROL KAELSON, XXX WB)
Lane is the most self-actualized character on the show
Lane Kim’s (Keiko Agena) journey over the first six seasons is one of the most satisfying, evolving from a teen scared of her mother to an adult who can co-exist with her family while making her own decisions. Lane knows what she wants, takes logical steps to get there, and achieves her goals. I wanted to be Rory, but I should have been looking at Lane.
However, in Season 7, Lane’s ascension comes to an abrupt halt. The show takes her agency away by making her pregnant with twins after the first time she has sex – a stereotypical pop-culture twists that does little to further her character.
Season 7 is not as bad as you remember – but Season 6 is worse
Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) left before the show’s infamously bad seventh season (she later returned for the Netflix revival), and many fans blame a poor final season on losing her from the creative team. But so much of what fans hate about Season 7 was planted in Season 6 (Luke’s daughter April, for one) and the drudge that is the Rory-living-in-the-poolhouse storyline is like a mosquito bite that won’t stop itching for nearly 22 episodes.
There’s a happy ending for the show in Season 3
Although Sherman-Palladino got to give “A Year in the Life” the ending she always wanted for Rory and Lorelai, it was a rather anti-climatic, controversial finale for the series. And after slogging through some of the show’s lowest points in Seasons 4, 6 and 7, there’s a case to be made that “Gilmore” should have ended after Season 3.
More: The definitive ranking of TV remakes (including ‘Gilmore’ and ‘Veronica Mars’)
Imagine a finale in which Rory heads off to Yale, confident in her ability to succeed. Lorelai secures her future with the Inn. Friday Night Dinners are reinstated. The door is open for Luke and Lorelai. Rory is alone, and she’s better off. There aren’t a mythic “last four words” but there is the “Thank you, Mom” that Rory says during her valedictorian speech at Chilton. It’s hopeful, happy, funny and comforting, the way “Gilmore” was at its best.
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