Gilmore Girls is one of television’s greatest examples of a series that exists as the creation of a singular vision. Amy Sherman-Palladino’s concept of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore as a mother and daughter who are also best friends is both simple and profound, a notion that finds few comparisons in the movies, books, and TV shows that form American popular culture — the same culture from which Sherman-Palladino has her characters quote endlessly.
The news that Netflix had signed up for four new Gilmore Girls episodes — super-sized ones, utilizing the elasticity of no-commercials Netflix streaming — seemed like a wonderful way to solve what had become one of the small tragedies of cult-television history. In 2006, Sherman-Palladino and her husband-collaborator Daniel Palladino failed to come to terms with the CW, and left the series after its sixth season. The show continued for one more season under the guidance of producer David S. Rosenthal before ending its run, but true fans knew what had been denied them: Amy’s long-promised, long-ago-conceived series ending — which, she said, built to four final words that she always declined to reveal.
Now we have Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life — four new episodes that Netflix will plop onto its site on Nov. 25. Was it worth the wait? I think the proper question is: Will fans be satisfied? Having seen all four episodes, I cannot imagine the answer will be anything but “Yes.” Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel deliver the show’s trademark fast-paced intricate dialogue with no sign of strain. And every character you hope will show up, shows up.
The quartet of 90-minute episodes is framed by the subtitle: a year, one set in each of the four seasons. Unfurling eight years after the show’s seventh season concluded, Graham’s Lorelai, Bledel’s Rory, and Kelly Bishop’s Emily Gilmore are still mourning the death of Richard Gilmore; indeed, the late Edward Hermann, who passed away in 2014, was an essential part of the narrative gravity that grounded many of the show’s flights of fancy. Some of the best aspects of A Year in the Life are the ways the four episodes continue, and deepen, the show’s richest themes. Among these are the contentious relationship between Lorelai and Emily — mother and daughter who’ve often felt disrespected by each other and, for such chatty talkers, are inarticulate in expressing how much one’s love for the other means to them.
One of the trickiest things Amy (who wrote and directed the first and fourth episodes) and Daniel (who wrote and directed the second and third episodes) needed to pull off was the elapsed time since the show went off the air. The Netflix series is set in the present-day, and periodically I’d stop and think, wait, eight years have passed and this is where Rory is in her career? This is where Lorelai and Luke have arrived in their relationship? And how the hell does Miss Patty keep that dance studio so full of prancing students in 2016?
Do you like Kirk (Sean Gunn)? If so, you will get a lot of Kirk for your Netflix money — sometimes it seems as though he must be the show creators’ secretly favorite character. Kirk continues with schemes both harebrained and inspired — I’ll let you figure out which one would best describe a new business he calls “Ooooo-ber” — and helps to move the stories through the streets of Stars Hollow.
Now more than ever, that little town seems like a haven for calm, graciousness, goodwill, and tolerance. If anything could intrude upon Amy Sherman-Palladino’s brilliantly conceived throwback to the great screwball comedies of the past, it was the recent, angry, vulgar presidential campaign, from which A Year in the Life gives viewers a safe haven.
I’m going to review each episode of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life separately and more thoroughly once they’re posted on Netflix: I’d rather not divulge spoilers even if the heavy hand of Netflix had tried to command critics to avoid saying anything about their Gilmore Girls other than that (spoiler alert!) Lorelai and Rory still drinks gallons of coffee. I have a feeling these new Gilmores are going to be giving an awful lot of people one extra reason to be grateful for a long Thanksgiving weekend this year.
The Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life begins streaming Nov. 25 on Netflix.