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Warner Home Video presents
Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fourth Season (2003-2004)

Rory: Hey, who are the rosary beads for?
Lorelai: They're mine.
Rory: What do you need rosary beads for?
Lorelai: They're cute.
Rory: They're for prayer.
Lorelai: Well, pray they match my blue suit?
Rory: They have just upgraded you to a queen-size bed, Jacuzzi tub, junior suite in hell.

- Alexis Bledel, Lauren Graham

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: December 09, 2005

Stars: Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Scott Patterson, Kelly Bishop, Edward Herrmann
Other Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Keiko Agena, Liz Torres, Yanic Truesdale, Liza Weil, Jared Padalecki, Milo Ventimiglia, Sean Gunn, Chris Eigeman, Michael DeLuise
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language, sexuality)
Run Time: Approx. 959 min.
Release Date: September 27, 2005
UPC: 012569594364
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+A-B C

DVD Review

Every TV show with characters in high school faces that inevitable problem—what to do when they graduate and go on to college? In most cases, the lame decision is to send everyone to "Insert Series' Setting Here" University (who knew Sunnydale had a college until Buffy enrolled there?). That obviously wasn't a possibility with Gilmore Girls. Though it might have made things easier on the writers—the heart of the series is the relationship between Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and her daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel), after all—the series had built up the latter's Ivy League aspirations for three years. When Rory finally ships off to Yale and the titular girls are apart for the first time, how does the series fare?

Pretty well, actually. Season Four is a marked improvement over the somewhat rocky Season Three, which got bogged down in a tired dispute between two boys fighting for Princess Rory's affections. For the most part, the guys are out of the picture for the youngest Gilmore this year (one of them is even married off), and she's allowed to experience Yale as a single woman, freeing up time for more interesting storylines. Lorelai and her business partner Sookie (the delightful, bubbly Melissa McCarthy) have finally committed to opening their own inn, and they spend the entire season working to get the business off the ground. Meanwhile, Lorelai has a new love interest, the smarmy, yet oddly charming Jason "Digger" Stiles (Chris Eigeman), a childhood, well, friend isn't quite the right word, since they loathed each other. He's also Lorelai's father Richard's (Edward Herrmann) new business partner, which, as you can imagine, generates some friction. Meanwhile, Lorelai's mother Emily (Kelly Bishop) isn't happy about her husband spending all his time on his new business venture, nor her discovery that, decades later, he's still friendly with the woman that almost became his wife.

To be honest, Rory's storylines are often fairly weak, especially early on. The writers don't much capture the feel of college life, nor do they really explore the angst a mama's girl like Rory would feel moving away from home. Instead, they offer, say, her annoying quest for the perfect study tree (who the hell studies under a tree? That's where you pretend to study, Rory), or her surprised reaction when the subject of a negative theater review she writes for the school paper strikes back (whatever, Rory, just don't insult Clay Aiken). On the plus side, Rory's suitemate at school is an old Chilton Academy rival, the manic Paris (Liza Weil), everyone's favorite Type-A basketcase (she arrives for the first day of school with her personal "life coach" in tow). Over the years, Paris has become one of my favorite characters, and her every scene is a gem, even when she's romancing a much older professor (a surprisingly sweet subplot that's played sincerely, and not at all for shock value). Unfortunately, it means less of the increasingly elusive Lane (Keiko Agena), who is supposed to be Rory's best Stars Hollow pal, though she does get her own subplots, moving out of her home when her strict Korean mother discovers her love of sinful rock music.

Lorelai's stories worked for me, even if the inn preparations aren't exactly thrilling. Digger is an interesting new romance—he's kind of a sleazeball, but we still get why Lorelai likes him—and their dalliances add some heat to the simmering attraction between Lorelai and diner owner Luke (Scott Patterson), who, it turns out, got both married and divorced in the off-season and is struggling to put his life back together. Speaking of divorce, though it doesn't go that far, the rift between Richard and Emily, Lorelai's stuffy blue blood parents, adds some real weight to the season, a more serious storyline to ground some of the typical Gilmore Girls quirkiness.

Because, yeah, that's back too, and once again, any time the show ventures too far into Stars Hollow, it gets a little, well, irritating. I like the concept of a small town full of big personalities, but some of the writers (particularly Daniel Palladino, who tends to write more episodes than anyone else, including his wife, series' creator Amy Sherman-Palladino) mistake wackiness for actual humor, resulting in characters like Luke's soon to be brother-in-law T.J. (Michael DeLuise), a marbled-mouthed moron who works at, of all places, a "renaissance faire," resulting in a few excruciating scenes of people in tights, and even a late-season, medieval-themed wedding (the horror). But then again, sometimes Stars Hollow isn't such a bad place—The Festival of Living Art follows the girls' drama as they prepare to dress up like famous painted figures and hold still for minutes on end (it doesn't go well).

I've gone this far without discussing how the show works with Lorelai and Rory apart. Well, it doesn't. Keep them apart, that is. If Rory isn't home on the weekends (which isn't too unrealistic, actually, as I spent way more Saturdays than I should have sitting at home during my freshman year of college), she's glued to her mobile. Some people complain about the rapid-fire screwball comedy dialogue, but it's obvious the characters are forced to talk that way to keep their cell phone bills down.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: As usual, episodes are presented in a fine looking, old school full-frame transfer (though the series is now available in HD). The episodes look good, with warm colors, nice, detail, solid blacks, and just a smattering of grain.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English Stereono


Audio Transfer Review: Episodes are presented in a serviceable English stereo mix that, for the most part, presents the dialogue clearly. I don't know if I simply never noticed it before, however, but in a few scenes—particularly those set in Taylor's grocery store—dialogue can be a little tough to make out over the background bustle (a 2.0 mix might alleviate the problem). Still, overall, stereo gets the job done.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 132 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: Book Gatefold
Picture Disc
6 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Trivia track on Girls in Bikinis, Boys Doing the Twist
  2. Stars Hollow Challenge trivia game
Extras Review: Once again, the Gilmore Girls don't so much bring the bonus features. Aside from a measly pair of deleted scenes (for Ballrooms & Biscotti on Disc 1 and The Reigning Lorelai on Disc 4), the only extras to be found are located on Disc 6.

There's another Gilmore Goodies and Gossip pop-up subtitle track, for Girls in Bikinis, Boys Doing the Twist, filled with useless trivia and jokes (subtitled comment when Rory and Paris kiss during the bar scene: "That was hot! I mean... good acting!").

There's another one of those pointless montages of scenes from the season (Who Wants to Get Together?: The Season's Most Romantic Moments), and a Stars Hollow Challenge with trivia questions spanning the series. You don't get anything for answering them correctly, but the interface, which floats around 3-D renderings of the sets, is sort of neat.

Once again, the set includes an episode guide insert and a Guide to Gilmore-isms, explaining some of the more obscure pop culture references (my favorite entry: Grey Gardens, the documentary about a "reclusive and eccentric mother and daughter holed up in a mansion in East Hampton" that Rory and Lorelai watch, fearing for their future).

Thankfully, the forthcoming Season Five set is finally slated to include some actual bonuses, including a commentary and a documentary. Hopefully the trend will continue when the currently airing Season Six is released next fall.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

The Gilmore Girls' transition to college is a little rough at first, but Season Four actually turns out to be quite a bit better than its predecessor, with less of an emphasis on soapy romances and better plots for all the main characters (well, not so much Rory's quest for a good study tree). If you're following the show on DVD, you should know things only get better from here, and though this season set is adequate, I'm looking forward to some real extras next time around.

 


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