Are you the biggest Gilmore Girls fan in New York City?
Not until you beat one of these guys in a trivia night.
“It’s sad how many times I have to explain the rules of True or False in an adult trivia game,” Bobby Latrenta admitted with a laugh. For the record, there’s no need to clarify why an answer is false, and no cheating by mutating the T to “kind of” look like an F like we all did in third grade.
Bobby is talking to the crowd at a Gilmore Girls trivia night, and the lively mix of women and three men (one of whom is Bobby, the host) gathered at Blank Slate Coffee + Kitchen in Midtown are true fans. There’s something about the exposed brick wall, large cups of coffee, and delicious-looking sandwiches being passed around that makes this venue seem like a modern-day Luke’s diner.
“What do you want to do after you get out of your 9 to 5? You want to go to the pub, get a drink, chill out. But now you get to do that and be in a room full of people who love the same show as you do,” says Bobby. He works as a project manager for restaurants by day, but by night he hosts a variety of such quiz nights for TriviaAD, a company that organizes television and film themed trivia nights throughout the city.
Gilmore Girls, though, is (probably) his favorite.
Gilmore Girls is the beloved television show that followed the lives of Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter Rory, who live in the (unfortunately) fictional town of Stars Hollow, near Hartford, Connecticut. The relationship between the mother daughter duo is the most striking aspect of the show; the pair are not only best friends, but their dialogue is primarily funny, always fast paced, and overflowing with (sometimes obscure) pop culture references. There’s also Richard and Emily Gilmore, Rory’s grandparents, and the various love interests of both Lorelai and Rory. The show follows Rory through high school and into university, exploring the unique Gilmore family dynamic and following a varied set of supporting characters.
“There’s no unlikeable characters in that show. Even the villains are not really that villain-y,” Bobby explains. But he maintains that the true reason for the show’s enduring success is the writing. In fact, out of all the fans in Blank Slate that night, the most cited explanation for the show’s success is always that unique dialogue, full of creative, intelligent jokes.
This is one of the reasons why fans are particularly excited for Netflix’s revival of the show — it will consist of four 90 minute long episodes all written and directed by the show’s original writers, Amy Sherman Palladino and her husband Daniel. Although there’s no airdate as of yet, filming has begun and the Internet is already buzzing with speculation. This news has made trivia nights like the one organized by TriviaAD more popular.
TriviaAD started in 2009 and now has over 30 people hosting 20 different trivia themes. Questions come from what Bobby calls a “show bible,” essentially a thick dossier of potential questions that hosts create while meticulously re-watching episodes of their assigned shows. Although it might seem like such close watching would drain the fun out of watching a show, these people are already huge fans anyway.
“We get hired because we know these shows. Asking me to write Gilmore Girls trivia was not a daunting prospect,” Bobby says. Bobby assures me there is enough material in his “Gilmore Girls bible” that the questions he asks on the night I watch him host won’t be used for “another four months.”
There are always five rounds: General Knowledge, Quotes, True or False, Character ID, and the Lightning Round. Before each round, colorful, game-specific answer sheets are distributed. The fans of Gilmore Girls at Blank Slate giggled and took photos of each answer sheet as they received them, recognizing the Daughters of the American Revolution certificate or Luke’s Diner menu or Yale Daily News homepage as inside jokes that they shared with everyone else in the room.
Dave Oliver, the founder of TriviaAD, recognizes the power of a room full of adoring fans. At Blank Slate, fans shouted out answers to questions and laughed as they remembered obscure references. “There’s such an emotional component to the trivia nights, and we really take it to heart,” Dave says. “It’s all about bringing people together and providing this experience that submerges you in fandom. That’s what TriviaAD is really all about.”
While this is true of any trivia night, it seems especially true for Gilmore Girls.
How has this show, that references Paul Anka and Casablanca on a regular basis, that ended before Twitter existed, captivated audiences to this day? It’s a combination of fortunate timing and companies like TriviaAD that create communities around shows that people love.
Because Gilmore Girls aired in a pre-Netflix, pre-binge watching, pre-Twitter era, 20somethings who now go to these trivia nights truly grew up with the show.
Take Christina Scotti, 26, a big Gilmore Girls fan, for example. She grew up in an admittedly television loving household, but Gilmore Girls was different. “I think it brought us together as a family, as cliché or weird as that may sound,” she says. She watched it on the couch, with commercials and everything, with her sister and parents every week.
Christina’s sister, Jenna, was on the same “timeline” as Rory — when Jenna was applying to colleges, Rory was visiting Yale and Harvard (even though I haven’t personally investigated it, it seems safe to say no college dorms in the country look as nice as the ones Rory visited. The show was filmed in Hollywood, after all). When Rory graduated college, Jenna was looking for a job. “It brings a sense of nostalgia. When I watch some of the episodes now I can remember watching for the first time,” she says. And that means remembering what it was like to be a teenager.
For Christina, that element of nostalgia is inseparable from the show. “Saying ‘I remember when I was 14’ is different from watching it when you are 14,” she says. For her, it added to her development. Although she was big into fantasy books, especially Harry Potter, it took seeing Rory — someone similar in age to her, going to school like her and embroiled in the same teenage situations as she was — read to get her to branch out. “I read so many different genres and I honestly feel like there is a direct correlation to seeing Rory do it. Even though she wasn’t a real person, it made me want to try it.”
The show’s focus on a multigenerational family also means it has a multigenerational appeal. Christina once wrote a paper on Gilmore Girls in college. “My professor had never seen the show,” she explains. “I gave him the DVDs. He became obsessed with the show — a grown man!”
Nicole Bryson, another fan-turned-host for TriviaAD, had a similar experience. The show was relatable from the very first scene of the first episode. “When the guy tries to hit on Lorelai and then tries to hit on Rory, that totally has happened to my mom and I,” she says, adding, “It’s just… dude, no.”
As an only child who was very close to her mother, she started watching the show around the age of 14 with her mom as bonding time, and continued right through to college, where she’d watch it every week with her roommates. They even watched the finale together. “Mostly, I was just sad that I didn’t get to be in that world anymore,” Nicole says of the last episode.
Bobby, for his part, champions the relationships developed throughout the show’s 7 seasons. “It’s the last great depiction of great female friendships on television,” he says. There is, of course, the rich mother-daughter relationship between Lorelai and Rory. There are also other mother-daughter relationships: the thorny Emily and Lorelai duo and the softer Rory-Emily pair. Bobby personally champions the Paris-Rory friendship.
In other words, watching a television show as a family means sharing an experience within a close community. At the same time, watching a character’s life reflect back on your own has lasting effects. Gilmore Girls has been able to maintain its audience because their audiences could see their own experiences on screens. As they grew up, though, and life got harder, that nostalgia became a powerful marketing tool.
This is why the revival announcement has sparked such media frenzy in the past couple of months. Entertainment Weekly got the exclusive interview with the cast and writers, but the pictures it released were even more explosive. Rory in front of a blackboard? Lorelai and Luke holding hands (where’s the wedding ring!)? Emily still looking regal and like she is about to say the most cutting insult of all time? This kind of coverage would not exist for a new show because the audience would not be excited in characters they do not already know. However, audiences got to know these characters intimately for 7 seasons and have not heard from them since 2006.
TriviaAD exists in the happy intersection between the attention the show has received recently and the show’s enduring, loving fan base that has survived without anything to feed it for nearly a decade. The company provides a service that is difficult to measure, but easily grasped when hearing the the loud laughs and feeling the friendly competitive atmosphere at Blank Slate on the night of Bobby’s Gilmore Girls trivia night.
Whereas a modern show like Game of Thrones has dedicated Twitter hashtags, professional reviews posted on countless pop culture websites within hours, and online communities constantly abuzz with theories, fan fiction, and spoilers, Gilmore Girls fans have no dedicated night, no organized means to declare their love for their beloved show. TriviaAD fills that gap by creating a social experience powered by the fans themselves.
Christina went to enough TriviaAD nights that one day she asked to be a host and soon became an integral part of the team. “People think I’m crazy… I have co-workers that are like ‘I’m sorry, you do what? People come to that?’” she says. But then she starts asking sample trivia questions. They realize they know the answers. Some co-workers have even shown up to her trivia nights.
Nicole started out the same way. After moving to the city and finding out about a Buffy the Vampire Slayer trivia (also organized by TriviaAD), she realized there was an outlet for all the knowledge of the show she’d watched growing up. Bobby has so much fun that he wishes this was his legitimate full time job. In short, TriviaAD has proven that when shows are good enough to create a cult following, there will always be a way of creating a community — not to mention while making a couple of bucks along the way.
“When I was a kid, I was always questioning things, I was always playing games. I’m so happy to be able to do this. It’s so much fun,” Christina says.