Gilmore Girls, which wraps up forever on May 15, worked because by all rights it shouldn’t have. Its creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, is a San Fernando Valley Jewish girl who created a Connecticut WASP fantasy world so real, no one noticed William F. Buckley Jr. was missing from it. Furthermore, it was a drama played for laughs and speed, yet its greatest theme was dead serious: Love is its own reward, but it can leave some of the best humans unrewarded.
Sherman-Palladino always said that her creation was about two best friends who happened to be mother and daughter. That was the pitch that sold the show to The WB and birthed a perfect television idyll: an ideal relationship placed within an ideal community that we were all, supposedly, too jaded/media-savvy to respond to. Hah. Millions of us not only did, we yearned for that damn fantasy. Depending on who you are, you wanted Lauren Graham’s Lorelai Gilmore as either your mother/sister/wife/hot girlfriend; you wanted Alexis Bledel as your daughter/sister/roommate/hot girlfriend; and you definitely wanted to live in that it-takes-a-village-without-Starbucks, Stars Hollow. Combine this with Sherman-Palladino’s protean gift for cultural references in some cross between Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Ulysses, and you lived each week, to borrow from critic Wilfrid Sheed, in ”an old world with a fresh coat of words.”
While its assiduous mixture of comedy and drama doubtless prevented it from winning the Emmys it deserved (industry ignorance of the writing and of Graham’s performance in particular will remain an eternal scandal), the series was actually a musical comedy: the zinging rhythm to the wordplay, the scenes that peaked like Broadway showstoppers, and the actual melodies that bridged scenes (thank you, Sam Phillips).
There are too many supporting cast members to single out just one, so I’ll pick three. Rory’s pal Paris seemed, at first, a prissy pill; she became, in Liza Weil’s surpassingly deft achievement, unique among best-friend roles: intellectual, obnoxious, and utterly beguiling. And Kelly Bishop and Edward Herrmann as Lorelai’s parents were, every second on screen, pros who could advise, hector, and soothe with debonair slyness.
The current Sherman-Palladino-less, death-blow season was more accurately Gilmore Ghosts, as the exhausted actors bumped into the furniture searching for their departed souls and smart punchlines. Next week, after the last new episode airs, we can go back to enjoying the series as it will exist now and forever in reruns or on DVD: six seasons of magnificent mixed emotions, with performances as shaded as a spot under a Stars Hollow elm tree. Seasons 1-6: A; Season 7: C+