Friday, May 5, 2023

Coffee, Neurosis, and wit.


When I power-watch a TV series that I have already been through any number of times one of two things happens. Either I mostly ignore it, knowing exactly what is going to be said by whom and when, using it as background noise or filler. Or I pay extra attention to it wringing out new meanings, new details, and little in-jokes that I somehow missed the previous times through the show. 

The West Wing is one of the former, with the exception of a few episodes that really mean a lot to me, I usually watch it on autopilot. I could speak aloud every line of every show with the actors and not miss a beat. The first four seasons of it anyway. I re-watch TWW at least two or three times every year. It's one of my go-to shows because the writing is excellent, the direction is second to none, and the acting is top notch. 

Gilmore Girls is one of the latter. I have only watched through its entire run a couple times (one of which was its original run on network TV). As I watch this show now, every episode is a treasure trove of interesting lines, ideas, and imagery. I do not think it is quite as well written as TWW, but it's close with a lot of the dialog going beat for beat with any of Aaron Sorkin's best verbal gymnastics. 

Maybe it's some of what I have gone through personally over the last decade or so, maybe it's the new outlook that comes from an empty nest, but I am seeing a lot more in these episodes than I remember originally. The interaction between Lorelai and Rory, Lorelai and her mother, and even Emily and Richard has a reality that I can relate to much more now that I am in my middle 50's and having raised my children to adulthood than I ever could have 20+ years ago. 

I am mid way through the third season now (though this sentence has been re-written a few times now as I burn through the episodes while writing) and it remains to be seen if the shows writing will stay strong for the entire series. After all, TWW took a huge hit in quality when Aaron Sorkin and Tommy Schlamme left after the 4th season.

There have been plenty of "in depth" looks at Gilmore Girls,  some complaining about how bad a mother Lorelai was and others take deep looks at each episode. If that's what you want, head over to youtube and check them out. I am not going to do that here. This is more of a quick note simply to remark that people can find meaning and understanding in the most unusual places and that it never ceases to amaze me when I do.

I can relate to Lorelai on many levels, from her obsession with coffee, to her strange relationship with her Jeep, even her outlook on people though I am envious of her relationship with her daughter. I can relate to Luke with his disdain for, well, almost everything, but especially the relentless stupidity surrounding him even though it's (mostly) an act and  underneath the frustration and arguments is a really good and caring person. And I can relate to Richard in oh, so many nameless ways that I could write an entire post on just that. 

Almost every scene in almost every episode carries a new and interesting understanding into who I am and how I feel about life, the universe, and everything. (see Douglas Adams) There is a dearth of intelligent and well written entertainment on television today that I will get to later in this post and while it has always been somewhat scarce, there are gems like Gilmore Girls out there to find.

I think Lorelai overreacts to her parents far too often.I know this is part of her characters flaws along with her inability to apologize for anything but often it just seems too much to me. I was just watching episodes 8 and 9 of season 3 which involve Richard (Lorelai's father) side loading an interview for Rory at his alma mater (Yale) into a visit there for dinner to which Lorelai horribly overreacted to causing her to take Rory (after the interview) and use a cab to get back to Stars Hollow. Should Richard have secreted this and sprung it as a surprise on everyone? No, of course not. Like Rory said to him herself, if he had asked she would have done it for him anyway. But to make such a scene and then spend what had to be a crazy amount of money on a cab just to prove her point is, I have to say, very childish. 

This continued in the next episode at Thanksgiving dinner when the assembled guests brought up the interview and starting talking about back-up schools. Rory admitted that she had sent off some applications to other schools including Yale which sent Lorelai over the edge again causing a huge kerfuffle. Did Lorelai think that Rory shouldn't have backup schools? Was she SO positive that Harvard would want Rory that she didn't need to hedge her bets? I think she was so wrong about this, of course Rory needed to have backup schools, of course she needed to send other applications. As one of the guests even said, being accepted by another school, Yale for example, should cause Harvard to take her even more seriously. 

Lorelai's parents are not one dimensional evil incarnate. Everything they do is not designed to manipulate or control. Yes, they are different from Lorelai but they want the best for both Lorelai and Rory. The best as they see it, not as Lorelai sees it which of course is the crux of the conflict between them. I can understand some of why Richard did this the way he did. Knowing how Lorelai would react and they fact that she would never have let Rory have this interview because "Rory is going to Harvard". I can see a case to be made that knowing Rory had to have more than one option for college he did what he did. 

Yes, I am positive Richard would like to see Rory go to Yale. I think he would rather see her at Yale than at Harvard for both selfish and altruistic reasons. I am not saying he did it only for Rory, he certainly also did it because he thinks he knows better and that he wants her to go to Yale. This still doesn't excuse Lorelai's reaction. As a parent myself, I can understand her wanting Rory to do what Rory want's and not what anyone else does, but by the same token, had any of my kids been able to choose between Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, or Dartmouth, would have been an embarrassment of riches and no choice would have been a bad one. 

I will commend Lorelai for not taking a selfish interest in Rory's choice of schools since attending Yale would have allowed her to live at home while attending. This, I know from experience, is all too easy to fall victim to. Still, Even Rory knew that she needed more than one application submitted and did submit more than one, more than two actually, though they did include Yale. It was difficult to know if Lorelai was more angry because Rory did this or because Rori didn't tell her about it. Though seeing Lorelai's reaction, I am not sure I would have told her either. 

I find it easier to understand the complications of life through the lens of characters who have everything written for them than I do simply trying to think them through myself. I am sure that is the sign of good television. When you can enjoy the show for it's entertainment value, laughing, crying, or eye rolling. But also enjoy it for the moments that hit home, that make you think. Not by being preachy but by subtly weaving the point, the idea, and pathos, into the characters lives and personalities and the story. 

My wife and I have had many a conversation about an idea or concept from a show like Gilmore Girls, more than once from Gilmore Girls itself. That is the sign of excellent work. Of writers, directors, actors, of everyone involved working together to open a window to the world through which we can see ourselves. It's no wonder television became so ingrained in our lives. 

Though television is doing its damndest to undo all of that with the programming they are 
pushing now. They seem to think that they have to punch you in the face with an idea for anyone to pick up on what they want to get across. Hell, maybe they do. Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American television watching audience. Just look at "reality" tv. The plurality of people who believe that Reality TV is real, not to mention enjoy it makes me sad. 

Still, That's the great thing about the age we are living in. Good television is only a streaming service away. You don't even need to wait a week for the next episode, as I can prove by the fact that I should go back and change the line above to read mid way through the fourth season, but I am not going to. 

If you have never watched it, give Gilmore Girls a chance. I you have, go watch it again. It really is as good as you remember. 


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