As the television industry produces reboot (The X-Files, anyone?) after reboot (Fuller House, Twin Peaks, the list goes on), the long-gestating Gilmore Girls revival emerges as a way for series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino to once again put a personal stamp on the program she left over a contract dispute shortly before its seventh (and final, to date) season aired on the newly formed CW in 2006.
But, is the project, premiering four 90-minute episodes Nov. 25 on Netflix, worth the wait? Critics have weighed in on the new season, subtitled A Year in the Life, and the consensus is generally positive, with journalists pegging the trip back to Stars Hollow as an uneven, overstuffed, yet altogether comforting (and welcome) journey made with familiar characters who, after all these years, still manage to warm the soul with their lovable quirks.
“The return of Gilmore Girls is winsome and riotous. It’s a better, bolder, more fulfilling capper to a beloved series that finished just-okay back in 2007,” wrote EW’s Jeff Jensen in his B+ review. “Listening to the rhythm, lilt, and inspired language of [the characters’] dialogue is music to the ears — and in one hilarious passage, expresses in the form of an actual musical. It provides a welcome dose of hilarious and humane escapism that satisfies like a nostalgia trip even while subverting it.”
Writing for The Daily Beast, Kevin Fallon admits A Year in the Life is a revival that, in part, succeeds because of its nostalgic roots.
“The excitement for the four seasonally themed movies, ostensibly a redo for series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino after she was absent from the series’ polarizing final season, is boiling hotter than a freshly brewed pot at Luke’s Diner. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life can, at times, feel a bit over-caffeinated,” he says. “We’re betting, though, that if you’re among those counting down to a Thanksgiving weekend binge when the event series hits Netflix Friday, you like your Gilmores like your coffee: strong, warm, and in perpetuity.”
According to Harper’s Bazaar‘s Morgan Evans, patient audiences who stuck with the show throughout its tumultuous history will appreciate the freedom Netflix has afforded for the residents of Stars Hollow. “The new Netflix format allows the show to tap into a never-before-seen rawness suppressed during the early WB days,” her review reads. “The characters have more room to stretch themselves with more passion and bigger dialogue (if you can believe it), while finally satisfying fan expectations and giving the girls the true ending they deserve.”
Variety‘s Maureen Ryan, however, was a bit more critical of the new season, which sees actors Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Melissa McCarthy, Milo Ventimiglia, and Kelly Bishop reprising their roles.
“Everything Gilmore Girls tries to pack in — the wit, the whimsy, the pop-culture references, the family conflict, the perfectly calibrated insults, the set pieces that go on a bit too long — can feel pretty pummeling at a 90-minute running time,” she noted. “The show is sometimes too overstuffed for its own good. So here’s a recipe for enjoying this new edition of Gilmore Girls: Get a blanket and a mug of cocoa, and watch 30 or maybe 40 minutes at a time.”
Emily Yahr, writing for The Washington Post, also indicated the beloved characters overstay their welcome across the show’s four new episodes, themed to each of the four seasons, writing: “… it turns out that 42-minute episodes were the perfect amount of time before the famously sparkling dialogue and wacky plotlines start to drag — and characters’ flaws go from endearing to irritating.”
Still, several reviews speculate die-hard fans of the show will overlook its shortcomings, and that its emotional sentiments eclipse its structural flaws.
“There was a specific time for Gilmore Girls to be as special as it was, and that time is as gone as the network on which all the Palladinos’ seasons aired,” wrote Uproxx’s Alan Sepinwall. “But A Year in the Life manages to connect its complicated present to that wonderful past often enough to be worth the visit.”
Check out more excerpts from critics’ reviews of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life below.
Jeff Jensen (EW)
“Revival TV has been a dead-end affair in 2016. The X-Files was far from extraordinary. Fuller House was half-assed. But the report I bring you from the quirky-idyllic, speed-banter land of Stars Hollow is that the return of Gilmore Girls is winsome and riotous. It’s a better, bolder, more fulfilling capper to a beloved series that finished just-okay back in 2007, produced without creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and husband Daniel Palladino. But they’re back for this ‘special event series.’ Listening to the rhythm, lilt, and inspired language of their dialogue is music to the ears — and in one hilarious passage, expresses in the form of an actual musical. It provides a welcome dose of hilarious and humane escapism that satisfies like a nostalgia trip even while subverting it. It tells a story about grief and change, rootlessness and restlessness. The show is basically a reboot about the struggle of rebooting.”
Maureen Ryan (Variety)
“Everything Gilmore Girls tries to pack in — the wit, the whimsy, the pop-culture references, the family conflict, the perfectly calibrated insults, the set pieces that go on a bit too long — can feel pretty pummeling at a 90-minute running time. The show is sometimes too overstuffed for its own good. So here’s a recipe for enjoying this new edition of Gilmore Girls: Get a blanket and a mug of cocoa, and watch 30 or maybe 40 minutes at a time. It’ll still be there, waiting for you, next time you need a distinctive and idiosyncratic blast from the past, one that makes the transition to the present fairly seamlessly. In other words, don’t binge on this comfort food. In these difficult and uncertain times, why not make it last?”
Robert Bianco (USA Today)
“Now the show is back with four 90-minute episodes, each named for one of the seasons, and all of them written by the Palladinos. You get the same stars (for the most part) and the same rapid-fire, pop-culture-infused dialogue, in a more concise package that actually serves the show well. The pace and the arch theatricality of all that chatter could grow exhausting over 22 hours — a problem clearly lessened when you only have to listen for six… Brevity, however, is not the only advantageGirls has this time around. It benefits from having been gone long enough for many of us to miss it. And it returns, in all its dreamy, slightly loopy, generally optimistic lightness, at a time when many of us could use an escape, and TV could undoubtedly use a break from the grim, violent, conspiracy-laden dramas that currently dominate the landscape.”
Daniel Fienberg (The Hollywood Reporter)
“Unlike so many of the remakes, reboots and revivals that are meant to deliver a syringe of diluted nostalgia into the needle-marked veins of regressive entertainment junkies, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life feels like it has a reason to exist… Although it’s plagued with structural problems and a questionable relationship to the passage of time, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is better than the season that fans were previously stuck with and Netflix was wise to send all four installments to critics, because the fourth episode is easily the strongest as Sherman-Palladino is able to dispense with wheel-spinning and steer the series to the emotional landing she always intended.”
Emily Yahr (The Washington Post)
“Let’s cut right to the chase, Gilmore Girls fans, and start with the good news: The Netflix revival of the beloved drama has everything you want. Lorelai and Rory return as the mother-daughter best-friend duo who live in the gloriously quirky town of Stars Hollow, Conn. The original creator and executive producers are in charge, ensuring the highly anticipated reboot is chock-full of callbacks, inside jokes and life updates on your favorite supporting characters. The bad news: It’s not perfect. It’s actually far from perfect. The revival has four 90-minute chapters, and it turns out that 42-minute episodes were the perfect amount of time before the famously sparkling dialogue and wacky plotlines start to drag — and characters’ flaws go from endearing to irritating.”
Alan Sepinwall (Uproxx)
“Because of [a] fundamental shift in the dynamic, because the Palladinos are trying to squeeze nearly every significant Gilmore character — not to mention exposition about what they’ve been up to since we last saw them — into four double-sized episodes that each cover an entire season of the calendar, and because TV reunions almost always feel out of sync from the shows that spawned them, it’s not a surprise that A Year in the Life is frequently a mess, and one that occasionally feels at best like a well-studied imitation of the genuine article… I’ll have a lot more to say about A Year in the Life after Thanksgiving, but for now I’ll just note that it’s an imperfect recreation of a show that, even at its dazzling best, was almost proud of its imperfections, and it’s the first reunion project in a long time to not make me regret the existence of it. Usually, I come out of a revival wondering how much I liked the original show in the first place, but I’m glad A Year in the Life exists. This one, though it’s frustrating and meandering and bloated at various points, also conjures up enough of the old magic — notably through most of the fourth episode — to make me happy for reasons beyond pure nostalgia. There was a specific time for Gilmore Girls to be as special as it was, and that time is as gone as the network on which all the Palladinos’ seasons aired, but A Year in the Life manages to connect its complicated present to that wonderful past often enough to be worth the visit.”
Morgan Evans (Harper’s Bazaar)
“The new Netflix format allows the show to tap into a never-before-seen rawness suppressed during the early WB days. The characters have more room to stretch themselves with more passion and bigger dialogue (if you can believe it), while finally satisfying fan expectations and giving the girls the true ending they deserve.”
Emma Dibdin (Elle)
“But A Year In The Life meets expectations and then some. This quartet of 90-minute episodes is a rich, lovingly crafted pleasure, retaining the original show’s lightness of touch while making the most of the breadth and depth afforded by its new Netflix format… But it doesn’t take long for the show to get back into its familiar motormouthed groove, with writing duties on the four episodes spilt between Sherman-Palladino and her longtime writing partner Daniel Palladino. The saddest thing about season seven was watching these actors play what felt like pale imitations of their characters – cast members have described it as “like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers” – and though a decade has passed on-screen and off, these are absolutely the characters you know and love, only older and less sure of themselves.”
Kevin Fallon (The Daily Beast)
“A Year in the Life is a necessary reminder of the pleasures of a show that refuses to live in cynicism; that embraces earnestness and even uses it as a more effective tool for revealing human and emotional truths—no easy feat. It’s a reunion, sure, between Graham’s Lorelai, Alexis Bledel’s Rory, Kelly Bishop’s Emily Gilmore, and us. As important and dynamic as their relationships were to each other, they were equally important to us—whether superficially, with all of the ‘my mom and I are just like the Gilmore Girls!’ silliness that sprouted, or deeply, when the heartbreak and hope entwined in their relationships resonated in our own lives.”
Jen Chaney (Vulture)
“There’s a song about Stars Hollow in A Year in the Life that runs through a list of all the terrible things in the world, from ‘anything by Jeff Koons’ to Vladimir Putin. Its lyrics then proceed to conclude that this Connecticut town is one of the globe’s few saving graces. ‘What’s there not to love about the town of Stars Hollow?’ the song asks, in what is both a sincere question and, perhaps, a swipe at the place’s provincialism. While watching Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, you may find yourself asking the same thing, and you may conclude that there is still plenty to love. But you also may find yourself looking more critically at this Main Street, U.S.A., and more easily spotting some of the flaws that co-exist alongside its charms.”
Chris Harnick (E!)
“Creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino lamented having too much story for the four-part series — well, there are moments that went on for far too long and felt completely unnecessary, like the Stars Hollow musical and reappearance of a few characters. Not everything is perfect. However, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life has come along at just the right time. It’s comforting and familiar, with enough resolution to satisfy and enough open-ended questions to make revisiting Stars Hollow absolutely necessary, sooner rather than later.”