Gilmore Girls & the challenge of TV authorship

07Nov06

An excellent article in the New York Times this morning explores how Gilmore Girls has been transformed (and not for the better) this season following the departure of creator Amy Sherman-Palladino. The article is notable for two reasons – first, it’s still gratifying for the flagship newspaper of High Culture to be discussing television in positive aesthetic terms, as the accumulation of criticism like this article help validate the medium and its academic study.

Second it raises some core questions for me as to how we study texts – will future scholarship of Gilmore Girls simply disregard or bracket off this season as not “core” to the show? By bracketing off such periods, like with the Sorkin-era West Wing or Northern Exposure under Brand & Falsey, do we assert a simplistic vision of authorship which is complicated by the inherently collaborative process of television production? Do we pretend that character transformations & events after such a switch are non-canonical to the text, or must any criticism of the text embrace its totality? No simple answers here, but I appreciate that a mainstream article about a mainstream program invites thinking through such methodological issues.



3 Responses to “Gilmore Girls & the challenge of TV authorship”

  1. Good, it’s not just me! While the cast is still quite capable, and some of the material still zings, anything interesting has ground to a halt. Last night’s episode (again, despite some game, if by-now routine, acting) was particularly pointless. Thankfully, it will all be over by May.

    I agree with the larger point, and would add that GG and The West Wing are the tips of the iceberg; virtually every long-running serial has had significant creative shifts for a variety of reasons. Sherman-Palladino’s and Sorkin’s reputations for complete control over scripting are notorious, so it’s tempting to see them as the “sole” authors of their series. This is where more on-the-ground research into the production process would shine some much-needed light; i.e., what’s really going on in the writer’s room and/or showrunner’s office?

    As for whether or not it’s “canon,” that’s more a matter of critical stance towards the text than production practices. This season, like late Northern Exposure, may very well go down in the record books with a metaphorical asterisk, but that doesn’t mean that the events depicted “didn’t” happen to our characters, no matter how much we wish it weren’t so. For other recent examples, see The X-Files, Buffy, Ally McBeal, and (in process of devolution) The Sopranos and Veronica Mars.


  1. 1 JustTV
  2. 2 JustTV

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