Did anyone really need a “Gilmore Girls” revival? No more so than an updated “Full House,” which doesn’t mean the practice isn’t smart business-wise for Netflix – not just tapping into nostalgia, but offering fans an excuse to revisit old episodes.
Enter “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life,” four 90-minute installments – length-wise the equivalent of about eight TV episodes – served up as a bountiful Thanksgiving weekend binge. Series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has reassembled practically the entire gang (with the sad absence of the late, great Edward Herrmann), plus some bonuses, kicking off with “Winter” and proceeding through the seasons.
Netflix loaded up its screeners with detailed spoiler warnings, which seems silly given the contours of the exercise. All that really needs to be said – not quite a decade after the show concluded its seven-year run – is that 32-year-old Rory (Alexis Bledel) comes back to visit Stars Hollow, where she finds her mom Lorelai (Lauren Graham) as feisty and fast-talking as ever, along with a lot of other familiar faces.
Those include Lorelai’s mom (Kelly Bishop), still wrestling with the grief of her loss; and Luke (Scott Patterson), who in one of the amusing recurring gags keeps giving out wrong passwords for his diner’s Wi-Fi access.
The four-season structure actually creates some problems. At 90 minutes, the story tends to meander, providing lots of time for rat-a-tat banter (and references to things that weren’t on the radar when the show signed off, like “Game of Thrones”) but moving the plot along at a snail’s pace.
So while there’s plenty of trademark whimsy, there are also indulgences like the musical number in the third episode, which is clever but drags on too long.
Those pacing issues also apply to the closing chapter, which, without giving anything away, allowed Sherman-Palladino to craft an ending she was denied, having left before the show completed its network run.
Granted, this tepid appraisal comes from someone who, unlike much of the critical community, wasn’t gaga for “Gilmore” during its original incarnation. For the faithful, just seeing the cast re-inhabit these characters – or savoring interludes like Lorelai and her mom awkwardly braving therapy sessions – is probably reward enough.
Netflix’s pragmatism in bankrolling such revivals nevertheless contains a whiff of cynicism, inasmuch as it’s so obviously designed to bolster the “If you just watched” part of its algorithm, while exploiting a media sphere that increasingly caters to the passions of small fan bases, in essence serving as its eager marketing partner.
It’s hard to argue with the strategy, validated by the fact “Gilmore Girls” has been trending since the review embargo broke November 16. To borrow from a Carole King song, that’s because the streaming service has recognized that even if something like “Gilmore Girls” isn’t a showstopper, where it leads, we will follow.
“Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” premieres November 25 on Netflix.