The best TV shows draw you into a distinct world. Whether it's the meth wasteland of Breaking Bad, the mythical world of Game of Thrones or the unglamorous paper supply company of The Office, great series create worlds so vibrant and realized you don't want to leave.
Add to that list Gilmore Girls, the hourlong dramedy that ran on the WB network from 2000-2007 and is set to start streaming on Netflix Oct. 1. Set in fictitious small town Stars Hollow, the show follows enviably awesome mother/daughter duo Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) Gilmore, and a quirky cast of characters — Lorelai's best friend Sookie, town selectman/blowhard Taylor Doose, diner owner Luke Danes, wealthy grandparents Emily and Richard Gilmore. The show has a slightly heightened, whimsical feel, but in a warm, comforting, I-wish-I-lived-there kind of way. Watching an episode of Gilmore Girls feels like a big hug. A smart, inviting, hilarious hug.
But, maybe because it aired on the teen-centric WB and not a major network, Gilmore has always flown under the Quality TV radar (it was never nominated for any major awards). It has developed a devoted cult following, though, which is why news that all seven seasons will soon be available to watch instantly on Netflix caused an instant Internet frenzy.
Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, the show has a palpable spark, thanks to smart pop-culture-packed dialogue so dense it takes multiple viewings to catch it all and Lauren Graham in a caffeine-fueled career-making performance that starts fully formed and only gets better. Add to that a quirky supporting cast, including Melissa McCarthy in one of her first television roles (as Sookie), and the show's expert ability to swing from silly to serious in seconds.
Gilmore was also way ahead of the TV curve: Right around the time Tony Soprano was paving the way for difficult men on television, Gilmore had the audacity to place a strong, independent single mother at the center of its show who wasn't defined by the men (or lack thereof) in her life. That she was among the funniest, sharpest, wisest characters on TV was just an added bonus. And her teenage daughter Rory is a proud nerd, an education-oriented bookworm who eventually chose her career over a man.
That said, the show does boast one of the best TV romances of the past decade. Ross and Rachel? Psh. How about grumpy, reticent diner owner Luke Danes (Scott Patterson) and vivacious Lorelai? Flirty friends for more than half the show, their opposites-attract pairing was a slow burn, a wise move that paid off big time even though Patterson and Graham's insane chemistry is apparent from their very first moments together.
Gilmore had a sharp eye when it came to exploring (often messy) family dynamics, insistent on showing us the value of alternate family types. Lorelai, who had Rory when she was 16 years old, raised herself and her daughter after rebelling against her uppity parents and a stifled, posh upbringing.
As someone who cherished Gilmore Girls while it aired and went on to re-watch the series (DVD box set!) more than a few times, I can vouch for the show's timelessness and its ability to suck viewers in. Heck, just ask my boyfriend, who after months of watching me watch it from the other side of the couch suddenly knew all of the characters' names one day. He is not a Jess fan.