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Bishop Helps 'Girls' Return to its Roots, 3.05.04 ...

Emmy voters have several months before they need to submit names for this year's slate of nominees. But one name should already be filled in under the category for best supporting actress in a comedy series: Kelly Bishop.

The 60-year-old actress who plays matriarch Emily on The WB's Gilmore Girls has had some choice story lines recently, but last week's episode showcased her amazing comedic range. It was also a sign of a revitalized Gilmore season that, after a slow start, is at the top of its game.

After the death of Gran (Marion Ross), Emily's controlling, domineering mother-in-law, Emily did the proper thing as always and assumed responsibility for carrying out the deceased's final wishes, which were considerable. She had to coordinate Gran's decades-old requests for florists who were no longer available while trying to comfort her husband, Richard (Edward Herrmann), who had turned into a sobbing pile of goo.

In Emily, Ms. Bishop has turned sniping with style into an art form. Daughter Lorelai (Lauren Graham), Emily insists, could always be better coifed, better dressed and better paired with men. So it's been a blast watching Emily slowly wilt this year as Gran treated her the same way.

Throw in marital problems with Richard, whose new job and renewed energy has had Emily evaluating her purpose in life, and the result was an Emily powder keg looking for any excuse to explode.

But then she found an old letter, written from Gran to Richard the day before he married Emily, pleading with Richard to leave Emily (who would never be good enough for him) at the altar.

I waited for the explosion to come. It never did.

Instead, in true Gilmore Girls fashion, the show resolved its dramatic questions with comedy. The note caused Emily to simply surrender, and when next we see the blue-blooded matron, she's swilling booze in a housecoat with a cigarette in her mouth. It was a beautiful, hilarious and touching transformation, and Ms. Bishop deserves credit for carrying the best Gilmore episode of a season that had a shaky start.

With young Rory (Alexis Bledel) off at college this year, the series seemed lost. The first few episodes of the season seemed forced and contrived, as the core of the show (the relationships between the three generations of Gilmore women) splintered.

But now that recent events (Rory's classwork overload, Lorelai's financial problems and the strife between Emily and Richard) have thrust the trio back together, the show can confidently head into its already-approved fifth season. And as long as Kelly Bishop is on board, the journey should be a powerful, hilarious and heartfelt one.

Speaking of girl power and Emmy voters, kudos to Ellen Degeneres for her two Daytime Emmy nominations. She should have been nominated for an Oscar for her voice work in Finding Nemo, but this recognition of her talk show and her hosting abilities is a nice consolation prize.

Of course, last year's winner in these two categories, Wayne Brady, recently had his show canceled. With luck, Ms. Degeneres' natural charm and laid-back approach will keep reeling in viewers and these nominations will repeat themselves for many years to come.

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