TV Eye

Happy Gilmores

Now that more of the new prime-time shows have hit the small screen, it's interesting to see which shows match their hype and which don't. Makes you wonder when a show is touted as the Next Big Thing and your own reaction is a big "Huh?" Ditto when you really dig something, and no one else seems to care. So be it. Here is my new favorite show of the week.

The Gilmore Girls: I like Lauren Graham. I have since I first saw her in M.Y.O.B. (canceled after four episodes). In Gilmore Girls, she plays Lorelai Gilmore, mother to 16-year-old Rory (Alexis Bledel), who, as it turns out, Lorelai had when she was 16. The mother-daughter dynamics are given a bit of a twist in this one-hour "dramedy," as the mother is presented as something of a free spirit in contrast to her studious daughter. The setup doesn't exactly ring true, as Lorelai turns out to be a successful businesswoman, managing one of those fabulous, high-end New England inns. On the other hand, the pilot shows that once Lorelai got pregnant, she got her act together to provide for her child. She refused to marry Rory's father -- a continuing source of conflict between Lorelai and her stuffy parents.

Because of their closeness in age, Lorelai and Rory have a relationship that is more sisterly than parent-child. Ordinarily, I frown on the mother-and-daughter-as-friends premise, but in this case, I tolerate it because a third mother -- Lorelai's mother -- is included in the mix, giving the show an interesting, three-way look at mother-daughter relationships.

Gilmore Girls was supported by the Family Friendly Programming Forum, a group of sponsors willing to put up money to develop wholesome family fare like 7th Heaven. But don't let that turn you off. The saccharine aftertaste of Heaven is nowhere to be found in Gilmore Girls, especially in one-liners like "... and I didn't have to do the principal!" which Lorelai shouts when she finds out Rory has gained admission to a tony prep school. When she shares the news with her daughter, Rory's deadpan response: "You didn't do the principal, did you?"

The buzz around Gilmore Girls is that it's doomed. It's up against longtime NBC hit Friends, which is followed by a new comedy starring Steven Weber, Cursed. Personally, I'm tired of Friends. The Monica-Chandler wedding is of no interest to me, and the possibility of rekindling the Rachel-Ross romance this season makes me wonder when they're going to kill that dead horse already. Friends and the unseen Cursed can be caught in reruns, as far as I'm concerned. My television will be tuned to Gilmore Girls then switched to NBC for Will & Grace. Gilmore Girls airs on the WB, 7pm, on Thursdays.

The Jury Is Out

Ed: Stuckeyville -- saying the name makes you want to chuckle, doesn't it? It's the name of the fictional Midwestern town where the titular character played by Tom Cavanaugh escapes when his big-city life falls apart. Other critics have hailed Ed (another "dramedy") as the best thing since oxygen. Comparisons to Northern Exposure abound, but the comparison is weak. Sure, quirky townsfolk abound in Stuckeyville, but Northern Exposure had a deeper, spiritual core that leaned to the absurd. Ed is a romantic comedy. Not that romantic comedies are bad. There's certainly a continuing audience for them. It's just, well, another romantic comedy.

Cavanaugh as Ed and Julie Bowen as his high school heartthrob Carol are charming enough, and the dialogue is bright -- many steps above other romantic comedies, or dramas, for that matter. But I was distracted by what seemed to be fractured sequencing, as if no one knew where to place the commercials, so they were just dropped in anywhere.

As charming as Ed is, I'm much more interested in the other dramedy featuring another thirtysomething trying to rebuild her life -- last week's favorite of the week, That's Life. There are several interesting parallels between these two shows, one of which is already being heralded as a hit, the other written off because of its poor time slot. Ed returns to his nest, looking for love, and effortlessly (though somewhat reluctantly) slips into a leadership role as owner of a bowling alley with all its attendant oddball employees and customers. That's Life's Lydia (Heather Paige Kent) has turned her back on love and marriage (at least for the time being), is struggling against her family's expectations, and is looking beyond herself into the big, wide world for the meaning of life, and I found myself rooting for her each step of the way.

Speaking of parents, where are Ed's? Though he moves back home, his parents are not mentioned once, or maybe they were in that patchwork opening sequence that looked like scenes from the previous episode, when, in fact, it was the setup for the entire series. Instead of moving back in with mom and pop, Ed is offered refuge by his pal and his pal's wife in their big, comfortable house. For Lydia, life is difficult, but not unnavigable, whereas everything -- except love -- comes to Ed easily. And maybe that's what makes me less interested in Ed. For as likable as it is, ultimately, you know how his story is going to end: He'll get the girl. How many seasons do you have to wait to see the inevitable? Ed airs on NBC, 7pm, on Sundays.

Last Words

So far, the most brilliant night of television was the Wednesday season premiere of West Wing. Though some critics rolled their eyes at the season finale -- the assassination attempt on President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) -- the payoff was great. Following the seriously injured Josh Lyman (Brad Whitford) as he came in and out of consciousness allowed the episodes to flow back and forth in time, filling in backstory on the main characters and giving us a richer sense of who these people are and how they came to be in the White House. The back-to-back episodes were stellar, which only made me wonder why, oh why, would NBC use the Aaron Spelling prime-time soap Titans as its lead-in. Titans -- is it for real? It's so over-the-top, it's flabbergasting. I still can't get the final scene out of my head: Yasmine Bleeth slithering down the aisle in a wedding gown that must have been painted on, then purring to the son of the man she's about to marry, "I'm pregnant, and you're the father." I laughed out loud, then groaned, and then laughed some more.

Titans is now being billed as a "guilty pleasure," but I can't help thinking that's a bit of damage control, since the suits heard the reaction to the first episode at the annual Television Critics Association meeting in Pasadena earlier this year. Perhaps I'd buy that Titans was supposed to be over-the-top if the performances, particularly from the younger members of the cast, weren't uniformly one-dimensional, the dialogue insipid, and every plot device telegraphed with the grace of a mallet over the head. Still, it's so bad, I feel compelled to watch it again. I don't feel guilty, just curious. Titans airs on NBC, 7pm, on Wednesdays.

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