Lorelai and Rory step out of Stars Hollow
By Chuck Barney
May 14th, 2007
For Candy Wilbur and her teen daughter, Sammie Suchland, it's long been a weekly routine. Every Tuesday, at 8 p.m. sharp, they plant themselves on the couch and command their TV set to whisk them off to Stars Hollow, the idyllic New England hamlet that the "Gilmore Girls" call home.
At these bonding sessions popcorn is optional, but silence is not. The No. 1 rule? Shut up.
"If you run your mouth, you get the evil eye," says Wilbur, a Pleasant Hill resident. "But, of course, once the show is over, we discuss and dissect and hash it out for an entire week."
Alas, mother and daughter soon will have to find something else to talk about. After seven seasons of romantic misadventures, small-town oddities and snappy coffee-fueled wisecracks, "Gilmore Girls" is calling it quits. The witty, warmhearted series ends its run this week.
"I think the show fell off a bit in quality over the last season or so," says Suchland, 17. "But I never stopped loving these characters, so it's going to be pretty sad to see them go."
For some, it's not only sad, but stunning. Although there had been a great deal of pull-the-plug talk ever since "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino left the show at the end of last season, until two weeks ago many were led to believe that the series would return next fall for one more abbreviated go-around of 13 episodes. But when The CW struggled to strike a deal with lead actresses Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, the network decided to call it a wrap.
"I think a lot of fans are going through the different stages of grief," says Michael Ausiello, a writer for "TV Guide" and a die-hard devotee of the show. "Initially they were in shock and now they're settling into anger. ... They feel cheated."
Few television shows establish such a passionate bond with their fans. But when "Gilmore Girls" debuted in 2000, it had the look and feel of something special. It told the story of Lorelai Gilmore, a headstrong single mother who, at 16, bore her only child, Rory, out of wedlock. And much to the snobby dismay of her blue-blooded parents, she raised her daughter on her own in a quirky New England town where everybody knows everybody's business.
As conceived by Sherman-Palladino, the series resisted tiresome family-show conventions by giving the mother-daughter relationship rich and believable treatment. The glib and often flighty Lorelai (Graham) and the smart and sensible Rory (Bledel) made for compelling heroines as they navigated their way, arm in arm, through boy troubles, awkward squabbles with the grandparents and oh-so-many emotional junk-food binges. Along the way, the show helped to define a network while offering insights into growing up, parenting and family politics.
"I liked how the show highlighted how different these two females were, but how well they still managed to work together," says Katie Salazar, 18, a Northgate High School senior. "Yes, they were mother and daughter, but they were real friends, too, and, in some ways, they kind of grew up together."
"Gilmore Girls" also sounded like no other show on television. From the start, Sherman-Palladino peppered her scripts with pop-cultural and literary references and gave the java-guzzling Lorelai and Rory scores of crackling one-liners to toss at each other. The loquacious actresses were dubbed by "TV Guide" as prime time's "banter-weight champs."
"I know fans who will rush to Wikipedia as soon as an episode ended just to understand all the references they may have missed," says Heidi Chambers, a Southern California fan who runs the Web site gilmoregirls.org. "The dialogue always made me feel like I was watching a smart show that wasn't dumbed down just to get more people to watch."
Salazar echoes that sentiment, saying, "I felt like I was pretty intelligent if I could get 60 percent of what they were talking about."
Adding to the allure of "Gilmore Girls" was a true sense of place. Cozy Stars Hollow, highly stocked with weird and colorful folk, was a key character in the show.
"Over the years, you feel like you know all the people and places in the town," says Wilbur. "You feel a sense of ownership."
"I love it," Suchland adds, "because it feels nothing like living in Pleasant Hill."
Suchland and Wilbur started watching "Gilmore Girls" when mom presented daughter with a complete-season DVD set for her 14th birthday. "We put the popcorn on and stayed up past midnight watching the whole thing," Suchland recalls. "That was the start. We were hooked."
Of course, you didn't have to be part of a mother-daughter team to enjoy "Gilmore Girls," but in an era of fragmented viewing habits, it was a rare show that had the power to bridge the generation gap. Laura Sardis, a Corte Madera resident, would routinely send episodes to her daughters Taryn, 24, and Amanda, 19, in Tucson, Ariz., and Los Angeles, respectively, and then jump on the phone for extensive chat sessions.
"I'm totally addicted," says Sardis. "And having the girls involved made it all the more touching. ... There are so many family dynamics and contemporary issues in the show that lead to fantastic discussions."
Lindsey Pannell, a Crockett resident, can relate. She and her daughter, Suzanne Millward, 17, have watched the show for years with special attention paid to the coming-of-age challenges faced by Rory.
"All these recognizable issues young women have with school and boyfriends and their social life were playing out right there on the TV screen and, at times, it was helpful," she says. "It opened the door for us to talk about things going on in her own life."
Chuck Barney is the Times TV critic. Reach him at 925-952-2685 or [email protected]
. Also, check out his daily blog at http:/cctextra.com/blogs/tvfreak.
WHAT: "Gilmore Girls"
WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Channels 31 and 44 (The CW)