TV shows are rarely underrated anymore. The days of a pretty good show having one season and getting canceled (“Freaks and Geeks” being a prime example) are, for the most part, over. Now there are fan blogs and “f yeah” Tumblrs that allow fan bases to be very vocal and create a buzz that sometimes might even be louder than the show deserves. To find a truly under-appreciated show, you have to take a hard look at that little pocket of time that exists pre-microsharing and high speed internet, and post-when things are accepted as classics just by virtue of nostalgia and what we’re told they meant at that time (say, something like “Cheers” or “M*A*S*H”). So what’s an actually underrated and under-appreciated show? “Gilmore Girls.”
There are a few prejudices people have against this show even if they’ve never seen it, so let’s get those out of the way right now. Most commonly, people associate it with dumb teenage girl programming because they remember thinking “Dawson’s Creek” and the WB network sucked. The thing is, those people don’t even remember “Dawson’s Creek,” they mostly just remember having hated the theme song for the show and what it stood for. In reality, sure, “Dawson’s Creek” was actually not that great (especially after its first season), but its popularity and notoriety made it the face of the station, which really undermined an otherwise pretty good lineup of shows. “Gilmore Girls” aside, The WB was the home of “Popular”, which was “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy’s first TV show, and “Felicity,” JJ Abrams’ first real hit, both of which are very, very good and extremely rewatchable even now.
The other main qualm people have with “Gilmore Girls” is the “fast talking.” And well, if you can’t get used to that, then maybe this show’s not for you. So, fair enough.
If you are able to get past your memory’s incorrect blind judgments of teen programming and are also capable of embracing charming and witty dialogue spoken quickly, then man, you will really love “Gilmore Girls.”
The strength of this show is the fact that it revolves around very strong, and surprisingly complicated, characters in the actual Gilmore girls played by the very charming and lovely Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, and to a slightly (although not much) lesser extent Kelly Bishop who plays Lauren Graham’s mother, the oldest Gilmore girl. “Gilmore Girls” also features a great and entertaining supporting cast of character actors playing various roles as the townspeople of Stars Hallow. (I know that this description and the design of the DVD cases is not doing much to help my “This is not a normal teen girl TV show argument”, but please, trust me.)
What really got me hooked, aside from the characters — most specifically the love triangle involving Rory, Dean, and Jess (and if anyone I know ever chooses Dean over Jess, I know then to ignore their opinion on most everything moving forward) — was how well the episodes were structured. The show, especially in season two, really nailed how to do serialized TV. Each episode ended on a plot twist that more often than not was paid off at the start of the next episode, at which point the show would spend the next 40 minutes setting up what would be the next mini-cliffhanger. I’m not saying it’s on “LOST”’s level as far as this sort of stuff goes, but it’s not not on “LOST”’s level either. This savvy fades a little in the show’s last couple of seasons, but at that point you’re so invested in the characters you end up seeing the whole thing through.
In retrospect, there’s even more of a weird, all the stars lining up in a row, sort of charm to the show. This is especially clear after you see what the show’s principals did after “Gilmore Girls.” Lauren Graham has been in other things, most recently “Parenthood,” but she’s sort of always wired and buzzing in that Lorelai Gilmore sort of way, which seems jarring in other roles. Alexis Bledel was also in some other teen, straight-to-DVD seeming movies, I think one about a pair of pants, in which she was amiable and cute and charming, but never to the extent that she was as Rory Gilmore. But probably the most telling is what happened with show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s “Gilmore Girls” follow-up series for Fox, “The Return of Jezebel James.”
Apart from having a sort of long and hard to remember name, “The Return of Jezebel James” seemed sort of like a second shot at “Gilmore Girls,” but this time set in New York, looking more like a traditional three camera show with sets and a laugh track, and lacking almost all of the heart and charm that made “Gilmore Girls” compelling. Even Parker Posey, who by all accounts is pretty good at what she does, comes off really annoying as the Lauren Graham-esque character, and does a very bad job at the fast talking thing that Lorelai Gilmore made so lovable. Watching “The Return of Jezebel James” (which you actually can do in its entirety on Hulu) is a reminder of how unique and exceptional “Gilmore Girls” actually was. But don’t take my word for it. Thanks to modern technology, the whole thing is available in DVD format. Give it a shot.