There's no "Survivor" tonight. "Friends" is an original, but you can tape it. It's the perfect opportunity to watch "Gilmore Girls" (8 p.m. on WCWB), The WB's thoroughly satisfying comedy-drama about a mother, Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham), and her daughter, Rory (Alexis Bledel).
Tonight's episode concentrates on the love lives of both Gilmore girls as Rory goes into denial after being dumped by her first boyfriend and Lorelai finds herself lonely and distant from the many possible suitors in her life.
At this description, your immediate and understandable first thought is probably: "Chick flick."
Admittedly, tonight's episode veers more in that direction than usual. Lorelai's scene-stealing patrician parents (the excellent Kelly Bishop and Edward Herrmann) are nowhere to be seen, but "Gilmore Girls" still shows its stripes as uncommonly smart in its portrayal of common entanglements in adolescent and adult life.
A January visit to the set of the show's Independence Inn offered a chance to chat with the show's creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, who got her start writing for the teen-age characters on "Roseanne." Listening to her talk, you can easily hear the voice of Lorelai.
She and executive producer Gavin Palone pitched "Gilmore Girls" to WB executives last spring, but they only had a slim concept: Parent and teen are more like pals than the typical mother and daughter.
"We were just talking about the fact that that has never been portrayed in a manner that isn't like, you know, mom is a struggling cocktail waitress in Reno and it's all very kind of depressing," Sherman-Palladino said.
But the creator had no idea of what the show should be beyond the two main characters. A vacation with her husband at the Mayflower Inn in Washington, Conn., inspired the rest of "Gilmore Girls," including Lorelai's workplace and the quaint town of Stars Hollow, Conn.
"We went to a diner and everyone knew each other and someone got up and they walked behind [the counter] and they got their own coffee because the waitress was busy and I'm like, 'Is this out of Central Casting? Who staged this thing for me?' " Sherman-Palladino recalled. "The inn was so beautiful. Everything looked like it was coated in sugar. ... If I can make people feel this much of what I felt walking around this fairy town, I thought that would be wonderful."
Sherman-Palladino populated Stars Hollow with a roster of unique characters, including diner owner Luke, a possible love interest for Lorelai whose ex-girlfriend has returned to town. Originally, the Luke character was going to be a woman, but the network asked for another male character.
"Flipping that over and finding that last little moment in the pilot where [Lorelai and Luke] sort of looked at each other, it gave me a whole new dynamic as a writer," Sherman-Palladino said. "He's a very basic guy. He doesn't want to leave Stars Hollow. He is not a guy that all he can do is fix your car. He has got insights. But she's got her wall up, he's got his wall up, and there's a banter thing going on. That's the kind of relationship you could play for 50 years if you wanted to."
In tonight's episode, Rory's relationship strife is at the forefront. Because Rory has been treated as an equal by her mom, interaction with other adults comes easily, lending her a sense of maturity. But when it comes to matters of the heart, Rory is far less sophisticated than the world-weary teens on "Dawson's Creek."
"This is a character I've been wanting to get on the air for a very long time," Sherman-Palladino said. "Seeing the teens that are on TV, they all dress like they're 35 and on the cover of Cosmo and they're all having sex at 12, and I'm like, wow, that was so not what I went through. I thought somewhere in America there must be one or two kids running around that haven't slept with somebody yet. ... When you take a kid who's already sleeping with somebody, who's already dressing like Linda Evangelista, you're missing all the good stories, you're missing all the development, and you're missing all the heartache and tears and 'What do I do?' "
Though Rory refers to her mom as her best friend, don't think Lorelai is derelict in her motherly duties. Take the episode where Rory and Dean fell asleep while reading Dorothy Parker.
"You've got these two gorgeous kids sitting there, they have a nice kiss, they look, they smile and then they go back to reading Dorothy Parker and they fall asleep. Only in my world could I get away with that," Sherman-Palladino said. "It was so wonderful and charming and then the scene where [Rory] is so floored when her mom accuses her of doing anything other than that. Because in their existence, 'I don't do that. You know I don't do that.' That's the relationship you get to play."
In Sherman-Palladino you can hear the quick wit that's such a part of Lorelai's personality. During the January press conference, Bledel seemed every bit as sweet as Rory. After she received a bounty of accolades from her co-stars, particularly veterans Bishop and Herrmann, Bledel blushed and stammered a Rory-like response.
"Thank you, guys. Wow. These guys are incredible," she said. "Everybody is so nice. Thanks. Wow. I'm so embarrassed."
Bledel is beautiful, cute and humble, a lot like "Gilmore Girls."