We're now only a couple weeks away from the release of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, the highly anticipated Netflix revival that spans a single year in the lives of the lovable, loquacious Gilmores. That means it's time to start looking at how these four new episodes, which debut Friday, Nov. 25 on the streaming service, are similar to or different from the ones in the original series.
The good news is that the charming town of Stars Hollow is still the same, wacky world a decade on and most — though not all — of your favorite supporting characters are returning. Though the sets had to be rebuilt and thus may look a little different — the Gilmore house is a little larger than it used to be — the move to Netflix changes very little about the core of the series and what made it a reliably enjoyable detour from every day life for seven years. But that doesn't mean there won't be a few changes to be found when these new episodes make their debut later this month.
The most obvious difference is also the most emotionally affecting: the absence of Edward Herrmann's Richard (the actor passed away in 2014). As Emily's (Kelly Bishop) husband, Lorelai's (Lauren Graham) father and Rory's (Alexis Bledel) grandfather, Richard was a strong presence in the original series even when he didn't have a lot to say; and that presence remains. The fact that Richard is gone does not mean he's forgotten. The first episode, titled "Winter," picks up just four months after his funeral and Lauren Graham, who plays the pop culture-loving Lorelai, revealed at the Television Critics Association summer press tour earlier this year that Richard's death heavily influences this new chapter of the show's run.
"One of the aspects of this show that felt the same but different is, in the wake of losing Ed — which was, and still is, a great loss for us personally — it was also part of our story that we were telling, which was the journey of how everyone is sort of recovering. And that gave the show a depth and a sort of emotional complexity that, again, just felt to me like 'here's the show grown up even more.' And I mention that because it plays into all the choices the characters are making and sort of what they're dealing with in a new way."
Each of the Gilmore women will all attempt to deal with their shared grief over Richard's passing in their own way. As Emily attempts to de-clutter her life in favor of focusing on the things that bring her joy (looks like someone has been reading Marie Kondo!), attempting to process Richard's death will have Lorelai reevaluating some aspects of her own life and making some decisions about her future.
One of the other key differences between the original series and the revival is episode length. Each new chapter in the Gilmores' lives is approximately 90 minutes long — give or take a few minutes — which is more than double the running time of the 153 episodes that aired on The WB and The CW between 2000 and 2007. But despite a few initial issues, making the transition to streaming from network TV, which series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino says is "not creatively fun to write in anymore," appears to have been relatively smooth behind the scenes. She also credits Netflix as the reason these new episodes exist at all.
"Purely from a creative standpoint, [at Netflix] it's pure storytelling for the sake of storytelling and it's not dictated by what marketing is saying you need to do or not do," Sherman-Palladino told a small group of reporters this past summer. "Without [Netflix], I don't think we would have ever revisited [this story]. I don't think it would have happened."
However, Sherman-Palladino did admit to facing a rather unique — though maybe not surprising — challenge when writing the revival's four feature-length episodes.
"When we pitched it was four 90 minutes movies and then we walked out and went, 'How are we going to fill 90 minutes?'" recalled Sherman-Palladino. "Because when you're on network television it's not an hour. It's 42 minutes. We were talking about 90 minutes packed, and then by the time we were finished breaking out the story we had to start taking stuff out because we had way too much stuff."
"The trick here actually was not taking the snappy banter further," she continued. "Because it's 90 minutes with no commercial, it was varying the feel of each piece enough so that it doesn't just feel like a hail storm, that everything resonates. ... For all of us, the actors and us writing it, figuring out where those moments were, where you were hitting that and where the moments are, you need to take a step back and play the moment so it feels like a cohesive piece."
Daniel Palladino, Amy's husband and an executive producer on both the original series and the revival, added that the writing process for the new episodes was exactly the same as it's always been.
"We did with this what we did with the series. We spent months on the story, which is really the most important thing for us. The cake and the frosting is the dialogue," he said. "By the time we each get into writing what we're writing, the story is all laid out so the dialogue is just sort comes very naturally and fast and quick. The story is there to be the foundation for it."
All four 90-minutes episodes of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life premiere Friday, Nov. 25 on Netflix.