Long ago, at a time when people could freely enjoy themselves in the company of strangers — also known as December 2019 — a crowd gathered at the Warner Bros. lot with one thing in mind: to visit Stars Hollow.
The studio had re-created the quirky Connecticut town from the television series "Gilmore Girls," which ran from 2000 to 2007, and lines had formed in front of Luke's Diner and the town gazebo to have pictures taken. It served as a tangible reminder of how passionately people still love this gentle, witty, kind show about family and community.
"Gilmore Girls" debuted on Oct. 5, 2000. On the date of the show's 20th anniversary, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband, writer and executive producer Daniel Palladino, released a statement honoring "a cast that changed our lives."
Sherman-Palladino said that given the pandemic, she had forgotten about the anniversary until someone reminded her.
"Celebrating anniversaries is on the back burner right now," she said. But she remains happy to talk about the origins of the show that is still her most famous creation, even in a career that includes the cult favorite "Bunheads" and the multiple Emmy-winning Amazon hit "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."
"Anytime you do something that people care about for a week," she said, "that's delightful."
A low-key start
Few would have predicted in 2000 that "Gilmore Girls" would be so enduring. It was never a breakout hit during its seven-year run. It never found its way to a mass audience, was never nominated for a major Emmy, never received the gotta-watch-it buzz of other shows that arrived around the same moment.
But through word-of-mouth, DVD sales, millennial nostalgia and the power of Netflix, new fans, some of whom had not yet been born when the show premiered, discovered Lorelai and Rory.
The idea for the show was to tell the story of a bookish teenage girl whose best friend was her 30-something mother. The backdrop was an idyllic town full of oddballs and eccentrics, and the tone was a blend of character-driven comedy and drama, all set to a screwball pace.
"Of the fans I talk to, they generally fall into two categories," said Sheila Lawrence, a longtime writer for the show. "Either they have a Lorelai-and-Rory relationship, or they desperately wish they had a Lorelai-and-Rory relationship."
The tone was set from the moment the writing staff was first assembled. "Amy was telling us about the show," said John Stephens, who was on the writing staff for four seasons. "She said, 'This show is about a mother and a daughter who are best friends as well as being mother and daughter, and every conflict and dynamic should ticktack back and forth on that one point.'"
"Gilmore Girls" turned 20 while we were hunkered down in our homes. For many of the show's fans, Stars Hollow has always been their happy place, and is only more so now.
"The world can be a terrifying place, but in Stars Hollow, you can go there and the world is still this wonderful, lovely place," Stephens said.