Author Topic: "Why the 'Gilmore Girls' fandom lives on" - NY Times  (Read 5582 times)

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"Why the 'Gilmore Girls' fandom lives on" - NY Times
« on: July 14, 2015, 05:21:52 pm »
Art could imitate life, but why would we want it to? Life is missed opportunities, witty rejoinders left unsaid, jobs and homes and boyfriends lost to the sands of time. “Write what you know,” goes the saying, but maybe there’s something better than what you’ve actually lived?

Or perhaps there’s a tightly defined fictional universe you know so well it becomes an extension of your life, as is the case with Kevin Porter, co-host and co-founder of “Gilmore Guys,” a podcast devoted to the intimate minutiae of “Gilmore Girls,” a critically acclaimed and beloved show that ran from 2000 to 2007 on the WB (now CW). Together with Demi Adejuyigbe, Porter’s friend and colleague, the two titular “guys” lovingly and painstakingly examine a television show that often resembled the lives of its viewers, with a few key improvements.

“Gilmore Girls” followed Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, a mother and daughter living in a fictional Connecticut town called Stars Hollow: They talked fast, loved a good pop-culture reference and had a powerful addiction to caffeine. At the height of the show’s popularity, more than five million viewers tuned in to watch them navigate work, school, romance and life in a small town.

Demi Adejuyigbe (left) and Kevin Porter (right), hosts of the "Gilmore Guys" podcast. Credit Kevin Porter
After its seven-season run ended, “Gilmore Girls” was syndicated on the ABC Family channel, but its second life really began last October, when the entire show became available for streaming on Netflix. On Sept. 30, 2014, Adejuyigbe and Porter introduced their companion podcast, “Gilmore Guys,” with a simple conceit: Porter was a longtime fan of the show and was excited to see it return. Adejuyigbe had never seen a single episode.

“I actually tweeted half-joking, half-not, ‘Anyone want to start a podcast with me called “Gilmore Guys,” where we talk about every episode of Gilmore Girls?’ ” Porter told me. Adejuyigbe responded that he did, though he had never seen an episode. “I’m a big fan of comedy podcasts,” he explains. “Starting one about something I didn’t know at all sounded like a huge mess, which in turn sounded like a lot of fun. I’m just very lucky that I ended up liking the show.” One of the most interesting aspects of “Gilmore Guys” is how Porter and Adejuyigbe embrace their role as two male hosts geeking out over a show that found a mostly female following. They don’t see the podcast as just a platform for humor but as a place to consider the cultural significance of the show. “What does it mean for women and feminism?” Porter asked. “And for [show creator] Amy Sherman-Palladino’s career?” Answering such questions has “been a big joy of doing the show, too,” he said.

Since beginning the podcast, Porter and Adejuyigbe have taped two episodes a week. Some are recaps of the show’s episodes. On others, former “Gilmore Girls” cast and crew members drop by, including actors like Keiko Agena (who played Lane Kim, Rory Gilmore’s best friend) and Scott Patterson (who played Luke Danes, a friend and romantic interest for Lorelai Gilmore), and Jane Espenson, who worked as a writer and co-executive producer on the show.

“Gilmore Guys” has developed its own fan base: ratings of the show in the Apple iTunes store are at a solid five stars, and listeners have their own name: Gillys, affectionate shorthand being the truest marker of a shared interest. In the last few months, Adejuyigbe and Porter have begun to produce live events in major cities called Town Hall Meetings — a reference to the fictional town meetings the Gilmores regularly attended on the original show. Tickets for tonight’s 7 p.m. live show at the Bell House in Brooklyn sold out almost immediately, and a second show for 10 p.m. was added.

What explains this sustained obsession with a show that ended its run eight years ago? “Gilmore Girls” is “aspirational,” Porter said. It creates a world that resembles our own, but everyone is just a little quicker, a little livelier and a little more real than real life. “We want to talk that fast and be that funny,” Porter said. “We want to live in a town as lovely and warm as Stars Hollow.”

I certainly did. I’ve seen every episode of “Gilmore Girls” multiple times. It debuted when I was 14, one year younger than Rory Gilmore’s character then, and I marveled over the similarities between us: We were both voracious readers who preferred books over parties, and we were both required to attend weekly Friday-night dinners with our grandmothers. Our romantic interests (at least for one season of the show) had the same name, and we owned the same American Eagle sweater. She was just like me — only a little more beautiful, intelligent and watchable.

When the show was on the air, I spent every week renewing my fascination with a fictional character. I fixated on “Gilmore Girls” because I tend to gravitate toward a genre of popular culture I’ve come to think of as emotional speculative fiction. It’s a close cousin of science fiction: The central narrative bears a plausible relation to our lived reality, but everything is heightened, for better or worse. In science fiction, our experiences are filtered through the fantastical — an alien virus arrives from outer space and decimates a marginalized population, perhaps, or there’s a power-hungry dictator hellbent on world domination in a universe far, far away.

Emotional speculative fiction takes place closer to home but is no less fantastical. When done well — as was the case with “Gilmore Girls” — it takes everything recognizable about life but adds the qualities that remain elusively out of reach in reality, like satisfying endings and triumphant character arcs, where loss is ultimately redemptive and learning experiences are peppered with witty repartee.

Porter says he has often thought of how the fairy-tale aspects of the show don’t ever topple into far-fetched dramas or morality lessons. The action is almost secondary to the emotions for him. “In addition to it being hilarious and funny and wonderful and having really gorgeous women being hilarious, what drew me to the show was the emotional resonance of it.” Adejuyigbe, too, finds that “one of the big draws of ‘Gilmore Girls’ is that sort of dreamlike fantasy, where things are so similar to our real life and twisted just a little bit.”

“Gilmore Girls” wasn’t a perfect television show, and some of its flaws are glaringly obvious to regular and first-time viewers alike. The show often makes strange narrative choices with minor characters — turning them into clichés and punch lines — and central conflicts, particularly in later seasons, are a bit of a stretch, as characters discover children they didn’t know they had and enter into marriages they don’t seem to want. Adejuyigbe and Porter are, first and foremost, fans; they love the show not in spite of its flaws but because the flaws are just as crucial to their viewing experience as the strengths. Porter tells me he thinks about the show every single day. “It’s something I live with in a way I’ve never lived with a television show or any piece of art,” he explains. “It’s become a beautiful engine for the podcast and conversation and jokes and insight and shows and songs. It’s a gift that’s given me so much.”

In June, Adejuyigbe and Porter did interviews on the red carpet for a “Gilmore Girls” reunion panel and got to meet the actors who played their favorite characters; a photo posted to their official Facebook page of Porter with Kelly Bishop, the actress who played his favorite character (Emily Gilmore, Lorelai’s mother and Rory’s grandmother), depicts her face in the stern character expression familiar to fans, while Porter’s registers sheer joy.

The podcast is about to delve into the fifth season of “Gilmore Girls”; the end is in sight. When pressed about their plans for future episodes of “Gilmore Guys,” and what they will do after there are no more episodes of “Gilmore Girls” to watch, Adejuyigbe and Porter remain coy; they say only that we should expect more Gillys to appear, and that no special guest is really out of reach. For now, they are content to revel in the fact that the podcast has transformed their lives into something slightly better than reality.

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