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Warner Home Video presents
Gilmore Girls: The Complete Third Season (2002-2003)

Lorelai: Rory, what are you doing?
Rory: What am I doing? I'm ranting! I'd think you would recognize it, I learned it from you.

- Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: August 12, 2005

Stars: Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel
Other Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Keiko Agena, Liz Torres, Yanic Truesdale, Scott Patterson, Liza Weil, Jared Padalecki, Milo Ventimiglia, Sean Gunn, Kelly Bishop, Edward Herrmann, Adam Brody
Director: various

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sexuality, mild language)
Run Time: Approx. 954 min.
Release Date: May 03, 2005
UPC: 012569700543
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A BA-B+ C-

DVD Review

Gilmore Girls, the last remaining valid reason to watch the WB network (hey, I watch Smallville too, but it ain't a valid anything), is at its best when it explores the parent-child relationship, be it a strong bond, like the one between mother and daughter/best friends Lorelei (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel), or an uneasy truce, like the one between free-spirited Lorelei and her stuffy, blue-blood parents, Richard (Edward Herrman) and Emily (Kelly Bishop). Series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has always gotten this element just right, and it's as enjoyable to watch Rory and Lorelei banter as toss of obscure pop culture references at a rapid pace as it is to see Lorelei and Emily in full battle mode. The bond between mother and daughter, it's a beautiful, scary thing, and those relationships form the heart of this long-running series, soon entering its sixth season.

The show doesn't often work nearly as well when it explores bonds between men and women, however, and that's the primary problem throughout the 22 episodes of the series third season, probably its weakest to date. For much of the year, the series shifts its focus to the younger Gilmores' romantic lives, with mixed results. The primary problem is Rory. Now a senior at Chilton, a prestigous prep school near her home in Stars Hollow, Conetticut, Rory's life focuses around two things: her desire to get into Harvard and her interest in two very different boys, dull boyfriend Dean (Jared Paladecki) and brash, annoying Jess (Milo Ventimiglia), who'll, you remember, she kissed at the end of Season Two.

The former arc is amusing but rather inconsistently developed. Just now, Rory is suddenly concerned that good grades alone won't get her into the top school in the country, so she attempts to pile on the extracurriculars, joining a Habitat for Humanity group in Application Anxiety and agonizing over which influential woman to list as her role model (Hillary Clinton is dismissed as too cliché). As if the Harvard people won't get suspicious when they see she's been involved in her various clubs for, oh, a month. On the plus side, these plots mean we see more of Rory's high school adversary, Paris (Liza Weil), who has similar Harvard ambitions and has organized her entire life around applying to college. She's Rory's boss at the Chilton paper, and the two are president and vice-president of the student council (resulting in some funny political maneuvering in I Solemly Swear).

But I can't say I ever warmed up to Jess, and his on-again, off-again with Rory is the season's most frustrating element. There is nice tension between Jess and Dean for the first few episodes, before both characters become either insuffurably smug or a jelous jerk. I can't complain about the break-up episode, They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They?, though—the love triangle gets really pointy during an all-night dance marathon, and Rory and Lorelei battle their emotions while trying to keep their feet moving to win the trophy.

Speaking of Lorelei, she fares better than her daughter in terms of storylines. This is the year in which her lifelong dream of owning her own inn begins to become a reality; she and her business partner/best friend Sookie (Melissa McCarthy) decide to purchase and refurbish an old inn after the Independence Inn, where Lorelei has worked since Rory was little, catches on fire a little bit. Otherwise, Lorelei's drama involves her own on-again, off-again relationship with Rory's dad, Christopher (David Sutcliffe), who announced his new girlfriend, Sherry, was pregnant last season shortly after making plans to get back together with Lorelei. The plot culminates in the flashback episode, Dear Emily and Richard, in which Sherry goes into labor and Lorelei reminisces about Rory's birth. The actress playing young Lorelei is certainly no Lorelei, but it's still an interesting outing, if one of creator/executive producer Amy Sherman-Palladino's weaker scripts (as always, she and her husband Daniel are responsible for the lion's share of episodes, an astonishing 17 out of 22).

Other memorable installments: Rory throws a week-long birthday celebration for her mother in Happy Birthday, Baby; Richard and Emily try to push Harvard-bound Rory toward Richard's alma matar Yale in Let the Games Begin; and Paris freaks out when she hears whether she got into Harvard in The Big One. And of course, it goes without saying that each episode includes the usual antics from Star's Hollow's long list of oddball characters, chief among them diner owner and Lorelei doormat Luke (Scott Patterson), jack-of-all-trades-seriously-ALL-trades Kirk (Sean Gunn) and cardigan-loving town selectman Taylor (Michael Winters). Rare appearances from Rory's best friend Lane (Keiko Agena) are also welcome, as she attempts to start a rock band under the nose of her strict Korean mother, claiming her boyfriend Dave (Adam Brody, who would go on to cult stardom on The O.C. a season later) plays Christian music with her.

There is one downright bad installment, a rarity for this show, but it's excusable, as it technically isn't an episode of Gilmore Girls. Midway through the third season, word began circulating that the WB was interested in airing a spin-off centered around the Jess character (I can't fathom why they thought a series about a whiney, self-centered jerk would woo the tween crowds, but then, I was just happy the schmuck would be leaving the show). Episode 21, then, Here Comes the Son was Sherman-Palladino's attempt at a backdoor pilot, with Jess going to meet his father in California. It's a long, tedious A-plot in an otherwise OK episode about Rory's graduation stress. All of the new characters (including Twin Peaks' Sherilynn Fenn as Jess' step-mom) are boring or come off like third-rate Stars Hollow townies. No one was less surprised than I when "Jess!" or whatever was first delayed until midseason, then shelved outright. And if you've seen some of the crap that actually makes it on the network (2002's Tarzan and the hateful Angel timeslot replacement, The Mountain, for example) you know things must have been pretty grim.

Though I can't claim undying love for the romantic plots of Gilmore Girls Season Three, it's still a must for any fan of the show—just because it isn't the best doesn't mean it's bad, and I'd still take the Gilmores over almost anything else on TV (and believe me, I watch a lot of TV).

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: The Gilmore Girls' third release is on par with the previous two in terms of technical quality. The creators’ preferred full-screen framing once agains looks good on disc, with rich, warm colors and strong detail. There is more grain than you’d see in a feature film, owing to the lower budget, but it isn’t intrusive even on a large monitor. There are occassional problems with aliasing and artifacting, but nothing too distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Presented in DD 2.0, the audio is low-key but appropriate. Most of the audio is confined to the front channels, and dialogue sound clear and natural. The subdued musical score expands into the left and right mains, and the surrounds contribute a bit of background atmosphere.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 132 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
4 Deleted Scenes
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Book Gatefold
Picture Disc
6 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Your Guide to Gilmore-isms booklet
Extras Review: For some reason, the extras on the Gilmore Girls releases have always lagged behind those for other contempoary programs. On the one hand, it's a minor complaint, considering the quality of the show itself, but on the other, well, the sets still retail for the same $60 that, with Smallville and The O.C., buys you a lot more in terms of bonus content.

It doesn't help that Season Three has the weakest collection of extras yet—the set drops the one-episode trivia track included on the first two sets. Instead, there are a few lame featurettes that don't really reveal much about the show, all housed on Disc 6.

All Grown Up and Our Favorite '80s are both fun, but pure fluff. In the former, members of the cast discuss childhood memories, while in the latter, members of the cast and series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino show off their best 1980s-era dance moves. Sure, whatever.

Then there's my least favorite of all "fauxnus features," the season montage. This time around, it's a short clip compiling the "season's best romantic moments." Why is this necessary when all of said moments are included unedited on the five discs previous? The world may never know. But it's probably to give them something to list on the back of the box.

The only worthwhile feature on the entire set is a collection of deleted scenes, but even so, there are less than in seasons past. You'll will find clips cut from Swan Song on Disc 4 and Say Goodnight, Gracie on Disc 5, and two from the season finale These Are Strings, Pinocchio on Disc 6.

On the bright side, this season includes yet another Your Guide to Gilmore-isms booklet explaining the show's pop culture references, from Adrian Zmed to Xanadu, with intermittent input from the Palladinos. There's also another handy episode guide, and though the packaging remains largely the same (discs are stored on book-like plastic "pages" in a slipcase), thinner, yet still sturdy, materials mean the set takes up less space on the shelf, which is a good idea for DVD addicts like me.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

The third season of Gilmore Girls is probably my least favorite, but I love that I can say that and still consider this one of the best TV on DVD boxed sets in my collection. Even when the plots drag a bit or feel out of place in the context of an unusually smart show (like Rory's tired love triangle plot, which sticks out like Alexis Bledel's hipbones—eat a sandwich!), the characters and cast still carry the show, and by and large, the dialogue is as sharp and witty as ever.

 


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