Did Critics Love 'Gilmore Girls'? Here's What Was Said About the Pilot 14 Years Ago

Fourteen years ago, on a small and undervalued network, in a time slot that put them head-to-head with ratings behemoth Friends, Gilmore Girls premiered as part of a push for more family-friendly fare on television. What ensued in the seven years that followed — or six years, or five years, depending on who you ask and their opinions on the final seasons — is one of those shows that burrowed its way deep into the heart of more than its fair share of those who tuned in. But how was it received when that pilot first aired? With Gilmore Girls making its debut on Netflix Oct 1, I decided it was time to look back on the early critical reception of one of the 2000's most charming shows.

The landscape of TV criticism has changed pretty drastically in the years since Gilmore Girls went off the air in 2007, let alone in the time between when it premiered in Oct 2000 and now. Looking back on how Gilmore Girls was reviewed initially begs the question: How would this show fare critically if it were to premiere in a time so saturated with recaps and immediate reacts? Would the fate of the Gilmore ladies be altered? And is there even any point in wondering these things, or should we just sit back and enjoy the bursts of nostalgia and cultural web archeology that lie in reviews of the show's first episodes?

So what did the critics think of the Gilmores and the population of Stars Hollow when they first made their entrance? And how will they fare in the eyes of the many who are sure to discover the series for the first time once it hits Netflix? We've got the answer to the first part of that below.

The New York Times Praised Everyone Except For Lauren Graham

The New York Times ' Ron Wertheimer called the show "likable if lightweight," and had some pleasant things to say:

As a premise for a television series, this one isn't half bad. But the real test is the characters, and Gilmore Girls may make it on that score, too. Ms. Bledel, new to television, creates an appealing blend of precocious wisdom and teenage anxiety. Ms. Bishop makes for one tough bird, and although Mr. Herrmann isn't given much to do in tonight's episode, he aptly handles another installment, due for broadcast in two weeks, in which Richard and his granddaughter learn to reach out to each other.

Among the supporting players who just may grow on you if given the chance are Melissa McCarthy as the inn's ditsy chef, Yanic Truesdale as its fussy concierge and Scott Patterson as the proprietor of the Gilmore Girls' favorite diner, who dispenses advice with the grub. Slinging a cheeseburger on the table, he barks, ''Red meat can kill you.''

Wertheimer's most controversial statement came in his perception of Graham's Lorelai Gilmore, though:

Ms. Graham, however, doesn't seem to have a firm grasp on Lorelai's precarious position, stuck between unresolved adolescence (wide grin) and adult responsibility (serious grimace). Just a few months ago she wore that same pained expression as a single aunt sharing life with a too-smart teenage niece in NBC's ''M.Y.O.B.'' (R.I.P.) Someone should tell her she's in a different show now. (O.K., maybe not all that different.) If viewers come to care about Lorelai as much as they're bound to love Rory, this show may stay afloat.

I'd say they accomplished that.

There was hand-wringing over whether it stood a chance at lasting

Cult love was their best bet, according to Entertainment Weekly:

Up against NBC’s Friends, will there be any families left to watch Gilmore? 'People really like those six kids,' [Gilmore creator Amy] Sherman-Palladino says, adding tartly 'Well, they’re not kids anymore — they’re all, like, 80.' Still, 'there probably isn’t a tougher time slot,' WB Entertainment president Susanne Daniels concedes. 'But in a strange way, that’s a vote of confidence from us.' If the show can overcome this potentially crippling 'vote of confidence' and attract a small, loyal cult the way Popular did in the same spot last season, Daniels promises Gilmore won’t be a goner.

If we're keeping score: Popular lasted two seasons, Gilmore lasted seven.

Some of what's now long-remembered of the show was definitely present in first critical reactions

The Cincinatti Post's Rick Bird hit on some of the keywords:

Gilmore Girls premieres tonight (at 8 on WB, Channel 64) as we are introduced to one of the most witty and sassy mother-daughter buddy shows seen on TV in some time. This free-spirited dramedy is one of the more endearing, engaging shows of the new season.

Lauren Graham got some good praise

Not everyone was of the same opinion as NYT's Wertheimer. As

E! Online's Lia Haberman put it:

It’s been a while since a family drama topped the TV must-see list — the 7th Heaven Camdens are way too square — but this season, there’s finally a woman we’re dying to call Mom. Meet Lorelai Gilmore, single mother and one half of the Gilmore Girls.[...]Why You’ll Love It: Graham’s career at one time seemed cursed. She’s popped up in almost every pilot season for the last four years in such duds as Townies, Good Company, Conrad Bloom and this summer’s short-lived M.Y.O.B. (where, ironically, she played guardian to her 16-year-old niece). Finally, the ultratalented actress gets a chance to shine in a show that looks like it just might stick around.


Images: Warner Bros.