Everything about the new Gilmore Girls, which premieres Friday on Netflix, is exactly the same as the original and completely different at the same time.
The two irreplaceable cast members — Lauren Graham as sunny Lorelai Gilmore and Alexis Bledel as her whip-smart daughter, Rory — are back, of course.
A couple of shouldn’t-do-a-reunion-without-them co-stars — Kelly Bishop as imperious Emily, Lorelai’s mom, and Scott Patterson as Luke, Lorelai’s on-again/off-again true love — are back as well.
As a matter of fact, pretty much everyone who had anything substantial to do in the beloved 2000-2007 dramedy — more than a dozen cast members, including Milo Ventimiglia, Jared Padalecki and Melissa McCarthy — contribute something fun to the continuation season called Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
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Alas, Edward Herrmann, who played Lorelai’s father, Richard, died in 2014. But his presence is still felt in a larger-than-life way, especially in every scene that takes place in the family dining room, where there’s absolutely no avoiding him.
The key behind-the-scenes team, meanwhile, is the same, too. Every episode is written, directed and executive-produced by series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino.
The original sets were destroyed after the series wrapped production nearly a decade ago, but all of the memorable locations in the quaint little town of Stars Hollow — such as the Dragonfly Inn (which Lorelai still runs), Luke’s Diner and Emily’s regal Connecticut home — have been painstakingly re-created.
Even the witty, whimsical, pop-culture savvy, fast-paced dialogue style that’s uniquely Gilmore Girls is still in play.
“Once we all got on the set, it was just like no time had gone by,” Patterson says. “It felt like we were beginning Season 8.”
Ah, but the new season is also quite different in a number of ways.
The most obviously change is that, instead of an extended run of hourlong episodes, A Year in the Life consists of four 90-minute chapters — each representing a different season of the year: winter, spring, summer, fall.
As a result, the reunion feels more like four overstuffed movies, as opposed to just four additional episodes.
“What a great opportunity to delve into a different form, to tell stories in a different way using beloved characters,” Sherman-Palladino says. “It was just such an exciting challenge.”
“In the old days (which is to say, pre-Netflix), there would have been no outlet for that,” Palladino adds. “But there’s new ways for people like us, who were bored with the old ways, to tell stories.”
Another key difference is the simple fact that the Girls are older.
When the show began its seven-year run in 2000, the original peg was the best-friends relationship between a 32-year-old single mother and her 16-year-old daughter. Now, in 2016, the daughter is the one who’s 32 — and the nuances of their relationship quite naturally have changed as a result.
“What was cool about writing for these two is now it wasn’t a high school girl and her mom,” Sherman-Palladino says. “It’s two women. Suddenly they can have cocktails together.”
It was very gratifying to me that we both got to return to these characters with a little more life experience.
“It was very gratifying to me that we both got to return to these characters with a little more life experience,” says Graham, a Southern Methodist University alumnus.
All four installments of A Year in the Life will be available for immediate streaming on Netflix, which means there probably will be a lot of die-hard Gilmore Girls fans taking the day off to binge on a series they’ve wanted to come back since before President Obama took office.
Graham says it has been gratifying over the years to witness the devotion fans still have for this show. She promises that, unlike many TV and movie reunions, this one won’t disappoint.
“I just felt like every question I wanted answered about that character came true,” Graham says. “It was so moving to me that we got to do this. I was full of just an embarrassing amount of gratitude.”
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
- Available for streaming Friday