Along with her parents’ agreement to give her money to pay for Rory’s tuition at Chilton, Lorelai must in turn agree to have dinner with them every Friday, thus setting in place the pattern of the entire show. She also has to call them once a week to give an update on Rory’s schooling and her own life – this weekly phone call is not mentioned again, and although Lorelai seems to particularly hate talking to her mother on the phone, we never hear Emily (Kelly Bishop) complain that she has missed a phone call. We must assume that either Lorelai dutifully complied each week, or that Emily almost immediately accepted that she would not follow through. Neither sounds quite likely, knowing their personalities. Maybe Lorelai made Rory do the phone call.
The choice of Friday night for the family dinner fulfils at least three functions:
- Friday was the very next day of the week, so Emily was making sure that the dinners began straight away with no chance for Lorelai to change her mind or wriggle out of it
- Friday night is a popular night for social events, thus ensuring that plot-wise there was always the potential for conflict over the Friday Night Dinner and other responsibilities
- It brings to mind the Jewish Shabbat, with the holy day beginning at sunset on Friday evening, usually celebrated with a family dinner. This gives the Gilmores’ Friday Night Dinner a feeling of ritual and ceremony, and underscores the marking of cycles of time that each dinner symbolises. (I don’t believe this is a stretch, as Amy Sherman-Palladino is of Jewish heritage).