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A Love Letter to Gilmore Girls, 01.14.01 ...

I want to move to Stars Hollow, the fictional Connecticut town brought to life in the WB's new drama ``Gilmore Girls,'' airing Thursdays at 8 p.m.

In this magical town, creator and producer Amy Sherman-Palladino has created a cast of characters that actually behave like real people. Stars Hollow embraces its residents and by extension its viewers. It's the type of town that only exists on television, but is so believable that it has become a major character. Stars Hollow deserves an agent and a long-term contract.

I haven't felt this connected to a made-up location since 1984. That was the year I told my mom I wanted to go to Pine Valley for our family vacation. But I digress.

Since its premiere, ``Gilmore Girls'' has quickly lived up to the promise of its pilot and evolved into the best new show of the season. But because it airs opposite ``Friends,'' it's quite possible that Sherman-Palladino's immediate family and a few devoted fans are the only ones watching the show each week.

I'm not prepared to have another quality show go the way of ``Freaks & Geeks,'' so here's the update: Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) is the 32-year-old single mother of 16-year-old Rory (Alexis Bledel). The birth of her daughter when she was 16 and unmarried has caused Lorelai to become permanently alienated from her steely mother Emily (Kelly Bishop) and her affable but aloof father Richard (Edward Herrmann).

Despite having some of the best dramas on television (``Buffy the Vampire Slayer,'' ``Angel,'' and ``Felicity'') and this season's best new comedy (the satirical ``Grosse Pointe''), the WB is frequently overlooked. Many disregard the frog network a merely a place where beautiful young actors dress in beautiful clothes and use an inappropriately large vocabulary.

The residents of Stars Hollow are well dressed, but they're also age-appropriate. Rory's never dressed in anything your own mother wouldn't let you out of the house in. And sure, they're beautiful. Particularly dreamy is Jared Padalecki as Rory's boyfriend Dean. With his floppy hair and shy smile, he's perfectly poised to become the next heartthrob. But the show also allows for the type of beauty that's over 35 and larger than a size two.

After years of forgettable series (including this summer's doomed ``MYOB''), Graham has found a role that could and should make her a household name. Bledel looks like she could actually be a real teenager (because at 18 she still is) and brings credibility to her role of an overachieving student. In many ways, the Gilmore girls are raising each other, and the show expertly explores this mother-daughter bond.

Never are the characters confined to one-dimensional definitions. In a role that easily could have become nothing more than a wealthy, heartless snob, Bishop, along with some deft writing, has made Emily a compassionate character.

The show's quirky lines are more trendy and funny than the zingers Will and Grace lodge at each other. When Rory is appalled that her mother might date her teacher, Lorelai tells her, ``You can't always control who you are attracted to. I think the whole Angelina Jolie, Billy Bob Thorton thing really proves that.'' Fun stuff.

But ``Gilmore Girls'' also cleverly balances humor with the struggle of growing up and the difficulty of being a daughter no matter what your age. It taps into multi-generational family angst. ``It's just the daughter part I don't have down yet,'' Lorelai laments when she's complimented on her mothering skills.

``Gilmore Girls'' also knows that eccentric characters are best when offered up in small packages. Therefore, the snarky Michel (Yanic Truesdale) weaves in and out of scenes offering up disdainful comments without overtaking the central action. Alex Borstein's perpetually cranky cellist also makes brief but equally hysterical appearances. The producers of NBC's ``Ed'' should take note and tone down Phil's (Michael Ian Black) presence on that show.

As Lorelai's potential love interest Luke Danes, Scott Patterson is doing for coffee shops what John Corbett did for radio stations on ``Northern Exposure.'' (Watch the show, you'll see what I mean.)

All this plus Sally Struthers' return to series television as Lorelai and Rory's zany neighbor.

In a recent episode Lorelai said, ``It's hard to imagine living somewhere else.'' It's even harder to imagine watching something else on Thursday night.

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