People often remember beloved shows with a nostalgic hindsight, glossing over its flaws and reminiscing that one day you would love to have it back. Recent years have made that latter wish a reality as more and more as TV shows are revived for limited runs. The reality has been a mixed bag, though in terms of quality. With perhaps the exception of the X-Files, The Gilmore Girls revival was my most anticipated and the results are unsurprisingly mixed. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is a deeply flawed experience but for the most part manages to recapture what made the show so beloved. Find out more in our review.
It has been nine years since we picked up with the mother-daughter team of Gilmore Girls: A Life in the Year. Rory arrives back home to small town life in Stars Hollow with no idea of what her next career move is. Lorelai seems to have settled down with Luke but any forward momentum has been lost. Finally, the death of Richard Gilmore has left a hole in the family and leaving them questioning what the next chapter of their lives will look like. It also has opened old wounds back up between Lorelai and Emily.
What did people come to Gilmore Girls for originally and what do they hope to get out of now? Answer that question and you potentially discover how much mileage you get out of A Year in the Life. If you came back for quick, snappy and witty dialogue that has always been a staple of the Gilmore Girls, you have it probably because it’s the easiest aspect to resurrect for the show. The hyperactive speed and pop references are all here from hallmarks such as Game of Thrones and Hamilton to weird social network and David Lynch references. In fact, comedy is something that works so well, whether situational or dialogue jokes. They don’t always hit but there are certainly so many that you are bound to overlook those that don’t work.
If you come back for the easy chemistry of the cast, you mostly get what you hoped for here. An opening salvo of back and forth banter in the ‘Winter’ episode feels forced and flat between Lauren Graham and Alex Bledlel with a meta ‘that felt good’ at the end, but it’s only one of a few moments that doesn’t work between the two. The back and forth of Scott Patterson and Graham is there, as is Kelly Bishop that biting sarcasm which is as filled with vitriol as ever before. The therapy scenes are wonderful to watch both these women stretch their acting chops.
Not everyone has such luck though especially the many cameos the show offers but does little with other than elicit nostalgia from. Lane, Paris, Jess and more find themselves with unresolved stories or even worse bit parts and that’s a shame. It’s frustrating to witness the arrival of beloved characters and subsequent disappearance often just as quick. Sometimes this is fine in you have no interest in them other than to say ‘Oh, that character’ but some, say for example Sookie, seem painfully absent and only appear for the briefest of moments. It’s very much the nature of the production and scheduling but it’s jarring from a storytelling perspective.
Worse that that is a Netflix formatting thing that makes each of the four episode an hour and a half which is far too long and only the last episode feels deserving of it. It’s fair to say that some concepts allowed to breathe are great. Kirk’s second short film is marvelous, the visit of the Life and Death brigade too. Yet I think it’s fair to say that the musical from the second episode drags on for far too long. It has a lengthy five songs, that might have been a montage in a regular length episode yet here they go on and on. They’re funny, just not twenty minutes funny. It’s an indulgence in an otherwise funny episode. My suggestion is break the episodes up into forty-five-minute halves.
Looking over the internet reaction (social media not critical reaction) to Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life it’s been a little bit weird to look at some of the complaints leveled at the show. Everything from their favourite character doing little to change, people being nasty and doing all sorts of inconsistent things. The problem many people have I think is an actual lack of memory of what the original show was. The Mother/ Daughter team was always a bit narcissistic and judgment, the plot never changed and most conflicts start around someone lying/ withholding information. They treat men horribly and often act irrationally. While it would be wonderful for a show to course correct, it seems like nobody is likely to screw with the formula that much. The complaints are valid just a little bit too late.
Despite all my complaints about the show in this or its previous incarnation, I still walked away from Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life largely satisfied and that is because of its strong final episode ‘Fall.’ Emotionally, funny and satisfying. From a visit from the Life and Death brigade to those final words, it reminds you of the pull and ultimately the heart of the show. It took us a while to get here, but there are killer moments from everyone and some of the best moments in the series exist here. The only oddness is the place of Emily in the last moments of the episode, still, even she finds her peace. The episode doesn’t resolve a lot, but it’s a show more akin to the Lion King’s circle of life, then it is to the upper echelon on TV. Special mention to the production design on that episode too.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life Review Cheat Sheet:
In the end, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is largely successful in a world of mediocre revivals, it captures enough of what made the show great (and not so great) and indulges in nostalgia for just long enough. With great chemistry between its lead and enough moments to justify the time spent with the episode, it’s possible to forgive the many flaws from episode length to oddly structured cameos. It might only be for the fans, but rewarding nonetheless.
+ Great Chemistry between the leads.
+ Lots of great quirk and humour.
+ The ‘Fall’ Episode
– Problems of the orignal show are still present.
-Cameos don’t always work
-Episodes are too long