Gilmore Girls: ‘A Year in the Life’ and the culture of revivals15th February 2017
In an age where news of television and film revivals is so frequent that it increasingly seems to be met with a chorus of despairing sighs, Netflix’s announcement that they were making Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life appeared to be an exception to the general trend. While there are concerns that reboots- from the endless Superhero films to Baywatch– are a sign that making money through the recycling of existing successful formulas is favoured over originality, the Gilmore Girls revival seemed artistically justified. Having no involvement in the final season of the show’s initial run due to disagreements with ‘The CW’, A Year in the Life was the chance for Amy Sherman Palladino, the show’s creator, to finally achieve creative resolution. Far from being motivated by greed, this revival appeared to be an anomalous case of being motivated by justice. And it is precisely for this reason that its failure was both all the more surprising and all the more disappointing.
Failure is maybe too extreme a choice of word, but there are certainly many serious flaws which are perhaps over-emphasised by the fact that the show conversely seemed to be in such safe hands. For instance, it certainly does not benefit from the extended ninety-minute running time: each movie-length episode feels too long and bloated, lacking a real narrative arc. This is partially due to the large secondary cast, as while it is very enjoyable revisiting the familiar faces and quirky characters of Stars Hollow, the result of trying to give each of them at least a minor narrative means there are so many that none of them are truly given the time or space to be fully realised.
It is as though the creators temporarily forgot the very premise behind a ‘revival’, that the audience have come to revisit the characters they know and love.
Indeed, the long running time is perhaps a reflection of the revivals wider issue: its self-indulgence. Presumably under the assumption that the die-hard fans would enjoy the eccentricity and whimsicality that was so characteristic of the original show, the revival contains, for example, a ten-minute long ‘Stars Hollow, the Musical’, which is arguably so tedious to watch as contains none of the original cast. It is as though the creators temporarily forgot the very premise behind a ‘revival’, that the audience have come to revisit the characters they know and love. What makes this moment all the more unsettling is the character’s reactions, which seem completely inconsistent with their established characterisation; fun-loving Lorelai would presumably have adored something as ridiculous as such a musical in the show’s initial run, while turgid Town Selectman Taylor Doosey would have deplored it, and this complete reversal of outlook in the revival in turn encourages the audience to view it with scepticism. Such a change in character is not limited to Lorelai, and is in fact most prominent with Rory, who in a huge departure from her previous principled and high achieving characterisation is, depressingly, a failed journalist who seems to have been stripped of all drive and ambition (and furthermore has no qualms with adultery).
This depressing tone is crystallised by the final words that Palladino famously conceived years in advance, as Rory reveals to her mother that she is pregnant. Not only is such an ending frustratingly open ended, but it feels cheap, and incredibly circular for a series about the struggles of young mother, seeming to shatter the shows themes of independence, female empowerment and the merits of working hard in a matter of seconds, all in favour of a hackneyed cliché. Such a decision seems incredibly outdated.
While it may seem contrary to the tone of this piece, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life was on the whole an enjoyable and nostalgic experience, and would be so for any fan of the witty dialogue and pop-culture references of the initial run. However, revivals have the pressure of not only being enjoyable, but of justifying that they were worth being recreated, and the general dissonant tone of A Year in the Life, despite being a story ten years in the making, left me wondering whether it was worth being told.