'Gilmore Girls' Called Fresh

Thursday, October 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Here are key facts about the new TV series ``Gilmore Girls'':

1) The hourlong comedy-drama about a single mom and her teen-age daughter is airing as part of an effort by major advertisers to create more family-friendly shows.

2) It's on the youth-obsessed WB network, where people born before 1966 are as rare as denture adhesive ads.

3) The show's creator is a veteran of sitcom writing, both for better (``Roseanne'') and worse (``Veronica's Closet'').

Now here's the truth: ``Gilmore Girls'' is more than the sum of its parts. It's a fresh and disarming show that is (1) wholesome but not sanitized to the point of blandness; (2) a combination of youthful energy and mature smarts; and (3) funny without sitcom hokum.

``Gilmore Girls'' is, quite simply, this season's buried treasure. While star-driven shows on the bigger networks grab the spotlight, this little gem (airing 8 p.m. EDT Thursday) is worth a close look.

Still wary? Consider that Amy Sherman-Palladino, who dreamed up the series, named her company Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions. Parker, the wickedly sophisticated writer, might well have gotten a kick out of the sweet but sassy ``Gilmore Girls.''

Lauren Graham stars as Lorelai Gilmore, a 32-year-old managing a country inn and raising 16-year-old Rory (Alexis Bledel) in a picture-perfect Connecticut town.

Lorelai is self-sufficient as well as unwed, both of which distress her upper-crust parents (Edward Herrmann and Kelly Bishop). Her youth makes her both a pal and a parent to Rory, but that doesn't mean the teen-ager has free rein.

When Rory balks at transferring to a prestigious high school, mom turns inquisitor and finds out a boy is behind the change of heart. Lorelai, her own ambitions derailed by her teen-age pregnancy, doesn't want to see family history repeat itself.

``Who is he? Dark hair, romantic eyes, looks a little dangerous? Tattoos are good too,'' Lorelai says, angrily confronting Rory. ``Does he have a motorcycle? If you're gonna throw your life away, he better have a motorcycle!''

The series had a strong start last week, drawing 5 million viewers.

In this week's episode, Rory enters swank Chilton Prep but gets off on the wrong foot by antagonizing the school's star pupil. Lorelai, meanwhile, is trying to keep her parents' meddling to a minimum after accepting financial support from them.

Graham and Bledel, dark-haired beauties who could easily pass as kin, play off each other smoothly. The town's collection of quirky residents (the best since ``Northern Exposure'' and more original than the offbeat crew on another new series, ``Ed'') are brought to life by an adept supporting cast.

The pilot for ``Gilmore Girls'' was developed with a pool of funds contributed by major advertisers including Procter & Gamble, General Motors and Sears, who pronounced themselves tired of hawking products on sexy and violent network shows.

The advertisers approached all the broadcast networks with their concerns, striking a deal with WB after it offered the most specific plan. WB supervises script development and decides which, if any, go into production; the advertisers agreed to bankroll at least eight scripts, which generally cost between $60,000 and $90,000.

In other words, the sponsors pay but don't have a say in a show's content.

``One thing we told them early on is this has to remain totally network-controlled creatively,'' said Jamie Kellner, WB chief executive officer.

``Gilmore Girls'' fits the advertisers' intent because it's about ``families that work, about a love-filled household with a successful woman and a successful child,'' Kellner said.

The show also has potential to reach the young adults and teen-agers favored by advertisers. Those contrary viewers tend to prefer such sexually charged dramas as WB's ``Dawson's Creek,'' while clean-scrubbed shows like CBS' ``Touched by an Angel'' draw older viewers.

Proof that young audiences can connect with milder fare, however, is found right on the WB: One of its highest-rated shows is ''7th Heaven,'' about a minister and his family.

Sherman-Palladino and her co-executive producer, Gavin Polone, see ''7th Heaven'' as a distant relative.

'``Gilmore Girls' is not saccharine in the least; it's very dissimilar from '7th Heaven,''' said Palone. ``I think it will end up satisfying the people who want more family-friendly shows inadvertently, rather than intentionally.''

He and Sherman-Palladino say they weren't even aware the pilot was being bankrolled through the ponderously named Family Friendly Forum's Script Development Fund until they read it in the newspaper.

``I set out to do a show about true family emotions,'' says Sherman-Pallidino. ``As long as nobody is telling me not to do the show I want to do, I'm thrilled. God love the family-friendly people; come on over and I'll buy them a cocktail.''

``Wait a minute,'' she says impishly, ``make that a virgin pina colada.''