When Gilmore Girls burst on to our TV screens in 2000 in a blizzard of pop culture references, coffee and junk food, the show was notable not just because of the pace of the rocket-fast dialogue but because it was interested in women.
That did not just mean it starred women, although it did, but it was actually interested in them – even if they were not young, conventionally beautiful and under 30.
It featured Lauren Graham as single mother Lorelai, Alexis Bledel as her precocious daughter Rory and Kelly Bishop as family matriarch Emily, as well as Melissa McCarthy as Graham’s best friend Sookie, but it also cast a spotlight on showrunner, writer and frequent director Amy Sherman-Palladino, whose quirks and enthusiasms permeated every inch of the fictional town of Stars Hollow.
It was a rare show even when it went off-air in 2007, a year after Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel Palladino exited as executive producers, and sadly still rare when it triumphantly returned nine years later for four special revival episodes on Netflix.
While fans made much of Rory’s boyfriends and whether they were Team Jess, Team Dean or Team Logan, those young men never got the same level of writer-ly attention gifted to the women at the show’s heart.
And now Sherman-Palladino and Palladino are turning that focus on another project with a woman at its centre, who is a clear descendant of the Gilmores, even if her story is set long before theirs, in 1958.
The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, which will begin streaming on Amazon Prime on November 29, stars Rachel Brosnahan as a perfect 1950s housewife with a laser-sharp wit. When her dreams of domestic bliss are upended by her feckless husband, Mrs Maisel discovers her natural knack for stand-up comedy.
As the new show launches, you might expect Sherman-Palladino to feel the weight of the expectations of her devoted fans. But when we meet in a London hotel, she explains she has found ways to avoid that.
Decked out in one of her trademark flamboyant hats (this time it’s a slightly crumpled and squat pink top hat), and sitting next to her husband, she says: “We disconnect ourselves from reality as much as possible and live in a tiny little bubble, so I think that maybe protects us a little bit.
“I think we feel more pressure from the expectations of the actors when we give them a [new] script, if they liked the one before.
“We have such an amazing cast of characters and they work at such a high level, that you don’t want to be the one that brings everybody down a notch.”
The Marvellous Mrs Maisel centres on a woman who does everything she can to be a picture-perfect wife and mother but who ultimately finds comfort and fulfilment in the company of another woman, a comedy club employee played by Family Guy’s Alex Borstein.
This story of women finding strength in each other feels like it is landing at just the right time in modern Hollywood but that timeliness is coincidental, Sherman-Palladino says. The fact she writes about women taking charge of their lives is not.
“We never enter into anything thinking ‘Hey, [this is] the zeitgeist today!’,” she says.
“We just don’t. We just go ‘Hey that would be fun’, because we are simple people so it’s sort of a coincidence that it’s coming out as the world is exploding.
“But I think it’s always a good thing to shine on. I’m proud of the fact that it’s a story about a woman like this; that she’s going down a weird rabbit hole in a weird, interesting way and choosing to and diving into it.
“She’s not a passive player in her own story. She’s actively pushing herself into a new direction.”
Daniel Palladino adds: “I think we have both separately always been drawn to women’s stories. Most of the time, we have not worked together but a lot of the things that I worked on had very, very strong women characters. I grew up with very, very strong women and I will say there are a lot of male-dominated shows and male leads and sometimes it’s good to zig when other people are zagging.”
When Amazon launched the show, it was one of its best-received ever in its pilot season and bosses loved it so much it has already been commissioned for two seasons.
The Marvellous Mrs Maisel launches on Amazon Prime Video on November 29.