Well, hello there, Lorelai and Rory! Is it really 15 years since we first knew you, and eight whole years since we last met?
It’s good to hear that you’re coming back to town for a brief spell — a chance for us to catch up and find out how the world’s treating you (glancing reference to the heart-wrenching song by the Louvin Brothers, inexplicably left out of the series’ encyclopedic range of cultural references).
A series revival, albeit one of just four episodes, is like a meeting with an old friend after a long period of separation. The passage of time and the accumulation of experience affect the way you see things.
Characteristics you once found charming may have lost some of their appeal. Relationships which seemed clear-cut may appear more ambiguous. Attitudes which you uncritically accepted and supported could take on a different hue when viewed through hindsight binoculars.
Pilot took flight
At our first meeting, in the pilot episode, we learn the basic facts about Lorelai and her daughter.
Pregnant at 16 years old, Lorelai refused to marry the father of her child, cut herself off from her wealthy, middle-class WASP parents and made a life for herself and Rory in the charming, quirky town of Stars Hollow. She is the manager of the local inn, and plans to open an inn of her own with her friend Sookie.
But this is no seen-it-all-before saga of plucky single mother becoming a business success. The unique flavour of the show is firmly established from the beginning.
Lorelai and Rory are like best friends. Their conversations are characterised by lightning-quick cultural, literary and political references. The way they talk reminds you of Hepburn-Tracy movies and screwball comedies.
They share the same sense of humour, and the same taste in television, movies and junk food. When Luke, who owns the diner, expresses concern at Rory’s unhealthy diet, he says she will grow up to be like her mother. Cue delighted expressions from mother and daughter. Hmm. Let’s not think about Oscar Wilde’s words, ‘All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy.’
No, really, Lorelai is amazing. She’s smart and lovely and vulnerable. We can forgive her ability to eat rubbish food in vast quantities without any adverse effect on her appearance or her health.
And we understand how important Rory is to her, and we get the best friends’ thing. There are loads of ways of being a good mother. But the crunch points in the opening episode raise questions.
When Rory gets a place at the prestigious Chilton Prep School, Lorelai realises (somewhat belatedly) that she hasn’t got the requisite cash for the school fees.
Reluctantly, she approaches her estranged parents, to whom she makes token visits only on public holidays, and they agree to fund Rory’s education in return for regular Friday night dinners with their daughter and granddaughter.
At first, we empathise with Lorelai’s determination that Rory will have all the opportunities that she herself relinquished, and her fear that Rory will make the same mistakes that she did.
But she doesn’t see that she is propelling Rory into the ambience which she herself has so forcefully rejected. Lorelai’s dislike for her parents’ values and way of life is clear, but she desperately wants Rory to enter that life of privilege and exclusion.
Rory momentarily rebels against the Chilton plan, saying that she could stay at Stars Hollow High and still get into Harvard.
Well, who knows. It would have been nice to see the wonderful, clever, bookish Rory do just that. And she wouldn’t have had to wear that uniform plaid skirt, which caused her to ask if she was about to appear in a Britney Spears’ video. Oh Rory. You’re amazing.
Lorelai’s discomfort at being in her parents’ house is palpable. We applaud her pathetic little rebellious act as she deliberately throws her coffee cup into the wrong bin — yes, it’s that kind of household. And her comment that the visit has made her feel so diminished that her feet might not reach the car pedals hits home.
Daughter they oughta
But we sense that Rory might get along with Richard and Emily just fine, and they might find in her the daughter they had wanted Lorelai to be.
The picture of the aloof, undemonstrative Richard silently passing Rory a section of the newspaper he is reading suggests the beginning of a running visual gag showing their increasing ease with each other.
And the Friday night arrangement, presented as a manipulative, controlling move on Emily’s part, might just be the only way she has of seeing her daughter and her grandchild, a small compensation for having been so forcefully rejected.
The gospel according to Luke
The pilot episode sets us up for so much of what is to come. Luke runs the diner and supports Lorelai’s vicious caffeine habit wearing a frown and a baseball cap, and we catch Lorelai’s approving look when he appears in scrubbed-up guise for a bank meeting. Oh, so much more to come…
Rory discovers boys, in the shape of Dean, who seems promising. And brave. Who would take on a girl whose first comment is that he is standing there like Ruth Gordon with the tannis root? (Come on, you don’t get it, do you?) Dean does — Rosemary’s Baby, he says, quick as a flash. Great movie, he says.
You have to like a boy who doesn’t head for the hills, or at least make a bolt for the girls who spend their time in class putting on nail varnish.
The Howl and The Pussycat
Dean is intrigued by Rory. He notices what she reads (Moby Dick, Madame Bovary). He has good credentials — in a later episode, he objects to a Nick Drake song being used in a TV advert.
But things happen, and along comes a boy whose first meeting with Rory hinges on a copy of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, which trumps Rosemary’s Baby in the cool stakes…
The Fast Show
Our first meeting with the Gilmores has it all. The heady mix of compelling characters, strong themes, family relationships, issues of education, class, society and feminism, all played out through whip-smart dialogue, has you hooked from the get-go.
The trademark cultural references come across as an integral part of the show. As well as those already mentioned, allusions are made to Jack Kerouac, Mark Twain, Eminem, Flo Jo, Officer Krupke (from West Side Story) and — er — the Menendez brothers, notorious for killing their parents. Ouch.
So this reunion. Will it be a frosty Big Chill, or will it be warm and fuzzy like when Peggy Sue Got Married? It will be OK, won’t it?
Heck, who cares. Another visit to Stars Hollow. Yippee.
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