Thanks to Netflix, nobody ever has to grow up. They keep bringing back classic shows with the original cast, so it’s like it’s still TGIF. First they rescued Arrested Development. Then they brought back Full House, as Fuller House with the grown-up Tanner girls raising their children together with Kimmy Gibler. But perhaps the most anticipated returning series of the year is Gilmore Girls.
The original series starred Lauren Graham (Parenthood) and Alexis Bledel (Us & Them) as Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, mother and daughter separated by only 16 years. The young mother and mature daughter had a close friendship, sharing loves and heartbreaks, as well as plenty of food in the small town of Stars Hollow.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is four 90-minute movies taking place over the course of a single year. Stars of the original series Graham, Bledel, Scott Patterson (Saw V), Kelly Bishop (The Good Wife), Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us), and more are back. Series creator, writer, director and executive producer Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband, writer, director, and executive producer Dan Palladino spoke with reporters about the Netflix series after their summer panel for the Television Critics Association.
Here are 10 things we learned about A Year in the Life from the Palladinos.
Real time has pretty much passed since the 2007 season finale, give or take a year. They rounded up to a decade later. They also address the real-life passing of Edward Herrmann (The Lost Boys), who played Lorelai’s father, Richard Gilmore.
“They’re 10 years later,” Sherman-Palladino said. “Lorelai is working and living her life in Stars Hollow and Rory has been pursuing her career. The whole thing picks up six months after Richard’s passing, and we delve into how that’s going to project them all into different life streams.”
Some of these nostalgia shows really depend on the audience growing up with the series. Fuller House was chock full of homages, to the point they even recreated a scene out of the original pilot. Amy has the fans in mind but also wrote a quadrilogy of movies that can make new fans out of anyone.
“Our hope is that they are for the fans but they are for people who haven’t seen them,” Sherman-Palladino said. “Part of the reason that we love this format of four 90-minute movies [is] the idea of taking these characters who are basically three women in three generations all at a different kind of crossroads in their life and taking them through a year and seeing where they start and where they end. We just thought dramatically was an interesting way to tell a story.”
Gilmore Girls’ trademark was fast-paced snappy banter. Now that they have 90 minutes, there are moments where they can take a breath, though the Palladinos wouldn’t give up rapid-fire banter for anything.
“Because it’s 90 minutes with no commercial, it was varying the feel of each piece enough so that it doesn’t just feel like a hailstorm,” Sherman-Palladino said. “So when there were scenes of them, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, you enjoyed it, and you were there, but it’s a whole piece. For all of us, the actors and us writing it, we had to figure out where are those moments where you need to take a step back and play the moment so that they feel like a cohesive creative piece.”
From 2000–2007 on The WB (before it became The CW), Gilmore Girls was already dealing with commercial breaks cutting into the drama. Nowadays, network television couldn’t accommodate a Gilmore Girls. For one thing, the last 30 seconds of TV shows are now squeezed for credits and more ads. The Palladinos couldn’t give up the climactic 30 seconds of drama, so the only way they could do Gilmore Girls in 2016 was on Netflix.
“We do live in the world of Netflix,” Sherman-Palladino said. “It’s their world and we’re living in it. Without that, I just don’t think we would have ever revisited. Half of our best episodes we would not have been able to do because the last 30 seconds were our most emotional parts of the show. [Network TV] became a format that is not creatively fun to write in anymore.”
For a while, it looked like Melissa McCarthy (Spy) was not going to be in the new Gilmore Girls. When the series was gearing back up, McCarthy gave some interviews saying she hadn’t been asked. Even when they made the deal to bring back McCarthy, her movie career now limited her availability.
“We got her for one day but we utilized that day, boy,” Sherman-Palladino said. “Oh, we worked her. It was a big scene.”
Palladino added that one day with McCarthy garnered triple the material: “It’s like three days for anyone else, trust me.”
Other Gilmore Girls cameos were limited as well. Sherman-Palladino said that Sean Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Liza Weil (How to Get Away With Murder) each filmed one day each on A Year in the Life. If any fan-favorite characters go missing from this series, Palladino offered the possibility of doing another batch and finding ways to work them in.
“We couldn’t bring everybody back, because it wasn’t just a nostalgia trip,” Palladino said. “So we didn’t want people just coming in and waving. If there are more, who knows, we haven’t discussed that at all, but we would love to bring other people back.”
Gilmore Girls always portrayed Lorelai and Rory as “best friends first, mother and daughter second,” Sherman-Palladino said. The seven seasons of the series followed Rory through her college graduation. A Year in the Life is the first time Bledel plays Rory as a “grown-up,” as Bledel herself is now in her 30s.
“It was interesting to now play them as girlfriends and girlfriends who travel and talk on the phone and keep in touch the way I do with my friends,” Sherman-Palladino said. “I think Alexis had some more fun playing Rory as a grown up human being with the problems that come with being a grown-up human being.”
So far there’ve been seven things that are different about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Don’t worry, at its heart, this is still Gilmore Girls.
“I think the theme was always family and connection,” Sherman-Palladino said. “I always felt like the underlying thing about Gilmore was if you happened to be born into a family that doesn’t really understand you, go out and make your own. I think that’s what Lorelai did. She went out and she made her own family, and the ironic twist in her life is that then this daughter that she created this whole family for kinda likes the family that she left. It was sort of this cycle of crazy family. As long as we were being true to the nature of that, I think to go walking back into that world was very easy.”
There are memes dedicated to Lorelai Gilmore drinking coffee. They’ve kept Lorelai’s caffeine addiction alive in the nine years since Gilmore Girls went off the air. Graham certainly made sure she grabbed a cup whenever she could.
“It was funny because Lauren at one point came to me and she goes, ‘I’m not drinking enough coffee. I should have a coffee cup in my hand the whole time.’” Sherman-Palladino recalled. “So literally in every scene, I just hear Lauren going, ‘I need coffee. I need coffee. I need coffee. Lorelai needs more coffee.’ It was just fun remembering oh yeah, you should always have a coffee cup in your hand.”
Sherman-Palladino has said she knew the final four words of Gilmore Girls before she left the show’s final season. Now she promises we will hear them at the end of A Year in the Life, but would give no hints about the four. Fortunately, her husband helped narrow down the four words.
“It’s not like ‘here come the aliens,’” Palladino joked. “I can tell you that’s not what it is. It’s not like Skynet is hovering over Stars Hollow. I can tell you that much. I can tell you it’s very organic what happens at the end.”
Watch yourself and see.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is now streaming on Netflix