The pandemic rages on, but in our living room we’re almost at the end. Rory is pining for Logan, who’s moving on with life in London; Lorelei is stuck between the two loves of her life; and Emily Gilmore is Emily Gilmore-ing, throwing shade and firing the help. Outside, beyond this room and this screen, the numbers are ticking up, another surge; America, from its retail centers to its churches to its stadiums and sidewalks, feels like a dangerous place. Inside, safe on the couch, my family and I have inhaled seven seasons of Gilmore Girls on Netflix, and none of us wants to be done.
Many evenings since late March, we’ve acted out a certain scene: my 12-year-old daughter and I in a warm tangle of arms and legs and sofa pillows, my husband in his favorite chair, the three of us tunneling through the darkened living room into Amy Sherman-Palladino’s version of a New England town, first brought to life on the screen a full 20 years ago. Hello, Stars Hollow: right in front of us and so, so far away.
In Stars Hollow, everyone’s still wearing low-rise jeans and there’s not a smartphone in sight. In Stars Hollow, it’s never too early for quippy banter. In Stars Hollow, it is almost perpetually autumn — the scarves, the leaves, the endless mugs of hot coffee. The show feels dated in ways both good and rather bad — let’s be frank, almost everyone is white — and its characters and their relationships have spawned endless, impassioned critique among both fans and haters. It is also the first show ever to unite my family around a screen. There’s nowhere else to go, no place we have to be, and when we don’t have to face other, smaller screens for our meetings or schoolwork, we gather here, together.
Though I came of age in the '80s, I have no distant childhood memories of the particular family ritual of appointment television. I can’t recall a single program my parents and brother and I watched in this way — together, through multiple seasons, growing deeply involved in make-believe lives. No fictional family refracted off ours the way Luke and Lorelei and Rory’s have mine and my husband’s and daughter’s. Though not shunned, the tube was met with a certain level of side-eye. You didn’t spend too much time watching, lest your brain become mealy like a bruised apple.
I can’t recall a single program my parents and brother and I watched in this way — together, through multiple seasons, growing deeply involved in make-believe lives.
Later on, I would grow quiet and self-conscious while my peers batted cultural tidbits back and forth. I wanted what they had, which is partly why gathering around the TV holds such appeal for me these days. Not to mention that there are always these other beguiling screens at arm’s reach, pulling us to the corners of our home, where we tap into other worlds, alone. Those screens make television, in all its relative, room-filling, come-watch-with-me-on-the-couch bigness, feel wholesome, even nourishing. Suitable for mealtime, even — a concession that child me never would have dared imagine, much less request.
Even if there were no pandemic narrowing the circumference of our days, I think I’d take honest joy in the Gilmore currency traded between the three of us — debating the good and badness of Rory’s boyfriends; analyzing Paris as a lesbian icon; pondering whether Rory and Lorelei’s relationship is mother-daughter #goals or a striking case of toxic codependency.
Last fall, my daughter and I got deep into these Gilmore chats on strolls around our Nashville neighborhood, in what was definitively the most beautiful display of fall color the region had witnessed in years. On those walks, I left the phone at home at her request – no email, no texts, no Insta, mom – but on my solitary walks, I snapped picture after picture of leaves, blue skies, clouds. And I thought about how I wanted to remember 2020 not just for its awfulness but for the surprising, gentle moments it has given us, and for which I’m truly grateful. There will be no scrapbook photos of my family sprawled in front of a certain '90s dramedy, but it feels no less like something I want to press in an album.
“Can we eat in front of the TV?” my daughter asks, and more often than not, I say sure. We settle in with our bowls of pasta or slices of pizza. There’s the comforting click of the Roku. Here comes Carole King’s voice and that sepia intro montage, and I feel all at once a bit naughty and like I’m winning at parenting.