I’ll just come right out and say it: I love Gilmore Girls, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
I don’t just love Gilmore Girls because I love the Gilmore Girls: daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel), her mother, Lorelai (Lauren Graham), Lorelai’s mother, Emily (Kelly Bishop), and all the other non-Gilmore women on the show, though they are all great. (And John Oliver is definitely right about Lorelai, by the way.) No, I love Gilmore Girls because it’s a great show (with a great theme song). And with Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, a four-episode revival that returns virtually all of the on- and off-screen principals, premiering on Netflix tomorrow, it’s time for guys to admit their love—or at least give the show a try—without shame.
What is Gilmore Girls, and why is it so great? It’s a TV show that originally ran from 2000-2007 about Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, who live in the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. Lorelai comes from an elite New England family (the show implies the Gilmores’ direct ancestors came to America on the Mayflower). But she becomes estranged from that family after giving birth to Rory out-of-wedlock at sixteen.
Striking out on her own, Lorelai raises Rory into a strong, intelligent young woman in Stars Hollow. Yet Lorelai has to return to her estranged parents, Emily and Richard (the late Edward Hermann), to get her daughter into the prestigious (and expensive) Chilton Academy so that Rory can achieve her lifelong dream of attending Harvard University. They agree to help, but on one condition: Lorelai and Rory, who have barely communicated with Lorelai’s parents over the past sixteen years, must attend weekly dinners at the Gilmore estate and let Lorelai’s parents back into their lives.
That’s the setup for pretty much the entire show. And it also reveals most of the show’s greatness. Most basic are the evocative settings created by show runners Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino. They gives us a New England as rich and colorful as Maine in autumn. There’s Stars Hollow, the quant little town of inns, cafes, diners, and gazebos, but also semi-hippies, troubadours, busybodies, and rumor-mongers. There’s Chilton (and, later, in a surprising development, Yale), marked by rich history and stunning architecture, and populated by relentless high-achievers in a winner-take-all meritocracy. And there’s the mansion of Lorelai’s parents, where wealth’s pretensions collide with its idiosyncrasies (in a running gag, a new maid greets Lorelai and Rory on almost every one of their visits). All this, and so much more, contribute to the show’s truly lived-in feel.
Dialogue also helps bring the show to life. Between Rory’s autodidactic literary pedigree and Lorelai’s also-autodidactic pop culture background, the allusions and references flow constantly out of the always-moving, Luke’s Diner-coffee-fueled mouths of the Gilmore Girls. To watch an episode of Gilmore Girls is, in part, simply to keep up with what the girls are saying; they speak to each other in a language only they truly understand.
This points to the essential, transcendent aspect of Gilmore Girls: the relationship of the Girls themselves. Bonded by Rory’s difficult upbringing, Lorelai and Rory are mother and daughter, practically sisters from their relative closeness in age, and, above all, best friends. Their relationship isn’t perfect, of course. And both have trouble in their own lives, some of it involving men. Lorelai couldn’t accept that Luke Danes (Scott Patterson), the gruff-yet-amiable owner of the girls’ favorite diner, was right for her, while Rory couldn’t accept that Jess Mariano (Milo Ventimiglia), Luke’s deceptively literate nephew, was right for her (#TeamJess). Gilmore Girls makes its titular characters into believable, relatable, lovable people you’d want to sit down at Luke’s Diner with (which you could have done earlier this year, though not with the Girls themselves).
But there are other reasons why guys specifically should watch Gilmore Girls. One is purely, almost shamelessly utilitarian: Women tend to like it. A guy who likes the show has an instant connection to its female fans. The second reason for guys to like the show is (slightly) less shameless: Guys can learn a lot about women by watching it (especially with women). Finally, and most important, by watching—and, inevitably, enjoying—Gilmore Girls, guys can help desegregate our increasingly balkanized pop culture. We can help reassert quality—which Gilmore Girls has in spades—over identity as the proper benchmark for art. And all just by watching a great show when its revival premieres on Netflix this Friday.