On this day 15 years ago, Gilmore Girls, created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, first graced our television sets. Taking place in fictional small town of Stars Hollow, CT, Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) is a witty 32-year-old single mother raising her brilliant, 16-year-old daughter, who is also named Lorelai though she goes by Rory (Alexis Bledel). They were best friends first and mother and daughter second. Every week, over the next seven seasons, we laughed, cried, and fell in love with these beloved character and the eccentric residents of Stars Hollow.
Let’s relive the Gilmore Girls pilot!
Disclaimer: This recap may contain spoilers for future episodes and seasons. But let’s be real, it has been 15 years, where have you been?
Cue the La La’s There She Goes as the opening title appears fading into the town of Stars Hollow, CT. Out of the crisp, fall air, we see Lorelai Gilmore walking into Luke’s Diner She takes off her hat and coat, grabs a coffee cup, and makes her way to the counter.
Thus begins the story of Luke and Lorelai – for us anyway. Just look at the way, Luke (Scott Patterson) annoyingly, yet passionately gazes at Lorelai as he pours her a cup of coffee and calls her a Junkie. Enter random Passing By Dude, whom Lorelai dubs, “a regular Jack Kerouac,” naturally makes a pass at Lorelai (I mean, who would not! Just look at her!) With her verbal intelligence, wit, and quips, Lorelai turns down the man.
Next, we see Rory walk in the diner and announce that she is cold and in need of some lip-gloss. Lorelai, being the excellent provider to her daughter, pulls out various makeup bags from her giant purse. We witness our first rapid fire dialogue erupting with 90’s early 2000 pop cultural reference. Lorelai claims to get her a cup of coffee to warm Rory. I think she just wanted to go talk to Luke and get a rise out of him. (Dirty!) While she is doing that, the random Passing By Dude decides to make a pass at Rory now. Lorelai comes to the rescue revealing that this is her 16-year-old daughter while Alexis Bledel delivered one of the best lines of the series, “Are you my new daddy?” freaking out Jack Kerouac dude.
This opening scene was so simple, yet the audience was able to get a glimpse of the everyday life that Lorelai and Rory lead in Stars Hollows. It was set in the diner, where we can see they spend a lot of time at as Lorelai has some sort of friendship with Luke, and we see the dynamic between mother and daughter. Intrigued, right?
It’s a mother-daughter show, so why not have the opening theme song be sung by a mother and her daughter? The opening theme song, Where You Lead, originally by Carole King is reprised by her with her daughter Louise Goffin especially for Gilmore Girls. Who doesn’t sing along when you hear it?
The next scene opens with the beautiful exterior view of the Inn, where we see Lorelai at work as the manager. We also meet Michel (Yanic Truesdale), the surly French concierge and Drella (Alex Borstein), the Inn’s talented, but grouchy harpist. Fun fact, Alex Borstein was originally casted as Sookie (who we’ll meet very soon), but was replaced by Melissa McCarthy due to scheduling conflict. Lorelai effortlessly handles a problem with the plumber over the phone with her charm. She also convinces Michel to check Rory’s French paper using persistence and annoyance that is equally as effective on him as it was with Luke.
Later, Lane (Keiko Agena) is introduced as Rory’s best friend as the two are going to school at Stars Hollow High School. Clearly, she has strict rules at home because of the impromptu wardrobe change during the walk. We also get the first glimpse of stalker Dean who is intensely following Rory with his eyes. In class, Rory is the goody two shoes, which doesn’t bother her at all, because she is working on the paper the teacher assigned, and the other girls are passing around a bottle of nail polish and making fun of her.
Back at the inn, Sookie (Melissa McCarthy), the klutzy and bubbly chef of the inn and a good friend of Lorelai, has another accident. It’s okay because her peach sauce to top off her waffle tastes amazing to which Lorelai concurs. The two talk about how they plan to open an inn of their own someday.
After school, Lane and Rory go to Lane’s house, which is also Kim’s Antiques. Mrs. Kim (Emily Kuroda) shows some disapproval of Rory, mainly how young Lorelai was when she had Rory, and tries to get them to eat healthy muffins that has “no dairy, no sugar, no wheat” so basically no fun.
At the Inn, Lorelai runs to the kitchen to tell Sookie that Rory got into, Chilton, a fancy pants, prestigious prep school. The two are squealing with glee when Rory walks in. “Did you do something slutty?” the girl cautiously asks, once again displaying the close relationship with her mother. (Would you ever ask you mother that?) Lorelai hands her a bag containing a blue plaid skirt. Sookie blurts out that she got into Chilton and does the “Rory’s going to Chilton” dance. Now the question is how is a single mother, who is the manager of an inn, going to afford a prestigious school?
Lorelai got another letter enclosed with an invoice containing the enrollment fee and tuition. This is the first time we get to see the Gilmore house (which is completely different from every other episode- I mean there are plants all over.) She and Sookie brainstorm ideas to get the money. In the meantime, Rory bounces outside over to them in her new plaid skirt, excited for her new school. Lorelai knows she only has one option for where to get the money – her wealthy parents.
Outside of a giant mansion, Lorelai contemplates for a few more minutes with her essential coffee cup in hand. She finally works up the nerve and knocks on the door much to the surprise of her mother, Emily (Kelly Bishop), who asks, “Is it Easter already?” She follows her mother inside the house to engage in some cold small talk. Coincidently, Lorelai’s father, Richard (Ed Herrmann) arrives home, upon hearing that Lorelai is visiting; he suspects that she needs money immediately. Lorelai explains the situation about Rory getting into Chilton and they agree to pay for her schooling. But Emily has a catch, “since we are now financially involved in your life, I want to be actively involved in your life,” weekly dinners and phone calls. (These calls never happened!) DUN DUN DUN!
Meanwhile, back in the Hollow, Rory literally runs into Dean as she is leaving Stars Hollow High with the contents of her locker. She is impressed when he understands her reference (why is Dean so smart in the pilot, but so not afterwards? C’mon Rory, a smart girl like you can do better, in my opinion.) She learns that he is new in town and that he admits to have been “watching her”. He mentions looking for a job and Rory suggests checking with Miss Patty (Liz Torres), the local dance teacher who usual knows the goings on in the town.
At dinner that evening at Luke’s, Lorelai mentions that they will have dinner with the grandparent’s on Friday. Rory goes off about how she could have had plans on Friday night and then says she doesn’t want to go to Chilton anymore. As result, the mother and daughter get into an argument and silently walk about home from the diner. They pass by Miss Patty who announces that she has found a job for Rory’s “male friend”. Suddenly, not wanting to go to Chilton made sense to Lorelai now. This was all about a boy.
During their argument, we learn that Lorelai got pregnant at 16 and that although their household has been a democracy, she is going to play her mom card and Rory is going to Chilton on Monday morning – no matter what.
We arrive at the first Friday Night dinner, which if you’ve seen the show is very significant. Lorelai and Rory are still rumbling. Emily is delighted to see her granddaughter but is unresponsive and cold to Lorelai. Richard is amazed by Rory’s height, but other than that,he continues to read his paper during drinks. At the dining table, we learn Richard works in an insurance firm and refers to where Lorelai works a “motel”, clearly displaying his disapproval. Richard speaks highly of Christopher’s, Rory’s father, internet startup in California and his intelligence, which is obviously where Rory must have gotten her smarts. Lorelai takes offense, leaves the table, goes to the kitchen, and starts scrubbing some dishes. Emily comes after her and tells her how disappointing her pregnancy was because both Lorelai and Christopher had “such bright futures”. As a result, Rory finds out that Lorelai went to her grandparent for money to pay for Chilton.
After dinner, the mother daughter pair seeks refuge at the diner. Rory admits to her mother that she heard everything that was said in the kitchen in the elder Gilmore’s house. She decides that she is going to go to Chilton. Luke walks over to their table to take their order. Lorelai notices that his usual backwards baseball cap and flannel shirt was replaces with combed back hair and light blue button down shirt. She tells him that he “looks nice” and he returns the complement. (Omg, can these two like kiss or something, their chemistry is palpable!) He takes their order and walks away. Lorelai asks Rory to tell her about the boy that stirred some trouble. Luke returns to the table with their order. Before he leaves the table he snaps, “I can’t stand it, this is so unhealthy. Rory, please, put down that cup of coffee. You do not want to grow up to be like your mom,” to which Rory replies, “Sorry, too late.” Rory and Lorelai exchange smiles as Luke walks away and the camera pans out of the diner and fades to black.
Welcome to their little corner of the world.
What were some of your favorite parts about the Gilmore Girls pilot?
What got you hooked? Do the inconsistencies in the pilot episode with the rest of the series bother you? Comment below.