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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Girls, interrupted

Why does everything I love turn to shit?

Posted on Sun, Dec 10, 2006 at 9:19 PM

Since I last wrote about Gilmore Girls, before its season premiere in September, the following has happened:

Lorelai and Christopher got married.

That’s all you need to know. Well, Logan moved back to the States and Lane’s having twins and Rory got some annoying art star friends, one of whom is dating my favourite Rory Boy ever, Marty, but all you need to know to read any further is that Lorelai married Christopher. In France. Where it’s probably not legal and how they’ll get out of it, but still.

It took maybe 1.5 episodes for Gilmore to tank.

And I learned that just because you predict something doesn’t mean you feel better when it comes true.

When mastermind Amy Sherman-Palladino parted ways with Warner Bros last year over a contract dispute, and Warner handed the show to David Rosenthal, who’d been on staff for one season and had written just two episodes, the general consensus was that he couldn’t do it. Without Amy---and her husband Daniel, who I have and will always give less credit to, though he served as co-producer and wrote and directed a number of eps himself---the theory was that the writing wouldn’t hold up, that no un-Palladino could manage the speed and cadences of the show’s particular, uniformly unique brand of dialogue.

The theory, it took less than two hours to realize, is fact. The trademark diverse pop culure references are either gone or ridiculous, like Rory’s three-minute monologue about Pop-Tarts. Characters speak uncommonly slowly, normal for most shows, but this is not---or wasn’t, give me a minute---most shows. Lorelai, specifically, has spent episodes sounding like she’s drunk on codeine-laced cough syrup. The new staff, which still contains some of the old guard (Rebecca Rand Kirshner, save us!), is clearly unsure how to write for the grandparents, who have been in but a handful of episodes so far this season, and not for any plots of their own. One of Gilmore’s many hallmarks was its inter-generational structure, and a third of that is now missing. And because Luke and Lorelai are apart, Lorelai is never in the diner, so we don't see any of the Stars Hollow locals anymore.

But the writing isn’t all. The change in the writing automatically changes the acting---Lauren Graham has gone on record saying she appreciates the newer, more collaborative environment, but this crap is not going to be what finally wins her the Emmy she has deserved for six years running, and also it proves that auteurism may be hard to deal with but easy to understand once it’s gone.

Furthermore, the Sam Phillips score has all but disappeared. Which some people may see as a plus, but I do not.

And finally, and possibly worst of all, the directing style has changed. Gone are the trademark long tracking shots, the walk-and-talks through Stars Hollow, the deftly choreographed dialogue and information exchanges. They have been replaced with typical TV cross-cutting---“Exposition” “Reaction shot, reply” “Reaction shot, reply” “Reaction shot, pensive” “Reaction shot, last word”---and jarring, Who’s the Boss-style close-ups.

I take that last thing back---the worst thing is, as it has always been, Christopher. David Sutcliffe is a fine actor, Canadian even. But from season one---we are in seven---Christopher has always, always been portrayed as the monumental fuck-up, the prototypical man-boy, the guy who always lets you down. This has been pointed out to Lorelai on a number of occasions, and Rory has been the pointer for half of them. And so he has been That Guy, constantly failing both Gilmore girls. He's missed all the big days of Rory’s life from her first steps to prom to graduation (let’s not forget that time his credit card was declined and he couldn’t even buy her a goddamn book).

And Lorelai--hey lady, you’re really hot and you could get any man from Stars Hollow to San Jose so maybe it’s time to look outside the box---has continued to fall back into his clutches time and time again, and every time he’s fucked off or gotten someone pregnant or whatever the hell, and I understand the hold some people have on us and how he’s the father of her child and all that, but NOW is the time, literally on the heels of her breakup with Luke, who she’s been pining after all these years, that Lorelai would even date, let alone marry Christopher McNoGood on a goddamn whim?

WRONG.

Welcome to the SH, bitch! Take a fucking hint, ya douche.

I don’t believe in letting the fans dictacte your show, just as we don’t let readers dictate what we put in the newspaper, but to do something that you know your fanbase, one that you also know is in such a delicate, nervous state, would absolutely loathe and then drag it out over a dozen episodes? Bullshit! If you were changing Christopher for the better, at least making him likable---him insisting he’s likable so does not count---that would be a start, but you’re not even trying. His insistence that they get married in France even though Lorelai wanted Rory to be there demonstrates in ONE FREAKING LINE that 1) he’s a bad father 2) he’s a bad boyfriend and 3) he sucks.

And now, suddenly, Luke is going to fight for Lorelai. Even though he just let her go and hasn’t been shown talking to, wallowing over or moping about her for months.

You had better be leading up to something great, Rosenthal. (I advocate Luke violence against Christopher at all times, but it needs to start getting results.)

All that gives me hope is that Sutcliffe is not pictured in the opening credits, even though he’s appeared on the show more than Yanic Truesdale, Melissa McCarthy and Sean Gunn combined. But still, all you’ve proven so far is that you have no fucking clue. For you to take this elegant, whip-smart drama and turn it into something ordinary is unforgivable. (I also blame Amy for a lot of this, which you can read about in my earlier GG entry. How do you feel that this is your legacy, Amy? Can you convince me that what you did was worth it?)

Put shortly, crudely: you are failing, dude. And the new network, The CW, has its marketing head stuck up One Tree Hill’s ass---why are you scoring Gilmore previews with Nickelback, you fucktards?

Clueless network, clueless showrunner---there is no hope.

Thankfully I can go out on some better-strung words from Virginia Heffernan of the New York Times, who authored a poignant, respectful column about Gilmore in the first week of November. Of Lorelai, she wrote:

Her humor, her style, her neuroses, even her quicksilver physicality were all contrivances that served to shut out existential truths. If she were in therapy, or a character on a show with a dumber audience, maybe she would have to embrace her weakness. But like Elizabeth in Stephen Frears’s movie The Queen, Lorelai has a humanity that is perfectly apparent precisely in her unwillingness to betray her stoicism in favor of a therapeutic catharsis.

For all these years, Lorelai in Gilmore Girls has been painful and surprising and exciting to watch---a marvelous high-wire act. How cruel that the new writer of the show wants to rub her face in conventionality, strip her of the speed that was her reason for being and transform her into another banal television lead.

And finally:

I keep thinking that if Rory and Lorelai, those unsentimental brainiacs, could see this show, they’d hate it.

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