We could all use a trip back to Stars Hollow right about now, huh?
No matter how you feel about the direction our country’s headed in, we can all agree that the world’s gotten a little bit colder and a little less certain than it was when Gilmore Girls went off the air in 2007. And so Netflix’s revival of the beloved family dramedy (debuting next Friday, Nov. 25) is perfectly timed TV comfort food — a faithful reproduction of the quirky, cozy vibe we fell in love with. But it’s also not afraid to push its characters towards new, sometimes painful realizations. Because nothing ever stays quite the same… even in Stars Hollow.
A Year in the Life (the official subtitle for the Netflix revival) consists of four 90-minute installments, each twice as long as a typical Gilmore Girls episode. But each is surprisingly well-paced… especially since there’s so much to fit in. The town of Stars Hollow remains a quaint throwback that’s seemingly frozen in time — Miss Patty’s still teaching dance; Taylor’s still an annoying busybody; Kirk’s still a weirdo — but the dialogue is peppered with up-to-date references to the Kardashians, Game of Thrones and man-buns. The typically clever, rapid-fire Gilmore banter is super charged here, as if creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has been gathering one-liners for years and finally found a place to put them.
But the revival also finds the three main Gilmore girls — Lorelai, Rory and Emily — all in various states of crisis. Lorelai (Lauren Graham) is happily living with Luke (Scott Patterson), but she starts to feel strangely unfulfilled. Despite having some success in journalism, daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) finds herself jobless and homeless, and not exactly sure where she fits in this world. (As Lane puts it, “This adult stuff is hard, isn’t it?”) And mother Emily (Kelly Bishop) is reeling from the death of her husband Richard, trading in her usual country-club attire for jeans and T-shirts and suddenly developing a foul mouth. (She’s not on network TV anymore, after all.)
This hint of melancholy is appreciated, because it’s tempting with TV reunions like this to make everything happy and cheerful. But these women are still growing, still discovering who they are, and inevitably butting heads in the process. Graham and Bishop, in particular, have some intense scenes together, including a nasty, gloves-off argument in the immediate wake of Richard’s death that cuts right to the bone. This revival isn’t afraid to go dark and get real when it needs to, and that emotional honesty underlines why we love Gilmore Girls in the first place.
That said, GG: A Year in the Life is a hell of a lot of fun, too. Nearly every fan-favorite character from the original series reappears to give us an update on their lives. (I’m happy to report that we see plenty of Paris Geller.) And they’re joined by an array of delightful guest stars, who I wouldn’t dream of revealing here. We get to see Stars Hollow again in all its eccentric glory, and even learn things we never knew about the town. (Like, that it has… a secret bar?!) And the tone throughout is patient and laid-back; this revival truly feels like a continuation of the original series, rather than a rehash.
And at the heart of it, as always, are the three Gilmore ladies. The Emmys infamously ignored Gilmore Girls during its run, but it’d be a high crime if these actresses weren’t recognized this time around. (Bishop, especially, is long overdue for a Supporting Actress nomination.) Balancing witty repartee with gut-wrenching conflict isn’t easy, but they make it look effortless. Losing the late Edward Herrmann as Richard was a devastating blow, both to the characters and the series, but the trio of Graham, Bledel and Bishop really do him proud by shining here.
There’s something perfect about A Year in the Life debuting on Thanksgiving weekend. Gilmore Girls was about a lot of things — coffee, love triangles, talking fast — but it was ultimately always about family. So it feels right that as we gather to give thanks with our loved ones this year, we can all sit down together and enjoy this very successful revival of one of TV’s all-time great series. A sequel that actually exceeds our expectations? Now that’s something to be thankful for.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: With sparkling banter and surprising emotional depth, Netflix’s Gilmore Girls revival is everything we hoped for.