Reviving the Gilmore Girls

Here is how the reboot of a hit drama following a mother and her daughter in a small town went from idea to reality

Lauren Graham (left) and Alexis Bledel in Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life.
Lauren Graham (left) and Alexis Bledel in Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life.PHOTO: NETFLIX

WASHINGTON • Every television nostalgia project in Hollywood is different, but tends to follow the same journey.

There is the slow-building rumour mill about the project, such as the many reunions among Full House cast members on social media that indeed resulted in the announcement of Fuller House.

There is the intense buzz that puts pressure on actors to return, even if some (such as Zachary Quinto in Heroes Reborn) decline to appear.

And there are sky-high expectations - which can quickly fizzle, a la the disappointing fourth season of Arrested Development.

This month, all eyes are on Netflix, with another much-hyped nostalgia offering: the revival of Gilmore Girls, the beloved Warner Bros drama that ran from 2000 to 2007 and followed a mother-daughter, best-friend duo (Lauren Graham as Lorelai and Alexis Bledel as Rory) in a small Connecticut town.

Titled Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life (premiering on Nov 25), the reboot consists of four 90- minute episodes that take the characters through winter, spring, summer and autumn. The anticipation is at a fever pitch, particularly because creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband, executive producer Dan Palladino, left the show before the final season. Fans will finally get to see the couple's vision for the end of the series. Here is how the reboot went from an idea to reality in 10 steps.

Step 1: Initial rumblings

How do Hollywood executives know whether there is enough interest to spend time and money on a TV reboot? They have to feel the excitement in the air.

In September 2014, Netflix announced that it was bringing all seven seasons to the streaming service. The Internet exploded over the news as fans rejoiced that they would not have to spring for expensive DVD sets or hope to catch reruns.

The creators started to think about new episodes when they saw the intense reaction the show received when first-time viewers suddenly started binge-watching. Netflix noticed as well.

"Our global licensing of Gilmore Girls around the world - the first seven seasons - enabled us to really get an insight into the idea that this was a real global and current cultural phenomenon," Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said.

Step 2: More rumblings

It is one thing to hear that people are psyched for a show. It is another to see it. In June last year, the Gilmore Girls cast reunited for the first time at the ATX Television Festival in Austin. The nearly two-hour panel thrilled people in the audience as well as fans breathlessly awaiting news on the outside.

Sherman-Palladino had been fielding questions about a reboot for years and during that discussion, she stoked the flames. "It would have to be honoured in a certain way," she cautioned, adding that everyone would jump at the chance if it felt right.

Scott Patterson, who plays Luke, said that was when the possibility of a revival became a reality. "I think ATX really kind of drove it home to all parties involved that it could work," he said at this past summer's Television Critics Association press tour.

Step 3: Official rumours

This is different from the project's actual announcement. Official rumours are when a very credible source essentially reports that the show is "in the works", which does not give away too much, but also causes fans to go crazy. It is a crucial way to build buzz.

For Gilmore Girls, editor and long-time fan Michael Ausiello had the honour of breaking the news before Netflix officially confirmed anything.

On Oct 19 last year, he tweeted: "Scoop: GILMORE GIRLS Limited-Series Revival Set at Netflix - This Is NOT a Drill", with a link to a story on his website.

Step 4: Fans lose their minds

Twenty minutes after Ausiello's tweet hit the Internet, articles from other publications started pouring in and #GilmoreGirls was a worldwide trending topic on Twitter.

Step 5: The conspiracies

Without any official word, fans get desperate for information and misinterpret things. Or do they?

In early January, pictures of the set being built on the Warner Bros lot in Los Angeles surfaced on a Facebook fan page called Gilmore Girls Forever. One photo had a set piece with a sign that said "Lizzy & Luke's house" and viewers freaked out: Did that mean Lorelai and probable soulmate Luke, apparently destined for happiness in the series finale, were not together anymore? After all, Luke's sister's name was Liz! Was he living with her?

Eventually, a commenter on the Facebook page floated the idea that maybe the set piece was meant for a different show filmed on the Warner Bros lot that featured characters named Luke and Lizzy. Still, blogs covered the potentially heartbreaking news with headlines such as "If these Gilmore Girls reboot set photos are real, abandon all hope".

Step 6: Official confirmation

Finally, Netflix confirmed the news at the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Jan 29: Gilmore Girls would return for four instalments, each one chronicling a different season. Graham tweeted: "It's time for me, and this jacket I stole in 2007, to return to work". It was retweeted 44,000 times.

Step 7: The casting

Who will be a part of the reboot?! For the next several weeks (filming officially started on Feb 2 and continued through May 10), there was a steady drip of news each day as various cast members confirmed their status via Twitter or Instagram. Sometimes, this leads to...

Step 8: The controversies

For a while, it seemed like Melissa McCarthy would not be joining the revival - in February, Sherman-Palladino said McCarthy (Bridesmaids, 2011, and The Heat, 2013) was too busy. Fans took this personally as the actress (who played Lorelai's best friend, chef Sookie St James) was an integral part of the series. Is it because she is too busy being a movie star now?

On April 7, she finally confirmed that her schedule allowed her to film. At the Television Critics Association summer press tour, Sherman-Palladino said everyone always knew it would happen.

"It took on this weird life of its own," she said of the faux-controversy. "Everybody wants everybody to hate one another now."

Step 9: The build-up

In April, Entertainment Weekly published the first batch of photos from the Netflix revival, which showed Rory and Lorelai walking through town, as well as Rory standing at the front of a classroom. (Did she quit journalism?) In July, the first teaser footage featured the mother-daughter duo riffing about comedians Amy Schumer and John Oliver. Then Netflix set a release date: All episodes will drop the day after Thanksgiving. Later, the Gilmore Girls Instagram account sent out a mysterious photo of an apple, which caused many to think Rory could be pregnant. (Long story.) Each small piece of news set off a wave across the Internet.

Step 10: The release

On Nov 25, fans will finally see if all of the above - and so much more - was actually worth it.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2016, with the headline 'Reviving the Gilmore Girls'. Subscribe