This is the television program that Lorelai and Rory watch with Dean, and is the basis for the episode’s title.
The Donna Reed Show is a sit-com starring Donna Reed as middle-class housewife Donna Stone. Carl Betz played opposite her as Donna’s paediatrician husband Alex, and Shelley Fabares and Paul Petersen were their teenaged children, Mary and Jeff.
Although Lorelai and Rory consider the show hopelessly outdated and sexist, episodes occasionally examined issues such as women’s rights (not with any radical outcomes, it must be said). But Donna Stone was a more assertive mother than had previously been shown on television, and it was the first sitcom to focus on the mother as the central figure in a domestic comedy. It helped pave the way for shows such as Roseanne and even Gilmore Girls (both shows that Amy Sherman-Palladino worked on).
The Donna Reed Show was attacked by feminists in the 1970s as presenting an idealised view of domesticity, so Rory and Lorelai’s criticisms feel really behind the times. It’s strange that they are giving feminist opinions from a generation ago as if they are clever and new – maybe they really do watch too many old movies?
The Donna Reed Show originally aired from 1958-1966, and was one of the most popular programs of 1963-64. It was only cancelled when Donna Reed became tired of doing the show.
Reruns of The Donna Reed Show were shown on Nick at Nite from 1985 to 1994. It wasn’t on TV in 2001, and hadn’t yet been released on DVD, meaning that the only way Lorelai and Rory can be watching the show is because they taped it off TV ages ago and are still watching it on video at least seven years later. Despite their mocking of the show, they must really be huge fans! (Again, how a show that hadn’t been on TV in nearly a decade is a relevant target for their attacks is a puzzle).