If you think the title characters on "Gilmore Girls" speak faster than normal, you should listen to their creator.
Words tumble out of Amy Sherman-Palladino like an overturned bucket of Super Balls facing downhill, quick and bouncy and sometimes hard to control. She's an interviewer's dream and a copyeditor's nightmare.
For instance, a question about the state of one of the Gilmores, Yale freshman Rory (Alexis Bledel), brings a 5 1/2-minute monologue, full of commas, long dashes and hypothetical quotes, about the transition the show is making this season, when Rory leaves home and her mom/best friend, Lorelai (Lauren Graham), for the first time.
Yet despite the speed with which she and her characters deliver their densely packed words, Sherman-Palladino stresses that it's going to take time for both the characters and the show to adjust to their new reality.
"Storytelling is tricky. It's always tricky," Sherman-Palladino says at the tail end of that long answer. "It's our fourth year, it's time for people to start saying 'What about this?' And I think that's always good, I think for me it's healthy. You don't want to feel too good about yourself at any given time -- my parents taught me that a long time ago. The minute you're happy a bus is going to run over your head. It's a good, you know -- it's good checks and balances."
Critics and a devoted (if not huge) audience have loved "Gilmore Girls" since it debuted on The WB in 2000, but the Rory Question -- how to keep her involved in the life of her mom and her hometown, quaint, quirky Stars Hollow, Conn., while she adjusts to life as an Ivy League student -- has caused some concern among fans this year.
Sherman-Palladino says she's grateful for it one sense, because it means people are invested in the show to the point that they feel some ownership of it. At the same time, though, what she hears is often contradictory.
"It's funny, because I get feedback on two fronts," she says by way of opening her monologue. "I get 'We really, really, really want Rory to be happy,' and then I get 'But where's the unhappiness?' ...
"It's never a bad thing when people are like, 'We're concerned about Rory -- what's she doing?' To me it's a good thing, because they care. It's tricky on our show because we approach stories from two fronts. We don't do school stories necessarily, as we don't do -- we're not a school show, we're not a workplace show, we're a show about a mother and daughter. You can't have the mother and daughter living completely separate lives, because then you have no show. The core of this show is these two broads together, drinking coffee and walking really fast."
"Gilmore Girls'" effort to keep that core intact means Rory spends a lot of weekends at home, and Lorelai is a frequent visitor to Yale. For the record, Sherman-Palladino says the fictional Stars Hollow is about equally far from New Haven, where Yale is, and Hartford, where Lorelai's parents live and where Rory attended Chilton Prep. (New Haven and Hartford are only about 40 miles apart.)
"It's like a triangle," she says. "Some buys you have to make in television which no one loves to make. One luxury we have is that Stars Hollow ain't real. So we can say it's as far or as close as we need it to be."
The geography serves Sherman-Palladino's purpose of keeping the extraordinarily strong bond between Rory and Lorelai. Rory's early college experience isn't typical, but her continued ties to home emphasize that she and Lorelai remain best friends as well as mother and daughter, and a sudden break in their relationship would ring false.
"For her to just abandon Lorelai and be like 'Whoo-hoo! I'm free,' it would be turning her back on the entire relationship we've set up for three years. It wouldn't be real," Sherman-Palladino says. "Instead you've got to do a little growing pains and have them develop their own lives and have them turn around one day and realize 'S***, I haven't talked to you for a week. When was the last time that happened?' It just takes time to develop those things.
"I also think to have her automatically snap into I'm-on-my-own-I-don't-need-you-anymore mode -- I think that would feel equally weird [to how the show is progressing], maybe even weirder. That's sort of like saying [to the audience] 'That thing you liked for three years? It's bogus.'"
Sherman-Palladino knows where this season will end, although she and her staff are still filling in some of episodes between here and there. "For me it's actually easier" to work back from the end, she says. "I need to feel like, Okay, I need to get her here, which means she needs to experience this -- she's gonna need to lose her shoes, she's gonna need to charge too much on her credit card. It helps me map out stuff." She then adds, laughing: "And you know, it's really all about me."
It remains to be seen if any of those minor catastrophes will actually befall the Gilmores; Sherman-Palladino may have just been talking off the top of her head. She knows for sure, though, that the show isn't setting up a love triangle between Lorelai, friend/diner owner Luke (Scott Patterson) and her father's business partner, Jason Stiles (Chris Eigeman), who took Lorelai on a date in the most recent episode.
"The thing about Luke and Lorelai that's worked very well for us in the past is 70 percent of the time they're just pals," Sherman-Palladino says. "But every now and then something throws a wrench into the pal world, and one of them is stricken with a feeling or a pang of 'Awwwnhh, what about me?' We're not building to a Luke-Lorelai-Chris Eigeman love triangle. That's not what we're going to do, just because that's not what we want to do with her."
If she ran The WB, Sherman-Palladino would end "Gilmore Girls" with Rory graduating from Yale and setting off to discover the world. She also promises that if she has anything to do with it, the series finale will not be a double Gilmore wedding.
"I don't want [Rory] getting married right out of college," she says. There's a short pause, then adopts a sing-songy, teasing voice to say, "But that doesn't mean there won't be one wedding.
"I don't know what that means," she adds very quickly. "I've actually not thought that far at all. Now I've given away the [series] finale and the next person running the show will have to deal with it. Ha ha."
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