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On Oct. 5, 2000, Gilmore Girls premiered on the then-WB network and became a critical favorite early in its run. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below:
Perhaps by accident, the WB Network has landed a drama series that isn’t about young female witches, adolescent sexual longing or kids who speak with the wisdom and maturity of philosophy professors. Gilmore Girls is a genuine gem in the making, a family-friendly hour unburdened by trite cliche or precocious pablum. It is as fresh and real as Dawson’s Creek is stale and contrived. In the process, it reenergizes the 8 o’clock hour with a bracing burst of heart.
In fact, the two Gilmore segs supplied on a review tape (the pilot and a third episode scheduled to air Oct. 19) have the kind of effortless appeal that could represent the standard for TV’s depiction of mother-daughter relationships. It has the earmarks of a series that wise, that unassuming — that good.
How did the WB manage to pull off something so inspired? Perhaps it’s best not to look such a surprising gift horse in the mouth. But let’s look inside anyway.
Maybe the show’s uncommon quality has something to do with the fact that Gilmore is the first series to make it to air supported by the Family Friendly Programming Forum’s script-development fund, the initiative co-developed by the WB in tandem with advertisers. You might figure that this kind of union would yield only syrupy, namby-pamby crud. But in her pilot teleplay, creator and exec producer Amy Sherman-Palladino delivers a drama that’s at once smart, soulful and sentimental (a rare three S’s for a series premiere).
There is just something about the relationship between 32-year-old Lorelai Gilmore (the earthy and wonderful Lauren Graham of Townies and Conrad Bloom, among other shows) and her 16-year-old daughter, Rory (luminous newcomer Alexis Bledel) that sparkles with onscreen chemistry and charm. They play a single mom and daughter who, separated by so few years, act more like sisters. They live in a small Connecticut town, where Lorelai manages a quaint inn and Rory is a diligent high school student.
What’s superb about the first hour is the way Sherman-Palladino plays the Gilmore girls’ relationship as rock-solid and tenuous, both bonded by love and unhinged by a teenage daughter’s blossoming independence. These are two headstrong individuals who love and respect each other but aren’t afraid to engage in regular verbal combat. It infuses the whole enterprise with an authentic candor that builds exponentially with the introduction of Lorelai’s distant, arrogant moneyed parents (played with great moxie by Kelly Bishop and Edward Herrmann).
Graham makes us feel Lorelai’s gnawing angst at having to come begging to her estranged folks for a loan to pay tuition at the elite prep school where Rory has just been accepted. The cash comes at a great emotional price. Our debating whether it’s too steep from looking at Lorelai’s conflicted body language lies at the core of Gilmore Girls’ appeal.
Adding further color to an already vivid tableau are an assortment of sublimely quirky characters, headed by Lorelai’s best pal, Sookie (Melissa McCarthy), a clumsy gourmet genius; Scott Patterson as the hunky but bossy owner of a local coffeehouse; and Yanic Truesdale as the haughty concierge at Lorelai’s inn.
It all lends Gilmore Girls a certain Northern Exposure-style appeal that can’t help but grow on viewers — if they ever find it in the first place, of course. All the show has to overcome is a time period where it’s shoved up against Friends, Whose Line Is It Anyway? and pro wrestling on UPN (not to mention 48 Hours). If this thing shows any ratings life at all, the WB would be insane not to move it. — Ray Richmond.
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