Over the Thanksgiving weekend I, like most, took a trip. To a small American town I’d visited while growing up in South Africa, even though I’d never been to the US before – a town that anyone with a decoder and subscription to MNet at the time could visit. It’s a town I know many around the world spent a great deal of time in over the years since Gilmore Girls first aired, getting to know two of its inhabitants very well.
Oh, Stars Hollow, oh, faux Connecticut town, with your idiosyncratic characters and sleepy town vibes. Let me just say, from the start I didn’t think returning was going to be a good idea. Gilmore Girls was for a season of my life. Growing up as a teen in South Africa, fumbling to find my own voice and confidence, I’d been drawn to the witty, no-breathes-taken-banter and friendship between Rory and her young mother Lorelai. It was so far away from the relationship I had with my own mom. I relished seeing them share coffee and doughnuts and pop-tarts and a love of old movies. I was apprehensive about returning to their world, these characters, their relationships, for fear they wouldn’t be as quite appealing to me as they once were.
But then came the hype and the set pictures and the trailer and all the excitement of a Thanksgiving release date, and I became wrapped up in it, ready to give it a go.
So, with a friend for company, I huddled up to spend a few hours of my life watching Lorelai and Rory and Emily Gilmore in A Year in the Life. Based off the lyrics of the Carole King theme song: “Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, all you have to do is call my name, and I’ll be there…” the series takes its cue as four TV movies based on each of these seasons, and in this order. Our setting – the aftermath of Richard Gilmore’s death, Sookie’s sojourn into the annals of nature, and Logan’s high-flying executive London lifestyle. Rory and Lorelai both find themselves at a crossroads of sorts – Rory, as a freelance journalist who can’t keep crashing on couches of friends (or, in Logan’s case, his bed), Lorelai, as an innkeeper who may or may not want more from life and Luke.
A Year in the Life is one for the fans, for sure. There are lots of nods to episodes gone by peppered throughout. I still laughed at Kirk’s oddball ideas. I like that Lane is still playing drums, even as a mother. Most of the pop culture hat-tips were appreciated (especially the Inside Llewyn Davis one!) A few of the characters have developed, none more so fiercely as Emily Gilmore (the incomparable Kelly Bishop) and watching her figuring out how who she is after 50 years of marriage was a highlight. For the most part, we’re still visiting a small town with inhabitants who’ve been there all their lives. That’s part of the series’ charm too.
And I thought I was a fan. But after watching these four 90-minute episodes, I think maybe that’s it for me. Maybe it’s because I’m all grown up (if only in age, more so than in life approach), and I don’t relate to Rory and Lorelai quite as much as I once did, but in amongst the winks to fans I actually felt, well, a little hood-winked. It’s not so much that I’ve changed, but that they’ve changed.
When Rory speaks to Jess of being so lost in life she doesn’t have a car or a driver’s license and then in the very next scene is driving a car to her grandmother’s house. When, at the end of the fourth episode, we have yet to see usually-book-mad Rory talk about any one of the authors that have made an impact on popular culture since the show ended. When Lorelai and Luke (SPOILER) get married in the middle of the night and Michelle, not Sookie, her BFF who was there the day before, is standing by her side (yeah, I know this probably has a lot to do with contractual stuff). When Lorelai phones Emily to give her a story she wanted, needed, to hear, and the words feel more like a letter being written, rather than a spontaneous speech being said.
And in other instances, too. Like a theatre play based on the life of the town itself – why?? Or the whole Cheryl Strayed Wild section. Much as I love that book and movie (I enjoyed both, which apparently is sacrilege in Lorelai’s world), I just didn’t believe that ever-confident Lorelai would go on that kind of venture into nature.
Yes, I’m glad the show’s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino got the ending she held onto when other writers took over her duties after contractual disputes. Those now much-publicised four words she had been wanting to end the show on have been uttered. But it seems as if those words, rather than an ending, are an invitation to another trip to Stars Hollow, and next time, I think I’ll just stay home.