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It’s summertime, I’m a recent college grad who left her waitressing job in order to pursue a more stable career (so I’m unemployed), I live in a semi-rural town, and have no driver’s license. So what better way to spend my summer and hopefully boost my morale than watch the TV series that seems to make every Top Ten TV Sitcoms of All Time list: Gilmore Girls.
Before we continue, here’s a little bit about me. I graduated with a BA in Theatre Arts from a university whose program was more trouble than what it was worth but made me great friends. I want to be a Lin-Manuel Miranda or Tyler Perry: a writer, a producer, and an actor all rolled up into one creative powerhouse. I like gardening and sewing, and I’m a huge critic of all forms of media.
I’m the person you can’t watch a movie or a show with, the person you don’t want in your book club, because I will go into great detail about why something works, why it doesn’t work, and the behind the scenes drama that informs how things were shot. And I will do it unprovoked. The people who ask for my opinion are both smart and unprepared because I don’t sugar coat. Sugar coating makes candy, not a great work of art.
So with that being said, let's get this show on the road and stop by Stars Hollow.
Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
A good television pilot should establish the tone of the show, the characters, and the dynamics between them all while telling a good story. Most TV pilots are average at accomplishing this task and often have to retcon characters, relationships, and themes in the following episodes. Pilot episodes can often be over the top in order to ensure they’re memorable, or too slow because they spend too much time telling us the intricate rules and details of the world.
This pilot has none of those issues.
The thing that stuck out to me the most is how the theme of relationships was both resounding and subtle at the same time. The show is about family, but they don’t beat you over the head with it even though it’s everywhere.
“Pilot” accomplishes this by showcasing the different types of family one can have. Family through friendships: Lane and Rory, Lorelai and Sookie. Family through shared circumstance: Luke and Lorelai, Lorelai and Michel, Rory and Dean, The Gilmores, and the residents of Stars Hollow. And then the strongest in conflict and most strained in strength: Family through blood.
We don’t get this information through statements; there is no narration or monologue conveniently stating how each character relates to each other. It’s conveyed completely through dialogue, acting, and atmospheric storytelling.
The character’s speak to each other, not at each other. They are people having a conversation, not characters trying to drive a plot. Though sometimes the conversations are a little bit too quick witted to be real, the charm behind the characters makes suspending disbelief a little easier. This is a real nod to the cast who really play to the unspoken moments, giving those important pauses much needed attention as they don’t happen often, and when they do it’s for a purpose.
The real star, though, is the imagery. Stars Hollow is a town with character. You don’t need to tell us what each place is like, you don’t need a character to outright state whether or not a person is rich. Just looking in a woman’s purse, seeing where a person lives, and how person works tells you much more than talking to him.
When we walk in to Lane’s house we have an automatic awareness of what her life is like: no room to move or breathe under the weight of her family’s lifestyle, both figuratively and literally. We see the dance that Sookie’s staff has to do in order to combat her destructive nature, give a sense of Sookie’s character and delivering a bit of physical comedy in an otherwise intellectually comedic piece.
The pilot episode is an excellent example of what all television pilots should be: a rock solid foundation that you can build a stable masterpiece upon. If we’re starting this strong right out of the gate, I can’t wait to see where this series takes us.
On to Season 1, Episode 2: “The Lorelai’s First Day at Chilton”!