Sometimes shows save you. I have a few friends who turn to the same show when things get tough - like returning to a good book, it’s like putting Netflix on in the background through the worst of stomach aches, break ups, rejections, depression and all-round anxious moments.
For some, it’s Friends or Grey’s Anatomy. But for me, for as long as I can remember, it’s been Gilmore Girls. During uni, I would journey to Stars Hollow to deal with everything from loneliness to illness, and even watch episodes with T while he was 270 miles away.
So what is it about this New England town and its kooky inhabitants that keeps me coming back?
Well, first things first: it’s the characters. Their pitter-patter dialogue, infectious sarcasm and witty pop culture references keep you on your toes. Bizarre relationships, slow burning love stories, stubborn personalities and the huge contrast between Stars Hollow and the rest of the world, restores all belief in the community. Michel’s frosty sassiness; Sookie’s love of food and bubbly friendship; Lane’s small-time rebelliousness; Emily’s ice-queen insults; Rory’s perfect balance to Lorelai’s mile a minute rambles - each character has their ‘signature’, yet rather than reduce them to one dimension, these traits play a part in surprising us again and again as they melt, develop and transform. I was so nervous forcing the series on T in case he’d start pointing out plot flaws, but instead he quickly morphed into a protective Dad every time one of the girls’ hearts was broken (he still maintains that Zac is nowhere near good enough for Lane).
The writing in Gilmore Girls is also exceptional. Any writer who can weave literature, music, tv, film and news references into an endless flow of conversation with such ease and agility surely deserves applause - and Amy Sherman-Palladino certainly does. For instance, a classic Lorelai rant about her mother goes a little like this: “My mother — she was here. I can feel it. Smell that? The room smells like guilt and Chanel No. 5.” Sherman-Palladino manages to convey a troubled relationship with all of the humour of reality - she makes all the drama and tension seem liveable.
Gilmore Girls also presents us with genuine, relatable, complex female characters. Rory makes studying and putting in the maximum effort look cool. Lorelai is the perfect role model for independence and crushing it as a single mum. But, the beauty of Sherman-Palladino’s characters is that they aren’t perfect either. There are countless times when you want to shake Rory for making stupid decisions, or Lorelai for beinng too hard on people. They are loveable characters - but you don’t always like them, which is a far healthier image for girls to see. They eat junk food, they love trashy magazines, they’re ambitious, they’re savvy and above all, they know their mind.
The relationships are front and centre too. The mother-daughter relationship in Lorelai and Rory is constantly commented on as one of the most unique and refreshing things in TV. I find so much comfort in their constant backing of one another, despite the tests they go through (season 4 onwards am I right). There should also be a shout out to the best friends too - Sookie, Luke, Lane and Paris are all stellar human beings and whenever I feel like I’m let down, they remind me that there are people out there who will always have your back. But most of all, I’m interested in the relationships between Rory, Lorelai, Richard and Emily. The stark difference in personalities within one family, and the strange dynamic this produces is something I find fascinating. I also come from a family of ‘Sunday Night Dinners’ and the regular updates and amusing dinner conversation is highly relatable. Even just in Stars Hollow itself, the relationships between Lorelai and Babette, Luke and Kirk, Miss Patty and Taylor, and the wonderful quirky backstories hark back to another time, when community was the heart of everything. I’ve never lived in a place remotely tight-knit, as I went from a large suburban town with one neighbour to Uni to a block of flats in another city centre. I crave the warmth of small-town friendliness - but does it even exist anymore? Maybe Stars Hollow is just that, a nostalgic reminder of the past.
The people that make up Star Hollow also provide the viewer with a refreshing example. Their kooks and quirks remind you that it's good to be different. You should embrace the unique and the weird and reject the ordinary. In Stars Hollow, there is no normal. Lorelai and Rory put a unique twist on everything they do: their wardrobe, their pizza toppings, their movie choices, their Charlie’s Angels collectable plates. Like what you like, and that in turn will become ‘cool’.
The final magic ingredient in my Stars Hollow obsession is the incredible scenic backdrop and imaginary geography of Gilmore Girls. Sherman-Palladino was inspired by a trip she took through small towns in Connecticut, including Washington Depot, New Milford and New Preston. She says, “...Everything is green and people are out, and they're talking. And we went to a diner and everyone knew each other and someone got up and they walked behind the [counter] and they got their own coffee because the waitress was busy.”
On our Canadian road trip, we drove from Stamford up to Niagara Falls, spending the morning driving around the towns just as Sherman-Palladino did. The undulating green hills, farm land as far as you can see and pretty town squares with white churches and houses-with-porches felt exactly as I dreamed it would. In the bright sun, I kept hoping I’d catch a glimpse of my people, that it would suddenly transform - after all, it was so damn realistic. But no, it remained a small part of Connecticut, in the very real US, a world away from the mid-2000s Stars Hollow. Maybe that’s for the best - most of our dreams are fiction.