‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ review: It feels like coming home

Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel in 'Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.'. Netflix

Welcome (back) to Stars Hollow. Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel), along with the bursting sidecar of supporting characters, are back, fast-talking their way through life’s everyday problems.

As of Friday at 12:01 a.m. ET, Netflix Canada will have four new 90-minute episodes of Gilmore Girls 2.0, officially known as Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, available to stream. Each episode corresponds with a season of the year, progressing from winter to fall.

In the opening five minutes of the first episode, Winter, it takes a moment to catch up with the insanely paced dialogue (some things never change). There are references to Uber, Goop, air travel, yoga and several more pop culture “things” in the inaugural dialogue between mother and daughter.

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“Haven’t done that for a while,” says Lorelai as Rory gasps for air after the particularly long diatribe. Get it? Wink wink.

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Gilmore Girls is virtually critic-proof. Beloved by legions of fans, nitpicking the show’s shortcomings is a fruitless endeavour. Sure, some people want to rip their ears off at the first utterance of Gilmore Girls dialogue, but chances are those aren’t the folks who’ll be watching this revival.

With so many old TV shows returning in a new, polished-yet-somehow-unsatisfying form, it’s not out-of-the-question to be skeptical of yet another reboot. The original series ran from 2000 to 2007, and that was a different time; the world is considerably more volatile, so it can be argued that there’s a place for a Gilmore Girls-type show. Wholesome, slightly humorous, saccharine and so totally harmless, the show provides a nice respite from the endless onslaught of violent, highly complex options.

It’s nostalgic, all right.

Even one glimpse of Rory and Lorelai sipping on coffee in the snow is enough to take you back to a different time. If you like your nostalgic journeys all-encompassing and relentless, you’re in for a treat. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is a safe place, a warm spot by the fire that millions of Americans will be cozying up in on their Thanksgiving weekend.

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Seeing Lorelai and Rory type away on their iPhones makes this Gilmore Girls reboot seem slightly out-of-place, in that you’d expect the two of them to be using Motorola or Nokia flip-phones while wearing capris and talking about N’ Sync instead. There’s something about Stars Hollow that’s Pleasantville-like, almost as if nothing evil can penetrate its borders — and that could be the overarching appeal of Gilmore Girls: Epic tragedies, non-ironic cynicism and senseless murders, the mainstays of modern network TV, have no place here.

The lengthier episodes are a bit jarring.

Gilmore Girls fans are used to 40-ish minutes per episode, where things would move along snappily (like the dialogue), and commercial breaks would provide mini-breaks in the action. Now, the episode length is more than double that and there are no commercials, so some of the plotlines and scenes drag on. Where you might expect the episode to end and the credits to roll, you’ve still got another 30 minutes before resolution.

As a result, it feels like the showrunners may have resorted to filling the gaps with unessential things: there are a lot of brief cameos, some of which are unnecessary, and there’s a whole musical sideplot that doesn’t need to be there in the first place.

If you’re a true fan, you will experience at least one ugly cry.

And you won’t have to wait long! Emily is dealing with the death of her husband of 50 years, Richard (as played by Edward Hermann, who died in 2014), so there’s a funeral and all the requisite introspection that comes along with it. The post-funeral conversations between Emily and Lorelai sometimes hit you right in the feels, too.

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And if that doesn’t tickle your sad bone, then there are plenty of other opportunities to use up those tissues.

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Don’t worry, the whimsy and magic are still there.

While you will most likely cry, and despite the wholly false pretense that a mother, daughter and their extended family actually have relationships like this, the escapism the show provides overrides all else. Watching the Gilmore Girls, there is no fear about what awaits around the bend. So while you have to suspend disbelief when the fast-talking reaches Mach speed, you can rest, comfortably knowing you’re among friends. The foundational architecture of the show, the excessive whimsy, never disappears.

Expect Emmy nominations come awards season.

In some ways, it’s like Graham and Bledel never left their characters behind. Even though they haven’t embodied them for almost 10 years, it seems as if they’re putting on a pair of old, comfy slippers. In what seems like an impossible feat, the two actresses make the mile-a-minute chatter seem like something they actually do on a regular basis.

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A Year in the Life has a tight focus on familial relationships, and how, as we grow up, those bonds restrict and/or expand, and both leads convincingly portray Rory and Lorelai navigating those waters.

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At this past summer’s Television Critics Association press tour, Graham said the episodes “show how these bonds take us through all the different stages of our lives.”

“It’s not a story about a little girl anymore who’s in high school,” she said. “It’s a story of a young woman and all the struggles she faces and the dynamics between these two women. They’ve grown up, but they’re the same.”

‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ starts streaming on Netflix Canada on Nov. 25, 2016.

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