The 2016 Television Critics Association summer press tour began with an impressive showing from Netflix, which came to Los Angeles to promote The Crown, The Get Down, Luke Cage, and Stranger Things. But the TV press was far more excited about a presentation for a show that debuted back when Netflix was just a DVD-delivery service: Gilmore Girls. During its seven-season run on The WB and The CW, the story of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore inspired legions of fans with its rapid-fire dialogue (scripts were reportedly twice as long as usual hour-long shows), quirky small-town charm, and the fraught family drama that piled on top of all the wisecracks.
After a nearly nine-year absence, Gilmore Girls is returning to screens on Friday, November 25, in the form of a four-part miniseries, Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life. The revival has been the subject of much reporting and speculation, from the confirmation of returning characters to analysis of the official trailer. The TCA panel—which consisted of Lauren Graham (Lorelai), Alexis Bledel (Rory), Scott Patterson (Luke), creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, and executive producer Daniel Palladino—was light on the details, but did illuminate some of the negotiations that brought Gilmore Girls to Netflix. Sherman-Palladino protested the network’s habit of dropping all episodes at once and pushed for a more relaxed rollout: “I was going to hang myself with a shower curtain,” she said, but shrugged. “You don’t always get what you want.”
In roundtable interviews following the panel, the cast and producers provided further insight on the revival. First up: Amy Sherman-Palladino described transferring her usual 42-minute episode time frame into these four mini-movies.
The A.V. Club: In the panel you talked about what Netflix could offer you, as opposed to the networks, especially after your experience on Gilmore Girls and Bunheads. Could you elaborate on that?
Amy Sherman-Palladino: Network TV is very tough right now. They’re there to sell soap, in a sense. They’ve cut the format of shows up. Everything is geared toward a commercial. When we were doing Gilmore, what was it, two acts?
Daniel Palladino: It was four acts, but it was an hour long. And now, they’re up to six or seven acts.
AP: With a teaser, and the last 30 seconds can’t have content in it, because they’re going to squeeze it. Half of our best episodes, we would not have been able to do, because the last 30 seconds were our most emotional parts of the show. So it became a format that is not creatively fun to write in anymore. Which is what is so great about something like Netflix or all these great services, from a purely creative standpoint. 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. Without the world that we live in now, the world of Netflix—and we do live in the world of Netflix, it’s their world and we’re living in it—I just don’t think we would have ever revisited [it]. I just don’t think it would happen.
When Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel came to the roundtable, they stood up to introduce themselves to each journalist, who obviously already knew who they were.
The A.V. Club: We had to do a huge cast list feature on our site just to keep track of everyone returning to the show.
Lauren Graham: Yeah, our giant cast list this time. [To Bledel.] Is everybody a “returning”?
Alexis Bledel: I think so.
LG: Well, there’s some new people…
AB: Oh, there’s some new people.
LG: We’re almost giving away too much… accidentally! [Feigns gasp.]
LG: I couldn’t understand why we’d be done so early on Parenthood. It’s why I wrote a book [romantic novel Someday, Someday, Maybe]. Because I was like, “What am I supposed to do now? It’s 3 o’clock!” I honestly didn’t get that there was another way to do a one-hour drama. And just the transition… [To Bledel.] I don’t know how you felt, but it took me years, actually, transitioning out of [Gilmore Girls]. I went and did a musical. I went and did a couple movies, but it stuck with me for a long time until maybe even starting Parenthood and realizing I was on a different—it was our whole lives for that time, good times and tougher times. It’s like going to medical school, I imagine. [Laughs.] But, you know, life, that’s all it is: transitioning from one thing to the next. But definitely having some distance—had we made a movie right after, I don’t think we would have this special kind of… We would have liked it, but this was pretty different.
AB: Having this time in between the end of the series and the beginning of these episodes really does give us a lot of perspective on what the show meant to people and what it means for us creatively. It did take me a while to get this character out of my system as well. I didn’t even know how to go about doing that because I’d played this—
LG: It was your first job.
AB: It was my first job. And then it went on for so long, which was incredibly fortunate. So I also tried to play as many different characters as I could and reach as far as I could, sometimes in sort of strange directions. I just tried to play as many different characters as I would be allowed. It’s an important thing for an actor to do because then you learn what your wheelhouse is. [Laughs.] And you have to discover that. You can’t learn it any other way besides trying things. And I think I’m honing in on that. But it was fun to play different characters and work with different directors. Working on Mad Men was an incredible experience, of course. Such an incredible show with beautiful writing and so much complexity. Coming back to this character, she had grown up, and it was interesting that we get to go back to the characters in real time, because I’ve grown up the same amount probably. But in a very different environment. Getting to think about her and where she’s been, I mean, it doesn’t happen very often. It happens more now that people get this opportunity.
AVC: In the original series, was there a certain storyline you loved, a certain scene? What was the most fun for you?
LG: I always loved Luke’s Diner, because I’m always making fun of him, and he’s always trying to get me to take him seriously. For this book I’m writing [Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls To Gilmore Girls (And Everything in Between), which comes out on November 29], I haven’t looked at the show in a long time, and I still kind of… I need to remind myself of things. Little things. It’s just so clever. In one episode, I come down, and I’m in a newspaper veil. Do you remember this? I’m like, “Hold on to the Arts & Leisure section.” It never comes down to an arc. It’s always the little stuff that’s so smart. It’s so inventive. I was like, “God, that was so fresh.” Those little moments, mainly in the beginning between us, and then progressives, as the Luke and Lorelai story continues, there’s some good frisson between them two. And always Kelly [Bishop, who plays Lorelai’s sometimes-frosty mother Emily]. Kelly just has that voice and that manner. She’ll put you in your place. Those are always really fun.
AB: Yeah, it was great getting to shoot the scenes at the Gilmore house with Emily, because once she’s in a scene, everyone else is kind of at attention. She kind of brings everyone up to her level of energy and demands a certain response. So that tension is great to act against, and it gives everyone something extra to play. With so many great characters on this show, you get to be a character who gets to be a little bit different around different people. Getting to do the scenes at the Friday night dinners, my character has a certain amount of challenges there, but then to get to go do scenes with Keiko [Agena]’s character Lane… [Rory]’s very close to her mom, but she has this best friend where she gets to talk about different things. It’s kind of like real life; you’re kind of different around different people.
Later, we got to ask Scott Patterson the same question.
SP: Favorite episodes? Oh, gosh. I always enjoyed the pilot because…
AVC: There’s so much chemistry there.
SP: It’s when it was. You knew the flowers were going to be beautiful. The chemistry was there. It was flying all over the place. And you knew the soil was rich. You just knew.