When I was 15 I wrote a fan letter to Amy Sherman-Palladino. It was largely incoherent, unnecessarily long–I think about 17 pages, front and back–scribbled in the hasty handwriting of a teenager who had more feelings than sufficient words, and, thank God, it was never sent. That was one of my earliest attempts to explain what Gilmore Girls meant to me, and the role it was playing in my life at the time.
I’m 24 now and I still haven’t really figured out how to put my relationship with the series into words. It’s not enough to say that it’s my favorite TV show of all time, or even just to say that I loved it. Gilmore Girls represents something larger about who I am. It shaped my sense of humor, my sense of taste, my sense of style…it’s the reason I speak at outrageous speeds. It has played a part in small decisions in my life–what book to read next, which t-shirt to buy–and some big ones–where to go to college. Maybe most importantly, Gilmore Girls was the show that first brought me online, lead me to fan fiction and message boards and eventually LiveJournal, to some significant long distance friendships that I’ve been sustaining for upwards of 8 years. And that, more than anything, is why I am sitting here, writing a TV blog.
Or, to put it simply, if you asked me to choose one piece of pop culture, something to point to and say, “this, if you get this then you get me,” well that’s Gilmore Girls.
All of this is to say that I probably have unreasonable expectations for Bunheads going in. Not critical expectations necessarily, but certainly emotional ones. I know that, probably because I’m not twelve years old anymore, it will not–it cannot–affect me the way that Gilmore Girls did. There’s a place inside of us that’s reserved for the culture of our childhoods and teen years, the culture that helps shape us when we’re still as moldable as playdough, and that’s untouchable after a certain point. No matter how much I have loved other series since, they have never touched that part of me.
This first trailer is all we have of Bunheads so far–not very much. It doesn’t really tell you anything beyond “ballet!” and “Sutton Foster!” And yet I can’t watch it without tearing up. And maybe that’s just a response to Mr. ABC Family intoning “From executive producer Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of Gilmore Girls,” in that way that Mr. ABC Family intones things, but I think it’s something more. I think it’s something in the little bit of set design we see, in the costuming, in the words “attitude, my friends,” and in the way Sutton Foster is delivering them.
This is not Amy Sherman-Palladino’s first series since leaving Gilmore Girls at the end of its sixth season. She had a very short-lived (only three episodes aired) mid-season sitcom called The Return of Jezebel James in 2008. It was not the worst show ever, but it wasn’t the best either. Parker Posey was miscast in the lead role, her comic rhythms didn’t match with Sherman-Palladino’s particular style–nor did the sitcom format, for that matter. Given the chance it probably could have grown into a pretty good show, but there’s a reason I didn’t feel compelled to watch it until just a few months ago.
But what “attitude, my friends,” tells me is that Sutton Foster might just have the, well, attitude to pull this off. There’s a patter and wit and speed to Amy Sherman-Palladino’s dialogue that not everyone can navigate, and there’s a tone to her writing, something that goes beyond just her pace and her constant stream of cultural references–there’s a warmth to her characters and to the stories she can tell with them. Maybe I’m reading too much into a 16 second trailer, maybe I’m seeing what I want to see, but I feel like this show could restore some of that warmth to my pop culture diet.
My inner teen will keep her fingers crossed.