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Warner Home Video presents
Gilmore Girls: The Complete First Season (2000-2001)

"It's a mother/daughter thing".
- Lorelai Gilmore, Rory Gilmore (Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel)

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: May 18, 2004

Stars: Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel
Other Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Keiko Agena, Yanic Truesdale, Scott Patterson, Kelly Bishop, Edward Herrmann
Director: Various

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language, adult situations)
Run Time: 15h:22m:00s
Release Date: May 04, 2004
UPC: 085393226121
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A+AB+ B+

DVD Review

In the fall of 1996, ABC launched Townies, a sitcom intended as a comeback vehicle for Molly Ringwald, the thinking boy's teenage dream queen who gained fame via John Hughes '80s classics, including Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. Truth be told, it wasn't very good, but amidst the mediocrity were Ringwald's two extremely appealing co-stars that managed to outshine the material given them (not to mention their leading lady): Jenna Elfman and Lauren Graham. Although the series was given the pink slip after only three months, ABC was smart enough to not let Elfman drift away; the energetic blonde landed the co-lead in the successful Dharma and Greg, a charming but ultimately one-joke romantic comedy. It would be a longer road for Graham; lots of guest shots, two more failed series (Conrad Bloom, the underrated M.Y.O.B.), but in the end, the immensely likeable Honolulu-born, D.C.-reared actress wound up with a more creatively satisfying project.

Unveiled in the fall of 2000, Gilmore Girls overcame a nightmarish Thursday time slot against perennial NBC powerhouse Friends and CBS' then-upstart Survivor thanks to superb reviews, passionate word of mouth from instant converts and the superb chemistry between Graham and co-star Alexis Bledel. Set in the cozy little New England town of Stars Hollow, the two actresses give life to Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, a tightknit single mother/teenage daughter combo who act more like sisters or best buds than your typical familial relationship. Totally in synch to the point that they trade obscure references on a whim and share girl talk over gallons of coffee, it's difficult to tell who's the grown up. At first.

Although Lorelai's approach to parenting appears to not have a worry in the world, there is a hidden goal tucked inside the wisecracks and in-jokes. You see, about a decade and a half earlier, she gave birth to Rory at age 16. Despite having the advantage of being raised by rich parents (Emily and Richard played by Kelly Bishop and Edward Herrmann, respectively), Lorelai opted to go her own way and rear her newborn independently, a decision that didn't exactly do wonders for future communication. Nonetheless, aside from the usual trials a single parent and her child must go through, Rory and Lorelai's journey had no major obstacle they could not overcome.

Until the hefty cost of private school came along.

Like a former frontman forced to come to terms with his old bandmates before a reunion tour, Lorelai must mend fences with her folks in order to keep Rory on the right road, away from the atmosphere that caused her unplanned pregnancy. But the reconciliation comes with strict ground rules, courtesy of Emily, including a mandatory Friday night dinner and at least one phone call a week so she can keep tabs on what's happening in their lives. Wanting to keep her image of a fiercely independent woman intact, Lorelai insists on a condition of her own: that Grandma not utter a word about shelling out the big bucks for Rory's education.

So begins a series as instantly addictive than the strongest java concoction at Starbucks. Gilmore Girls has always been on my list of television shows to catch up with in syndication, thanks to the buzz of charmed critics and its fiercely enamored audience, but Warner's release of the first season kept me from having to wait for the rerun rights to kick in. With constantly witty dialogue that sounds like it emerged from a collaboration between Friends' Chandler Bing and the screenwriters of vintage screwball comedies such as His Girl Friday meshed with convincing drama so well that you don't feel a seismographic shift in styles when the laughs stop. Amy Sherman-Palladino's hour is the best program to emerge from the WB (the same network outlet that gave us equally memorable shows like Angel and Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, so that's extremely high praise).

Graham is just as picture perfect as I thought she would be as Lorelai, with Bledel blending in beautifully as Rory (especially noteworthy since the only other major acting experience the then-19-year-old Texan had was as an extra in Wes Anderson's cult favorite, Rushmore). Veteran actors Bishop and Herrmann add to the fun as Lorelai's stuffy yet likeable blue-blooded kin; although their only child would be loath to admit it, Emily's extremely dry quips and wonderfully sarcastic comebacks show where Lorelai inherited her sense of humor.

Just the complex interactions of this family quartet would be a solid foundation to build a show upon, but there's more delight as we get to know the girls' acquaintances and eccentric co-workers, too; similar to the offbeat characters of programs like Northern Exposure and Ed, the citizens of Stars Hollow are an endearingly quirky lot: Michel Gerard (Yanic Truesdale), the eternally impatient French desk clerk at the local inn that Lorelai manages; Sookie (Melissa McCarthy), a happy chef with more pep than a chorus line of Mary Hart clones; veteran television actress Liz Torres' brilliant Miss Patty, the town's resident theatrical mover 'n' shaker; Lane (Keiko Agena) as Rory's second best friend, tortured by her old world parents whom she makes sound so ancient, you almost expect them to come out looking like Paul Muni and Louise Ranier in The Good Earth; and Scott Patterson as Luke, owner of the local diner the girls frequent, who develops an enormous crush on Lorelai (get in line, pal-y).

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Since this comes from Warner Bros., home of beloved season collections like Friends, The West Wing and E.R., need I tell you how good it looks? Warm and inviting as the town the Gilmore's call home, an extremely warm set of transfers with vivid colors (see just how blue Alexis Bledels peepers are), excellent black levels and a naturalness that really comes across (this is an excellently photographed show, by the way); the work of Warner's home theater department just keeps getting better release by release.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Other than the incidental music and eclectic soundtrack tunes that pop up every once in a while, dialogue drives this show, so it's a very laid back Dolby Surround effort with little in the way of surprises or effects. What little ambience there is comes across nicely and when incidental scoring and the like come into play, the results are well mixed and delivered. But since the actors and the scripts are the big selling points, a good center-channel track is a must and a nicely recorded one is delivered.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 126 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
6 Discs
6-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Welcome to the "Gilmore Girls" First Season Documentary
  2. Gilmore Goodies and Gossip: Rory's Dance
  3. Gilmore-ism's
  4. Addtional Scenes
Extras Review: Longtime fans taking a peek at the set's back cover may feel a bit underwhelmed at the bonus material, but the excellent "making-of" documentary should more than soothe the disappointed. Welcome to the Gilmore Girls is a terrific 22-minute overview of the series' first season that serves as an excellent introduction to newcomers and a nice trip into the past for longtime watchers. Recently filmed interviews with virtually every cast member, director Lesli Linka Grater, and series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino (looking very late '70s Ann Wilson-ish in her natty top hat) give insight into the show from creation to conception including interesting informational nuggets, like the revelation that resident hunk Luke was originally conceived as a husky female named Daisy (no word on if she would have donned tight cut-off shorts), how the role of Sookie was recast with the wonderful McCarthy (including a rare clip from the scrapped pilot which I hope sees the light of day on a future release) and how much Gilmore scripts differ from your typical hour-long show (80 pages—that's a lot of pop culture references).

As for the rest of the inclusions, I semi-side with the frustrated fans: a two-minute montage of Gilmore-isms is way too short; three deleted scenes from the episodes "Emily in Wonderland," "Love and War and Snow," and "Forgiveness and Stuff," with only the latter inclusion being of any real note, and a Pop-Up Video-influenced replay of "Rory's Dance" (episode 9 if you're playing along at home) with tidbits and factoids some may find of interest (minus those annoying VH-1 underwater sound effects, thank God).

Finally, I'm not one to comment much on packaging (heck, I didn't even mind CD longboxes back in the day and snappers fail to annoy me), but I have to go into Randy Jackson mode and give some props to the designers of this set. With a sturdy book-like design (housed inside an outer slipbox) that opens up to reveal all six discs and a companion 14-page episode guide, this is one of the classiest television DVD sets I've seen to date (and much sturdier and easier to maneuver through than the cardboard folder compilations like NYPD Blue and Friends. Well done.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

If you're looking to clear time on your schedule, Gilmore Girls: The Complete First Season is your worst enemy. But I can't think of a better way to while away the hours; a wonderful television creation that's equal parts hilarious, heartwarming, and hip. Energized by a first-rate cast with nary a weak link (show this show some love, Emmy voters!), superb writing and involving storytelling, I can see now why its fan base is so huge; those uninitiated best come prepared to have a blast. For those already converted, the excellent documentary, stellar picture, and classy packaging make the show's freshman year well worth revisiting for keeps.

 


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