The Gilmore Girls Season Five box set resides in a very feminine box. You know, the kind of box little girls see in stores and instantly think, “I could keep jewelery in that!” And this is not a bad thing; the WB has successfully marketed Gilmore Girls to women, both young and old, over the course of the show’s now six-year run. The problem with this marketing tactic, however, is it fails to show just how wonderfully accessible Gilmore Girls actually is. Often, when a person first reacts to the premise of the show – a single mother raises the child she gave birth to at age sixteen, in an oddball, picturesque New England town – they assume that it will be filled with tearful moments as the younger lead character gets her period and so on and so forth. But those who actually take the time to watch and consider the show will have entered into the chosen ranks of viewers who have discovered one of the cleverest shows on TV today.
And frankly, there’s never been a better time to discover Gilmore Girls than season five. Recovering magnificently from the soap opera slump of the last few years, this is where creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her executive producer husband Daniel got back into stride. For those who follow the show, we open season five with senior Gilmore Girl Lorelai (Lauren Graham) embarking on a new romance with her bestubbled friend Luke (Scott Patterson), thus ending the infuriating will-they/won’t-they plotline that came to dominate seasons three and f0ur. With this weight off the viewer’s long-suffering shoulders, we’re free to rediscover the things that made us fall for this show in the first place. Those things – to wit, the memorable supporting cast of characters, the razor-sharp pop culture references, and of course the effortless repartee between Graham and “daughter” Rory (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants‘ Alexis Bledel) – are in ready supply on this set. Great moments abound, from a deadpan cameo by writer Norman Mailer (!) to the rightfully revered hundredth episode “You Jump, I Jump, Jack,” which feels almost cinematic in its beautifully crafted whimsy. Even the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut itself shines once again, no longer just a backdrop for its residents’ increasingly convoluted love lives: watch for an episode when thirty-something town eccentric Kirk (Sean Gunn) gets the lead in an elementary school production of The Fiddler on the Roof and approaches the role with a ludicrous, Brando-esque attention to detail.
Of course, if you haven’t watched the show all this praise is likely to fly right over your head, and unfortunately that’s the nature of a show like this. Too much has happened in the first four seasons of Gilmore Girls to justify my recommending season five to neophytes – even if one is perfectly able to watch these episodes out of context and still revel in their clever dialogue (the WB calls ‘em “Gilmore-isms”) and artful balance between comedy and drama. There’s also the simple matter that, cult popularity aside, Gilmore Girls remains something of an acquired taste; I’ve run into more than a few people who found the “quirkiness” of its characters forced, the speed of the dialogue disorienting (it’s been spoofed, briefly, on Family Guy, though the prize for best self-knowing reference goes to an episode where Lorelai sits down to watch an old film noir and remarks, “They talk so fast in these movies”). But for already-converted fans of the show, as well as the adventurous newcomer – preferably one with a subscription to Netflix or a patience with reruns – this set is damned near perfect. After all, how many other shows can boast ex-Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach as a recurring cast member? Not the fucking O.C., that’s for sure.
[This DVD edition of Gilmore Girls also includes a commentary track by Amy Sherman and Daniel Palladino (only one, on "You Jump, I Jump, Jack"), a featurette and behind-the-scenes documentary on the 100th episode, as well as a look back at the "seasons' wittiest wordplay moments" - all of which might be fun for hardcore fans, but frankly is just icing on the cake. The best thing about this set, hands down, is just having all these great episodes in one, attractively-packaged place. And even if the video quality isn't quite up to par with the stunning Desperate Housewives season one box, it's still more than enough to make this collection a worthy purchase.]
Reviewed by Megan Giddings and Zach Hoskins
This review is also posted on The Modern Pea Pod.