|A very atypical mother-daughter relationship is at the center of Gilmore Girls, a comedy-drama that immediately set itself apart from the herd with smarter-than-smart dialogue and an endearing mix of whimsical comedy and family drama. Set in the Capra-esque burg of Stars Hollow, where everybody knows everyone and eccentrics abound, Gilmore Girls was less a mother-daughter show and more of a screwball buddy comedy in which the two buddies happened to be parent and child. Pregnant at 16, Lorelai Lauren Graham left her rich parents to bring up her daughter Rory Alexis Bledel on her own terms; when Rory herself turns 16, Lorelai wants to send her academically gifted daughter to the prestigious Chilton school. The catch is, Lorelai can't afford it on her own, and rather than let Rory go without, the elder Gilmore girl brokers an uneasy truce with her parents Edward Herrmann and Kelly Bishop, who finally get a chance to bond with their granddaughter while financing her education. |
It sounds like a premise potentially fraught with angst and trauma, but in reality Gilmore Girls was one of the freshest, airiest, most enjoyable shows to air on the perpetually melodramatic WB network, critically praised once viewers got hooked on its unique brand of humor. Rory's growing-up adventures, including her acclimation to snooty Chilton and romance with townie dreamboat Dean Jared Padalecki, gave the show a teen-friendly feel, but Gilmore Girls was anchored in the adult by the luminous Graham, a brilliant comedic leading lady who could turn dramatic on a dime and never break stride. The show's hallmark was its rat-a-tat, whipsmart dialogue, delivered perfectly by Graham and Bledgel, as well as a host of wacky supporting characters who would go on to become invaluable cast members. The first season allowed the show--and its lead actresses--to bloom gracefully and establish a deep, humorous rapport that lent itself perfectly to weekly travails both comedic and dramatic.
Love was in the air at the beginning of the second season of Gilmore Girls, as both Gilmores found themselves in the midst of perfect, giddy relationships--or so they thought. Lorelai had accepted the proposal of English teacher Max Scott Cohen and was excitedly planning her first wedding; Rory was back on happy footing with townie hunk Dean Jared Padalecki after a dust-up near the end of season one that prompted a mini-break for the teen twosome. However, series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino had anything but smooth sailing on the horizon for her heroines, giving Lorelai a severe case of cold feet and Rory a major distraction in the form of Jess Milo Ventimiglia, the bad boy newly arrived in town. Soon, Rory found herself extremely attracted to Jess, while Lorelai rekindled the flame of passion that once burned long ago with Rory's father, Christopher David Sutcliffe, who made his way back into her life despite a girlfriend in the wings.
After the minor romantic speed bumps of the first season, the introduction of actual conflict into the second season of Gilmore Girls helped give the happy-goofy atmosphere of Stars Hollow a decided tension, as Rory tangled with her emotions over Jess and began the first tiny steps away from her good-girl persona. The episode "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," centered around the annual town auction of picnic baskets, was a wonderful portrait of Rory's conflicting adolescent feelings for both Dean and Jess. However, it was Lorelai's simmering chemistry with former flame Christopher, only hinted at in the first season, that gave the show its energy as well as its heartbreak, culminating in the stellar season finale "I Can't Get Started." But lest you think Gilmore Girls was centered only on romance, the second season also gave the expansive ensemble cast many hilarious moments, ranging from the hallway politics of Rory's private school to the town antics that shaped the Gilmores' daily lives. Through it all, the appealing Bledel and the radiant Graham exuded wit, charm, and a way with snappy patter not seen since the golden days of '30s screwball comedy. --Mark Englehart