If watching Lorelai and Rory all these years has taught Judge Kerry Birmingham anything, it's that he needs a girlfriend scripted by a team of middle-aged television writers.
Our reviews of Gilmore Girls: The Complete First Season (published May 17th, 2004), Gilmore Girls: The Complete Second Season (published February 2nd, 2005), Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fourth Season (published November 9th, 2005), Gilmore Girls: The Complete Sixth Season (published September 25th, 2006), Gilmore Girls: The Complete Seventh Season (published December 19th, 2007), and Gilmore Girls: The Complete Series (published November 28th, 2007) are also available.
"The penal system is not something we enjoy. It's something with a name that makes us giggle."
In the interest of fairness, I should point out that I'm already a fan of this series; giddily, unapologetically so. On paper, this series is a tough sell: they're mother and daughter, they're wacky, and they just love each other sooooo much! (Tee-hee!) That is it was created, in part, with the aid of something called the "Family Friendly Forum" doesn't change the impression that this show is best viewed while painting your toenails and playing Truth or Dare. The fact is that writing this series off as sub-Dawson's Creek filler is a disservice to series full of genuine warmth and wit that defies its gooey premise.
Facts of the Case
For those coming in late (in brief, since anyone watching the fifth season is likely to be caught up): Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham, Bad Santa), at age 16, becomes pregnant. Alienated by her scandalized, wealthy parents, Richard and Emily (Kelly Bishop, Wonder Boys, and Edward Herrmann, The Cat's Meow), Lorelai moves to Stars Hollow, a strange little town with an even stranger array of quirky residents. Lorelai raises her daughter, Rory (Alexis Bledel, Sin City, Tuck Everlasting) by herself. When brilliant Rory, now 16 herself, is given a chance at an expensive and presumably better education, prodigal Lorelai returns to her parents looking for the money to make it happen. Richard and Emily want something in return: time with the daughter and granddaughter they barely know.
By its fifth year, wunderkind Rory has been attending Yale, while Lorelai, after years of working at a local bed and breakfast, has opened an inn of her own with her friend, Sookie (Melissa McCarthy, The Life of David Gale), as head chef. Taciturn diner owner Luke (Scott Patterson) has finally declared his intentions to Lorelai, and Rory comes out of a tumultuous romantic period into the arms of old flame Dean (Jared Padalecki, House of Wax).
Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fifth Season features all 22 episodes of the popular WB show's 2004-2005 season, including:
• "Say Goodbye to Daisy Miller"
• "A Messenger, Nothing More"
• "Written in the Stars"
• "Tippecanoe and Taylor, Too"
• "We Got Us a Pippi Virgin"
• "Norman Mailer, I'm Pregnant!"
• "You Jump, I Jump, Jack"
• "The Party's Over"
• "Emily Says 'Hello'"
• "But Not as Cute as Pushkin"
• "Women of Questionable Morals"
• "Come Home"
• "Wedding Bell Blues"
• "Say Something"
• "Jews and Chinese Food"
• "So…Good Talk"
• "Pulp Friction"
• "To Live and Let Diorama"
• "But I'm a Gilmore"
• "How Many Kropogs to Cape Cod?"
• "Blame Booze and Melville"
• "A House Is Not a Home"
Looking at the episode synopses above is like looking at the contents page of a book: it tells you the broadest possible information while revealing none of the minutiae. While all roads lead back to the Gilmores, between Stars Hollow, Yale, Hartford, the inn, and all points between, there must be dozens of supporting and incidental characters that interact and overlap, with their own histories and storylines that touch upon the main plots but move of their own accord. It's a lot of characters and a lot of stories, like the X-Men in cute sweaters. The Gilmores might exist in a slightly exaggerated world where town weirdoes are quaint and not creepy, and everyone seems to have had a dedicated liberal arts education, but the strength of the writing and performances make even unlikable characters dimensional, or at the very least clever. I haven't even mentioned Rory's neurotic roommate Paris, fresh out of being the "May" in a May-December romance; Rory's oppressed best friend Lane and her band; or Marty (poor Marty!)…the list goes on and on. There's a lot to discover here, and the fun of the series is in the interactions.
It's not a show for everyone, but it's a show for more people than you might think. Whatever knee-jerk chick-flick misgivings the male audience might have towards this show, they're unfounded; in the end it's a likable, literate show. If, like me, you lack a second X chromosome and are initially unable to justify watching a show where the commercials aired during it are mainly for things biologically impossible for you to use, there's an easy way around this. Watch one episode under the pretense that you're in it for the pretty girls; if you like it, watch the second under the pretense that the dialogue is kind of funny. If by week three you're not saying things like, "I can't believe what Miss Patty said to Lorelai in Doose's Market!" then…well, I'm sure According to Jim is on somewhere…
Warner Bros. presents Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fifth Season in its original full frame picture, as broadcast. This season being only months old at the time of its release, there's little to complain about as far as picture quality goes and the audio is just as sharp. Extras include a sole commentary (the first for the series) by series co-conspirators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino. It's not nearly as entertaining as you might think, however, as the dual Palladinos spend too much time commenting on the commentary and the novelty thereof. For the next season release Warner should have them do four or five commentaries to get them up to the quality of wit previous interviews have shown them to have. The "Behind the Scenes of the 100th Episode" featurette is a pleasant making-of on "Wedding Bell Blues," while "Gilmore Girls Turns 100" is a too-brief retrospective with cast interviews. A clip montage (always useless) called "Who Wants to Talk Gilmore?" rounds out the extras. The previous season sets (excluding the first) included a booklet providing definitions for many of the pop culture items referenced throughout the season, handy for the culturally impaired, but this season includes only an insert directing users to The WB's website for this season's "Gilmore-isms." Way to cheap out, Warner.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The strengths of Gilmore Girls are also its weaknesses. Individual viewer temperance may vary depending on their tolerance for the near-constant references, willfully quirky townsfolk, coy relationships, and the lifestyles of wealthy New Englanders. This is the show that MADtv parodied as "Gabmore Girls," after all (and who doesn't trust the incisive wit of MADtv?), and viewers should be duly warned. Season Five marks Rory's turn towards being unlikable after four seasons of Pollyanna perfection, which may alienate some viewers. Season Five also exemplifies the show's tendency to manufacture plot developments around sweeps airing, whether it makes sense or not; one can almost tell when these episodes aired based solely on who's getting together, who's breaking up, who's getting married, and who's giving birth. There's a lot going on, and a lot of things seem to get lost in the shuffle (Jackson's political post seems to have vanished by the end of the season, for example).
The final word on Gilmore Girls as a series is this: you either like it or you don't, but you won't know until you've actually given it a chance. Season Five is a heavy contender for the series's best, and it may not be the best place to start for new viewers, but it's a great place to wind up for longtime fans.
Oh, I can't stay mad at you girls! Case dismissed. See you at Luke's.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary on "You Jump, I Jump, Jack" by executive producers/writers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino
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