24 March 2013

Gilmore Girls: Intelligent Television

Note: I originally published this post on The Sparrow Tree Square Blog on June 28, 2011. It is one of a handful of Sparrow Tree Square posts that I'm moving over here, where they better fit.

Promotional Image by Warner Brothers via Wikipedia
I first paid a visit to Stars Hollow, CT (the fictional setting of the television show Gilmore Girls) in the summer of 2009, two years after Gilmore Girls had gone off the air. It was eleven o'clock in the morning and I was trying to distract myself from being nervous about my upcoming orientation at Villanova University, so I turned the television on and searched for something to watch while I worked on a knitting project. I wasn't used to watching television during the day, so I didn't have much success in finding a show that I was familiar with.

I stumbled upon a repeat airing of Gilmore Girls on the ABC Family channel purely by chance and I was almost instantly hooked. I had heard of the show before and had a vague idea that it was a typical teen drama, but I soon discovered that Gilmore Girls is anything but typical. In fact, having recently finished watching all seven seasons I can safely say that Gilmore Girls is one of the smartest, funniest, quirkiest, and most genuine shows ever to air on television.

The show stars Alexis Bledel as the smart, studious Rory Gilmore and Lauren Graham as her mother Lorelai, the manager of a historic inn who had Rory when she was just sixteen. The early seasons of the show focus on Rory's transition from her small town high school to an elite prep school, to which Rory transfers in order to have a better chance of being admitted to Harvard University. Lorelai, meanwhile, must set aside sixteen years of estrangement from her wealthy parents in order to secure financing for Rory's education.

As the series progresses, Rory goes from high school to college and Lorelai moves from managing an inn to owning one of her own. We also see Rory and Lorelai try to balance their educational and career aspirations with their love lives, which don't always go very smoothly over the course of the series. The more serious elements of the show, however, are always evened out by Rory and Lorelai's interactions with the slightly zany residents of Stars Hollow. The town's weekly meetings and numerous special events are venues for some of the show's most humorous moments.

In both its serious and humorous storylines, Gilmore Girls never underestimates the intelligence of its audience. Each episode is packed with references to books, movies, televisions shows, celebrities, and more, and sometimes you'll have to look up a certain reference in order to get the joke. Gilmore Girls never panders to the lowest common denominator and always maintains a clever, witty tone. Just as the show's characters (Rory in particular) are unapologetically intelligent, so is the show's writing.

I think what attracted me to Gilmore Girls the most, though, is the show's unique portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship. Rory and Lorelai are best friends as well as mother and daughter, and don't have the kind of antagonistic relationship that most television shows portray as the norm for teens and their parents. I'm fortunate to have a great relationship with my mother that, in many ways, is very similar to Rory and Lorelai's. It was such a nice change to see that kind of closeness between mother and daughter when most other teen-oriented programs present parents as clueless, villainous, or just plain absent.

I recently finished watching the entirety of Gilmore Girls thanks to two DVD sets and the WB online video player. I'm sad to see the end of one of my favorite shows, but I'm also looking forward to starting the journey all over again with Season 1.

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