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Fall 2000: "Gilmore Girls"

The WB's got problems. Here's the surprising part: They're the hey-we're-a-real-network-now kind of problems, in that all of the net's new shows this season (Gilmore Girls, Grosse Pointe, Hype, Nikki and ABC cast-off Sabrina, the Teenage Witch), as well as the returning favorites (Angel, Charmed, Felicity, Popular and Roswell), are doing so well that they're all getting picked up. Yeah, it's weird.

Thing is, The WB -- which plans on finally turning an actual profit next season, the net's sixth in business -- can't quite afford 'em. Just like when you pump three or five bucks of gas into your car's tank before payday, The WB is ordering new episodes in fours, sixes and eights, instead of the traditional network TV "back nine," which combines with the original block of 13 to make up a full season of 22 episodes.

It's an enviable dilemma, really, and it couldn't happen to a cooler network. The WB has never had a programming line-up as good as this year's, and the best show on any network at this very moment is Gilmore Girls, a smart and sweetly off-center comedy-drama hour that more than a few of you have caught at least part of.

Gilmore Girls is suicidally slotted against NBC's Friends on Thursday nights, and it's become standard practice amongst brighter viewers to flip the channel the millisecond Friends (which isn't really that good anymore, just habit) is over to avoid any glimpse of the soon-to-be-canceled crapfest known as Cursed, which follows. You can hear remote controls lacerating across the neighborhood at the half-hour, whether they're switching to The WB, elsewhere, or just (gasp!) off. The WB is so aware of the fact that those Friends viewers are ripe for the picking, they run a recap of Gilmore Girls' first half before starting the second half. Seriously.

Is 30 minutes of Gilmore Girls really better than a full 60 minutes of any other show on TV? Yes, and let us count the reasons why:

1. Lauren Graham. My TV love (which is different from real love, but only slightly) for Graham knows no bounds, and now that she's finally starring in a show that doesn't suck (Townies, M.Y.O.B, you name it) and will stick around for a full season, I'm positively smitten. In fact, I'm so full of smit, I'd watch an hour of her just buttering toast -- gladly even two hours for the Very Special Christmas Toast episode. But there's more to this than just the hottie factor.

As 32-year-old Lorelai Gilmore, never-wed mother to 16-year-old Rory (do the math), Graham is a caffeinated whirlwind of sarcasm and sensibility who obviously loves the hell out of her kid and, by the magic of that television anomaly known as good writing, is relieved of bearing the TV single-mom cross of being always right or always wrong. Apart from an inexhaustible supply of snappy witticisms that puts the collective six-pack of Friends to shame, Lorelai is warm, fallible and downright human. And, yes, a stone fox in a short skirt. Holy smit, is she ever.

2. Everything else. Real-kid Rory (newcomer Alexis Bledel), the lone teen on TV who is neither a jaded know-it-all or an emotional M-80; the setting of Stars Hollow, a not-too-quirky little town that certainly isn't Northern Exposure, no matter what the "other" critics say (that would be NBC's Ed); a supporting cast with nary a weak link, not even the French concierge at Lorelai's inn with the most far-fetched accent this side of a Kids in the Hall sketch; the hilarious one-two punch of Edward Herrman (he's not just the voice of Dodge commercials!) and Kelly Bishop as Lorelai's patrician parents; the aforementioned skirt... well, you get the idea.

After sitting out Thanksgiving night in favor of back-to-back episodes of Charmed, the Girls will return to Thursday kamikaze duty against Friends. In case I haven't made myself clear, a recap: There's nothing new on Friends that you can't see in syndication any hour of the day, Gilmore Girls rules, and Lauren Graham will be mine, oh ye-- I mean, watch the show.


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