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The Charming Gilmore Girls, 10.05.00 ...


Gilmore Girls is a light- hearted family drama about a beautiful mother, a teenage daughter and a stony pair of rich grandparents.

It's cross-generational, warm-the- cockles viewing, and it's a terrific show. Can this really be the WB, niche broadcaster to horny mall rats?

The new series is a byproduct of something called the Family Friendly Viewing Forum, an initiative by 11 big advertisers -- big as in General Motors, IBM and Procter & Gamble -- to support wholesome programming.

Gilmore Girls was in development apart from the Family Friendly Whatever. But it seemed to fill the bill; the big boys adopted it and bought time.

Strange, at first blush, that the main character in their first sanctioned show is a woman who had a baby when she was 16 and unmarried.

But if you watch Gilmore Girls, and you should, you'll understand the advertisers' approval. It's hard not to like this series.

Lauren Graham (Townies, NewsRadio) stars as Lorelai Gilmore, 32, manager of a comfy, up scale inn in a picturesque Connecticut town and mother of 16-year-old Rory Gilmore (newcomer Alexis Bledel).

They're not only mother and daughter, but also best friends who more or less grew up together. They don't have to tell you, exactly. You can sense it from the first scene tonight, when a young man passing through town puts a pick-up move on both of them.

Richard and Emily Gilmore (Edward Herrmann and Kelly Bishop) are the third generation, Lorelai's parents. They live in a Hartford mansion. He's an old-money insurance tycoon. Their relations with Lorelai are frosty, because Lorelai was an independent spirit who had a baby out of wedlock, and because they're a couple of snow cones.

Herrmann and Bishop are probably the oldest actors ever to step onto a WB show. Until now, the official WB policy has been euthanasia at age 25, and may they rest in peace.

The three generations are brought into uneasy alignment when Rory is accepted at a prestigious prep school, and Lorelai needs cash, fast, to pay the tuition. Her mother imposes a condition: dinner, every Friday, at the mansion.

And what family gatherings they are -- full of verbal jabs, snide insinuations, slam-bang quarrels, awkward pauses, pomp and poutiness.

The first Friday dinner ends with Lorelai and Emily shouting in the kitchen, Richard sleeping soundly with his head thrown back at the dinner table, and Rory sitting agape at the table. Always glib, Lorelai says to Rory afterward, on the way to the car, "Do I look shorter? Because I feel shorter."

Gilmore Girls doesn't require its cast to assert itself over a mealy script, a rarity for TV. Amy Sherman-Palladino (Roseanne), the show's creator and lead writer, seems to have these characters in her blood -- especially Lorelai -- and she has a gift for dialogue.

Sherman-Palladino peppers the show with colorful supporting characters, too, mostly for comic effect: Melissa McCarthy as the accident-prone chef at the inn; Scott Patterson as the brusque proprietor of the town diner; Keiko Agena as Rory's Korean American friend; and Canadian actor Yanic Truesdale as Michel, the inn's snotty receptionist.

People are particularly stupid today,'' Michel grouses in French-accented English. I can't talk to any more of them.''

The show's "family friendly" tag can be a liability as well as a benefit. It shouldn't scare away adult viewers. There might be a tiny temptation to groan at the town's "teen hayride," yet this is no 7th Heaven, plucking at heartstrings with heavy fingers.

Gilmore Girls seduces viewers with its own fantasy world -- well-scrubbed New England town, elegant and happily hip young mom, a general sense of equilibrium -- but the cast's chemistry bubbles and the script is exceptional.

The WB may have a survivor, perchance a cozy little hit...
Credit: SF Gate


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