Gilmore Girls was not an immediate hit for The WB when it began airing in 2000. However, the show about a mother-daughter/best-friend relationship remains beloved by fans to this day. Here’s what makes Gilmore Girls so special.
Why ‘Gilmore Girls’ still works in 2020
In an interview on Gilmore Guys, Jane Espenson, a writer who, aside from Gilmore Girls, has written for series like Buffy, Game of Thrones, and Once Upon a Time, told the podcast hosts what separated Gilmore Girls from any other experience she’s had working on a TV series.
Most writers’ rooms — especially for sitcoms or dramedies like Gilmore — would work to connect their main/”A” plot with the side/”B” story in each episode. This often provides for a nice, tied-up ending that includes everyone important on the show. Espenson said Gilmore Girls was different.
“It was a show that didn’t have a lot of theme, coordinating the ‘A’ and ‘B’ stars,” she explained on the podcast. “Generally, Lorelai would have something going on in her life, Rory would have something happening in her life. One didn’t stand metaphorically for the other.”
Why didn’t Gilmore do theme? Because that’s not what life is like — and that’s what Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino were striving to imitate.
“That show valued one thing above all other things, and that thing was realism,” Espenson explained. “So, more than any other show I’ve worked on, the rule was, ‘Does it feel like life? What would happen next?’”
As The New York Times reported, Gilmore Girls “was stubbornly insistent on the richness of the mundane.” Sherman-Palladino’s previous experience writing on Roseanne “offered a helpful motto,” the publication explained. That motto, which the writer took to heart on Gilmore Girls, was: “Make the small big, make the big small.”
Why ‘Gilmore Girls’ is so comforting
Rather than trying to come up with the most dramatic possible event, Gilmore Girls writers considered what would actually occur in real life.
“What I gradually realized was this was serving the purpose of verisimilitude,” Espenson continued. This allows for more surprise in the storytelling, because, like in life, nothing is foreshadowed or built up to. The Gilmore alum said on the podcast:
You are surprised when things happen because the story didn’t set it up, you’re surprised when the exciting moment happened between the seasons or off-screen or is being talked about on the phone, because that’s how life works. Stories don’t start and end with everything wrapped up.
Espenson believes the show’s commitment to realism is part of what makes Gilmore Girls so satisfying to watch.
“The show was very comforting,” she told the Gilmore Guys hosts. You were with people that you liked, talking about stuff. It breaks every rule, but there was something about it that made for a show that was a pleasure to watch and that felt like life.”
Of all the series Espenson has written on, Gilmore Girls resonates more than anything else.
“People identify with the Gilmore Girls way more than any other show I’ve worked on,” the writer explained. “… They feel like their lives feel like the lives they’re seeing on the screen.”
The TV show’s cast and episode scripts were also unique
What else made The WB series stand out? The casting of Gilmore Girls. Unlike other shows on the same network, who would cast actors for their star power, Sherman-Palladino wanted to find the exact right person for her characters. As The New York Times reported:
After the show was acquired by the WB network, Sherman-Palladino insisted on holding out until they found the ideal performers for each role, regardless of their prior experience or fame.
Also, compared to other network dramas, Gilmore Girls scripts “were 20 pages longer than the average hourlong series,” The Times noted.
“To make matters tougher, Sherman-Palladino insisted that performers deliver the lines exactly as written,” the publication continued. Not an “and” or a “but” could be off.
However, the writers’ commitment to realism, and the actors’ talent for memorization and ultra-fasting speaking, paid off in the long-run. After 20 years on TV, Gilmore Girls remains a re-watchable — and re-bingeable — favorite.