Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gilmore Girls Post-Mortem

Thanks to the writers' strike, now thankfully over, Jill and I were looking for something to watch on TV. So we broke out Jill's collection of Gilmore Girls and started with Season One. Two nights ago, we finished off Season Seven.

That was the hardest to watch. Season Seven was painful. Longtime producer Amy Sherman-Palladino had left her creation in the hands of ... well, people who weren't her and, as a result, the magic disappeared completely. I know at the time, I decried the new writers and wished and hoped that Amy would come back to save Lorelai and Rory from the death rattle that slowly overtook them. Sadly, my prayers went unanswered.

Now that I have watched all seven seasons, I was able to see where things started to go so wrong and, as it turns out, I was a bit harsh on the new writers who took up the reigns.

It may be scandalous. It may not be polite to say it. But I think a lot of the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of Amy Sherman-Palladino herself.

Hardcore Gilmore fans may think that what I'm saying is sacrilege, but I think it's true. The reason why is because the things that started the Gilmore's downward slide happened on Amy's watch.

For starters, we have the dark turn that the series took shortly after Jason Stiles was shoved out of Richard Gilmore's business. Everything seemed a bit more depressing after that point. Not insurmountable, but the shift was noticeable.

But then there's the moment when the Gilmores jumped the shark, namely Episode 21 of Season Five, "Blame Booze and Melville." Or the "Rory steals a yacht" episode. The reason I say this is because this one act really hurt the entire series.

One of the fun things of this series was the back-and-forth banter between Lorelai and Rory. Lots of pop and literary references, speedy and incisive, it was gold and helped make the show stand out. Then Rory graduated from Chilton and went off to Yale. That was a blow but a necessary one. The conversation just didn't shine as well on the phone. There were the moments when they were together, such as Friday night dinners or Rory's weekend visits to Stars Hollow, but the show suffered a little.

And then Rory steals the yacht, drops out of Yale, and she doesn't see her mom for eight episodes. It hurt the show. It hurt the characters. It started the downward spiral. And it happened on Amy Sherman-Palladino's watch.

But then Rory and Lorelai reconciled ... just in time for the next nail in the coffin to hit home, namely April Nardini.

I don't have any idea what the point of this was. April added nothing to the plot. It was just an unnecessary conflict generator that got tacked on. In some ways, it almost smacked of trying to bring in a younger demographic. Rory's off to college, Lane's got Hep Alien, there aren't any younger teenagers. So quick, bring in a Rory clone. She's precocious, she's smart, she's got a can-do mom. Sound familiar?

Maybe April would have worked if she wasn't so similar to Rory. Whatever the case, April didn't help the show. She only hurt it. And again, this happened when Amy was in charge.

One of the worst deathblows happened when Lorelai married Christopher in Paris. This happened in season seven, so Amy can't be blamed for that. But it did highlight a very ugly character trait in Lorelai, namely her immature selfishness. And that's something that Amy wrote into the character.

Think of poor Max Medina. Lorelai gets engaged to him but doesn't let him into any part of her life. She doesn't want him to discipline Rory. She seems unwilling to leave her house. She's in love with the idea of being married but not him. But at the time, it seemed to be a personality quirk, not a serious issue.

Then there's what happens with Luke. Lorelai proposes to him, but refuses to set a date because of the drama between her and Rory. Rory comes back but now Luke has cold feet because of April. In the meantime, Lorelai refuses to leave her home and, when Luke doesn't hop to for her, she sleeps with Christopher and unilaterally decides it's all over. Now it's a little more obvious.

And then there's the season seven relationship with Christopher. She jumps into a full relationship with him and seems relatively untroubled by what transpired with Luke a mere six weeks after the break-up. And when they get married on a whim, what does she do? She refuses to move. She freaks out when Christopher suggests Gigi get Rory's old room. She forces Christopher to change.

At that point, I was thorougly disgusted with Lorelai. While she's sacrificed a lot so Rory can succeed, she's also very selfish in a very ugly way. And that's not the fault of the people who took over in season seven. Amy made her that way.

By the time we reached the abysmal "haybale maze" episode, the show had fallen apart entirely. While the new writers really dropped the ball, it was only because Amy fumbled it already. The fact that The Return of Jezebel James bombed and has already been cancelled shows that Amy may have lost some of the magic she had when she first created the denizens of Stars Hollow and that special single mom and her progeny.

It's a shame. Lorelai and Rory deserved much better.

1 comment:

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

John, I was a total Gilmore Girls fan, though not to the point of buying the DVDs, so I've only seen the shows once. And season seven (that's the last one, right?) my watching was spotty at best.

All because of the Luke/Lorelai business. From the beginning, we knew those two belonged together. So when things started going wrong (again) in what should have been an irrevocable way, it trashed the show. Putting them back together was too unbelievable, and as you noted, did horrible damage to Lorelai's character.

But the stuff that they put Rory through wasn't much better. The Yale man we all knew was so wrong for her ... because he wasn't serious about life or love or work or school or anything. It really went against the character the writers had created, I thought.

But give her a slice of rebellion. That can happen. The estrangement with her mom and turning to her grandparents was ... uh, so wrong.

So, I don't know who the blame for it all goes to, but the fact is, there were huge inconsistencies between the characters and the way they behaved.

April, I didn't mind. She was just a prop though. Nothing kills a show faster than having two long time love interests consummate their relationship. So April was a prop brought in as an obstacle to keep Luke and Lorelai apart yet again. As was Luke's dopy sister and off the wall brother-in-law. And Jesse, who was right for Rory. He got her, and the writers could have done a lot more with his character.


You took me down fiction memory lane.