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Tuned In: Creator defends 'Gilmore Girls'

Friday, January 16, 2004

By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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."

ABC'S DRAMATIC WOES

ABC executives were surprisingly upfront about their lack of success, particularly when it comes to dramas.

"The painful truth is, we have not been able to launch a successful drama since 'Alias,' " said Lloyd Braun, chairman ABC Entertainment Television Group.

"Line of Fire," which has taken the place of "NYPD Blue" for a month, drew some critical notice, but not enough viewers. "Blue" returns to Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Feb. 10.

"Karen Sisco," which got even more critical acclaim, will be back in late March, although no new time slot was announced.

"We are as bollixed by this whole issue of why we can't get traction with dramas as anybody else," said ABC Entertainment president Susan Lyne. "I do think we put several shows on the air this fall that I would put up against the best dramas on any network."

Reruns of USA Network's "Monk" return to ABC Saturdays at 10 p.m. beginning this weekend. Last fall's highly rated special, "Extreme Makover: Home Edition," becomes a weekly series, airing at 8 p.m. Sundays beginning Feb. 15. In "Home Edition," a construction crew and six designers perform a four-month remodeling job on a family's home in just seven days. "10-8" will go on hiatus.

David Spade, who began a three-episode guest arc on "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" this week, will become a series regular. Jonathan Taylor Thomas ("Home Improvement") will guest star on "8 Simple Rules" next month. Pittsburgh native James Widdoes, who has directed many "8 Simple Rules" episodes, is now an executive producer on the comedy series.

MORE MIDSEASON ON ABC

"Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital" (9 p.m. March 3): Stephen King wrote this series about a haunted hospital. Andrew McCarthy, Diane Ladd and Ed Begley Jr. star. Not available for preview.

"The Big House" (8:30 p.m. April 2): Standup comic Kevin Hart headlines this latter-day, reverse "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" that's not nearly as funny as the old Will Smith sitcom.

"The D.A." (No premiere date): Steven Weber plays a politically ambitious Los Angeles district attorney. Bruno Campos ("Jesse") is an idealistic deputy district attorney in this show with a complicated pilot, but tired, been-there, watched-that premise.


Post-Gazette TV editor Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour. You can reach him at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com .

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