Thursday, September 11, 2014

John's Favorite Shows #3: Gilmore Girls

In case you're new to the blog, I'm doing a countdown of my favorite television shows and their best episodes.  If you’ve missed any of them, check out the links at the bottom of this post for all of the past roundups.

Considering the show just got some great news (you will now be able to watch the entire series on Netflix, so no excuses on not seeing all of the below episodes), I figured it was time to unveil my bronze medal in my favorite shows list: Gilmore Girls.

It's worth noting that like many of the shows on this list (save Desperate Housewives) I didn't come to this series right away.  However, in this specific case this wasn't my fault as this was back in the days when The WB was not carried by a large number of affiliates, my hometown included.  It wasn't until college when I realized that this was just one of those classic, brilliant ensembles that would likely be celebrated by select circles of Stars Hollow enthusiasts for the end of time, even if most people just referred to it as that show where everyone talked really quickly.

I find in all of these write-ups (which take an eternity to write, so I'm not promising when the final two are out, but I'll work on it) I get to the reasons that I love the show fairly quickly, so I won't delve too much into it right now.  I think though, as a fan, it would be a shame if I didn't use this brief platform to add to the chorus of people who thought canning Amy Sherman-Palladino (such a creative genius, and someone who should have gotten a second season for Bunheads) was an idiotic move that ruined the final season of the show (there will be no Season 7 episodes on this list for a reason, and quite frankly none even if I did a Top 50 episodes list).  The show was headed in some interesting directions (Lorelai perhaps ending up with Christopher, Stars Hollow becoming too twee for its own good, Luke starting a non-Lorelai life), and I wanted to see where that went, but the seventh season was just dreadful.

Still, let's not focus on that-let's focus on the six years of excellence that preceded it, particularly the below ten episodes!

10. "They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They?" (#3.7)

Part of me hates this episode, as I was decidedly pro-Dean at the time and was not ready for Jared Padalecki to get out of my life (what a tall, tall, beautiful man-I had a serious case of the crushes).  However, in the years since I have come to understand the appeal of the brooding, bookish Jess from the wrong side of the tracks (Logan, on the other hand has no appeal to me what-so-ever).  Still, this was one of the dramatic high points of the show, set of course to a ridiculously silly plot (Lorelai and Rory participating in a dance marathon, hence the Jane Fonda-influenced title of the episode).  By the end of the episode Rory was heartbroken, Lorelai was confused, and Kirk emerged victorious as the winner of the dance marathon.

9. "The Bracebridge Dinner" (#2.10)

If we're going to spend some time on the Jess and Rory relationship, I suppose the Bracebridge Dinner is probably a decent place to start.  Here we found that Jess indeed had his eyes on Dean's girl, and in particular was willing to fight dirty (literally-he actually came close to punching Dean!) to get her.  Elsewhere, though, this is one of those great Sookie episodes (Melissa McCarthy before she became everyone's favorite celebrity), with her attempting to teach the entire staff Old English, and convincing poor Jackson to play the Squire.  Additionally, we got to see Emily bunking with Lorelai and Rory, and one of the best sight gags of the series with Emily and Lorelai doing their night time makeup routine in the exact same way (Rory proclaiming, "behold, my future!" to Lorelai's horror).  Throw in a snowman that looks like Bjork and you've got a sparkling Gilmore episode.

8. "The Incredible Shrinking Lorelais" (#4.14)

I feel like there may become a pattern here between drama and comedy (the show did a very strong job of balancing both, though again this was something the seventh season couldn't muster...though that's the last we speak of it).  This was a particularly dramatic one, with Lorelai and Rory watching their lives fall to shambles.  Lorelai in particular had one of those great moments you rarely see in a television world that is fixated on the problems of married/coupled people: trying and failing to do it all when there is no one around to help her (it always feels weird to not like Sookie in this episode, but you get there when she seems to not take responsibility with Lorelai even though she's a co-owner of their new inn).  At the end of the episode, we see Lorelai break down to a married Luke, and mirroring her, a lonely Rory break down to a married Dean, and we know trouble is on its way for one or both of them.

7. "Raincoats and Recipes" (#4.22)

And just a few episodes later we see that trouble come to a head, albeit in two extremely different ways.  First off is Rory, finally losing her virginity not to Jess but to her original boyfriend Dean, and we see one of those rare Rory/Lorelai blow-ups at the end of the episode when Rory hates Lorelai for ruining their moment together.  It's one of Alexis Bledel's most natural acting moments, and one of the few times where she let her Rory be a bit more her age (that was always something that truly worked for the show, the odd sister/mother aspect of it, but occasionally Rory being immature helped to ground the uniqueness of the relationship).  We also saw Lorelai finally kiss Luke, in what had become a long time coming at that point (I was never 100% sold on their relationship because I agreed with Christopher-Lorelai was meant for bigger things than Luke, but at the very least they needed to let it happen to see where it went), and we also saw Emily finally admit her marriage had fallen apart after Lorelai pushing and pushing her to state the obvious.

6. "I Can't Get Started" (#2.22)

Let's start out with one of those truly wonderful Sookie moments in the series: I cannot describe how much I loved that Sookie randomly decides to listen to "I Can't Get Started" as she walks down the aisle, one of those great unrequited love songs because "who listens to the words?"  Seriously-I listened to this song endlessly after this episode (it became a personal favorite), but I am decidedly Team Sookie here-this is a terribly romantic song and I rarely listen to the words.  Meanwhile, the girls turned into a pair of desperate housewives in this episode, with Lorelai finally succumbing to Christopher just as Sherry comes back in the picture and announces she's pregnant and Rory finding herself in-between Dean and Jess once again after she tells Jess to stay and kisses him.  And of course, we get one of those rare weddings on the show, with Sookie and Jackson saying "I do."

5. "The Big One" (#3.16)

This episode could be on here due to Sookie's pregnancy announcement or for Lorelai getting one last look into Max Medina (seriously-this was the guy you should have gone for darling-they don't get much sexier), but it's not.  It's here for two reasons.  One is Paris's hilarious, wonderful, bitter, and real admission on C-Span that she didn't get into Harvard, and she blamed it on the fact that she had sex, outing Rory as a virgin in the process.  It's one of Liza Weil's best moments on the show, and an absolute train wreck where you cannot tell if you should laugh or cry while she's caught in the word vomit.  And it's also there because Rory, after three years of hard work, dedication, and sweat, came home to the "big one," in terms of college envelopes, getting accepted to Harvard, Princeton, and the soon to be victorious Yale.

4. "Twenty-One is the Loneliest Number" (#6.7)

Can we all just marvel at the list of guest stars this show got through the years?  Christiane Amanpour, Norman Mailer, and most impressively, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in a dream sequence with Rory where she gave the dynamite/splits speech.  I mean, that is a ballsy casting director if you ask me to ask one of the world's most powerful women to give a speech about Denny's and the pains of child birth.  This was also the beginning of the end of the feud (I was with Lane on this one-these two needed a proper fight at some point), and the start of the Wile E. Coyote style plans of Emily's to keep Rory from having sex with Logan.  Lorelai's devastating moment with Rory late in the episode when they briefly discuss the party after which Rory is whisked away and Lorelai realizes that she won't get to be a part of every moment of her life is heartbreaking, and a wonderful moment for Lauren Graham.

3. "The Lorelais' First Day at Yale" (#4.2)

The bulk of the episodes so far have all been some of the dramatic ones, but I promise for these top three that we are full of evidence that this was a comedy at some points too.  This episode, the best of the latter half of the series, brings Rory to Yale.  I cannot tell you what my favorite moments of this episode are.  Maybe they would be Luke dealing with a cavalcade of cartoonish lawyer cliches in his diner.  Maybe it would be Lorelai deciding to grade the pizza deliver guys based on their cuteness (for the record, I totally did this in college after seeing this episode and Jimmy John's on Thursdays was the best...oh, Tyler, how I miss you).  Maybe it's the moment when Rory realizes her new roommate is going to be Paris (yes, it's probably this moment).  Whatever it is, this was a wonderful episode full of all the clinginess that we needed from this inseparable pair forced to separate.

2. "That Damn Donna Reed" (#1.14)

I usually find myself when I'm watching the Gilmore Girls caught in a time dilemma.  Do I put one on, knowing that I will be sucked into endless binge-watching wanting to get to the end?  When I do, I nearly always find myself suckered into needing to see Rory Gilmore pretend to be Donna Reed.  For those who have been scoffing my pro-Dean ways, this is one of the episodes that did it for me.  Dean was so hilariously sexy as a befuddled guy not sure what's going on with his girlfriend trying to impersonate the quintessential 50s housewife.  I love the pearls, the orange shoes, the Jello-it's all kitsch delish.  There are other things to love about this episode (particularly the "Europe in the fall" conversation with Emily and Richard), but it's all about Rory and Dean here.

1. "Kiss and Tell" (#1.7)

And oddly it's about Lorelai and Dean here.  I find it funny that while I do comb through my favorite episodes pretty closely to make these lists that so many of these ten are focused on Rory and Lorelai (and apparently Dean), as I really loved Emily, Paris, and Sookie in particular from the supporting cast, but maybe the show was at its best when it was focusing on the main characters?  Who knows, but this is easily my favorite episode of the series, and grounded why I love the show.  I think it may be the one-liners being at an all-time high here that draws me ("You can't kill's double coupon day-it'll bring down the town", "No Nancy Walker impressions," "So...kiss any good boys lately?") or the over-protective nature of Lorelai in her speech to Dean ("She's not riding on your motorcycle").  Whatever it is, this is the episode that I grab hold of most tightly and smile the entire way through-a treat from start to finish.

Those are my favorites, but there must be a few Stars Hollow fans out there-any episodes you'd re-rank or that I missed?  What are you opinions on the season that we shall not speak its name?  And of course: Team Jess, Team Dean, Team Logan, Team Luke, Team Christopher, Team Max-sound off in the comments people!

For more of my favorites: GirlsPushing DaisiesHow I Met Your MotherGame of ThronesThe OfficeAlly McBealSex and the CityDesperate HousewivesSouth ParkMad MenThe Twilight Zone, Friends

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