In retrospect, when I watched the Gilmore Girls pilot for the first time it was the same as it is today, and has been several odd times between then and now. The DVD box sets are lined up on a shelf in a house I no longer populate, and are something I revisit in the same way I spend a few nights in my hometown several times a year, go out to dinner with my parents, pet the cat and maybe drink too much with a few friends from high school.
The recent hype over the series’ release on Netflix reinforces my suspicions that I’m not the only millennial who views Gilmore Girls as a kind of nostalgia speedball. If you don’t believe me, just check out the hours worth of Buzzfeed listacles dedicated to Gilmore Girls content. The definitive list of Gilmore Girls men. A long list of book referenced in the series. Forty-five reasons Gilmore Girls is the best thing to happen to Netflix. Thirty-six times Jess Mariano completely melted your heart…
All this nostalgic wank-fodder aside, lets fast-forward to the present. I’m sitting with my roommate re-watching Gilmore Girls from the beginning. It’s 2014, roughly seven years since the series finale, and at 27 somehow my roommate has evaded the show until now.
I revisited the first series of Gilmore Girls once before, albeit not with the same vigor as the life and death brigade episodes, or that one where Rory ditches class to go see Jess in New York City. But with this second fly-over, I was looking for something more than a laugh or some oblique fleeting memory of middle-school-dance validation. In re-watching Gilmore Girls chronologically, I wanted something different. I had no interested in teleporting back to a long-gone innocent state of mind, I was excited by the opportunity to experience the series from the place where I currently sit, clasping a glass of wine and taking notes like a big weirdo.
While the pilot sets up important context for the series (as they do, some better than others), the second episode is much meatier, kicking off with iconic scenes the shot where Loreli runs out of the house in cut offs and a tie-dyed v-neck, characteristically late and frazzled. It’s Rory’s first day at Chilton, and Rory and Loreli stare upward at the Chilton bell tower before Rory’s first day at private school, quipping “just looking to see if they have a hunchback up there.”
These are scenes that register immediately with the Gilmore Girl’s fan base, and only play out fragmented and in sepia with Carole King’s voice as a backdrop. However it’s some of the more nuanced characteristics of the show that guarantee its staying power.
One of the first things I notice while rewatching is the genuinely impressive number of obscure pop culture references. Pulling a Menendez? The Little Match Girl? RuPaul? A casual reference to “my first Melville.” It’s exciting and impressive that this sort of accountability was given to viewers by the show’s writer Amy Sherman Palladino. Her writing screams “keep up or get out,” which is highly respectable as well as incredibly engaging.
Palladino also leaves important time markers as she goes. In season one, this places viewers in an idyllic time before 9/11, where inventors created consumer products like bubble-gum scented nail polish and people wore day-of-the-week underwear just because.
Despite the relatively high-brow banter, vocabulary and references, the characters of Gilmore Girls remain down to earth, complex and relatable. Wholesome. Just real enough to believe, yet occupying terrain that could only ever exist in the very aptly named Town of Stars Hollow.
At the end of episode two my roommate is already invested.
“I need to see if Rory can stand up to these bitches, because I’m not sure what she’s made of yet,” she says between bites of baked potato.
No matter what the reason, revisiting Gilmore Girls reinforces the pull the series manages to have on a whole generation of viewers, even those who almost a decade later are picking up the Wii remote for the first time to press play.