Gilmore Girls is another one of those shows that you might think, judging a book by its comic book cover, that I wouldn’t be inclined to watch. And, you are right. Or, at least you were for the series’ entire run. I was able to somehow not watch a single episode during its entire seven-season run. Eight if you count the Netflix update.
Unlike with Transparent or the incredible This Is Us, my beautiful and persuasive wife Sharon had nothing to do with me watching Gilmore Girls. I’m watching this show for the same reason I watched Veronica Mars (which naturally led to iZombie), and for the same reason I’m re-reading Lord of the Rings. The credit, or blame, goes to Alastair Stephens and Lani Diane Rich, the husband-and-wife team who used to produce the terrific StoryWonk podcasts, but who have, sadly, now gone their separate ways with their individual Point North and Chipperish projects. Both Stephens and Rich are lovers of good storytelling, as am I, and neither, together or separately, have ever steered me wrong. Gilmore Girls came up in conversation so often on their podcasts that I decided that it was imperative that I give this show a try. (In a similar manner, The West Wing and Leverage are also on my long list of series to watch at some point in the near future.)
Stephens and Rich were not wrong about Gilmore Girls. I loved the first season and don’t mind telling you about it.
The question is: Why did I love it?
I have discovered a few things about myself over the years. The Socratic dictim, “Know Thyself,” still applies in the present day. I am drawn to character-driven stories. Years later, I remember characters more than I remember plots. And, Gilmore Girls is, above all else, character-driven.
Let me introduce you to the characters. There’s Lorelai Gilmore, who is the main character of this dramedy. She is the thirtyish manager of the local Independence Inn in Stars Hollow, Connecticut. She had a child, out of wedlock, at age 16, and this child is also named Lorelai Gilmore, although she goes by the nickname “Rory.” Her father is the mostly-absent Christopher, who is trying to make it as a tech mogul in California. Since this series is called Gilmore Girls, our primary focus in the stories is Lorelai and Rory.
Rory is a cool 16-year-old. In the pilot, she has been accepted to the exclusive Chilton School, which is important to her because she wants to attend Harvard, and Chilton is an important steppingstone to the Ivy League. Lorelai has to go to her rich parents, Richard and Emily Gilmore, for money to afford the Chilton school because this is important to Rory, who is both smart and driven. This is an important part of the series as well, because Emily Gilmore extorts a weekly dinner date on Friday nights, 7 p.m., from Lorelai (and, by association, Rory) for the money for Chilton. The Friday night dinners become an important part of the show.
By the way, Richard Gilmore is an important insurance executive in Hartford, Connecticut. He grows attached to Rory over the course of the first season, and enjoys her company. Emily Gilmore comes across as a snooty and domineering rich lady, and she can be, but her character softens during the season. I even felt sympathy for her when Richard’s mother, the original Lorelai, comes over from England primarily to just give Emily a hard time.
Lorelai and Rory go to Luke’s Diner daily. He’s one of their main sources of coffee, to which they’re both apparently addicted. Luke is a character. He doesn’t allow cell phones in his diner, and he tries to talk customers out of unhealthy choices. But, it’s also apparent that he has a thing for Lorelai. And, guess what, she has a thing for him, too. But, they’re both in denial.
Lorelai and Rory have a neighbor, played by Sally Struthers, named Babette. Her house is scaled to her diminuitive size. Her normal-sized lover (possibly husband?) is Morey, a musician who wears a hat. They are a fun and funky couple.
Miss Patty runs the dance studio in Stars Hollow. She’s very theatrical. And a character, of course. She seems to have a storied history that has yet to be explored.
Taylor Doosey is the anal-retentive propreitor of Doosey’s Market, who is also very involved in local politics. He seems to be a huge proponent for tradition and town history. And, he’s anti anything that distrupts their idyllic village.
At the Independence Inn, Lorelai has several companions. There’s Michel, the French desk clerk, who is often rude and frequently dismissive. And, Sookie, portrayed by the wonderful Melissa McCarthy, who is the head chef at the inn. In several of the early episodes, there is also a harpist named Drella, who seems to disappear later in the season. One character story goal that is mentioned early on is that Lorelai and Sookie would like to open their own inn someday. I’m sure that will become a thing.
Now, on the Rory side of things, she has a best friend named Lane, who is a Korean-American girl with eclectic musical tastes and an oppressive mother who owns an antique store.
You can see what I mean about character-driven stories, can’t you? Just talking about the characters suggest a thousand potential stories to tell. That’s what I love in a series.
By the way, we’re not done introducing characters. That’s what drives the stories in Stars Hollow. There’s Dean, the boy from Chicago who becomes Rory’s boyfriend. There’s Paris, the mean girl alpha girl at Chilton who makes Rory’s school life Hell, along with Tristan, the rich boy with a crush on Rory at Chilton. There’s Max Medina, the teacher at Chilton who falls for Lorelai Gilmore. There’s Rachel, Luke’s old girlfriend who comes back into the picture at some point, just to upset the apple cart and keep Luke and Lorelai apart. It’s no surprise that Christopher, Rory’s birth father, makes a return trip to Stars Hollow to throw things into turmoil for a couple of episodes.
I don’t even have to talk about the individual episodes. Talking about the characters suggests all of the plotlines. During the course of the season, Dean and Rory become a couple, then break up, and, by the last episode, get back together. The same for Lorelai. Her and Max break up, then get back together before the end of the season, and then Max proposes to her with 1,000 daisies. Luke, meanwhile, gets back together with Rachel, the girl who left him heartbroken, and then they split up by the end of the season.
The first season ends on a positive vibe. I’m sure it won’t last, but that is how the season ends.
I love this series. The characters suggest so many possible future plotlines. And I look forward to the next six seasons. And the Netflix mini-season. The easy answer to the question, “What is this show about?” is that it’s about mother-and-daughter relationships. But, that’s not it exactly. Don’t ask me what it’s about. It’s about interesting characters in interesting situations, and I don’t ask for much more than that.