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Get to Know Smart, Charming Girls, 05.10.01 ...

They should routinely put a happy viewer advisory on "Gilmore Girls."

Something like: "This show may cause spontaneous smiles."

It's no different with tonight's breezy, touching season finale of the refreshingly off-center WB series, a comedy-drama that each week centers on the charmingly forthright relationship of single mom Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and her bright 16-year-old daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel).

Romantic spring fever is in the air tonight as "Gilmore Girls" winds up a freshman season of smart feel-good television.

Love sneakily insinuates itself into the lives of both mother and daughter, with serendipitous bliss the end result.

Lorelai is taken aback when lovebird Max (Scott Cohen, "NYPD Blue") suddenly senses an odd flirtatious vibe between her and Luke (Scott Patterson), the quirky coffee shop owner who has been doing handyman jobs around the Gilmore house.

Meanwhile, Rory is yearning for a reunion with her estranged boyfriend, down-to-earth Dean (Jared Padalecki).

The silly little communications breakdowns that happen between men and women, or boys and girls, lie at the heart of the episode -- those moments in life when we are too nervous or insecure to express our real feelings.

As usual, "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino navigates this emotional terrain with wit, intelligence and affection. She's right on target about the ways mothers and daughters interact at a particularly tricky time in their lives together. Yes, those teen years.

Of course, with "Gilmore Girls," it's the child who sometimes exudes a calm, mature wisdom about life. Rory -- who dreams of going to Harvard -- occasionally has to give her mercurial, overcaffeinated mother a reality check.

What sets "Gilmore Girls" apart from most family dramas is its refusal to engage in cheap sentiment or bogus melodrama. Sherman-Palladino, who has a flair for screwball comic repartee, manages to infuse her show with heartfelt emotion without ever becoming smarmy about it.

Though it has collected glowing reviews and a devoted little following, "Gilmore Girls" remains off the radar screen of most viewers. Airing at 8 p.m. Thursdays opposite "Friends" and "Survivor: The Australian Outback" is no way to reach a mass audience. The show pulled a meager 3.2 million viewers and finished No. 93 in this week's A.C. Nielsen ratings.

But WB is sold on the charms and potential of "Gilmore Girls," which has been drawing the network's target audience of younger female viewers. It will be back for another season.

"Gilmore Girls" is likely to put a giggly spell on viewers of any age or gender. It's that good. It's that feel-good. Smiles? Guaranteed. Credit: Detroit Free Press

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