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You know how addicts will often make excuses for their behavior, fooling themselves into thinking they’re in control? “I only smoke when I drink.” “I only drink with friends.” “I can stop eating Fiddle Faddle whenever I want to.”


Over the past several months, I’ve been going through a similar period of denial, but it’s got nothing to do with drugs, alcohol or even sweet ‘n’ salty snacks (though I do love me some Fiddle Faddle). No, my issue is far worse. Somehow, despite my best efforts, I’ve become a watcher of Gilmore Girls.


cover art

Gilmore Girls: The Complete Series Collection

(WB, CW; US DVD: 13 Nov 2007)

How did this happen? I used to watch the show only rarely, when forced. After moving in with my girlfriend about a year and a half ago, my viewings became slightly more regular, as she would use the Gilmores’ inane banter as background noise for her marathon grading sessions. Eventually, it got to the point where I might even begrudgingly suggest the show from among the many uninspiring options on our DVR. However, it wasn’t until I began to occasionally turn it on when alone (mostly during the television deserts known as Sunday afternoons after football season) that I realized I had a problem.


Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with Gilmore Girls which gained legions of fans during its seven-season run on the WB and CW networks. Sure, it’s not exactly profound, but it’s not like Lorelai and Rory were the first marks on an otherwise unblemished viewing record. My ability to claim to have any kind of standards probably died somewhere between my 15th and 16th viewings of The Hills—though I do think the show was a lot more defensible during the first season.


While following a storyline about the trials of a mother and daughter may not be demographically the most masculine thing in the world, neither is my unabashed enjoyment of ABC Family original movies. I may be the sole reason that Melissa Joan Hart still has a semblance of a career.


So what, exactly, is the problem here? Though I can finally admit to watching Gilmore Girls, I like it about as much as I ever did. Which is to say, very little. I hate most things about the show, from the aforementioned “witty” repartee to the overdone relationship drama. I find myself rolling my eyes at least a few times per episode, but if I’m having any reaction at all (“stop going back to Logan, you idiot!”), I guess that means the producers have already won.


Basically, every episode I watch is just an exercise in self-loathing, one that begins with the theme music. “Where You Lead” is a 1971 Carole King song that she re-recorded, appropriately, with her daughter, Louse Goffin. The opening actually does a pretty good job of introducing the show; if you weren’t aware you were about to see 44-minutes worth of relationship talk, you’ll probably get it from the inspirational lyrics (“if you need, need me to be with you, I will follow where you lead”) and images of Lorelai and Rory hugging each other.


However, you have to think that anyone taking the time to watch this show in reruns is probably already a fairly dedicated fan—or, like me, someone who doesn’t need the extra reminder of the person he’s become. Once a show goes into syndication, I believe its opening credits sequence should be abridged as much as possible (unless it’s The Cosby Show, of course).  If the ABC Family folks need a good example, they should check out TBS’s airing of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which gives viewers just a small taste of the classic rap opening. This provides less opportunity for the shame spiral to kick in.


King is just one of many musical artists who guest-star on the show. Others include Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach, Joel Gion of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Grant Lee Phillips, who appears occasionally as Gilmore Girls’ very own troubadour, strumming and singing his way through Stars Hollow’s town square. Phillips’ presence is the kind of quirky touch—along with Lorelai naming her dog Paul Anka—that is supposed to make me love this show, but it’s more emblematic of the reason I can’t fully get on board: It’s just trying too hard.


Gilmore Girls is inundated with pop-culture references, with nearly every episode including several allusions to movies, books or bands (see Gilmore-ism.com for a list of all of them). Some of it is done with cleverness (title of Episode 307: “They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?”), but when it comes to music, subtlety usually goes out the window. Lane, Rory’s best friend, is the most obvious culprit/conduit for the show’s writers. Her love for music is well-documented throughout the show; she hides CDs under her floorboards and practices drums in the dark at a local music store in order to escape detection by her overbearing, culturally suspicious mother.


When she finally gets up the nerve to look for bandmates, the resulting ad is a who’s who of rock references spanning five pages, suggesting that the writers have some sense of humor regarding their pop-culture obsession. That doesn’t mean it gets any less blatant, though; her band, Hep Alien, provides a perfect foil for more name-dropping: everyone from Pretty Girls Make Graves to Tokyo Police Club is mentioned for no apparent reason other than to show that the writers know who these artists are.


The producers of Gilmore Girls, Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband, David Palladino, have talked about the strong role that music has played in their lives, and I don’t begrudge them the opportunity to play out that impact within their creation. My problem is not with the premise—that much of what we say and how we act is strongly influenced by the cultural material we ingest—but with the over-the-top execution. I once had a conversation built entirely around Big Lebowski quotes, but it doesn’t mean I always talk like that.


At times, the obsession with cultural touchstones in Gilmore Girls does hit home, however. We all go through something like the courting ritual between Rory and Jess (Luke’s nephew and the ‘bad boy’ of Stars Hollow during his brief tenure there—what, do I have to draw you a family tree?). The two use cultural knowledge as a way to evaluate each other’s worthiness as a friend and potential dating partner; their mutual enjoyment of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” is a jumping-off point for their relationship.


There’s no doubt that cultural taste plays at least some role in how we choose our friends and significant others.You don’t have to match perfectly, but some level of congruity can help ensure you’ll always have something to talk about. All I’m saying, guys, is that before you get too serious, you might want to take a look at your partner’s DVR recordings or Netflix queue. If you’re not careful, you could one day find yourself regularly watching—and writing 1,200 words about—a girly show that ended three years ago.


Ben is a writer, editor and partly reformed music snob living near Boston. He has a website, like everyone else.
 
 
 


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