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Top New Shows, 01.02.01 ...

It’s not only the best new show this season, it’s the third-best show in production!

“The Gilmore Girls” is the tale of 32-year-old Lorelei Gilmore (fabulous, talented Heather Graham), an unmarried Connecticut mother whose 16-year-old daughter Rory (fabulous, talented Alexis Bledel) is both her namesake and her best friend. An important thing to know about sunny, witty, free-spirited Lorelei is that her own mother, Emily, is a colossal tight-ass. Lorelei fled her parents (and their considerable wealth) 16 years ago rather than endure what one assumes was mother Emily’s relentless disdain for her pregnat 16-year-old daughter. Lorelei’s almost complete estrangement from Emily ended in the pilot, when super-smart Rory found herself accepted into a prestigious prep school and Lorelei found herself begging her parents for the pricey tuition. Emily, seeking her pound of flesh, agreed to loan the tuition in exchange for weekly Friday-night dinners with both Rory and Lorelei.

Critics and others who have difficulty with categorization have lumped “Gilmore” in with the WB’s top-rated drama, “7th Heaven,” because both shows deal with family. But “7th Heaven,” while far from unwatchable, is not a funny show. “Gilmore Girls,” by contrast, is not only brainy, heart-wrenching and sexy, but also laugh-out-loud hilarious. Imagine the minister’s wife in “7th Heaven” wrapping her mouth around dialogue like this:

RORY: You’re happy.

LORELEI (beaming at Rory): Yeah!

RORY (disdainfully): Did you do something slutty?

LORELEI (beaming more broadly): I’m not THAT happy!

The charm of the “The Gilmore Girls” is not limited to the big yucks it routinely elicits. If “The West Wing’s” Josiah Bartlett is the president we long to call leader, then the Gilmores are the family we long to call kin. Who wouldn’t welcome Rory as a daughter or Lorelei as a mom?

Credit creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, who rivals the likes of Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin, Jason Katims, Glenn Gordon Caron and David E. Kelley as a dramatist who can crank out superior serialized comedy. Sherman-Palladino, believe it or don’t, used to write for awful sitcoms like “Love and Marriage” and “Veronica’s Closet.” Don’t let that dissuade you. She is major talent, one of those writers whose work, frankly, is way too good to be piped into our homes for free.

Lauren Graham, who beguiles when she frowns, entrances when she smiles (I like her!), may have just inherited Lisa Kudrow’s crown as the funniest woman on North American television.

Graham is in fact such an luminous and charismatic presence, you have to wait until she walks off camera before you realize that Bledel (the one who most resembles a better-nourished Fiona Apple) is also quite the find. Particularly endearing is the way Bledel feigns Rory’s lack of composure in the presence of her dreamy new boyfriend Dean. And if you pay close attention, you can see she’s a formidable foil for Graham as well.

The good extends the the supporting cast. The great Edward Herrmann adds a healthy dose of droll as Lorelei’s distracted pop, Yanic Truesdale is droller still as Lorelei’s evil French coworker Michel, and Keiko Agena is best as Lane, Rory’s best-pal-who-isn’t-Lorelei. Kudos also to Kelly Bishop, roundly despicable as the Gilmores’ thoroughly unpleasant matriarch.

Even USA Today’s Bette-worshiping Robert Bianco had to admit recently that “Gilmore” is the best new show on TV.

Why haven’t you been watching? Because it airs opposite “Friends!” (And things are not likely to improve once “Survivor II” enters the same daypart next month.) I can only trust that our friends at the WB, if they insist on leaving this show in its brutal timeslot, will be patient with it.

Buy another VCR and learn to tape one show while watching another. Shows as good as “The Gilmore Girls” don’t come along every year.
Credit: Ain't It Cool News

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