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Rebuilding Yale: Prettier and Skinnier, 09.12.03 ...

Who cares about the US News and World Report rankings? As far as the WB is concerned, Harvard simply cannot match up to Yale.

As the WB family dramedy hit "Gilmore Girls" enters its fourth season (premiering Sept. 23), Rory Gilmore, the show's precocious young star, is joining Yale's Class of 2007 after picking the Bulldogs over her dream school, Harvard.

"Gilmore Girls" co-producer Helen Pai said the show started talking to University officials last year about incorporating Yale into the show.

"In the last episode of the [third] season, Rory's mother, Lorelei, decorated her room with Yale paraphernalia, which we bought and shipped out to them," said Thomas Violante, an assistant director for the Office of Public Affairs.

Violante said the Gilmore Girls' version of the Yale campus had been reconstructed from papier-mache, Styrofoam, and wood on a sound stage in Universal City, Calif., a big production facility that houses the sets of shows such as "The Drew Carey Show," "Friends" and "ER."

University photographer Michael Marsland photographed architectural details of Yale, particularly on Old Campus, from the laundry rooms to specifics as tiny as doorknobs, tiles and light fixtures, Violante said.

"Viewers will be treated to a faithful reproduction of the Yale campus," Violante said.

Violante said the OPA sent "Gilmore Girls" the Yale B-roll, a 14-minute tour of Yale, to use for the show. Since the tour is only set in nice weather, additional footage will be necessary for the winter episodes. Violante estimated at least six of next season's episodes should be finished by now.

The WB is known for making up colleges for its TV students to attend -- the University of Sunnydale for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and Worthington University and Boston Bay College for "Dawson's Creek." But although "Gilmore Girls," based in oh-so-cute, oh-so-fictional Stars Hollow, Conn., invented Chilton, a prep school that sounds and looks eerily like Choate, Harvard has been Rory's dream destination from day one. What Rory didn't know is that the "Gilmore Girls" producers and geographical convenience all conspired against her to push her where fate required: Yale.

Clue 1: Stars Hollow is in Connecticut. New Haven is in Connecticut. Unless the show was going to change its name to "Gilmore Girl," Rory had to follow television convention and stick close to home.

Clue 2: Rory's grandfather, played by Edward Herrmann, is a Yale alumnus. He paid for Chilton. His desire for Rory to go to Yale certainly pushes the story along nicely.

"Grandpa Gilmore is, of course only on the show, an ex-Whiff," Violante said. "Though Edward Herrmann is actually a graduate of Cornell, he looks a lot like a Yalie."

Clue 3: Yale is better.

"We'll be interested to see the story lines," Violante said. "We're told it will be positive and wholesome, but realistic."

Spoiler alert: In the first episode, Rory lugs a rucksack around, which Violante interpreted as a sign she went on FOOT. Still, Rory's mother also carries a sack, so maybe not.

Political science and English double major Rory will work for the Yale Daily News, possibly covering the Game, and possibly having the News reject one of her stories.

Violante described the award-winning show as "kitschy and quirky," adding that the show "defies definition, not your run-of-the-mill sitcom/drama."

Violante said he suggested the show recreate students haunts, such as the Booktrader Cafe, Gourmet Heaven, the Yankee Doodle, Ivy Noodle, and Atticus Bookstore and Cafe.

He praised the "Gilmore Girls" producers for going to "great length and trouble" to obtain accurate and detailed information on Yale life. But there are already errors, aside from the horrific mock-up of the Yale Admissions Office last year -- only in Hollywood could a Yale building look so modern.

Error 1: Yale has a bad financial aid package. When Rory is denied sufficient financial aid, it is only to add tension. Rory is forced to ask her rich grandparents for money for Yale. Not only must Rory agree to a repayment plan, she must sacrifice her Friday nights to eat dinner with them as well. Yeah, that's the kind of social life every Yalie dreams of.

Error 2: Rory's grandparents give her a car as a graduation gift. If Richard really had gone to Yale, he would know that it is more expensive to park in New Haven than it is to go to school here.

Don't count on the real Yale making a cameo: Violante said it's very expensive to fly a crew here from California, and hiring a remote crew is dangerous because the show's producers may not necessarily get what they want.

So clearly the WB will not be setting up shop in New Haven. We get Darrell Hammond and Alex Trebek and the 30 seconds of glitz and glamour that came from masquerading as Wellesley for Julia Roberts' "Mona Lisa Smile." But the "Gilmore Girls" producers and crew have recreated Yale the old fashioned way, a la "The Skulls," on the other side of the continent.

Now the only question is if the Hollywood Yale will have a cast of strikers to make it the real thing.
Credit: Yale Daily News


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