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TV's Freshman Class Is Smarter Than Usual, 11.22.00 ...

C'mon, people. This is not the worst tube season ever, weakest class in recent memory, or any of those other prime-time-stinks platitudes critics love to spew. Sure, the networks have debuted shows we wish had stayed on the shelf. (And NBC's "Tucker" was swiftly sent back there.) But--and it's a big "but" this fall--there's a surprising amount of good stuff to go around.

There's a clever fall arrival being neglected Thursday on another channel, where the WB's new "Gilmore Girls," unfortunately, faces off against NBC's same-audience-attracting smash, "Friends." If only more viewers would check out this seriocomic concerto of a modern mother-daughter relationship. Lauren Graham's agile 32-year-old single mom is best friends with Alexis Bledel's awkward 16-year-old kid as they forge breezily together through such life crises as a wake for tiny next-door neighbor Sally Struthers' cat.

Struthers seems to live in a gingerbread cottage--even the doorways are suitably pint-size--and that's the warmly off-kilter way "Gilmore Girls" portrays its idealized world. Everybody in this quaint Connecticut hamlet takes care of each other. And they're all so smart--playfully whipping off witty zingers and loving gotchas. Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino once wrote sharp episodes of "Roseanne," and she shows her great ear for sassy everyday dialogue.

"Gilmore Girls" feels a lot like "The West Wing" in its authentic texture, just on a more personal scale. When daughter tells mom after an encounter with grandma that she now knows how tough her mom's youth must have been, quick-lipped Graham returns this: "It's not official till you're huddled in a corner eating your hair."
Credit: LA Times

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