Cathy's World: Those 'Gilmore Girls'

By CATHERINE SEIPP   |   May 15, 2002 at 11:59 AM
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LOS ANGELES, May 15 (UPI) -- I have come to think of Tuesday night at 8 as the supernatural hour, with "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" on UPN and "Gilmore Girls" on the WB. Every week my seventh grade daughter and I watch one and tape the other, which we then see immediately afterward.

Since "Buffy" is about a vampire slayer, the supernatural aspect is obvious. But "Gilmore Girls," about a 33-year-old unwed mother and her 17-year-old daughter who are best friends and have model-perfect figures even though they never exercise and subsist entirely on a diet of greasy restaurant food, is every bit as fantastic.

This isn't to say I don't love "Gilmore Girls" -- I do -- but I wonder sometimes about its rather loopy version of reality.

The elder Gilmore girl is Lorelei (Lauren Graham), who became pregnant at 16, ran away from her posh parents, had the baby and now enjoys a comfortably middle-class life as the manager of a quaint and charming Connecticut inn.

Lorelei's teenaged daughter, Rory (Alexis Bledel) is sweet, pretty, gets perfect grades and cheerfully accepts all her impulsive mother's peccadilloes -- even when they border on the deranged.

When Lorelei broke up with her fiancé at the beginning of this season, for instance, she dragged Rory off for a road trip and then made the child miss dinner, just because she couldn't bear to mingle with the boring crowd at the cutesy B&B they'd checked into.

Then there's Lorelei's nutty habit of waking her daughter out of a sound sleep at 4 a.m. every year to celebrate the exact moment of her birth. Rory, unbelievably, just goes along with it. Just for one of those birthdays, I'd like to see the girl give her mother a good slap.

"Gilmore Girls" has gotten some flak for encouraging adolescent coffee drinking; Lorelei is a caffeine addict who always buys her daughter a cup for herself.

But I think such tsk-tsking is silly when you consider how many cans of caffeinated (and sugary) soda American parents think it's OK for American teenagers to drink. Compared to that, coffee is relatively harmless and certainly more civilized.

What I think might benefit from a "Kids, Don't Try This At Home" warning is the Gilmore girls' general eating habits. Lorelei, who has refused to learn how to cook, feeds her daughter a steady diet of diner and take-out food, with extra fries and ice cream at every opportunity. Yet they remain slim and perky, with shiny hair and bouncy gaits and no serious shortage of cash. (I once estimated their restaurant bill at a conservative $1,500 per month.)

You cannot enjoy a Gilmore girls appearance on a Gilmore girls diet, although the world would certainly be a prettier place if you could. If you think you can eat the way Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel do on TV and still look like them in real life, you might as well also imagine you have the special ability to kill vampires.

Not everything in "Gilmore Girls" is disconnected from reality, but often the show seems to simultaneously inhabit two parallel universes. For instance:

Lorelei and her teenaged daughter have a relaxed, happy relationship: REAL. Although Lorelei sometimes gets angry at Rory, she never finds her daughter irritating, not even for a second; Rory occasionally gets mad but never, ever sulks: UNREAL.

Lorelei has a close, platonic friendship with a man who is secretly in love with her: REAL. The man is handsome, employed and heterosexual: UNREAL.

Lorelei gets angry at the pompous principal of her daughter's school: REAL. So she tells him off in a perfectly articulate tirade that occurs to her AT THAT VERY MOMENT, not later in the parking lot, and the principal looks taken aback and actually sees her point: UNREAL.

"Gilmore Girls" creator and executive producer Amy Sherman-Palladino, now 36, began her writing career on "Roseanne" at age 24. "I started on 'Roseanne' during the glory years, before she discovered all the other personalities," Sherman-Palladino recalled dryly, on the "Gilmore Girls" set.

A few years ago she began thinking about creating a show about a bookish teenage girl who wasn't sexually precocious. "I thought somewhere in America there must be one or two kids running around that hadn't slept with somebody yet," as she put it.

But a trip Sherman-Palladino and her husband, fellow comedy writer Daniel Palladino, made to Mark Twain's house in Hartford, Conn., is what inspired the "Gilmore Girls"'s fairy tale setting.

"I'm from Van Nuys," said Sherman-Palladino. "Everything is brown and there's a train track and a "Ralph's," and that's it." So happening upon the Mayflower in a small town called Washington, Conn., was a revelation.

"People are slowing down and saying, 'Excuse me, where's the pumpkin patch,'" she recalled. "And I'm going, pumpkin patch? Everything is green and people are out and they're talking, and we went to a diner and everyone knew each other, and someone got up and 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?'"

"The inn was so beautiful, and everything looked like it was covered in sugar," she continued. "It was like one of those eggs that you stare at at Easter." Sherman-Palladino immediately began taking notes, and decided the next day that her mother and daughter characters had to live in a Connecticut small town and the mother had to work at an inn.

"Now I've never been there in winter when you're snowed in and you can't go anywhere and you and your husband want to kill each other because you can't go to a movie," she noted. "But at the time I was there, it was magical, with a feeling of warmth and small town camaraderie."

On the other hand, Lorelei's often tense relationship with her own parents is firmly grounded in reality. At one point this season, her overbearing father insists she get a grapefruit for breakfast.

"One grapefruit, please," she orders sourly, "preferably one that tastes like a doughnut."

"You get into a very rich vein, and Amy really has it pegged beautifully," said Edward Herriman, who plays Lorelei's stuffy father, Richard Gilmore. Herriman thinks Sherman-Palladino's writing is "right up there with Chekhov" when it comes to the older generation of Gilmores.

"If you think she specializes only in teen or younger relationships, you're wrong," he continued. "These (older) characters are rich and beautiful and right on the money. She understands the straight workaholic that this guy is and the passions in him as well as anything that I've ever played."

But Herriman added that he appreciates the chance to work with younger actors, portraying characters for younger viewers. "If you stay with audiences my age," he noted, "they die, you know."

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