What Could Have Been… The Unaired Pilot Script

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Floating around eBay and the Internet is the ‘revised writer’s draft’ of the Gilmore Girls pilot episode script, written by Amy Sherman-Palladino back in January 2000. It offers a glimpse into what might have been, demonstrates a gutsy assuredness in key scenes and shows the difference a little spit and polish made to the final pilot.

please luke

The big differences are shocking:

In celebration of Rory getting a place at Chilton, Lorelai cooks a celebratory meal of meatloaf, mac and cheese, and a salad that Rory likes with sugared walnuts and blue cheese. Lorelai COOKS. And they eat salad. It’s just wrong.

Dean is handsome (“the beautiful stranger”) but doesn’t come off as smart. He *doesn’t* identify the Ruth Gordon reference from Rosemary’s Baby. In fact he doesn’t do much at all. There’s no scene where he and Rory walk over to Miss Patty’s where Rory talks about circular cakes and he monologues about noticing seeing her reading Moby Dick with ridiculous concentration. He never tells her that he thought “I have to meet that girl”. It’s an important scene because it makes their connection stronger – he smoulders and she loses her smart girl focus – so much that she loses her enthusiasm for Chilton.

Luke’s is called Duke’s Cup. Luke is often referred to as Duke. There’s no Drella (the harpist with the attitude as big as her harp) – which makes sense if this was written when Alex Borstein was still slated to play Sookie. The Inn is bigger and has more staff, who are more involved: a ditzy girl named Judy is a desk clerk at the Independence Inn, working alongside Michel the concierge. Judy’s aunt and uncle own the Inn but she’s hopeless. A guy called Dereck is the valet parker and is smitten with Lorelai. Lorelai has her own back office.

All the references to “ass” in the script change to “butt” in the show. A reference to Kid Rock becomes Eminem. Christopher goes from being a lawyer with his own practice to having an internet startup that went public. Rory shrinks an inch from five-eight to five-seven and the buses from Stars Hollow to Hartford run ten minutes quicker, taking forty minutes on the page but thirty minutes in the episode.

Lane’s outfit is weirdly identical to the script:

[Lane] opens her backpack, takes out a “Woodstock ’99′” tee shirt, and puts it on over her pink thermal tee.

woodstock man

Guess who these descriptions are:

? is a scruffy though handsome man in his thirties with the body of a fireman under than apron.

? is a distinguished looking woman in her early sixties. Her dress is impeccable, her hair is perfect and the pearls are real.

Her forearm’s bandaged, there’s a splint on her left little finger and Band-Aids all over her arms.

? is a very intense looking, dark eyed, weirdly amazing looking guy.

? is a very attractive, extremely intolerant black man in his late thirties.

? is a very attractive, vibrant, thirty three year old woman, though she could easily pass for twenties.

There’s a weird line where Richard addresses Lorelai as Rory. The transcriber Gaby notes that this might be an accident in the script itself.

A couple of the scenes are merged together but despite the differences above, it’s pretty much all there. Some of the lines are made less clunky or quicker with the addition of quickfire banter. A noticeable omission is Lorelai’s funny line here, that isn’t in the pilot script:

Richard: I’ll get the checkbook.
Lorelai: Thank you. I can’t tell you… thank you.
Emily: On one condition.
Lorelai: So close.

In the script, she just says “A condition?”

But the Marco-Polo-ing around Kim’s Antiques is there – check. Macy Gray on their CD players – check. Coffeecoffeecoffee – checkcheckcheck (opening begging scene, building up Dutch courage outside Richard and Emily’s both times, in the diner at the end).

The dinner scene, with the four of them finally at the table, is practically identical and three of my favourite laugh-out-loud moments are all there on paper: Lorelai putting her coffee cup in the ‘forbidden’ dustbin, Richard handing Rory the newspaper without looking and the camera panning to him having fallen asleep.

If you haven’t read it, it’s fairly enlightening and an excuse to re-watch how well they nailed the feel of the show and the characters from the get-go. Well, except Dean but maybe this was before Jess was a twinkle in someone’s eye and they were doing what they needed to do to get the studio and an audience on board.

The whole unaired transcription is available here:

http://www.crazy-internet-people.com/site/gilmoregirls/pages/s1/s1s/unaired_pilot.html

… and people seem to be selling the same thing on eBay with dummy autographs of the cast on the front cover.

Can you see them going for coffee at Duke’s Cup? Would Lorelai have been that different if she cooked – and the girls willingly ate salad? What do you think was intended for Judy and Dereck? Maybe the Inn was meant as a comedic focal point, like Everybody Loves Raymond’s house or the Cheers bar – but they were able to expand to more locations, like Miss Patty’s and the town square.

What do you think?

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Rich

Rich originally began contributing to GIlmore News as 'Dairyman' in 2013, a reference to the character Dairyman Dick in Tess of the D'Urbervilles, (call me Rich). Here in the UK we were late to the Gilmore party and I don't remember what made me watch my first episode - the one where Lorelai picks Rory up from the police station after she and Logan steal a yacht - but I remember watching it again immediately. And then again. Thankfully, the next show was on the next day and I watched that one three times too. And then the boat one again. I couldn't believe the dialogue was so quick and so funny and I pretended to myself that I was only watching it so I could figure out who I was more keen on - the mom or the daughter. I swore that Aaron Sorkin must have been involved but I couldn't find his name attached anywhere, even on the internet. So I watched and loved and laughed and cried and the day after the series finale, they ran the entire show from the beginning again and Rory turned into a baby so then I was all about Lorelai. Lauren Graham is astonishing ("Mother: Breathtaking") and the show was - and is - lightning in a bottle. It's a treasure for those who watch and get swept up in it, like I did and like the readers of Gilmore News. It's heartbreak and chicken soup, family dysfunction and blind optimism, lighthearted romanticism and balls-out brilliant. Thanks to Arieanna and gilmorenews.com for letting me squat and allowing my inner Gilmore Geek out for air. I worry how it would otherwise manifest.

8 thoughts on “What Could Have Been… The Unaired Pilot Script

  • April 15, 2014 at 10:17 am
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    Dereck was actually in the pilot. He supposedly dinged a businessman’s car, and Lorelai convinced the man to stay for lunch at the Inn, free of charge.

    Reply
  • April 15, 2014 at 2:06 pm
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    You’re quite right Mystery Mm, Dereck does show up as the Inn’s parking valet in episode two, fawning over Lorelai’s outfit, but was never seen again. I attribute this to his awful green jacket. He was a good looking boy, I wonder if he was eventually intended for Rory…

    There’s another Derek at the opening of the Dragonfly, the waiter who serves Taylor but the curse of Derek struck again and he was never seen since.

    Reply
  • April 15, 2014 at 6:46 pm
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    Thanks for this, been a while since I watched the show but it’s still a fav of mine. I think it would have been good if Lorelai tried to cook a special dinner but it ends in disaster and they just go to ‘Duke’s’ LOL

    Reply
  • April 16, 2014 at 12:23 am
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    Lovely stuff. I think the most jarring bit is that Lorelai would cook and eat salad.

    I suspect Jess wasn’t a twinkle in anyone’s eye until Tristan left and there was a space in “stir up Rory’s love life”. (Although I think Tristan had more in common with Logan.)

    Reply
  • April 17, 2014 at 11:01 pm
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    @Lathany Aw, Tristan. “I would kiss you but your boyfriend is watching’. One of my favourite lines throughout the series!

    What a great article – Here I am proudly stating I am a huge fan and I didn’t even realise that there was an unaired pilot! I shall go to the corner in shame!!!

    Reply
  • April 18, 2014 at 6:07 pm
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    Thanks Gilmore Guys and Gals, you’re most welcome.

    Their attitude to food is a big part of their attraction for me. Keeping shoes in the oven, categorizing Pop Tarts as a food group and eating popcorn with spray cheese are all habits I’ve been proud to both emulate and call my own.

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  • April 18, 2014 at 7:10 pm
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    Clearly between the original first draft and the final shot and edited pilot they decided to dial up the qwirk big time. Wise decision as it gave it most of the heart and originality that drew our attention in the first place. So many of the jetisoned plot points in the first draft would have slowed/stopped the show’s momentum in its tracks. We may not have even made it to the conclusion of the first Friday Night Dinner???

    Reply
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