The Best Highbrow Cameos to Catch When ‘Gilmore Girls’ Streams on Netflix


Gilmore Girls is a show about a mother and a daughter, Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, who are more like two pop culture-besotted best friends in the small New England town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut — a place where it is always fall and there is always a goofy community festival happening. This smart, funny, brilliant show was a last gasp of human storytelling about ambitious and complex women on the WB/CW before teen takes on genre drowned out anything more ambitious, and it’s been unavailable on Netflix streaming for quite some time.

However, that all changes on the appropriate fall date of October 1st, when you Gilmore-come-latelys can catch up via Netflix streaming. Those who still haven’t seen the show can follow Lorelai and Rory as they attend snooty prep schools as underdogs and try to mend fences with their estranged family, all while deploying cultural references that The Simpsons would envy. Make your best cup of coffee, put on a cozy sweater, and get excited to experience a really wonderful television show (that is also an extended tribute to Twin Peaks).

In order to prime the pump, we’ve compiled a list of the most highbrow moment on the show, which featured some really fantastic cameos by some of our brightest politicians, thinkers, writers, and theorists.

The list is missing Angela Davis, however: in a 2006 interview, Amy Sherman-Palladino, the creator and brains behind the Gilmores, noted that she hadn’t even gotten her dream cameos (at the time of publication…): “I tried to get Christiane Amanpour on the show. And I refuse to give up. And I tried to get Angela Davis on the show. And I tried to get Noam Chomsky on the show. The man is booked up for the next two years, by the way. Noam Chomsky is very busy.” What could’ve been!

Dave Eggers

OK, so writer, cultural figurehead, and co-founder of the wonderful 826 programs Dave Eggers never guest starred on Gilmore Girls. However, when Rory was living in her very first college dorm room, we would get the occasional glimpse of a Dave Eggers poster on her wall. And what a poster! It is a Teen Beat-style centerfold of Eggers sitting barefoot in the sand, hand in his charmingly tousled hair, a crooked grin on his face, “Dave Eggers” printed in a ’90s-style font that would be better suited to Korn (who, yes, also merited a reference on this show at one point) above his head. It is a poster that is seemingly unavailable anywhere else in the world. And it’s way better than the Noam Chomsky poster in the other corner of the room, even if Chomsky was a recurring punchline in some of the ever-so-witty dialogue.

Barbara Boxer, US Senator from California (and former Congressman Doug Ose, who is currently campaigning)

Boxer listens to Paris give this still accurate speech:

I mean, come on, Senator Boxer, as one of our foremost Democratic leaders, I ask you – do you really think it looks good to have the American Secretary of the Treasury traveling around with Bono? I mean, I know apparently he’s a saint, he’s going to save the world, yada, yada, yada, but my God! He never even takes the sunglasses off. We have an image to maintain, don’t we? I mean, aren’t we at least trying to pretend we’re the superpower in this world? I mean, why not just send Carson Daly over to the Middle East next time Cheney goes, huh? Or hey, hook up Freddie Prinze Jr. with Colin Powell next time he meets with NATO. I mean, hell! Let’s hear what Freddie has to say, right?

The episode that was an extended tribute to Dig!, Ondi Timoner’s documentary about The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols

See that extravagantly mutton-chopped young man up there? He was/is the tambourine player in The Brian Jonestown Massacre, a “psychedelic” band that was tipped for indie greatness along with the band The Dandy Warhols in the halcyon late ’90s and early 2000s. Ondi Timoner’s rockumentary Dig! caught the energy of these two bands striving for greatness, along with the (sometimes) hilarious fall. One of the film’s highlights is an onstage scuffle between The Dandys and BJM, a scuffle that is basically reenacted in an episode of the Gilmore Girls. Rock ‘n’ roll may not necessarily be highbrow, but reenacting a documentary? Totally highbrow.

Chris Eigeman

Chris Eigeman will always be highbrow, as he first came onto the scene in Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan (and then subsequently worked with Noah Baumbach — highbrow!), as practically an avatar for the forever-quaint Harvard upper-crust director, which meant that he fit into Gilmore Girls quite nicely as a snooty and charmingly neurotic love interest for Lorelai in the fourth season.

Sparks, Sonic Youth, and other indie bands

I have talked about Sparks and Gilmore Girls before (as they have something in common: David Lynch), but perhaps the best way to understand Gilmore Girls‘ love of music is to watch these clips from the Season 6 finale, “Partings,” when quirky Stars Hollow was overtaken by a slew of bands trying to hit it big like the Stars Hollow troubadour did.

This meant cameos by some of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s brilliant, highbrow favorites like the glorious Sparks; the late, great Sonic Youth (or to be more depressingly specific, the late Gordon-Moores, daughter Coco in tow); and the brilliant Joe Pernice, among others.

Norman Mailer

Your favorite late literary misogynist was totally Norman Mailer-ing it in when he agreed to be in an episode, where basically he’s just conducting one very long interview (“it was all improv,” Mailer told Ariel Levy) with a very obsequious interviewee, played by his IRL son Stephen Mailer, and annoying the heck out of Sookie St. James as their table sits and drinks iced tea for hours. This episode does conclude with Melissa McCarthy yelling, “Norman Mailer, I’m pregnant!” at the writer, and if that doesn’t make you laugh you’re a little bit dead inside.

Christiane Amanpour

It made sense that Rory wanted to be a journalist. But the idea that she specifically wanted to be another globetrotting Christiane Amanpour, reporting on international strife right in the middle of conflict, always seemed a bit… unrealistic, considering Rory’s character.

Nevertheless, it was awesome that Amanpour (one of the subjects of Sheila Weller’s upcoming, excellent book The News Sorority) was her idol, and on the very last episode of Gilmore Girls ever (sob!) Sherman-Palladino finally got her wish to have the journalist appear on the show as herself, staying at Lorelai’s inn. As Amanpour put it, the cameo had relevance to the young women watching the show: “I like that a Hollywood [series] concentrated on something important, especially to young people. The message was that this smart young woman had a serious goal and was interested in substance, when today’s culture tells you that the absolute opposite is true.”

Madeline Albright

Yes, Rory is cuddling with our former Secretary of State in the above still. It’s from a dream sequence, where Albright does a handy job of taking over from Lauren Graham in one of the show’s most treasured rituals, when Lorelai tells Rory the story of how she was born. Albright was a fan of the show, and when they called her to ask if they could cast “someone else” as Albright, the politician and diplomat insisted that she could do the role herself, and she did. Just another strong woman in the wonderful world of the Gilmore Girls.