The return of the wholesome Gilmore Girls rounds off a year of female-centred televisionby Lucinda Smyth / November 25, 2016 / Leave a comment
Nine years after the last series ended, Gilmore Girls returned to screens today with four 90-minute episodes on Netflix. The sitcom follows Lorelai, a sharp-tongued, free-spirited single mother, bringing up her gifted daughter Rory—the result of a teenage pregnancy. Over seven series, amid a swirl of fast-paced dialogue, we saw Rory (Alexis Bledel) grow up in real time. In the new season, entitled “A Year in the Life,” Lorelai (Lauren Graham) is now 48, and Rory is 32—the same age her mother was in series one. It’s a nice touch of symmetry that makes the revival seem particularly well-timed.
The new episodes are timely for a different reason: 2016 has marked a significant year for female-centred television comedy. We saw the wildly successful premiere of Fleabag on BBC Three, as well as the new series ofBroad City, Girls, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Inside Amy Schumer. All these shows feature funny women in lead roles, and are specifically concerned with female issues—a trend that even five years ago would have been highly unlikely.
Just because they feature women in the lead, doesn’t preclude a strong male following. According to a poll published in Vulture, 56 per cent of live viewership for the first season of Girls were men (22 per cent were men aged over 50). In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Ian Hislop mentioned that he found Fleabag “incredibly funny.” That a show about a dry-witted female sex addict should be endorsed by a caustic middle-aged man like Hislop, let alone in the Financial Times, demonstrates how far the demographic for these shows has shifted.
Indeed, it seems a long time since 2007. That year not only saw the end of Gilmore Girls, but the publication of a Vanity Fair article entitled “Why Women Aren’t Funny.” Its author was Christopher Hitchens: another caustic middle-aged man cut from the same cloth as Hislop. Peppered with characteristically provocative asides, Hitchens’s article concluded that women were too weighed down with the burden of life to be able to take it lightly.
The argument was preposterous (one suspects purposefully so), yet clothed in Hitchens’ elegant language, it seemed to carry enough weight to provoke a reaction from a group of prominent female comics, including Tina Fey and Sarah Silverman. A clash of the sexes ensued, with Hitchens refusing to concede. “What has been the achievement of my essay?”…