Gilmore Girls, Revivals, and The Legacy of the WB

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October 29, 2015 by Jason Seligson

‘Gilmore Girls’ ran for seven seasons on The WB and the CW. Friday night dinner scenes like the one pictured above would become a staple of the series.

By Jason Seligson

My sister and I grew up on TGIF and the The WB. We watched the childhood-defining greats (Boy Meets World, Sabrina the Teenage Witch), the one-season wonders (R.I.P. Jack and Bobby, and maybe, Teen Angel), and almost everything in between. Almost. Given our four-year age difference (and probably given our gender difference as well), we didn’t watch all the same shows.

If Smallville was the defining show of my teenage years, Gilmore Girls was hers. And so, to the surprise of no one, when all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls hit Netflix earlier this year, my sister and her friends (and I’m sure millions of others like them) began a binge-rewatch. For years, she had wanted to show the series to me, and the streaming release seemed like the perfect opportunity. We arranged to watch the pilot, and honestly, after that, I was hooked. Her predictions were correct. The WB had struck gold once more. I’m writing this to report that it’s been a mere few months, and I’ve already made my way through the show’s entire seven-season run.

On paper, Gilmore Girls sounds like a simple enough pitch: the show is about a mother who got pregnant at 16, and now sixteen years later, the daughter is in high school and she and her mom are more like friends than mother and daughter. Honestly, despite how much talking happens, Gilmore Girls is a pretty quiet show. It’s not a methodically-paced drama like, say, Mad Men, but it also doesn’t burn through story (and to be honest, recycle it) the way so many shows do now (you know who you are). In the best possible way, Gilmore Girls feels almost like one long indie movie.

There’s a lot to be charmed by in the world that Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband created. There’s a small town with weird characters. There’s a dance studio, a gazebo, and even a town troubadour. I wasn’t necessarily opposed to any of that, but it wasn’t what hooked me. What drew me in (aside from the the lead performances), were the family dynamics between Lorelei, her daughter, Rory, and her parents.

No show is perfect from the get-go, and most tend to meander a while before finding themselves, before zeroing in on what the show really is about. Yet Gilmore Girls is the rare show in which every central theme or idea at the core of the show is right there in the pilot—and I can’t understate how much credit needs to be given for that. It takes a lot of storytelling confidence to give the audience the full picture right at the beginning.

In her wonderful nonfiction book, Season Finale: The Unexpected Rise and Fall of the WB and UPN, Suzanne Daniels tells an anecdote that the original pilot for Gilmore Girls didn’t include the big fight scene at dinner. After a helpful note from Suzanne, Amy agreed to put it in, and later thanked her because the show is all the better for it. Daniels was right: by the end of the first hour, the audience knows that Friday Night Dinners will be an episodic staple. But more importantly, we understand the significance those dinners taken on, because we understand the relationship Lorelei has with her parents. In short, every essential dynamic—from Richard and Emily to Rory and her grandparents—is presented in this scene. This feat alone should earn the Gilmore Girls pilot a seat among the greats.

The characters’ voices were there from the start, but Gilmore Girls would prove itself in subsequent seasons by building on its pilot and deepening the characters we knew and cared about. The show stayed true to its core relationships. Six years after we saw the very first Friday Night Dinner scene, the writers delivered an equally brilliant sequence that easily goes down as my favorite moment in the show’s history. These four-and-a-half minutes are the show in a nutshell. This is Gilmore Girls at its finest.

As fans know—and as I quickly learned—Gilmore Girls floundered in its seventh and final season. The dialogue didn’t have the same frenetic pace; people started behaving like the “diet” flavor version of their characters. Essentially, the loss of creator/showrunner Amy Sherman Palladino was deeply and fundamentally felt. So while the seventh season was my least favorite, I’m mostly just glad to experience this show in the first place. Like I said, I was an avid watcher of the WB as a kid. But even so, shows like Gilmore Girls just weren’t on my radar as a kid. Granted, I may not have been the target demographic for either—whatever that means nowadays—but regardless, I’m disappointed that I missed out on such a fantastic (and not to mention hugely influential) show. I’m especially disappointed because these shows weren’t presented as being for me, when they can just as easily be appreciated by anyone. I’ve completed my Stars Hollow journey with some sage advice: Gentlemen, I urge you to take note. Gilmore Girls is an excellent show. It’s the kind of show we could use more of now. The kind that the WB was so good at creating. It’s staying power is a testament to the legacy of what the network was. If anyone refuses to see it because of the title, or some twisted perception that it’s only for women, well then, they’re missing out.

My Gilmore Girls binge concludes with a bit of happy, ironic news: the show is coming back. On October 19, TV Line broke the news that Netflix is reviving the series for a limited run (right now reportedly for four 90-minute episodes/mini-movies) with Amy Sherman Palladino and her husband at the helm. Fans have been rejoicing, and rightfully so.  Sure, I may have only hopped on the bandwagon a couple of months ago, but I know how it feels to be a fan of something that didn’t get its proper end brought back.

There have been an excessive amount of reboots, revivals, and re-imaginings happening in TV over the past couple of years. And if anybody’s even the slightest bit hesitant, I get it. But these revivals can work! The Veronica Mars movie was a rousing success and it was a quality continuation of the show’s legacy. The notion of seeing the Gilmore Girls characters again is exciting. And I have faith that with the Palladinos at the helm, we’ll soon all be happy to be in Stars Hollow once again.


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