26 November 2016

Where You Lead, I Won't Follow: A Disappointing Gilmore Girls Revival

Promotional image from Netflix

A few years ago, before there was any talk of Netflix's Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life mini-series revival, I was talking to my mother about the possibility of a Gilmore Girls movie. On the one hand, we thought it would be exciting to find out what happened to the characters after the end of the seventh season, but on the other hand, we feared it could be disappointing. Still, I maintained that a continuation could only be a good thing: at best, it would be everything we hoped for, and at worst, we could consider it a sort of alternate universe.

Now, after watching the first half of the first episode of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, I take it all back. I wish this revival didn't exist, I will not be watching the rest of it, and I will be trying my hardest to forget it.

I followed news of the revival since it was announced last year, reading about who was coming back and what the broad plot points would be. I watched the trailer and read some reviews, the consensus of which was that Gilmore Girls picks up right where it left off and feels exactly the same. I rewatched key episodes from each of the seven seasons to remind myself of the major story arcs, and planned a carefully-paced viewing of the revival for Thanksgiving weekend.

Even though the plot of the entire revival was recapped online by the time I got up Friday morning, I avoided spoilers because I thought knowing which love interests Lorelai and Rory wind up with might mar my enjoyment of the show if they happened to be the ones I didn't like. Now, I wish I had read the recaps in advance, because I wouldn't have wasted my time watching at all.

Spoilers ahead: the revival doesn't feel the same as the original, at least to this fan who has seen every episode of the series multiple times. From the very first moments of the first episode, everything is off-kilter: Rory and Lorelai reunite for some of their famous fast talking, but the delivery is awkward--too fast and trying too hard. They head home, and it's all wonky camera angles that make me slightly seasick. Rory has a new boyfriend called Paul whom neither Lorelai, Luke, nor even Rory can remember, in a blatant copy of the Ann (who?) gag from Arrested Development. Lorelai relates a gross dream to Luke that I had to mute. Rory takes up midnight tap-dancing as a stress reliever. Am I watching the revival of a heartfelt show beloved by fans, or a parody made by somebody who hated it?

When we pick up with Emily, it gets worse. Emily's endless supply of maids had always been international in the original series, and the show never went for the cheap "Latina/Latino domestic help" jokes that were so common on shows of the same era. Here, almost ten years later, it goes there, with Emily housing a husband, wife, and kids who might be theirs except Emily can't tell what language they're speaking and can't figure it out through the third-hand translation from the pool boy who translates for the Spanish-speaking gardener.

Then there's a lengthy flashback to Richard's funeral. This reveals that Lorelai blurted out an inappropriate story and an anecdote that made Richard seem cold when Emily called on her to share a fond memory. It also leads to a fight that is much heavier than anything we saw in the original series--including harsher language that wouldn't have been allowed on the WB/CW.

At this point I turned off Netflix and turned to the internet to find out what all of this is building up to. And I discovered that Rory treats Paul terribly throughout all four episodes, and Lorelai and Emily's fight continues through all four episodes. And Rory has an affair with my favorite of her love interests, Logan, while she's still with Paul and Logan's engaged to another woman. And she ultimately breaks that off and ends the series single and unhappy. And she's become so full of herself that she loses a job that she thinks is beneath her due to arrogance. And her friends Lane and Paris have not followed their dreams or fulfilled any of the passions or talents that drove them during their teens and twenties. And so on and so forth.

It all ends with the famous "final four words" with which creator Amy Sherman Palladio supposedly always intended to end the series. The most popular theory was that Rory would tell Lorelai she's pregnant, but I scoffed at the idea of such a soapy, cliched, cliffhanger ending. Surely, I thought, the show would wrap up with something sweet about Rory and Lorelai's relationship, the heart of the show from the very beginning.

Well, it was a soapy, cliched, cliffhanger ending. And knowing where all of this leads, I'm sorry to say that I'm no longer following Gilmore Girls.

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