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Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fifth Season
The true test of any person (creative or not) is how they respond to adversity. How does one recover from their lowest of lows? How does one attempt to turn those lows upside down and create something successful again? The fourth season of Gilmore Girls marked a largely transitional year for the show. Characters went in opposite directions, people changed, relationships turned around, and the two closest people on the show (Lorelai and Rory) had to be separated for an extended period of time. In my estimation, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino did a pretty fine job of making it work in their show's fourth season. While it may have lacked a little bit of the usual vivaciousness, the fourth season of Gilmore Girls still had plenty of comedy and drama to satisfy viewers. It seems, unfortunately, that I'm in the minority with that opinion. The fourth season of Gilmore Girls turned out to be the show's lowest rated and probably their least critically adored.
So how would the show's creators respond to their least loved, least watched season? Clearly reverting to what worked in the first few seasons of their show wasn't going to be an option this time around. Rory is all grown up now. They can't just have her move back home with Lorelai because the audience was having trouble not having a constant Rory-Lorelai connection. Instead, they decide to take a few chances and make the most well crafted season to date. What Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino do with season five of Gilmore Girls is incredibly smart. Not only do they add a little spice to their show by bringing on a few fresh faces, but they also finally respond to the pleas of Gilmore fans everywhere by giving them a few things that they've been begging to see since the show's inception. They take some real chances in the fifth season and prove that taking the biggest chances often reaps the biggest rewards.
Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fifth Season picks up, literally, where the fourth season left off. Only this time we get to see the same scene from a completely different perspective. The change in perspective is one that immediately tells the viewer a lot about where Gilmore Girls is going in its fifth season. Instead of seeing the events through Lorelai's eyes, we're now on Rory's turf. We see how the big event unfolds for her, we see (through her perspective) how Lorelai reacts, and we see the ultimate fallout from Rory's completely uncharacteristic, but completely logical (given her age and growing maturity), decision. This is just the beginning of what will be a tumultuous year in the life of Rory Gilmore, and we're going to be along for the entire ride. By putting the very first moments of the show's fifth season in Rory's headspace, viewers get a little taste of what's to come, and its a great introduction to the important events that will shape how these characters grow in this rebound season.
What makes season five so entertaining is the way that the show's creators decide to weave completely new wrinkles into a fairly worn outfit. Sure, Rory's had boyfriends before we all remember the Dean and Jess days but she's never had to deal with them in the way that season five forces her to deal with them. She's in completely new territory with Dean this time around, and we see that not only is she not prepared for what transpires, but she's also clearly in over her head. She's also met new potential boyfriends before (e.g. Jess), but never the way she meets Logan Huntzberger, and never on her own turf. In the past, Rory always had Lorelai right there waiting to pick up the pieces if everything with "the new boy" fell apart. This time, however, Rory's all by herself up at Yale and must learn to deal with Logan's advances on her own good, bad, or ugly. Luckily for her, and for the show's creators, Rory not only learns to deal with these new challenges in her own special way, but she also ends up growing more, as a person, in season five than in any previous season. Sometimes we have to wander through life just to see what "sticks," and it appears that Rory learns this very valuable lesson during the fifth season of Gilmore Girls.
There are so many little things that make season five the best yet for Gilmore Girls. The appearance and emergence of Logan Huntzberger as a main character took the show in a different direction from previous seasons and gave it a very unpredictable feel for the first time in a quite a while. Paris while it seems like she gets slightly less screen time this season not only becomes even more neurotic and, therefore, more entertaining, but she also finally finds someone that is just about as maladjusted to spend her time with. Not to mention the fact that the increased presence of Doyle's character finally gives Danny Strong a chance to really shine on Gilmore Girls. And last, but certainly not least, we finally get to see the relationship form that we've been waiting to see for years. Were it not for the expert chemistry of Scott Patterson and Lauren Graham, the whole Luke-Lorelai relationship would be one filled with sappy emotion and familial melodrama. Fortunately for us viewers, Gilmore Girls employs two great actors who know just the right time to turn up the funny and turn down the melodrama.
So I've pretty much made it sound like Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fifth Season is the absolute perfect season of hour-long television. Well, let's not get carried away. There are a few bad seeds in season five that keep it from being perfect, most of which seems to be the result of the show's creators just not really knowing what to do with characters that once had larger roles. Jackson's run for town selectman not only feels rushed and silly, but it's also just downright not very entertaining. Sookie seems to be starting her transition from "really funny character" to "slightly funny, but more annoying, character" and, while Lane's interest in Zack is a worthy storyline, the band itself just appears to be spinning its collective wheels. Nevertheless, I'm probably nitpicking with these few gripes. There is a lot more good than bad in season five. Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino really should be commended for putting a shiny new coat of paint on their show, bringing back the critical praise, and recovering from the fourth season's low ratings. It's not just the fact that we learn a whole lot more about these great characters during the fifth season of Gilmore Girls. It's also the fact that the characters learn a whole lot more about themselves during the season. That's certainly more than we get from most shows on television, and easily a worthy reason to tune in every single week.
"Say Goodbye to Daisy Miller" (original airdate: 09/21/04)
"A Messenger, Nothing More" (original airdate: 09/28/04)
"Written in the Stars" (original airdate: 10/05/04)
"Tippecanoe and Taylor, Too" (original airdate: 10/12/04)
"We Got Us a Pippi Virgin!" (original airdate: 10/19/04)
"Norman Mailer, I'm Pregnant!" (original airdate: 10/26/04)
"You Jump, I Jump, Jack" (original airdate: 11/02/04)
"The Party's Over" (original airdate: 11/9/04)
"Emily Says Hello" (original airdate: 11/16/04)
"But Not as Cute as Pushkin" (original airdate: 11/30/04)
"Women of Questionable Morals" (original airdate: 01/25/05)
"Come Home" (original airdate: 02/01/05)
"Wedding Bell Blues" (original airdate: 02/08/05)
"Say Something" (original airdate: 02/15/05)
"Jews and Chinese Food" (original airdate: 02/22/05)
"So Good Talk" (original airdate: 03/01/05)
"Pulp Friction" (original airdate: 03/08/05)
"To Live and Let Diorama" (original airdate: 04/19/05)
"But I'm a Gilmore!" (original airdate: 04/26/05)
"How Many Kropogs to Cape Cod?" (original airdate: 05/03/05)
"Blame Booze and Melville" (original airdate: 05/10/05)
"A House Is Not a Home" (original airdate: 05/17/05)
Episode titles in bold are personal favorites on each disc though the entire season should, preferably, be viewed in order from beginning to end.
Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fifth Season is presented in an adequate 1.33:1 full frame transfer that is easily better than original broadcast quality, and is certainly on par with the previous season on DVD. There are a few problems with this transfer, but for the most part these episodes look great. All the various colors that are the visual highlight of the show come across beautifully on this DVD set, although overall color can, at times, be a bit soft. Flesh tones are accurate, and shadows and blacks are nicely rendered. Detail sometimes leaves a bit to be desired, as the overall image is occasionally soft. There's nary a sign of edge enhancement or visible layer changes on these discs, and the only really noticeable blemish on this transfer is the abundance of grain from time to time. The show has an overall graininess to it that is far from distracting, but in some lower-light scenes grain rears its ugly head in a big way. Even these instances, however, are less frequent than in the first and second season sets. Nevertheless, the visual presentation on these discs is on par with what most of us have come to expect from a typical TV-on-DVD release and certainly outshines anything you might have seen during the original television broadcast.
The audio on these discs is presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 format that also stands up nicely to the usual TV-on-DVD expectations. Dialogue, as in previous seasons, is absolutely the most important aspect of Gilmore Girls, as it comes rapid-fire throughout every episode, and is presented beautifully on this track. It comes across as crisp, loud, and distinct, and is clearly the focal point of this audio presentation. The soundtrack, however, also plays a crucial role in the show and is presented nicely here as well. Balance is good across the front soundstage, though there is some very slight level fluctuation and some episodes seem a bit louder than others. The surrounds provide some support to the soundtrack as well. The overall track sounds just as good, if not better, than it did when originally broadcast, and when piped through Dolby Pro Logic II encoding actually comes alive. This is especially evident in episode 4, "Tippecanoe and Taylor, Too" when Lane's band provides some live entertainment during the town selectman elections.
The first thing I thought when I saw the box for Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fifth Season was, "It's about time!" While there are both negatives and positives about the assortment of extra material that appears in this season set, the inclusion of a commentary track is something that Gilmore fans have been begging for since Warner Bros. released the very first season.
That being said, the best extra feature included on this set is the audio commentary, with series creators Daniel Palladino and Amy Sherman-Palladino, for episode 7 "You Jump, I Jump, Jack." It's immediately clear why nearly all of best episodes of Gilmore Girls have been written by one, or both, of these two. Daniel and Amy are funny, intelligent, and highly entertaining as they speak about their show, its creation, and how far it has come in the five years since it began. The most interesting moments come when the couple speaks about their cast and some of the very obscure pop-culture references sprinkled throughout the show's rapid-fire dialogue. The only problem in an otherwise excellent commentary track, however, is the fact that there's a lot of introductory material covered by Daniel and Amy that could have been avoided had they recorded commentaries for some of the earlier seasons. Still, this is a very insightful track, and here's hoping we get another one or two on the season six box set.
All the rest of the extra material in this set is located on the sixth disc. The best of which is an approximately 15-minute featurette called "Gilmore Girls Turns 100: Taking Stock on Reaching Five Years and 100 Episodes" that basically does exactly what its title says. By mixing in a few clips from the show with numerous cast interviews, this featurette is a nice retrospective look at the first five years of Gilmore Girls. Just about every cast member chimes in with their thoughts about their character, the show's creators, and its critical success. A few participants even weigh in on what it's like to have to relive all the early episodes as they air in syndication on the ABC Family channel. While the lack of participation from show creators Daniel Palladino and Amy Sherman-Palladino is disappointing, this is still a very entertaining bit of extra material and is probably the best featurette on any of the Gilmore Girls season sets so far.
The only other substantial extra feature on this set is a 5-minute featurette called "Behind the Scenes of the 100th Episode." Hosted by Melissa McCarthy, this short feature is basically an on-the-set look at the filming of the 100th Gilmore Girls episode. Shot on location, the historic episode features Richard and Emily's recommitment ceremony, as well as a myriad of other important happenings. McCarthy gives us a brief tour of the location while stopping from time to time to chat with some of the principle cast members. This isn't exactly a hugely in-depth featurette, but there are some very funny, candid moments and the fly-on-the-wall approach makes it entirely enjoyable.
We also have a very short featurette called Who Wants to Talk Gilmore?: Seasons Wittiest Wordplay Moments, which is my least favorite type of feature. Running just over a minute long, this is simply a collection of short clips from the season that include shots of characters saying funny lines and otherwise being witty. This is a bit of wasted bonus material, in my opinion. They tried to make a feature like this work on the just about every other Gilmore Girls season box as well. It was pretty much a waste of time then, and it's still a waste of time here.
One feature that has become a staple favorite of mine on these Gilmore Girls season sets is the Your Guide to Gilmore-isms booklet that usually rounds out the extra material. This booklet is a kind of Annotated Gilmore Girls that is really a treasure trove of information on the many different wordplays and pop-culture references that are scattered throughout the seasons rapid-fire dialogue. Unfortunately for this season's set, Warner Bros. has chosen to go the cheap route and not include the actual booklet in the box. I repeat: the booklet we've come to know and love is not included. Instead, Warner Bros. has included a simple insert that tells the consumer to visit www.gilmoregirlsdvd.com and download a PDF file of the booklet. Not only does this seem like a very cheap way of doing things, but it also seems like a bit of a cop-out on the part of the studio. Needless to say, the omission of the booklet is a huge disappointment.
A Note on the Packaging:
Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fifth Season is packaged exactly like the previous two seasons. This time, however, I managed to receive my copy with only one cracked plastic holder, and no scratched discs or "floaters." Maybe I'm just lucky. I don't particularly like this packaging and I'm still going to urge Warner Bros. to switch over to the slim-cases in cardboard packaging like many studios are using for their DVD sets these days.
Gilmore Girls really bounced back from a lackluster fourth season with an excellent fifth season full of interesting characters, shifting relationships, deceit, and some really satisfying growth in the main players. Just when Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino could have hung it up and let their precious show drift off into obscurity, they take a few chances, give their viewers what they've been wanting since the very beginning (e.g. Luke and Lorelai), and revive not only the critical praise, but also the show's ratings. While it may not be the perfect season, Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fifth Season is pretty darn close and is probably the show's best season to date.
With such a successful season for the show quality-wise, it's nice to see Warner Bros. finally step up and provide an audio commentary for one of the season's highlight episodes. It would have been nice to have one on an earlier set to get those pesky introductory comments out of the way but being able to hear Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino opine about their "baby" is definitely a treat. With the audio-visual quality being nearly identical to the other season releases, the few extra features make the difference here. While it's a huge disappointment to see the "Guide to Gilmore-isms" booklet omitted from the set, the inclusion of two nice featurettes and the superb quality of season five make Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fifth Season a highly recommended release.