BY LINDSEY MCGINNIS '18
Looking back over the past few years, you’ll struggle to find a single television revival that went well — so why were expectations so high for “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life”? And why were its fans so let down when Netflix released the four part series over Thanksgiving weekend? The answer is in the trailer.
The preview released in late October was only a couple minutes long, but it promised a return to Stars Hollow that was fast paced, joyful and full of all your favorite characters. “A Year in the Life” was none of those things.
Long, panning shots and stiff on-screen chemistry made the early episodes feel more like a high school play than the sharp, family dramedy that Gilmore Girls fans remember. While the seasons-as-episodes idea was cute, the hour and a half time slot proved too much of a challenge. The producers would have been better off running eight 45-minute episodes.
The show also featured a series of strange directorial choices, like the town musical scene in “Summer.” What could have been a great 3 minute bit turned into 13 minutes of watching Lorelai watch Christian Borle and Sutton Foster dance around a stage — 19 minutes, if you count the post-musical debriefing. Amy Sherman-Palladino worked with Sutton Foster in 2012 on her show “Bunheads,” but there was no reason to give her so much screen time. It made “A Year in the Life” seem like Sherman-Palladino’s post-Gilmore Girls career showcase.
In “Fall,” Rory embarked on a spontaneous adventure with Logan and the Life and Death Brigade. It was 7 minutes spent awkwardly recreating the “I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends” number from 2007 Beatles flick “Across the Universe” before venturing into a random Tango club. The whole thing was a mess, complete with stiff dancing, dream-like artistic effects and a spectacularly off-color trans joke.
Then there’s the poor character development. In the revival, Rory’s big dilemma is that she can’t find a job, but she doesn’t really do anything about it. She makes poor decisions every step of the way, and it’s unclear if and when the audience is supposed to start feeling sorry for her. When she bails on the GQ story? When she blows her SandeeSays interview, rejects an offer to teach at Chilton or rolls her eyes at the other thirty-somethings who’ve returned to Stars Hollow? The idea of a Rory who’s lost her way is compelling, but a Rory who acts like she’s above every opportunity that comes her way is unlikeable, inconsistent and, frankly, hard to watch. By the end of “Fall,” it takes a lot more than Lorelai’s blessing to redeem this new, hyper-entitled version of Rory Gilmore.
Lorelai, on the other hand, hasn’t changed a bit. That’s also a problem. Eight years have passed since we last saw the fast-talking, inn-running Stars Hollow supermom, and she has nothing to show for it. This may be a writing issue, or it may be the acting. As usual, Kelly Bishop shines in her role as Emily Gilmore, and Paris Geller, played by Liza Weil, also makes a roaring comeback. In addition to these familiar faces, viewers got a hearty dose of celebrity cameos, whether they wanted them — Carole King — or not — Rachel Ray — but that doesn’t fix the fact that the two main characters, Rory and Lorelai, felt off.
The series wraps up with one of those semi-interesting, semi-campy, full-circle schticks. Sherman-Palladino has said she’s open to continuing the series, but fans feel apathetic. The Gilmore Girls revival was by no means a catastrophe — as far as TV revivals go, it was arguably pretty good — but“A Year in the Life” certainly lacked that Stars Hollow sparkle.