What are the Gilmore Girls famous for, in addition to drinking copious amounts of coffee, lightning-quick dialogue, and a parade of endlessly entertaining outfits? Pop culture references! The original Gilmore Girls series aired from 2000-2007, and as anyone with an internet connection or eyes and ears knows, the original producers, writers, and cast reunited to bless us with Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, which premiered this weekend on Netflix.
There are four episodes, each one covering a different season, revealing a year in the life of all our favorite Stars Hollow residents. Well… almost all. Richard Gilmore, Lorelai’s father, has died four months earlier–the actor who played him, Edward Herrmann, died in 2014–and much of the reboot deals with the aftermath of that loss.
In addition to the drama, we get our usual mix of comedy and whimsy, and a million quickly uttered references to books, movies, plays, music, celebrity gossip, celebrity products, and so much more. To simplify things, we’ve broken it down into categories; otherwise there would be hundreds of items on this list of Pop Culture References in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
16. Older Movies (pre-1980)
“It has a quote for every circumstance,” says Lorelai of The Godfather, after quoting it. She also quotes Annie Hall (“I once got in trouble for cheating on a metaphysics exam. I looked into the soul of the boy next to me”) and Rory quotes Casablanca (“Of all the gin joints in all the world…”) and On the Waterfront (“I coulda been a contender!”) Rory also plays out a scene from The Wizard of Oz with the Life & Death Brigade, the town shows Chinatown on one movie night, and Eraserhead (homaged by Kirk in his own short film) on another. We hear references to Citizen Kane, Scarface, Swing Time, Rooster Cogburn, The Sound of Music, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, Yentl, La Dolce Vita, and beach blanket movies.
Lorelai remembers her dad taking her to Grease and An Unmarried Woman on the same day, which must have been in 1978. When Rory goes interviews at the SandeeSays website, there’s a screen in the background playing the 1939 George Cukor classic The Women, a movie that tells the story of a group of women in Manhattan and counts zero men in its cast.
15. Newer Movies (post-1980)
“You Spinal Tapped the painting,” Lorelai tells Emily, because it’s just so damned huge. Then she segues into Lord of the Rings: “A portrait so big, Peter Jackson could hang it at the Argonath,” she says, to Emily’s confusion.
Get Shorty becomes a not-so-witty retort, the Thirtysomething Gang loves There Will Be Blood, Emily tells Rory she’s traipsing around “like Llewyn Davis,” Lorelai has nightmares out of Eastern Promises, and Emily says Jerry Maguire is “delightful.” Other movies include The Hurt Locker, The Machinist, The Breakfast Club, Gone Girl, Edward Scissorhands, Sister Act, Trainspotting, Spotlight, Inside Out, Zoolander 2, Mini’s First Time, Back to the Future, and The Social Network, referenced when Lorelai looks at Rory’s first three chapters of “The Gilmore Girls” and echoes Justin Timberlake’s advice to drop the “the” because “it’s cleaner.”
The Jungle Book also gets a mention; Doyle (Danny Strong) reviewed it for The Stars Hollow Gazette, which Rory is now editing. Strong is a screenwriter in real life, having written two of the Hunger Games movies as well as co-created the TV series Empire. Doyle name-drops Michael Bay, but so far, Strong hasn’t worked with him in real life.
14. Books and Writers
When the trailer first hit, a cry went up across the country: why is Emily Gilmore wearing jeans? The answer is that she’s decluttering, thanks to Marie Kondo’s best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which suggests you hold up each of your belongings, and get rid of everything that doesn’t bring you joy.
Later, when Emily announces she’s selling the house, Lorelai is shocked “You don’t move or change! There’s a picture of you in the attic that Dorian Gray is consulting copyright lawyers about.” Other books mentioned: Eat Pray Love, Little House in the Big Woods, Cloud Atlas, and Huckleberry Finn. As for writers, Rory sarcastically sums up the atmosphere at The Stars Hollow Gazette with, “It’s like an Aaron Sorkin movie in here.” She keeps a photo of late columnist David Carr at her desk, she gets compared to David Foster Wallace, she tells Lorelai how she accidentally attacked Op-Ed columnist Gail Collins, and Paris quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson at Chilton. Nora Ephron and her feelings about her neck get in there, as well as a requisite Jack Kerouac nod about how Rory is “On The Road-ing it.”
“I’m gonna do Wild,” Lorelai announces to Luke near the end of the third episode, “Summer.” He isn’t sure exactly what that means, or whether she means the movie or the book. “Liberties are taken in the movie,” says Lorelai. “The book is more pure. I’m gonna do the book.”
Lorelai suffers a personal crisis, and decides that the only way to straighten herself out is to copy Cheryl Strayed and hike the Pacific Crest trail, even though she doesn’t know the name of it. A shocked Luke explains that she’ll have to carry her own backpack, sleep on the ground, and cook her own food– all things Lorelai loathes.
The final episode starts with Lorelai in California at a motel. where she practices packing her backpack and befriends a bunch of other women also “doing Wild,” who are divided into two camps; book and movie. The park rangers have seen this before, and warn them all that “there is still a high probability that any outdoor activity motivated by watching a movie is probably going to end in some sort of hospitalization.”
12. Parenthood, Lauren Graham’s Other Show
Fans of Lauren Graham, and of great TV in general, also know her as Sarah Braverman on Parenthood. Several actors from that show turned up in A Year in the Life. Peter Krause, who played Sarah’s older brother Adam, appears as a park ranger who refuses to let Lorelai begin her meaning-of-life-seeking hike without a permit. Krause is also Graham’s real life boyfriend… and while we’re talking boyfriends, the other park ranger was played by Jason Ritter, who was Mark Cyr on Parenthood, boyfriend of Sarah and English teacher to her two kids.
The cameo fans were waiting for? Mae Whitman, Sarah’s daughter Amber. At the 2015 ATX TV Festival, where the Gilmore Girls cast reunited (and the idea for the reboot was sparked), Graham’s two fictional daughters, Whitman and Alexis Bleidel, met and became fast friends. They tweeted a photo together to prove it, with the caption “…meet Rory and Amber Bravermore!” Whitman appears as a young New Yorker who bonds with Lorelai over food and sneakers.
And finally, Kelly Wolf. the real estate agent who drags Luke around to look at new diners, also played one of Max Braverman’s teachers on Parenthood. She wasn’t a major character, but Parenthood fans will remember her.
11. New York City
The fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, is close enough to New York City to feel its influence, so when New Yorkers turn up at The Dragonfly Inn on Burger Day, they want to know if the meat comes from famous NYC butcher Pat LaFrieda.
At one point, Lorelai and Rory go to Manhattan together, since Rory’s trying to write a piece about all the things New Yorkers stand in line for. They start out at Monique Aswell bakery looking for “crodocakes”, a nod to the trend-setting cronut that legions of New Yorkers stood in line for at Dominique Ansel’s bakery. Lorelai talks about NY1 anchor Pat Kiernan and Radio City Music Hall’s Rockettes, and Rory goes out drinking with friends at P.J. Clarke’s, the famous saloon that’s been there since 1884 and is where Buddy Holly proposed to his wife. And back in Stars Hollow, Taylor Doose talks about seeing playwright Edward Albee at Joe Allen, the legendary restaurant frequented by Broadway stars, actors, directors and fans, where the walls are lined with posters from shows that flopped.
When Rory first arrives back in Stars Hollow, Lorelai takes her on a tour of the town to update her on all the goings-on: Al’s Pancake World won best Christmas decorations, parking meters came and went, and there was some debate about whether or not to remove the town’s last phone booth. “Where would Superman change when he comes to save our town from Ben Affleck?“ asks Rory. “I made the same excellent point,” says Lorelai. Like mother, like daughter.
Later, when Rory’s boyfriend Paul shows up, he’s so forgettable that even Rory keeps forgetting about him. Lorelai and Luke have met him before, but can’t seem to remember. “He’s like a superhero, but his power is that you can’t remember him no matter how much time you spend with him. Kind of like every Marvel movie ever,” says Lorelai. Ouch.
And finally, when Lorelai swings by the offices of the Gazette, she tells Taylor that she’s there to visit her “little Perry White,” who everyone– even Lorelai– knows is the editor of Daily Planet, where Clark Kent works.
While Lorelai and Rory’s taste in food tends to favor Pop-Tarts and Tater Tots, the Dragonfly Inn requires a higher caliber of menu offerings. With Sookie on an extended sabbatical, the inn hosts a series of pop-ups by different chefs, but Lorelai misses Sookie and isn’t happy with any of them.
In the flesh, we see Ray Choi, who Lorelai calls “the food truck guy,” which is somewhat accurate; he’s considered one of the founders of the food truck movement, rising to fame as the creator of the gourmet Korean taco truck, Kogi. She fires him. Next we see Rachael Ray, who wants Lorelai to try something that’s “delish” and then, too, is fired, although Lorelai calls out after her that she made a “really good sammy.” (That’s all Rachael Ray lingo, for those who aren’t Food Network-savvy.)
Other mentions go to Ina Garten, Sandra Lee, April Bloomfield, David Chang, David Barber, and Alice Waters, none of whom were deemed right for the Inn. Anthony Bourdain also gets a shout-out for parking in Sookie’s spot.
The Stars Hollow musical gets far too much airtime, but the repeated Hamilton references redeem it.
Lorelai’s shocked at how good Rory looks after being on a plane for seven hours:“You should be singing ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ with a bad haircut while selling yourself to a bunch of French dockworkers,” she tells her, recalling Les Miserables.
Kinky Boots gets repeated mentions, mostly to reiterate that there’s no character actually named Kinky Boots. The unicyclist who announces the Life & Death Brigade quotes Macbeth, and Babette brings up Tevye of Fiddler on the Roof and The Lion King’s Simba. Willy Loman, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, The Book of Mormon, Matilda, Cyrano (de Bergerac), and School of Rock get name-checked, and when Emily starts swearing, Lorelai asks, “What was the exact moment you became a Mamet play?”
And Sutton Foster, an actual Tony Award-winning Broadway star who also starred in Bunheads (another show from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino), plays Violet, the lead actress in the Stars Hollow musical. In 2014, she played Violet in the play of the same name on Broadway, scoring herself another Tony nomination.
7. Random Celebrities From Bygone Eras
Lorelei has always loved her some old school Hollywood. When she complains that none of the B-list stars staying at the Inn have changed their names for showbiz, she brings up Virginia McMath and Frederick Austerlitz, aka Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. (She also watches their movie Swing Time.)
When Miss Celine gets involved in what Lorelai and Luke will wear for their wedding, the names come pouring out.“I don’t want you to lean over and have your Deanna Durbins tumble out in front of the clergy,” she tells Lorelai, then informs Luke that Kirk Douglas taught her that a suit should only hug the things that need hugging. She compares Luke to Eli Wallach, then dips into her memories of Wallach, Elia Kazan, and Caroll Baker, which means she worked on the 1956 movie Baby Doll. “Don’t you look at me,” Wallach told her, she says. “I’ve got to save my erotic energy for Carroll.”
“I’m feeling fear and loneliness and heartache. God I sound like a freaking Blake Shelton song!” laments Paris. Zach looks like a young Leonard Cohen. Colin turns a tango club into a a Rosemary Clooney showcase, Lorelai quotes Kanye West’s “Golddigger,” Sookie complains that Jackson’s bear traps play “Welcome to the Jungle,” Skrillex gets mocked, an ABBA song is performed, and when Rory tells Lorelai that it’s as if the story she’s writing has been sitting in her brain for years, Lorelei responds, “Like the lyrics to ‘My Sharona.'”
Jess admires Luke’s wedding look by evoking Right Said Fred, and yeah, both Luke and Lorelai are planning flash mobs: Frankie Goes To Hollywood for her, and Steely Dan’s “Hey, Nineteen” for him, which Lorelai secretly changes to “Karma Chameleon.” And Lorelai tells her therapist that Emily strikes “more chords than [conductor] Esa-Pekka Salonen.” We’re not sure why Lorelai knows who that is, nor why Taylor’s heard of both RZA and Busta Rhymes, but so be it.
Rory and The Life & Death Brigade do an Abbey Road walk (in their Across the Universe moment), Kirk and Lorelai sing along to The Carpenters’ “Top of the World,” and Stars Hollow’s town troubadour is still Grant-Lee Phillips, of Grant Lee Buffalo fame.
5. Carole King
Carole King plays music shop owner Sophie Bloom, and A Year in the Life finally gives a proper nod to her incredible history as a musician. “I love that!” she says when Taylor announces that the local production will be called Stars Hollow: The Musical, maybe because the Tony-nominated musical based on King’s life is called Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.
When the play’s advisory committee is meeting, Sophie tells Taylor (with some embarrassment) that she’s written some songs and he could have them for free. He asks her if they’re catchy, so she offers to play one, then steps over to the piano and starts knocking out “I Feel The Earth Move,” one of the biggest pop hits of 1971, from her smash album, now a classic, Tapestry. Taylor tells her it’s not catchy, and she agrees and apologizes. D’oh!
As fans know, the original Gilmore Girls theme song is King’s “Where You Lead,” also off Tapestry, which she revised and then re-recorded with her daughter Louise Goffin, who appears in A Year in the Life as the town troubadour’s competitive sister.
4. Random Celebrities, Current
Who knew that Luke and Kiefer Sutherland were pals? The only friend he can think of to invite to the wedding is his fishing buddy Kiefer. Yes, that Kiefer.
Lorelai organizes her magazines by Kardashian. Rory used to have crushes on Pee Wee Herman and Jerry Orbach. Paris’ highest-profile client is Neil Patrick Harris, and it’s implied that she’s courting Brangelina as well. A-list names that come up during discussions about the Inn (and its nearby rival) include Jennifer Lawrence, Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Daniel Radcliffe, Cate Blanchett, and Jessica Chastain. Lena Dunham comes up twice as they talk about Rory’s former lodgings in Brooklyn, and Luke gets compared to model/Cindy Crawford-husband Rande Gerber.
Lorelai also brings up Tori Spelling’s fall at Benihana, and Katy Perry’s purchase of a former convent, plus she worries that she’ll become Rory’s Candy Spelling. Other names that drop at one point or another: Natalie Portman, Joaquin Phoenix, Liz Taylor, George Clooney (and his favorite tequila), Woody Allen, David Cronenberg, and Paul Thomas Anderson.
3. Trends, Commercial and Otherwise
That “Totes Y’all” bag next to Lorelai comes from Draper James, the clothing line of Reese Witherspoon, who stars in the movie of the book she’s holding in her hand. How appropriate.
Christopher tells Rory that he has so much money he bought every color of Beats by Dre. Sandee of the SandeeSays website sends Rory a Vine to get her to come in for an interview. Taylor Doose mysteriously knows who YouTube star Zoella is. Lorelai accuses Rory of being Gooped (that’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s incredibly annoying lifestyle website), and Rory buys Lorelai some Princess Charlotte teaspoons.
And Kirk starts his own company called Ööö-Ber, and tries to keep denying the existence of the real company Uber, until they sue him. The Dragonfly, apparently, is sorely lacking in the Nespresso machines department.
Rory sleeps with a Wookiee. Enough said.
Okay no, that’s not nearly enough said. Rory is trying to do a story for GQ about people in lines, and ends up making friends with some people in a line for collectibles, which is where she meets said Wookiee and has her first one-night stand… and warns Lorelai not to ask if they took the Millenium Falcon to get to his apartment. When Rory asks her mom how many one-night stands she’s had, it turns out she hasn’t had any, the main reason being that she was pregnant at 16, which is “hot in Outlander,” but not so much elsewhere.
When Luke accidentally gives out the real wi-fi password at the diner, he complains that all his customers do now is sit around watching Doctor Who (the River Song herself, Alex Kingston, guest stars as well). And while a toast “to absent friends” has a long history, Star Trek fans have been claiming it as their own since Captain Kirk made it.
1. TV Shows
This could be a whole list in itself. There are at least two different Game of Thrones mentions, the best one of which when the boy fanning Rory at the pool calls her Khaleesi, and one for the White Walkers. Rory asks Emily if she’s being Punk’d, and tells the folks at the Gazette that the only reason she knows what MS-DOS is is because of Halt and Catch Fire.
We get references to Matlock, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Wire, The Sopranos, The Returned (French version), Narcos, Blue Bloods, Twin Peaks, Law & Order, The Mysteries of Laura, Bewitched, and Lou Grant (Mary Tyler Moore Show-era), because Rory keeps scotch in her desk drawer at The Gazette. Luke’s red lifeguard t-shirt inspires Baywatch comparisons, his friendship with Kiefer Sutherland leads to a lot of 24 talk, and Emily complains that Lorelai has been trying to get her into therapy every since she “saw that Tony Soprano show.”
And Lorelai not only watches Oxygen’s Snapped, she also has a massive list of Lifetime Movies on her DVR, and makes special mention of one of the all-time greatest, Co-Ed Call Girl, which stars Tori Spelling and Voyager‘s Jeri Ryan and is a must-see. For everyone.
And, in Gilmore Girls style, here’s a rapid-fire list of a bunch of references that didn’t quite fit into the other categories: Jeff Koons, Mario Andretti, Brexit, Putin, Hitler, a Fitbit, a cameo from the guys who host “The Gilmore Guys” podcast, Billy Squier, the Winchester Mystery House, Queen Latifah, Yelp, Aeschylus, Spiro Agnew, Penn & Teller, Barbara Sinatra, Bugsy Siegel, Noam Chomsky, Gwen Stefani, and Winston Churchill. John Oliver and Amy Schumer both got mentioned in the teaser trailer, but never came up in the show itself.
Post the ones we missed in the comments!
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is currently streaming on Netflix, along with all seven seasons of the original series.
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