Gilmore Girls, the 2000 to 2007 comedy-drama about fast-talking mother-and-daughter duo Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, has been off the air for almost a decade.
But it amassed a cult following that has clamoured for more, which is one reason it has returned to the screen with four new episodes on Netflix.
Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life sees Rory (Alexis Bledel), now grown up, return to to the quirky town of Stars Hollow as she, Lorelai and matriarch Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop) adjust to life after the death of Rory’s grandfather Richard.
In an interview in Los Angeles recently, the cast and creators say this fictional New England town, where Lorelai (Lauren Graham) raised Rory in a community of eccentric but loving neighbours, seems to represent a “safe place” for viewers, many of whom discovered the show’s seven original seasons on Netflix years after it went off the air.
Graham says: “It’s extremely comforting in a world that is lacking comfort and that has lots of shows that are great but stressful, so this kind of stands out.
“I think it’s one of the reasons it has come back and one of the reasons it stuck,” says the 49-year-old, who also starred in the comedy series Parenthood (2010-2015).
Bledel agrees. “I think it may resonate with people because the world is the way it is right now. It’s still that comforting place,” says the 35-year-old actress, who had a supporting role in the drama Mad Men (2012).
This theory may explain why new converts to Gilmore Girls include American soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Show creator and writer Amy Sherman-Palladino, 50, says: “We had a sniper unit that would write to me and say, ‘I got all the guys here into Gilmore Girls.’ For them, it was a safe space. They said, ‘This is what we’re fighting for.’ ”
A soldier once went up to Scott Patterson, who plays Lorelai’s love interest Luke, to say how much the men in his battalion adore these characters.
Patterson, 58, says: “He walked up to me and just started crying. He said he was in a sniper battalion in Fallujah, Iraq, and he had done four tours and they watched Gilmore Girls obsessively.
“It’s like nothing bad can happen while they’re watching that show.”
Yet despite being a source of comfort-viewing, the series was ahead of its time in the 2000s because of its female-centric and progressive storyline.
Bledel says: “It was feminist by the simple fact that it was a women’s story and we were describing a relationship between a mother and a daughter that was so full of love. And, at the time, you saw a lot of competitive relationships between women on television.”
Even though the show “doesn’t make a big deal out of it”, Graham believes the depiction of her character’s unusual life journey – as a former teenage mother who had become pregnant out of wedlock, then carved out a solid career and was successfully raising a daughter by herself – “was considered progressive for the time, was an odd thing to see then on television”.
It showed “life doesn’t have to go a certain way, it doesn’t have to be conventional, you can be a winner in your own right and I think people were inspired by that,” says Graham, whose boyfriend is Parenthood co-star Peter Krause, 51.
Younger fans were particularly inspired by whip-smart, well-read Rory, whom they saw attend an Ivy League university and launch a promising career as a writer.
“It’s amazing to hear from young women who were inspired by the character to read as much or study as hard as they can,” says Bledel, who has a one-year-old son with Mad Men co-star Vincent Kartheiser, 37.
As much as fans were invested in which of Rory’s boyfriends she would end up with – Jess (Milo Ventimiglia from the series Heroes), Dean (Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki) or Logan (The Good Wife’s Matt Czuchry), all of whom appear in the new episodes – they relate to other aspects of her life too.
“There is so much more to her character that it is great when people focus on things such as her ambition and her accomplishments and her goals,” says Bledel. Fans told Sherman-Palladino that watching it facilitated mother- daughter bonding as well. “There was a lot of ‘I watched this with my daughter, it gave me opportunities to talk to my daughter, it gave me a chance to share something with my daughter’.”
For the cast and crew, the revival is also about unfinished business: Sherman-Palladino and writer husband Dan Palladino, who co-created the new episodes, left at the end of the sixth season after failed contract negotiations. They never got to end the story as they wanted and the seventh season of Gilmore Girls was widely considered its weakest by critics and fans.
“Here, there was an artistic reason to go back,” Graham says. “Our showrunners didn’t finish it, we were suspended in mid-air and the fans felt unfulfilled and so did we.” Despite the nine-year break, returning to these characters was not hard at all and nor was recreating those rapid-fire, quippy exchanges that became the show’s calling card.
“It really was as if no time had passed,” says Bledel.
“It was easy, it was joyous, it was exhilarating,” adds Graham. “There was no sense of having to resuscitate something. It was just like it was meant to continue.”
The Palladinos have been non-committal about whether there will be more episodes after these, but the two lead actresses say they expect to be connected to these characters in some shape or form for the rest of their lives.
Graham says in jest: “We’ll be doing the Gilmore Girls fan convention when we’re, like, a hundred years old and charging for autographs.” – The Straits Times/Asia News Network/Alison De Souza