TV Review | Gilmore Girls | Season 1
Season Summary: When Rory is accepted to attend a prestigious prep school, Lorelai must swallow her pride and ask her wealthy parents for help paying the tuition.
I know that this season is almost twenty years old, but it feels even older in its presentation. What I mean here is that the opening titles sequence feels like something from closer to twenty-five years ago and I’m thankful that Netflix allows you to skip them.
That’s a really petty way to start this review, but it’s a complaint so unrelated to anything else that I thought I’d just get it out of the way as quickly as possible. Gilmore Girls does have other issues, but they’re a bit more complex than an extremely dated opening.
I’ll start with Lorelai Gilmore – which doesn’t help if you know that her daughter has the exact same name, except she’s known to everyone as Rory. It’d be interesting to see what kind of an audience reaction there’d be to a woman like Lorelai if the show debuted today.
She’s a fantastic friend and confidant for her daughter, but that unfortunately makes her a pretty poor mother and a bad influence too. Especially as a lot of the time, she comes across as being even more emotionally immature than the teenage Rory.
I admit that, thanks to Lauren Graham’s great performance, she looks like she’d be fantastic fun to hang out with and be friends, but she so often makes excuses for not taking responsibility for the events of her life, that she can sometimes prove irritating.
This contrast is echoed – like mother, like daughter – in Rory. Exceptionally intelligent and polite, with a personality distinct from her mother. Except she too will try and make excuses when things go wrong and it’s her fault, especially so with regards to her love life.
However, Rory gets a pass because she’s a teenager and Alexis Bledel gives us one of the most enjoyable teen characters I’ve ever seen in a TV show. Sure, she can prove frustrating at times, but it feels more acceptable because of the character’s age.
The real issue with Rory’s character is the writing for others and their view of her, although this might simply be a result of what is a fairly slow-moving TV show (in terms of over-arching story at least). It quite often feels like the writers are re-iterating points for the audience in case people missed the previous episode.
The biggest issue with this is how often you’ll hear about how mature, grown-up and adult-like Rory is in her behaviour when we often see otherwise. As I said, this isn’t blaming Rory as she’s a well-written teen character that’s portrayed a lot better than almost any other.
The problem is that I did begin to feel increasingly-irritated by her because I had to listen so often – usually to her mother – saying about how wonderful she is. I know that this fits Lorelai’s character and her blind spot for her daughter, but did it really need to happen as often as it did?
That sounds like a lot of criticism, but it’s only because the pair are so often brilliantly-written and performed that makes these problems stand out so much more. Although that could easily be said for a lot of the rest of the show too.
Most older people in it aren’t portrayed particularly well, with Lorelai’s mother, Emily, coming off the worst because of how often she appears. Yes, she does have her moments that let the audience that isn’t quite that bad, but they do remain moments rather than anything lasting.
Lorelai’s father, Richard, is almost the opposite and mostly comes across as aloof, but still fairly nice – but he has his moments too when you realise that he’s not nearly as nice as he could be. The difference between him and Emily is he’s more concerned with his family’s reputation than his own.
Emily and Richard’s friends are almost universally complete pains in the neck, and most of the setting’s town council come across as petty and antagonistic. They are mostly used for humour’s sake, but it doesn’t changed the fact that the overall view of them I was left with is negative.
Now I’ve said all that, there’s complaints about some of the younger characters too. Rory’s friend Lane only seems to be there to let Rory voice her inner thoughts. It’s pretty bad that you could replace her with a stuffed animal or imaginary friend and you genuinely wouldn’t lose all that much.
Then there are the ‘mean girls’ of Rory’s school who regularly appear to be developing in certain episodes and then snap back to expected high school girl stereotypes. However, like Rory, they get a bit of a free pass because of their age and their swings in attitude coming more from frustration on Rory’s behalf rather than the girls feeling antagonistic.
One kid who does not get a pass is Tristin. Stick a male character like him into a show now and watch him get written out as soon as possible after the backlash. Okay, it was almost twenty years ago, but holy crap is the guy an utter creep, constantly pestering and harassing Rory and excusing it as his way of showing that he’s attracted to her.
I really wanted Dean, who becomes Rory’s boyfriend, to kick Tristin’s behind at more than point, because the guy is just loathsome. Speaking of Dean, he’s a pretty good match for Rory despite his own issues, which you can overlook like Rory’s because of the character’s age.
Reading back everything that I’ve written so far makes it sound like I hated watching the show, yet nothing could be further from the truth.
I adore Lorelai and Rory; Luke, who runs a café-restaurant is as funny as he is grumpy; Madeline – one of the mean girls – seems nice too, just unfortunately caught up with the wrong crowd; and Michel, who works at the inn Lorelai runs, is brilliantly snippy with anyone he meets.
Consider everything you’ve read as criticism by exception, meaning these are the only noteworthy problems I had with the season and everything else about the show is pretty wonderful, and will be more than happy to watch future seasons when I get around to them.
The central problem is that the blend of romantic comedy and teen drama often clashes, with what appear to be serious moments coming across as comedic and vice versa. This means some ‘big’ moments don’t quite work as a result, and a lot of character stuff is similarly handicapped.
Gilmore Girls’ first season is good, but quite often misses the mark with tone as a result of trying to mix romantic comedy with teen drama. It’s not helped by characters who constantly claim one thing while the viewer constantly sees the opposite, although it doesn’t ruin the enjoyment.