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GG is an Articulate Generational War, 12.20.00 ...

It's like "Moonlighting" only with mom-and-daughter bickering rather than sparring detective partners. It's like "The West Wing" and "Sports Night" with its witty banter and provocative issues plus its reliance on brains as well as emotions to confront crises. It's "Gilmore Girls," one of the best new shows of the season -- certainly the best on new network The WB (Channel 33/cable 5 in Wichita) --and it's time to remind viewers in case it somehow got lost in the November madness known as the fall ratings sweeps period.

A good time to discover -- or rediscover -- the show is this week with a two-part holiday episode that begins at 8 p.m. today (on a special night) and concludes at 7 p.m. Thursday (its regular time slot).

(Note: "GG" has become the smart alternative to "Friends," which started hip seven years ago but has become cutesy, predictable and very long in the tooth.)

The main players of this new series are three generations of very strong, very independent and very outspoken Connecticut women... ahem, "Girls"... who love each other fiercely and protectively but who don't like each other very much because they are all so stubborn (it's a family thing).

There's Lorelei Gilmore (Lauren Graham of "Townies"), born into a wealthy and privileged family, who disappointed her parents when she rebelled against country clubs, fancy party dresses and Ivy League schools, becoming a single mom at 16.

Her boyfriend offered to do the right thing and marry her. But Lorelei (who seems more a product of the 1960s than the 1980s) declined, preferring freedom rather than a perfunctory, proper but loveless marriage.

Lorelei vows not to make the same mistakes her controlling, overbearing mother did. She intends to be a friend to her daughter rather than a humorless authoritarian.

Rory Gilmore (winsome newcomer Alexis Bledel) is the result of Lorelei's unorthodox parenting. She's smart, articulate, precocious -- and now she's 16 and beginning to notice boys. Can Lorelei still be her giggling best friend rather than a protective mom on that crucial topic?

Rory is also curious about her grandparents and the lifestyle her mother turned her back on. She actually likes golfing with her Wall Street granddad (Edward Herrmann), even including the goofy golfing cap her mother hated as a girl.

Finally there's Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop of "Dirty Dancing"), the formidable matriarch who can issue thunderous disapproval with the simple raising of an eyebrow. She's elegant, precise, not a hair -- or emotion -- out of place. She only wanted the best for Lorelei and she still takes it as a personal affront that she didn't want to follow in her privileged footsteps.

The two are estranged for years as Lorelei carves out a career on her own as the manager of a quaint, charming country inn where the elite like to retreat.

But when Rory comes of age to go to an exclusive school, Lorelei and Emily finally manage a truce. The grandparents will secretly pay tuition that Lorelei cannot afford in exchange for one family dinner a week where they can all pretend to be normal.

It's like putting cats in a sack and shaking them up. The struggle for dominance -- albeit only with barbed zingers -- is often hilarious but also sharply poignant.

In the two-part holiday episode this week, Rory approaches her first school formal with fear and trepidation but also with eagerness. It's a major social step -- and it involves a date!

She's like grandma in being dazzled by the aura of old money and tradition but she's like mom in inviting a down-to-earth "townie" who works in a grocery rather than a snobby classmate.

There's all the frantic and funny anticipation as mom and grandma spar over The Dress, The Date, The Curfew, etc. And there's a crisis when the girl accidentally stays out all night.

But the family faces a larger crisis when granddad collapses during a Christmas dinner and is rushed to the hospital. For the first time in years, Emily and Lorelei must try to put aside their differences long enough to keep their family together.

Surrounding these three remarkable -- and remarkably drawn -- women are a wealth of townspeople who share wonderfully eccentric, even quirky traits with the inhabitants of "Northern Exposure," "Picket Fences" or the current "Ed."

There's Luke (Scott Patterson), the village coffee shop owner who becomes the de facto town psychiatrist, dispensing advice along with burgers. He's sweet on Lorelei but waiting for her to notice him.

There's Miss Patty (Liz Torres), dance instructor and resident free spirit, who positively lives for romance -- and gossip. She's the town's social arbiter.

There are Yanic Truesdale as Lorelei's deliciously haughty French concierge and Melissa McCarthy as her scatterbrained but accomplished chef.

And there's Keiko Agena as teen Rory's best friend, a straight-A student and second-generation Korean immigrant who is determined to be an all-American teen despite her strict parents.

The show is subtle but irresistible; it's a grabber that overwhelms you with words worth listening to. That's refreshing in an increasingly action-oriented, special-effects, Xtreme world.
Credit: The Wichita Eagle

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