overthinking the idiot box

October 17, 2005

Gilmore Girls: Season 4

by Vicki Karigiannis

The WB dramedy Gilmore Girls, now entering its sixth season, explores the bond between young-and-hip single mother, Lorelai, and her smart-as-a-whip daughter, Rory. It's a study of family relationships: while the duo remain freakishly joined at the hip, Lorelai's relationship with her WASP parents is dysfunctional, having to do with the fact that Lorelai had a baby at 16 and ran away from her cushy life in upper-class Hartford. Scars still remain, and provides for a lot of drama splashed with even more humor.

Gilmore Girls returned for its fourth season in the fall of 2003 with high hopes. Season 3 ended with Rory's high school graduation and the girls leaving for their much-anticipated European trip. Once back home, we knew exciting things were surely ahead for our girls. After all, dreams were starting to come true: Rory was to begin her four-year stint as a Yale undergraduate, and Lorelai was to begin work on her very own inn.

Something, however, was lacking soon after Rory moved out of her mom's house and into the dorms. Critics thought it was the fact that Rory was not a high school student anymore and that witty repartee between mother and daughter was exchanged over the phone, and not in person. But they needed to live their lives independently for a bit, even though it meant a dip in the ratings.

We watch Lorelai frantically going over the high-cost of opening one's own business. Not something that would keep viewers on the edge of their seats, but not quite a bore to the extent of "Will she go for darks or pastels? Tune in next week!" either. Most viewers were happy to watch this storyline unfold. Especially since Rory's days at Yale weren't as exciting as they should have been. Never having been a social butterfly, her lack of socializing did not come as a surprise. While showing up to class an hour early to scope out a good seat was cute, a plot regarding a study tree? That's when you knew they needed to shake things up just a little.

But to everyone's surprise, it is actually Richard and Floyd who turn on Jason. The insurance industry has never been this exciting!
Grandpa Richard embarks on a business union with Jason Stiles, the son of his former business partner, Floyd. The viewer is at first made certain that Jason just has to have some back-stabbing agenda up his sleeve, even as he enters a secret relationship with Lorelai. But to everyone's surprise, it is actually Richard and Floyd who turn on Jason. The insurance industry has never been this exciting!

The show had certainly grabbed the audience's attention once again, and thus began the final five episodes that can be deemed as some of the show's best: Richard joins forces with his former nemesis to prevent a lawsuit; Lorelai admonishes her father for betraying her boyfriend, but ultimately chooses family when Jason decides to countersue; Emily separates from Richard after 39 years of marriage: he has kept too many secrets for her to think he has any respect for her; finally-divorced Luke courts the newly-single Lorelai, culminating with two heated kisses and a million shippers' squeals being heard worldwide.

But it was Rory's storyline that literally ended with a bang: after a year of being stuck in a romantic rut, she jumps the one guy who has always been there for her: married ex-boyfriend, Dean. Even after getting one helluva verbal smackdown from her mother (who found them together — awkward!), she doesn't truly grasp the severity of her actions. Season four started out strong and finished off stronger still. It wavered in between, with episodes varying from great (The Reigning Lorelai) to good (Nag Hammadi is Where They Found the Gnostic Gospels) to plain ol' filler (The Nanny and the Professor). Pretty common for any TV series. Overall, season four was not as bad as critics and fans made it out to be.

This DVD set, though, truly was a downer: the requisite deleted scenes, of which there were only two, were not even delightful; a montage of the season's most romantic moments was okay, but very similar to the one in the season 3 set. The only new feature is a trivia quiz that is rather easy to ace. And knowing how hilarious Amy Sherman-Palladino is — and how much she enjoys talking — it is sad that no audio commentary is included. Not unusual, though, as prior seasons failed to come with any, as well.

It is a treat, however, for all factoid geeks. Even though the Pop-Up gimmick is out-of-date, it works in Girls in Bikinis, Boys Doin' the Twist. The viewer is treated with the history of the donut, of socks, and of keys. (Who says you can't learn anything from TV!) Other random facts are brought up for the viewer's enjoyment and education. Not all the episodes come with the Pop-Up feature, thus the DVD comes with a handy booklet on Gilmore-isms. The show is renowned for its cultural references, both popular and obscure, so it's something useful to have when some references go right above one's head.

This set did not offer much. Luckily, the upcoming season 5 DVDs will include an audio commentary (yay!) and killer features, including Easter eggs. Maybe then I can say something positive about this show's DVD attempts other than "Oh, they chose a pretty color for the cover!"

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