In Which The Underdog Is Weakly Barking
Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 11:16AM
Alex in TV, gilmore girls, qichen zhang

Less Is Gilmore


People remember two types of TV shows long after they're gone for two reasons and two reasons only - a) those that are hilarious and b) those starring David Hasselhoff as a lifeguard. But one gem possibly eludes this rigid set of rules. Even though it's been a few years now since the Gilmore Girls series finale aired, recalling its place in the chronology of the CW-née-WB uncovers a sharp distinction between this show and its precedents that remains relevant.

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The very first episode of Gilmore Girls did not win me over immediately. Granted, during that lackluster season of television, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino's script possessed enough charm to start bandaging the still-raw wound that Felicity left behind when she cut off her curls. But despite the rapid-fire banter between the two Lorelais in a schmucky breakfast hangout that somehow made a conversation about lip gloss flavors semi-fascinating, I was unconvinced that this show would remain anything worth watching after repetitive episodes of two women blaming each other for borrowing cut-off shorts without asking.

"Girl, I know you have my Bangles concert t-shirt too, so HAND IT OVER."

And yet I would flip past Judge Judy and forgo doses of completely sound legal advice to return to podunk Stars Hallow on a weekly basis. One would be logical to assume that watching a woman subconsciously pine for a diner owner who refuses to buy a razor - not even when his customers start confusing him for a bear - isn't entertaining. And it isn't. Until diner man speaks.

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Lorelai: [Luke enters] Oh, thank god. Hey, I desperately need a maaassive cup of coffee to go, and--what happened to your face?  

Luke Danes: What do you mean? 

Lorelai: It's... visible. 

Luke Danes: Oh, I shaved. 

Nothing about the plot itself drew significant attention initially. At first, it appeared as formulaic filler that networks usually whip up last minute to take up space in that awkward time slot between 8 and 10, between the hit drama of the season and the local nightly news, when the tots have been tucked in but it's still too early for Letterman to be making jokes about Lady Gaga's ta-tas.

Fortunately, Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, even with their completely harmonious and laughably unrealistic relationship in which the biggest issue consisted of fighting over the new Macy Gray CD, never became too irritating. At least not so much so that I could veg on the loveseat in a heap, watching the WB for one straight hour. THE WB, PEOPLE.

Not saying that Gilmore Girls didn't include, at times, some of those moments of predictable vapidity that defined a channel catering specifically to teenagers living in cookie-cutter developments who probably thought Macy Gray was, "like, super alternative!" In the pilot episode, Lorelai swoops in to save her daughter after a man begins hitting on her at the local diner. (Let's not even talk about the 1950's, Nick-at-Nite-esque reference.) She starts sassing the guy, but only, you know, in that self-gratifying, self-righteous, "I'm a hip mom!" way. Eventually, she manages to pull off the telling off, but not before the script writers decide to imply incestuous group sex when the creepy cradle robber suggests that Lorelai and Rory pair up with him and his buddy sitting at the counter. NSFW, y'all!

"You think we look like sisters? Oh, just SHUT. UP."

And yet I was willing to overlook certain sappy aspects of the show. Set in the midst of a rural backdrop in middle-of-nowhere Connecticut, the mother-daughter dramedy exhibited a carefree tone unlike anything else on television at the time. It spat in the face of twisted plot lines that involved tangles of lies, tangles of bed head after a night out gone awry--not to mention people time traveling

The show's effervescence bubbled up to puncture its superficial veneer to simultaneously entertain and nonchalantly flip its hair at life's problems. "Who cares that I got knocked up at 16? Who cares that my daughter and I are closer in age than Woody Allen is to his most recent wife? Who cares that we might be cancelled soon?" Well, at least problems as seen on TV. Naturally, I wanted to root for it. The show's nondescript attitude was its strength. Its underdog status perpetuated its appeal. Without the tawdry references to "modern" sexuality and the nauseating angst that complemented those references in now-defunct WB shows, Gilmore Girls provided a simple respite from the complicated web of unreasonably volatile relationships. An hour per week of good ol' mother-daughter bonding, with the occasional flirty exchange with hairy diner man thrown in for variety. The show seemed made for television for people to escape television.


For countless weeks, I would opt for a night in Stars Hollow and would dwell on another episode without, surprisingly, wanting to pull a Dawson-post-Joey-breakup and slit my wrists. To be honest, the show became phenomenal. After a few seasons, Sherman-Palladino probably built up enough credibility with the network to begin creatively experimenting with writing, especially by melding an abundance of pop culture references with the characters' daily banter.

The moment of perfection for me came at the height of the velour tracksuit trend. Lorelai, hip mom that she is, prances into her living room wearing the trendiest sweatpants in 2003, only to meet her sour-faced WASP of a mother who thinks anything that's not sold at Saks Fifth Avenue should be outlawed. Television reached its peak when the following exchange aired:

Emily: You have the word "Juicy" on your rear end.   

Lorelai: Well, if I knew you were coming over, I would've changed. 

Emily: Into what? A brassiere with the word "Tasty" on it?

Just luv me 4 who I am~

Like all shows worth watching, they must come to a premature end. Gilmore Girls couldn't evade its fate. But no regrets, because I stuck with it long enough to let the charm of it get to me, even if it took me a couple of seasons to warm up to it. Not to mention that expecting the masses to appreciate a show without a complex love triangle that results in this screenshot:


... is probably unreasonable. Never forget.

Qichen Zhang is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Boston. She tumbls here. You can find her previous work on This Recording here.

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