Warner Bros.; ATX Festival

Do Amy Sherman-Palladino's Recent Remarks Mean We Shouldn't Consider Gilmore Girls's Seventh Season Canon?

Nick Rheinwald-Jones is not a crackpot for thinking that the creator herself has made the final determination on that Palladinoless season, even if we need to read between the lines to see it.

In the world of pop culture, asking whether a story, book, episode, movie, or regrettable Christmas special is "canon" usually results in the kind of fierce debate from which even a fighting-aged Gore Vidal would have run screaming. Fans tend to have pretty strong opinions about whether or not the events in their favorite spinoff properties actually "happened" in the larger universe of the series in question, and if there's no official response from the creators (or designated stewards) of that fictional world, then those shouting matches can last for literally decades. (This is also why Usenet was created, and why it somehow still exists.) In other words, I'm not unaware of what a potential minefield I'm walking into by making the following statement. But I still feel the need to make it, even if it means getting my legs blown off.

I am not a crackpot, but the seventh season of Gilmore Girls isn't canon.

Okay. Feels good to get it out there. Now let me explain my logic. Fair warning, it will get a little inside baseball, but when I make a claim as audacious as the one I just made, I feel obliged to back it up fairly extensively.

Let's begin by hopping in the time machine and zipping back to the year 2006. Bush was president, Zagnuts still cost a nickel at the corner store, yada yada yada. More pertinently, Gilmore Girls was wrapping up its sixth season (one of its best, if you ask me), and creator/showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino and her fellow EP and husband Daniel were negotiating renewal terms with The CW. You can read the whole gory (and, to be fair, one-sided) debriefing here, but the upshot is that the Palladinos wanted a two-year extension, the network wouldn't even entertain that notion, and Amy and Daniel walked. Now, my argument does not rest on whether they were right to do so, so I'm not going to get into that at all. The only reason this failed negotiation is pertinent is because when the Palladinos walked, they walked. They didn't take a consulting gig (which is fairly typical when a creator exits his or her series); they didn't contribute a script or two; they had absolutely zero involvement in the show from the moment they handed in the final episode of Season 6.

Nonetheless, Season 7 happened anyway. The CW and Warner Brothers Television handed over showrunning duties to David S. Rosenthal, a sitcom veteran who'd been on the Gilmore Girls writing staff for a whopping one season (yes, there were at least two female producers on the show with more seniority, but that's an entirely different rant), and Rosenthal and his minions cranked out another twenty-two episodes before the series was canceled. Many Gilmore mega-fans refused to watch the final season -- both in solidarity with the Palladinos, and because we just weren't interested in seeing a batch of episodes produced without their buy-in -- but I can't imagine we were legion enough to cause a noticeable dip in the ratings. (I did finally cave last year and watch the S7 premiere, but only because I was paid to.)

These last two paragraphs were, essentially, the full facts of the case for the next eight years. And I doubt I would have tried to make the argument I'm making now based on those points alone, much as I vehemently opposed the very existence of that final Gilmore Girls season. But the Gilmore universe has, of course, changed rather drastically in the past several months. The announcement last fall that Netflix had picked up the show's broadcast rights and would be commissioning another six hours of Stars Hollow-based stories from the Palladinos (goddamn it, even typing those words still gives me chills) means that the series will have a chance to be completed as its creator originally envisioned, and yes, we'll get to hear those final four words that have tantalized us for so many years. It also means that the issue of Season 7's creative validity is no longer purely academic: it's not just a fruitless debate over which unsatisfying ending is the "true" one, but a real question about how many of the prior seasons will figure into the next batch of stories. (It also represents a very practical dilemma for fans like me; namely, do we need to bite the bullet and actually watch the seventh season so nothing flies over our head in November?)

That question remained up in the air until very recently, when Amy Sherman-Palladino revealed that she herself has never watched a minute of Season 7. She said the same thing last year at the ATX Festival, but that was well before the new episodes were announced, and there was always the chance that she'd catch herself up before she sat down to write the next batch. But no, she didn't do that; instead, she called up some people who had watched the seventh season and simply asked them whether any of her ideas for the revival would "step on" events from the intervening episodes. And from the sound of things, she decided to alter one of her proposed storylines as a result of what she heard.

So, to recap: Season 7 of Gilmore Girls was made without Amy Sherman-Palladino's involvement or approval, and she's proceeded with her story for these characters without viewing it herself. In the absence of an official statement from her (which I'm sure we'll never get), I think the case for those episodes' not being canonical is pretty solid. And no, to head off the counter-argument I can already see you forming, ASP's desire to avoid contradicting anything from the seventh season isn't remotely the same thing as wanting to incorporate that season. Plenty of people who tune in to the Gilmore revival in November will have watched all seven extant seasons, and there'd be nothing to be gained by baffling them with a storyline that explicitly overrules what they've already seen. Being pragmatic about something isn't the same thing as creatively acknowledging it.

Legally, of course, none of this means anything, because Warner Brothers owns the show; the company can do absolutely anything it wants with it and still call it Gilmore Girls. But as a die-hard Gilmore fan, the only true authority I recognize in this case is the brilliant lady, and I believe she has delivered her verdict. I am not a crackpot.

For Booze Week we ask:

What cocktail best describes our painful eight-year wait for more Gilmore Girls?

  • Dark 'n Stormy
  • Suffering Bastard
  • Snakebite
  • Rusty Nail
  • Death in the Afternoon

Discussion

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