Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Gilmore Girls: Which Gilmore Girl Are You? (Not a Quiz)

Media conglomerates spend millions on market research to learn which shows appeal most to which market segments, but in the case of The Gilmore Girls, no sophisticated data mining techniques are required.

scour the earth, and you will not find a more avid gaggle of Gilmoristas than daughters who do not get along with their mothers and mothers who do not get along with their daughters.

Granted, the fantasy relationship between Rory and Lorelai is the stuff of legend precisely because it IS fantasy, but if Gilmore Love were a red line on a graph, as the tiny numbers representing mother-daughter relationship quality goes down, the red line on that graph will go up, up, up!

One of the reasons the show is so popular, and so talked about even after going off the air, is that there is no mother or daughter who cannot relate to at least some aspects of the relationships between Emily and Lorelai, Lorelai and Rory, indefinable yet palpably miasmic things that transcend culture and creed.

Whether nightmare or idyll, dysfunction or delight, the relationship between mother and daughter is like no other, it is a story that never ceases to tell itself to those who live it, and all whose lives are touched by it, a story that the Gilmore Girls tells remarkably well for what appears at first glance to be essentially an hour-long sitcom!

For We Who Cannot/Could Not Just All Get Along, The Gilmore Girls gives us the gift of vicariously reveling in the mother-daughter relationship we can only wish we had, an emotional do-over, with the delicious twist of a catharsis, not of tears, but laughter.

Because all of that is so obvious, it's sort of embarrassing to confess that for a while I was completely baffled as to why I like this show. I never watched a minute of it when it was on, but upon discovering it sometime around the fall of 2007, I was instantly hooked, obtained all 7 seasons and sat there and watched, enthralled, with alarmingly minimal breaks for things like sleep and work and shampoo.

It's still on my Tivoid and I have now seen the whole thing at least twice.

It is a veritable chowder of a show, lousy and lumpchunky with cheese and corn, but I cannot bear to miss a single episode.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of my unexpected enjoyment of this pretty standard 90s TV offering is how much I identify with the Gilmore Girls, even apart from the not-get-along-with-mother thing.

I don't identify with Rory, nor Lorelai either really, though, like me, she does enjoy making a wisecrack or two now and then.

It is, I am mortified to admit, the crotchety, imperious, insufferable old bitch of a grandmother with whom I have, to my horrified amazement, the most affinity.

Emily Gilmore knows what she wants, she knows what she likes, and she knows who she is, and so do I.

And when a situation involves other people, places or things that dare to diverge from the first two, in clear and utter disregard of the third, Emily is not one to stand on the ceremonies of reticence. And neither am I. Though I do try to be as polite about it as one can under such circumstances. Emily, not so much.

For the benefit of the two elderly lurkers in Mogadishu who join me in being the only people on earth who did not watch this show ten years ago, the premise is this:

Lorelai Gilmore, the witty but only very slightly unconventional only child of parents so conventional that her father is played by the same actor whose starred in the most famous made-for-TV movie about Franklin Roosevelt, gets pregant in high school, and decides to raise the baby herself, which she does, and when we meet them all, she is pretty much done with that, as the baby is now a teenager and in high school herself.

Rory, the erstwhile baby, enjoys very close if very different relationships with both her mother and her grandmother (hence the name of the show) who each believes herself to be much more different from each other than they really are.

While Emily may prefer a more overtly old-fashioned and traditional lifestyle, Lorelai's ostensible rejection of tradition is wafer-thin, confined to things like the occasional comical household accent piece, and while Rory dutifully plays along with her mother's charade, she is, even at sixteen, clearly headed more toward Emily's side of the chart.

Most fictional works require, for maximum enjoyment, some level of suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader/viewer, but the UN-believeability quotient of the Gilmore Girls saga attains lofty heights seldom seen in works lacking a supernatural element.

Lorelai supposedly shows up at a small New England inn as a runaway teen with a babe in arms, is given work as a maid and a shed to live in, by the sympathetic manager, and goes on to work her way through the ranks, so that by the time we meet her, the baby is now in high school, Lorelai has become manager of the inn, and now owns both a home and a car.

Now even if we accept the premise that Lorelai's career advancement has been due to her exceptional abilities, and assume that the shelter of the shed remained a gift from that sympathetic hotel manager, AND that she paid Lorelai well above the going rate during those pre-'executive" years when she was working as a housekeeper, and I guess we can assume she would have done a stint as a desk clerk, nothing is ever said about who took care of Rory while Lorelai was doing all this laudable quasi-bootstrap-pulling.

As the show begins, Lorelai is obliged to reluctantly, for the first time, invoke the safety net of her wealthy parents, in order to send Rory to an expensive private school, thus we are also asked to assume that never once in sixteen years did neither of them ever have an injury or illness or other situation whose cost would exceed the means of a low-level hotel worker, or if she did, that we can assume the manager took care of the bill?

The relationship between the two of them seems patently indicative of their having spent more time together than would be possible for someone trying to raise a child on the salary of a hotel maid, even a hotel desk clerk, for whom it would not be realistic to spend a lot of time at home engaging in and developing these longstanding traditions related to recreational activities like watching TV and movies.

And in the last couple of seasons, it seems like all of the characters have suddenly and mysteriously acquired unlimited funds.

We see things like Lorelai taking a birthday partyfull of tweens to a cosmetics store and giving them baskets, telling them to fill them up, a couple who work as a cook and a vegetable vendor, respectively, with two small children, taking spur of the moment ski trips and too many other instances to recount of various characters making purchases and expenditure choices that would not be commensurate with the discretionary income of the particular character.

While it does not affect the fun of the show as a situation comedy at all, if you move outside of that suspension-of-disbelief bubble and attempt to examine the actual story line and the characters "in depth," you will invariably fall into the massive believability gap!

When I make the mistake of thinking about it too much (as I clearly did to write all this) it is baffling that I find any of the characters remotely likeable or interesting, since about the only thing I really have in common with Emily (aside from what I consider to be just a healthy amount of basic arrogance) is a penchant for a well-appointed dinner table. Maybe it is an inversion-based attraction. If Lorelai's contempt for tradition is confined to superficialities, I guess you could say the same thing about my predeliction for it. I do love me some fine textiles and bone china.

It is probably most accurate to say that the show relaxes me, kind of like the way Ina Garten does.

Lorelai's little quips, her bantering with Rory, are funny in the same sort of comforting way the Three Stooges and Max and Ruby are funny, and the way the show adheres to all the standard sitcom conventions has a calming effect somehow. There are no surprises, no onion-like layers of character depth to be plumbed, everyone is consistently and satisfyingly exactly as their one-dimensional true-to-genre sitcom self is supposed to be.

The younger, single Gilmore girls have a full contingent each of the expected wacky friends, engage in all the expected romantic hijinks, all of whom and which Emily variously approves, disapproves, or knows nothing about.

The acting is, at worst, slightly a cut above the average sitcom level, the casting is excellent, and the pace is fast enough to engage me, which is saying a lot.

I highly recommend this show to that afore-mentioned pair of Mogadishu elders, my fellow Ina Garten fans, and anybody else who seeks an amusing, entertaining televiewing experience, every bit as bewilderingly soothing as Max and Ruby.

No comments:


A Celebration of Fine Trash TV © 2008. Design By: SkinCorner