Revisiting is a series where TV writers watch, or re-watch, popular TV shows they missed when airing in their prime. Writers will retrospectively review these shows and determine if they still live up to their hype years after their peak success.
Seventh grade was a shit show. My chest was growing faster than the other girls in my class — as was my belly — and my palate expander gave me a noticeably awkward lisp. I was hopelessly bored during those dragging middle school days. It was bar mitzvah season, and it seemed like Jacob Cohen’s Torah portion was the most interesting topic my schoolmates could think of. I would count down the minutes until lunch time, then the minutes until history class, then the minutes until the bell rang, then the minutes until the bus turned onto my block, then the seconds until I walked through the door. Like clockwork, I arrived at my door at 4:30 p.m., plopped my backpack on the floor, grabbed a Yo Crunch (an M&M one, of course) and headed into the den to watch “Gilmore Girls” reruns on the now extinct ABC Family with my mom. It was a time we had all to ourselves, from the hour of five to six — my brothers would often come home late due to after-school activities and my dad traveled a lot — my mom and I could bond over that fast-talking mother-daughter duo we wished we could be.
Those were the evenings we were no longer stuck in the boring Ohio suburbs but the charming New England town of Stars Hollow. I saw myself not as a slightly overweight, early-blooming drama queen, but as the brilliant and graceful Rory Gilmore: valedictorian, editor-in-chief and mini-skirt icon. I fantasized of going to Yale and becoming a college journalist (at least one of those fantasies came true). Watching “Gilmore Girls” gave me the confidence to talk as fast as I wanted and drop as many pop culture references that Amy Sherman Palladino could fit into a 45-minute time slot. In seven seasons (we don’t speak of the reboot), we grew up with Rory, felt every coming-of-age emotion she felt: every crush, every heartbreak, every revelation.
Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham, “Parenthood”) is a 30-something single mom raising her teenage daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel, “Mad Men”) in the small Connecticut town of Stars Hollow. “Gilmore Girls” focuses on their close relationship and spit-fire personalities. Lorelai runs a local bed and breakfast, and Rory is a precocious brainiac with dreams of being the next Christiane Amanpour. After having Rory out of wedlock at the age of 16, Lorelai loses touch with her wealthy, waspy and judgmental parents, Richard (Edward Herrmann, “Coach of the Year”) and Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop, “The Good Wife”). Only when Rory needs their money to attend a top-notch private high school, Chilton, does Lorelai re-establish contact with her parents. In exchange for their donation, Lorelai’s parents demand a tradition of Friday night dinners at their Hartford mansion. The show expertly captures the clash between Lorelai and her parents, as the daughter they don’t understand and the parents she can’t seem to shake. “Gilmore Girls” also captures the beauty of small-town living by showcasing a full cast of colorful personalities.
Among the townspeople and regulars, there’s Lorelai’s soulmate, cranky, diner-owner Luke Danes (Scott Patterson, “The Sons of Summer”); the religious Christian turned rock ‘n’ roll drummer and Rory’s bestie Lane Kim (Keiko Agena, “13 Reasons Why”); Lorelai’s best friend, business partner and chef Sookie St. James (a young and hilarious Melissa McCarthy, “Ghostbusters”); and Rory’s rival-turned-best friend Paris Geller (Liza Weil, “How to Get Away with Murder”), among many more.
The Gilmore girls talk faster than the Looney Tunes on fast forward and drink more coffee than the entire population of Seattle. They listen to David Bowie and eat like prepubescent boys. They are beautiful, brilliant and have no shortage of witty banter. They understand each other on an almost freakish level, and they are sincerely each other’s best friend. The show basically says that “Hey, your mom doesn’t have to just be your mom; she can be your best friend too.”
1. “Rory’s Dance,” season 1, episode 9
Rory asks Dean (Jared Padalecki, “Supernatural”) to take her to a dance at Chilton. The night goes awry when Tristan (an always stunning Chad Michael Murray, “One Tree Hill”), who is crushing on Rory, decides to be a dick and almost gets in a fight with Dean. The night ends with Rory and Dean falling asleep together at Miss Patty’s dance studio. While nothing along the line of Rory’s conception happened, the Stars Hollow gossipers are abuzz, and Emily questions Lorelai’s parenting skills, insinuating that Rory will end up pregnant at 16 like she did. The altercation with her mother leaves Lorelai emotional, taking out her anger on Rory. This episode is a pivotal moment for Rory and Dean, as well as a series of momentous fights for all three Gilmore girls — highlighting Rory’s naiveté and Lorelai’s relative immaturity. Overall, the episode creates a framework for a set of recurring themes: Emily adjudicating Lorelai, Lorelai taking it out on Rory and Rory feeling caught between a boy and her mom. Dean is Rory’s first love, so she is constantly fucking it up, but we will never look at corn starch the same way ever again.
2. “Swan Song,” season 3, episode 14
Rory and Dean are over after a crucial moment in episode seven where Rory realizes her feelings for Jess (Milo Ventimiglia, “This is Us”) — Luke’s sulky, intellectual hunk of a nephew. Rory brings Jess to the traditional Friday night dinner at the Gilmores where Jess visibly wears a shiner on his eye. Rory believes he has gotten into another violent fight with her ex-boyfriend Dean (they are known to do that on occasion), but he was actually just hit in the face by a rather sassy swan. This episode marks the beginning of the “Jess Era,” filled with sneaky getaways, tattered books, great music and all the teenage angst of a CW soap opera.
3. “You Jump, I Jump Jack,” season 5, episode 7
It wouldn’t be an episode of “Gilmore Girls” if there weren’t a pop culture pun right in the title. Lorelai and Luke are at the start of part one of their tumultuous relationship, and Emily insists on having him over for dinner: What could go wrong? Sarcasm aside, Rory goes undercover for the Yale newspaper to report on a secret society on campus known as The Life or Death Brigade. While on the job, Rory takes a leap of faith (literally) and hits it off with your favorite blonde, billionaire bad boy Logan (Matt Czuchry, “The Resident”). This marks Rory’s college fling with Logan. He comes off as a douchebag, but he steals your heart with his charm and that damn handsome grin. Rory learns to take a risk and cease her cautious tip-toeing. Sure, she takes it too far sometimes (we all know about the yacht fiasco), but Logan teaches her to live life in omnia paratus (ready for anything).
As far as mother-daughter duos go, they can be hit or miss. Moms are easily demonized or celebrated, depending on how Freudian you want to get. But “Gilmore Girls” manages to capture the essence of a mother-daughter relationship built on love and respect, not fear and animosity. Rory and Lorelai highlight the best parts of being close with your mom, while showing the more complicated mother-daughter relationship in the distance between Lorelai and Emily. “Gilmore Girls” reminded me that it’s OK not to hate my mom, and even encouraged me to keep calling her my best friend. Love ya, Ma.