Gilmore Girls (2000-2007) and Celebrity Make Me a Sandwich
I will say one thing to you, and I say it with an unblemished record of staunch heterosexuality: the Gilmore Girls is simply fabulous! No longer will I let this dark passion fester inside of me like a tapeworm slowly feasting on my internal organs, for it is something I am no longer ashamed to say.
The problem is, I am a guy and the title of the show includes the word “girl.” It is generally an assumption that guys do not watch shows that include the word “girl” in the title, because they will be girly. This assumption is for the most part true; just take a look at The Golden Girls, Girlfriends, Gossip Girl or the new Zoey Deschanel series The New Girl, which for some reason assumes women can only be friends with homosexual gentleman. And it’s not limited to just the titles, any show with female protagonists is a no-go for us guys; Sex And The City, Desperate Housewives, Samantha Who? The closest we’ll get to this phenomenon without risking our manhood are ensemble shows – most sitcoms these days put equal focus on both genders, as do most dramas. Even Joss Whedon and his rapidly diminishing hairline, a writer known almost exclusively for his themes of feminism is balanced in the gender department in both of his two long-running shows, Buffy and its spin-off Firefly.
But Gilmore Girls is a proverbial taco fest, with only a handful of supporting men to the countless women strutting around the small town of Stars Hollow, but when you’re watching it somehow doesn’t seem to matter. The show features young single-mother Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and her teenage daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) as they try their best to get through life without having to do too much in a town filled with an eclectic bunch of quirky friends and quirkier foes. On the outset it sounds pretty bland, and the episode summaries aren’t exactly jaw-dropping, but – and this is crucial – it is not about plot. Nothing really happens in Gilmore Girls; a typical episode from series four, ‘An Affair To Remember’ focuses on Rory trying to find the perfect place to study, only to find her ideal tree taken by some swine. Dagnabbit! What keeps you hooked on this show though is not simply what will happen, but how it will happen. Each sixty minute episode has one self-contained story, but it will also progress any number of over-arching stories like a chapter of a novel without feeling the need to resort to cliff-hangers or “to-be-continueds.” As the closing theme music slowly fades in over a lingering shot of a story never resolved you’re left pleading that this can’t be the end. In that regard the Gilmore Girls is much like The Wire, only funnier.
Series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and husband Daniel, who also act as executive producers, show runners and writers of all but the final series strike the perfect balance between enigmatic humour and legitimate pathos without stretching too far into the realms of the burlesque or melancholic, a trap that has befallen other classic modern shows like Friends and Scrubs. They are helped significantly with this task through a cast that as well as Graham and Bledel is highlighted by Melissa McCarthy who last year won an Emmy last year for “Mike & Molly” as well as co-starring in the film Bridesmaids. The enormous cast, more fitting of cartoon series’ allows a diverse range of comedic styles without it ever feeling forced; while the eponymous Gilmores humour comes through their bohemian nature, it is emphasised through their relationship with those around them. Jokes in Gilmore Girls, unlike most shows do not define character, but work because of character. Take this exchange between surly barista Luke and unemployed buffoon Kirk, who jumps from chair-to-chair in the café:
Luke: What are you doing, Kirk?
Kirk: Say I was Tom Cruise. Where would you seat me?
Luke: In an acting class.
I first stumbled across Gilmore Girls during its daytime run on E4 (airing at 9am and 2pm) during a long, empty summer that rarely involved getting dressed in the mornings. After clambering out of bed I switched on the television to find it playing (guess which of the two showings it was). If I’d known anything about the show I probably would have switched off immediately; its tagline, “Fate made them mother and daughter. Love made them friends” is hardly my cup of tea. But unable to find the remote control I was forced to sit through a scene in which the Gilmores eat lunch with there wealthy parents/grandparents and have an extended conversation about the merits of the cashew nut. I was transfixed. The fast-paced dialogue is reminiscent of Aaron Sorkin while the characters are always believable, identifiable and tragic. It’s setting of New England plays a vital role in it’s characterisation (unlike the slapdash efforts of throwing a New York skyline into any random sitcom) as we see the beating heart of America where the rich intertwine with the poor, the bleeding heart liberal and the firm republican walk hand-in-hand, and the stereotypical American, Luke, with his plaid shirt and back-to-front baseball cap is good friends with Chinese immigrant Lane. Its look at society is Chandler-esque, its storylines are beautifully subtle and its dialogue is up there with Tarantino. I don’t care that the opening titles are awash with rich golden hues, soft focus and Carole King’s “Where You Lead” – this is a show that can be appreciated no matter how you leave the toilet seat.
Gilmore Girls resumes airing on weekdays at 9.25am and 2.25pm on E4 from January 2nd 2012
Last night’s episode of Celebrity Make Me a Sandwich was the worst thing that has ever aired on television. And that includes Take Me Out. Last week Fred contributor Billy Turner wrote a review of the previous episode, describing the show as “pure gold,” and I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who felt compelled to seek it out after such glittering praise. However, by the end of episode – an agonising ninety minutes – it was less gold and more boron the pants off me.
The entire premise of the show revolves around two “celebrities” trying to plan the “perfect sandwich” before being invited into a kitchen to give birth to it while making conversation with host Rowland Rivron. Note, this is not a chat show, Rivron does not ask questions about what these non-entities have been doing since their careers faded. Nor is this a talking-head show in which they’re invited to discuss current affairs issues. No, Rivron engages his guests in conversation that would be more at home between a couple who had broken up nine months ago and hadn’t spoken since. Twenty minutes of the show were filled as Rivron and the first contestant, former Art Attack presenter Neil Buchanan discussed a dream that Buchanan had a few months ago. Apparently, he once dreamed he went to a shop and bought a newspaper, but when he opened it there were not one, but two Sunday supplements.
“So what did you do next?” Rivron asked.
“Well, Rowland,” Neil said with a smirk, “I returned the newspaper to the shop.” He went on to discuss how he’d always been environmentally conscious, apparently even when he was unconscious. To this, Rivron discussed the recycling times in his local area and why they upset him. (They used to be on a Tuesday, but now they are on a Thursday.)
By the time the two contestants, Buchanan and Dean Macey, finally finished making their sandwiches they’d discussed everything from which type of cherries they like (maraschino, not black stone) to how frequently they vacate their bowels after eating curry, something that I didn’t wish to know but now I will never be able to un-know.
The closest we got to watcheable television came when Buchanan’s sandwich, the dubiously named Duchess of Cambridge fell apart as he attempted to put the cocktail stick into it. While Macey assumed that he had defaulted his way to victory, Buchanan produced another sandwich that he “had made earlier” and was ultimately deemed the winner.
If ever there was a reality show that could learn a lesson from the Gilmores of how to make the mundane interesting, this was it. It’s a show that, as the adage goes, “you couldn’t make up.” If only they hadn’t.
The second Celebrity Make Me A Sandwich semi-final airs on DigiTele at 8pm on Thursday 5th January 2012