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Gilmore Girls Are a Sweet Combination, 10.05.00 ...

Sweet. That's as good a word as any to sum up the feeling you get when you watch Gilmore Girls, a tender little drama series as cozy as a New England village in autumn.

For me, this show comes along at just the right moment too, just when I was ready to write off the new fall season as distressingly more of the same, only worse.

Where most new shows bend over backward in their first episode to tell you the life history of every character through the use of stilted and contrived dialogue, Gilmore Girls avoids that clumsy error and as a result, makes itself right at home.

For the show, home just happens to be a New England village, a hamlet located not far from Hartford, Conn., where 16-year-old Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) goes to public school and has just been accepted into a private academy, and her mother, 32-year-old Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham), manages an historic inn.

They're called Gilmore Girls in the show's title because they seem more like sisters than mother and daughter, the result of mom's relative youth, having given birth to Rory when she was 16. The girl's father, who sired her when he and Lorelai were in high school, is out of the picture.

Where most of the new shows I've been forced to sit through lately do just about everything wrong, Gilmore Girls gets most of the fundamentals right, especially the acting and writing.

Dialogue, so phony on most TV shows, feels refreshingly real in scenes featuring Lorelai and Rory; Rory and her equally brainy high school friend, Lane (Keiko Agena); and Lorelai and her own stuffy, wealthy parents (Kelly Bishop and Ed Herrmann).

Herrmann, in the role of a monosyllabic patriarch who rarely looks up from the Wall Street Journal, is terrific, as usual. Also standing out is the great Liz Torres as Miss Patty, the town's cigarette-smoking dance teacher who makes just one all-too-brief appearance in episode one.

One scene that merits special praise is when Rory falls for a new boy at school in an exchange that's mostly stammers and awkward gestures, yet avoids being so painful that it becomes too uncomfortable to watch.

The word "sweet," a word I seldom use, especially in TV reviews, came to mind during that scene. And that's when I realized I'd been won over by Gilmore Girls.

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