Netflix UK TV review: Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (spoiler-free)
Nostalgic comfort food10
Razor sharp script10
Helen Archer | On 25, Nov 2016Reading time: 5 mins
All shows are borne from a particular moment, and revisiting them is generally an exercise in nostalgia. As with music, they elicit a kind of sense-memory, reminding us not only of where we were and what we were doing when they first aired, but also what we were feeling. Implicit in any revival is a mourning for a younger, more innocent time. It’s a little like returning to your childhood home – the realisation that once you move out, once you grow up, there no going back; childhood can never be recreated.
Perhaps the Sherman-Palladinos know this. On the surface, not much is different in the Gilmore Girls revival, A Year in the Life. We re-join Lorelei and Rory as they greet each other with a knowing eyebrow raised at the audience (“How long’s it been?” “Feels like years”), walking with them through the winter wonderland of Stars Hollow – everything done up in lights and baubles, a smattering of snow chilling the air, their hands warmed with mittens and the coffee cups they perpetually hold. Yet the voices of the past echo through the square, reminding us of how things were, but can never be again.
The series has always mixed twee whimsy with pop culture, so it’s apt that the subtle changes are first signalled through the shifting of these references. Miss Patty is still teaching her dance class, while watching the comings and goings of the town, but there’s genuine shock that people are asking Luke for the diner’s wi-fi password. Kirk’s new business model is based on Uber, while Lorelei arranges her magazines in order of Kardashians. Rory herself has three mobiles – (“more burners that Omar Little”) – and there is even talk of Twitter.
The town still holds its idiosyncratic festivals – there’s a World Food Festival in Episode 2, and the tradition of bidding for picnic baskets remains – but these, too, have diversified to reflect the times. A town meeting discusses the possibility of an annual Gay Pride Parade to coincide with Liza Minelli’s 70th birthday, although concerns are raised that there aren’t enough gays in Stars Hollow to make it worthwhile. “How is that possible?” one resident asks. “We have such cute houses!” “And antique shops!”
Things have, of course, changed in more significant ways. The absence of Richard looms large (literally, thanks to a giant, mural-like portrait Emily commissioned), while life has opened up for Rory, with forays into the world beyond New England. When we left her, she was bidding farewell to the comfortable safety of the small town to cover Barack Obama’s campaign trail. Now, she divides her time between London, New York, Stars Hollow, and Hartford, although quite how she has the money or the stamina to be getting a cross-continent Red-Eye every couple of days remains unaddressed. Her accommodation arrangements are up in the air – living out of boxes, she is, as Emily says, “traipsing around from one couch to the next like she’s Llewyn Davis”.
There are the more understated, yet no less seismic, transformations. Having discovered Marie Kondo, Emily decides – with the help of her current maid’s extended family, who seem to have moved in with her – to deal with the loss of Richard by ‘decluttering’. In one scene she appears – shockingly – wearing a pair of Lorelei’s jeans, as she gets rid of everything in her life that does not bring her joy. Meanwhile, for a family not generally given to self-reflection, the mother / daughter therapy sessions are fairly radical, in terms of a cultural shift.
Sookie’s non-appearance is explained by her following her dreams at some fancy eco-foraging restaurant in the hills, her absence a giant hole at the Dragonfly Inn, where a host of star chefs are deemed not good enough to take her place in the kitchen. Lorelei, meanwhile, is having intimations of her own mortality, signalled in dreams, and in the thought that maybe she was wrong not to marry and have children with Luke.
But plus ca change, plus ca meme chose. Emily and Lorelei are still prone to violent arguments, during which every actual and perceived slight over their lifetimes are brought up, and the eternal question is asked – “Why do you have such contempt for this family?”
Rory is still making terrible romantic choices, and the boyfriend she’s been with for two years is treated with unkind derision. Paris remains as wonderfully sharp and brittle as ever, although her insecurities are never far from the surface. Hep Alien, meanwhile, retain their original line-up, but their sound has got more polished over time.
There was always going to be a certain melancholy in remembering where we left the Gilmore Girls, just nine years ago, even putting aside the drastic ways in which the world has changed in the meantime (Brexit is mentioned here, but presumably the series wrapped before any indication of the US President-elect; it’s all too easy to imagine watching this while waiting for Hillary to take her place in the Oval Office). But it’s a cosy melancholy that comes from a place of affection, and the new episodes come at exactly the right time, at the end of what, for many, has been a disturbingly dislocating year. Stars Hollow is the ultimate remedy. It remains the perfect snow globe – no matter how much you shake it, it will always settle into the same comforting mise en scene.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is now exclusively on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription. Seasons 1 to 7 of Gilmore Girls are also available.