After nine years of hospital soaps, zombie dramas, singing high schoolers and ultra serious episodes about mad men making meth, it's time to return to the simple, quirky charms of a town called Stars Hollow.
Next Friday, fans from all over, cradling coffee cups and wearing overly ornate sweaters, will gather to herald the long-awaited return of "Gilmore Girls." The Netflix reboot, subtitled "A Year in the Life," revives the beloved series about the adventures of mother-daughter duo Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel), who are witty, wildly ambitious, highly caffeinated and highly knowledgeable.
So why do we still obsess over who they're dating?
Despite seven seasons and a character arc stretching from high school to college graduation, often the conversation about "Gilmore Girls" gets boiled down to one thing: Which of the three men from Rory's past do you support? Are you Team Dean, Team Jess or Team Logan?
It's an understandable compulsion. Each ex is the physical embodiment of a traditional dating trope experienced by many women. Dean Forester (Jared Padalecki) represented the untouchable first love, the doting, all-consuming whirlwind wrapped in a green Doose's Market apron. Jess Mariano (Milo Ventimiglia) was the brooding bad boy/poet, complete with requisite motorcycle jacket and knowledge of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl." Completing the trifecta was sad, little rich boy Logan Huntzberger (Matt Czuchry) — whose dashing good looks and personal driver obscured his inner demons — whom Rory transformed and deepened.
Each character is an emotional totem or figurative hurdle toward adulthood and that makes them ripe for projecting the audience's own personal experiences onto Rory. Many folks have fantasized (or even lived through) at least one of these stereotypical relationships. Plus, who doesn't want to ride shotgun in Jess' beater and listen to an 18-year-old crack jokes about Andy Hardy movies (an honest-to-God reference this character makes).
But when the driving concept of the series is the mother-daughter dynamic, it's slightly baffling that an obsession with the secondary romantic characters becomes the narrative some fans linger on the most. Even the actors appear to be a bit tired of the game.
When asked about the obsession with Rory's romantic past at the 2016 Television Critics Assn. summer press tour, Bledel responded, "I guess people do get excited about the romantic story line … But there is so much more to her character that it is great when people focus on those things, on her ambition and her accomplishments and her goals."
Why must we always saddle remarkable female leads with a love triangle? Why must Veronica Mars choose between Logan and Piz, Buffy between Spike and Angel, and Olivia Pope between Fitz and Jake? And why are we foaming at the mouth to fight with Team Name Here T-shirts and hashtags? It’s the Jo March effect. The audience can’t help but root for the nice, smart girl to meet a good man and settle down.
The enthusiasm is especially confounding when it comes to "Gilmore Girls," a rarity among television offerings. We're lousy with wacky sitcoms about oddball friends and dramas about sexy crime fighting, but you'd be hard-pressed to find another show pointedly about the bond between two women. And not just any women, but a twosome who spend pages and pages of dialogue discussing literature, films, and music. Lynn Hirschberg, Fran Lebowitz, and Tama Janowitz are all referenced in a breathless 10 seconds. Heck, Norman Mailer even made a cameo as himself for an entire episode.
Beyond the pop culture binges, Lorelai and Rory were continuously exploring their own conflicting feelings and ever-changing relationships. Simple moments like a boat parked inside a garage (or not parked inside a garage) could unleash a barrage of emotion for Lorelai, but you wouldn't see her dramatically screaming under the town gazebo. It was a contained rage, a depiction of real life in an idyllic and fictional small town.
All their bad choices were wholly their own: Lorelai calls off her own engagements, twice (sort of);. Rory makes her own decision to drop out of school. (True she was offered the luxury of falling back on her wealthy grandparents, but this drama forces the characters to sleep in the beds they've made.) Viewers were getting a real look inside the minds of these women.
To "Gilmore Girls'" credit, it didn't court the conversation on Rory's romantic fate. The series ended with her headed off as a cub reporter on a presidential campaign trail, free of entanglements.
Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has pushed back on the "Team This Guy" trend. "I know there's a lot of, 'Who's she going to end up with?' " she said at the TCA press tour. "But [when] I watched this with my daughter, it gave me a chance to share something with my daughter."
"I hear a lot of 'My daughter wanted to go to Yale because of Rory. And she read books because of Rory,'" Sherman-Palladino said of what fans tell her. "People go to the love thing, but I always like the 'I decided to go to Yale because Rory went to Yale,' because I wish I had gone to Yale. Or school."
So fans looking for reconciliation between Rory and someone from her past might be out of luck. It certainly doesn't sound like Sherman-Palladino has any intention of picking a winner because this show has always only had one team, and that's Team Gilmore.