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TV Review: Gift of 'Gilmore Girls'

Wednesday, December 20, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Bonus episode gives viewers the chance to try WB's witty, believable drama

This can't be what The WB had in mind. When The WB scheduled a special episode of "Gilmore Girls" for 9 tonight, it was expected to air opposite a rerun of "The West Wing."

 
 
'Gilmore Girls'

When: 9 p.m. tonight and 8 p.m. tomorrow on WCWB.

Starring: Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Kelly Bishop.

   
 

But thanks to that other political drama (the real-life race for the White House), last week's original episode of "The West Wing" was delayed until tonight.

So now there's an original "Gilmore Girls" duking it out with an original "West Wing." There's no question "West Wing" will triumph in the ratings, and it probably should win, but "Gilmore Girls" deserves a look from anyone who appreciates quality drama laced with humor. And I bet a lot of "West Wing" viewers fall into that category.

My advice: Tape one and watch the other. Otherwise, "West Wing" fans will miss the first of a two-part "Gilmore Girls" (concluding tomorrow in the show's regular time slot, 8 p.m. Thursday) that exemplifies why this series has developed a loyal and growing following.

Airing locally on Pittsburgh's WCWB-Channel 22, "Gilmore Girls" is that rare TV show that chronicles intergenerational relationships, doing so with warmth, wit and believability. It's not the only show to deal with families in this way ("Judging Amy" does it, too), but "Gilmore Girls" offers a different perspective.

Single mom Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and her daughter, Rory (Alexis Bledel), recently reconnected with Lorelai's wealthy patrician parents (played perfectly by Kelly Bishop and Edward Herrmann).

Lorelai and her mother, Emily, have been at odds since Lorelai got pregnant with Rory at age 16 and chose to have the baby but not marry Rory's father. Now Rory is 16.

Lorelai and her mother are often at odds, not because they're so wildly different as each one thinks, but because they're actually a lot alike. Both have a sharp, sarcastic wit, and neither one is afraid to use it.

"Since when have you not liked avocado?" Emily asks Lorelai at their weekly family supper.

"Since the day I said, 'Gross, what is this?' and you said, 'Avocado,'" Lorelai replies with snap.

As much as "Gilmore Girls" is about the relationships between mothers and daughters (Emily and Lorelai, Lorelai and Rory), it's also about an intelligent, put together teen-age girl. In an era of scantily clad, too-cool-for-the-room Britney Spearses-in-waiting, Rory Gilmore is refreshingly retro -- modest, shy and driven to excel in academics. Rory is the opposite of what her mother was at age 16.

And yet, Lorelai worries. She's not controlling like her mother (she doesn't need to be when her daughter is often more organized than she is), but Lorelai has a deep-seated fear that the mistakes she made might be repeated by Rory, no matter how responsible a kid she is.

Tonight Rory and her first boyfriend fall asleep together after attending a school dance, which leads to a fight between Emily and Lorelai over who has been the worse mother. Just as that fight ends, with Lorelai defending her parenting and proclaiming Rory too smart to do something so foolhardy as to get pregnant, Rory returns home.

In an instant Lorelai switches from fending off her mother to scolding the daughter she was defending just moments before. It's a wrenching scene, and viewers will be able to identify with each of the three characters.

Series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino's honest writing in tonight's episode highlights the strengths of "Gilmore Girls." Emily could easily be a conservative caricature, but she's not. Watching her sass an officious nurse who calls her Ms. Gilmore in tomorrow's episode ("It's Mrs. Gilmore; I'm not a Cosmo woman!"), it's obvious where Lorelai gets her smart mouth.

Though the highlight of tonight's "Gilmore Girls" is a tense and dramatic confrontation, don't be mistaken: "Gilmore Girls" is more often a light drama with a big heart that also presents a realistic view of life for a wallflowerish teen-age girl.

It's not sweet like "7th Heaven" ("Gilmore Girls" has more of an edge), but "Girls" upholds the value of family, both the traditional family Emily has in mind and the more contemporary family Lorelai envisions. "Gilmore Girls" offers something for everyone.


Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.



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