3 lessons in storytelling from Amy Sherman-Palladino
Hi, my name is Todd, and I am a Gilmore Girls fanatic.
Every year when fall rolls around, my wife and I get back into the dearly beloved series. There’s something about cool weather that makes our hearts yearn for Stars Hollow.
When it was confirmed in 2017 that the series would have a four-part revival on Netflix, I was skeptical. Why continue on something that wrapped up so well? Why run the risk of ruining the series by telling more of the tale? Beyond the nostalgia drawing me in, I wanted to see the show’s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino get the final word on her series as she wasn’t involved in the final seventh season. It didn’t end how she had initially planned from the beginning, and now she got to bring it to completion according to her vision.
That vision infuriated tons, and I still talk to other die hard fans today who loathe the revival. While it can’t hold a candle to the magic of the series, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated this continuation for three reasons. Spoilers ahead.
Adapting to a new medium
One of the biggest changes was the format of the story. The other seasons contained around 22 episodes, each one running for 44 minutes sans commercials. For the revival, it was presented in four separate films, each running at 90 minutes, one for each season of the year. Taking on a more cinematic approach, there was room for silence, longer scenes and exposition. There still was the signature fast-paced banter, but it slowed down the storyline. This helped accommodate deeper themes like loss, death, grief, reconciliation and crushed dreams.
A more focused viewing of the three Girlmore girls
Don’t get me wrong. I love every single resident of Stars Hollow (sorry Andrew, not you), and their storylines fill me with joy. Sookie, Zach, Lane, Mrs. Kim, Jackson, Michel, Babette, Miss Patty, Luke…the list is too long. The standard format of the show allowed these characters to develop, flourish and captivate our hearts. With the shorter format (just six hours in total), we were left to very small appearances of those characters; I did want more, but it let us dive deeper into the lives of Emily, Rory and Lorelia. Their stories were the primary focus of the revival, and we got to go on the ride with them. Less can be more.
The art of perpetual storytelling
The ending scene, in particular the last four words, created an uproar with a lot of passionate fans:
Rory: I’m pregnant.
The screen cuts to black, the credits roll, and we have no idea who is the father of Rory’s baby. We don’t know her plans, the choice she will make, or Lorelai’s immediate reaction (other than the pure shock on her face). Personally, I don’t need to know who the father is. This is the ending (and really, the beginning for Rory) that Sherman-Palladino had envisioned all along. Rory is not necessarily following in her mother’s exact footsteps with an unexpected pregnancy, but it brings the narrative full circle, and it sets up a whole new narrative for Rory and her child. That story is left to the viewer’s imagination. Many viewers wanted the answer. But ambiguity in storytelling is what keeps the story alive long after the last page or the last scene.
If you’ve seen the series and the revival, what are your thoughts on it from a storytelling perspective? Bonus points if you drop a GG reference!
Hi. I’m Todd Foley. Author of 4 books, 2 feature screenplays, and 1 short film. I consume stories in every medium and strive to create stories for others to enjoy. Find my latest fiction (“Love, Or Something Like It: A Connection Of Stories”) on Amazon.