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Tuned In: Creator Defends Gilmore Girls, 1.16.04 ...

STARS HOLLOW -- White lights twinkle in the trees around the bandstand. Ice cream is scooped at Taylor's Olde Fashioned Soda Shoppe. Coffee flows freely inside Luke's Diner.

Stars Hollow, home of The WB's "Gilmore Girls," doesn't actually exist, of course, but it's easy to believe in the fictitious hamlet when wandering its streets (really the backlot at Warner Bros. in Burbank).

Magical as the setting is, the "Girls" have been in a funk this season. Characters have behaved out of character -- Lorelai (Lauren Graham) would never be interested in the cheeseball guy she's getting involved with -- and the transition to life as a college freshman for Rory (Alexis Bledel) -- is there ever a weekend she's not back home? -- was strained.

"Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman Palladino defends the show's recent storytelling, even the recent scene where Lorelai -- a single mother on a meager budget -- looked down her nose at people who clip coupons.

"When I was poor, I would never clip coupons," Sherman Palladino said, standing in front of Luke's wearing a Hello Kitty ring and necklace. "I grew up with a mother with a coupon drawer and the clipping of coupons, and I said, 'You're nuts, you buy food you don't even want, you buy toothpaste that's disgusting, you buy four cans of peas and nobody eats peas.' To me, coupon clipping is a little nutty. [On 'Gilmore Girls'], you're talking about two women who do nothing but eat takeout; they don't even go to the supermarket."

Sherman Palladino said she has mixed feelings about negative reactions to this season's episodes.

"I like that people are so invested in the characters that they even care, that there's a debate," she said. "You couldn't have [Rory] live at home for a year because they'd both need mental counseling ...

"I personally liked what we did with their separation. I like the fact she kept going home for a while because I think in reality that's what would happen. Most kids, when they go to college, are like, 'Woo-hoo! Freedom! See you on laundry day!' But they didn't have that relationship with their parents that Rory has with Lorelai. It's very different leaving you very best friend, your biggest confidante. She doesn't view Lorelai as someone who's keeping her from freedom... I think Rory's always kind of felt like an adult. It's like leaving your best friend. It's a different transition and because of that, personally, I feel we were true to the nature of who they were."

"Gilmore Girls" has been in reruns or pre-empted since the end of November sweeps. A new episode airs next week. Upcoming episodes will feature the return of bad boy Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) and the introduction of his mother. Dean (Jared Padelecki) will also be back.

Sherman Palladino hinted that Lorelai and Luke (Scott Patterson) might get together someday, but she doesn't want to rush it.

"I think it's what we're all working toward, whether we do it before the end [of the series] or at the end," she said. "It's one of the key touchstones of our show. You've got this woman working so hard to make it and her partner is right around the corner. If either one of them would just let the wall down for five seconds and keep the quips to a minimum and maybe say something real to each other, their lives would be very different."

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