In other words, if TV’s modern archetypal Millennial story is about twenty- and thirty-somethings navigating an extended adulthood, Gilmore Girls was its prequel—a broader story about the deep familial history, baggage, and expectations that inform the generation’s coming of age. Gilmore Girls rarely looked at Rory’s life in isolation: Though her storyline occasionally went in its own direction, it was never long before she returned to Stars Hollow for comfort, sought support from her mother, or was roped into her grandparents’ hijinks.
Despite its whimsical hyper-reality, Gilmore Girls was grounded in the idea that its characters were intrinsically and emotionally linked; it emphasized, vividly, how Rory’s decisions affected not just her own immediate future but also those closest to her. When, in season six, Rory crumbles under the criticism of a newspaper publisher, steals a yacht, and temporarily drops out of Yale, the most profound consequences are the ones that alter her family’s dynamics. (A brilliant, Woody Allen-inspired dinner scene in the episode “Friday Night’s Alright for Fighting” brings this conflict to a head and could easily serve as a thesis statement for the series.) Gilmore Girls’ closest relative on TV at the moment, then, may be the CW’s Jane the Virgin, another three-generational story about smart, complex women and the ways they mold each other.
Today, shows like You’re the Worst are more solipsistic—their narrower focus on their protagonists means they are also particularly masterful at tracing their characters’ internal conflicts. In the original series, Sherman-Palladino largely reserved such psychological deep-dives for Lorelai, the show’s emotional center. (Meanwhile, the most interesting insight viewers had into Rory’s eventual decision to return to Yale, for example, was that it was prompted by a conversation with an ex-boyfriend.) To be sure, Rory’s experiences mirrored, or even foreshadowed, what would become the defining challenges of her upper-middle-class fictional peers a decade later, from handling the privilege of choice to grappling with a false sense of entitlement. But for all its progressiveness about politics, class, and feminism, Gilmore Girls showed little, if any, sensitivity to issues of race, the LGBT community, and sex-positivity—subjects that have been explored on most shows centered around Gen-Y characters today.
Which is all to say that Sherman-Palladino’s depiction of Rory in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life will be fascinating to see. When news of the revival broke last fall, The New York Times expressed concern that “it will be a different thing, no matter how much of the original talent returns, because there’s one thing even the best-funded, best-intentioned reboot can’t restore: lost time.” While that’s true, the rare gift of Gilmore Girls is that, like Graham’s recent show Parenthood, its stakes are tied not to the pursuit of success or power or survival so common of prestige television, but to character growth and emotional resolution. That time lost between 2007 and 2016 is then but a part of the characters’ evolution, a layer of Sherman-Palladino’s larger story about the Gilmore family that, in a way, never really ends. That the revival will reflect the death of the actor Edward Herrmann, who played the family patriarch Richard Gilmore, is a poignant testament to this.