It’s fitting that Gilmore Girls, a charming and lighthearted series exploring the complicated relationships between three generations of women, has captured the hearts of a new generation of viewers 16 years after it debuted on The WB. Since the show’s original seven-season run popped up on Netflix in October 2014, it has attracted more soon-to-be-overly-caffeinated young women to its cause through a simple central premise involving a mother and daughter who are also best friends. It’s a set up that is essential to the success of the series — and a theme that drives much of the narrative in Netflix’s Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (Friday, Nov. 25) — but it is also largely tied to a different era of TV.
Gilmore Girls debuted at the height of The WB alongside other iconic and influential pop culture programs that Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) likely would have referenced (and probably have), including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawson’s Creek and Felicity. But by the time the show’s then-series finale aired in May 2007, the so-called Golden Age of TV was already moving on to a darker, more complex era that would be dominated by the morally bankrupt stories of male antiheroes. Those worlds didn’t line up with the Gilmores, their small New England town or their perfectly measured whimsy and staccato-like banter. Lorelai and Rory and the simple elegance of their existence, where Friday night dinners could be every bit as tense as whatever perilous situation Walter White found himself in, gave way to some of the most celebrated shows the medium has ever seen. And now, with more quality viewing options than ever before, it’s a happy delight that the Gilmores have somehow managed to endure through it all.