She wears ripped fishnets, black boots, and a miniskirt. She peppers her sentences with four-letter expletives that are regularly dashed out in this magazine. She’s a veteran of one of the most controversial sitcoms of the ’90s. And yet today she finds herself the darling of the Family Friendly Programming Forum, a conservative consortium of advertisers who’d like to turn the clock back to the days when Beaver was just a little Cleaver. ”The foreign press came around last year,” says Amy Sherman-Palladino, the 36-year-old creator and exec producer of ”Gilmore Girls,” the WB hit that’s taking the Gee! out of G-rated TV. ”And the first thing this guy from France said was ‘You don’t strike me as very family friendly.’ I told him to bl– me.”
Anita Bryant she ain’t. But what Sherman-Palladino has unwittingly pulled off is positively revolutionary. In one fell swoop, her dramedy about an unmarried mother and her teenage daughter has managed to get conservatives and liberals agreeing on fine family entertainment. Right-skewing media watchdogs love it, critics — notoriously left of center — heap it with praise, and its audience continues to grow. ”Gilmore Girls” is up 50 percent in total viewers in season 2, making it the fastest-growing show on television (during February sweeps it drew 5.5 million viewers — a million more than former WB powerhouse ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), and the most watched by 12- to 34-year-old females in its Tuesday-at-8-p.m. time slot.
Attracting all those eyeballs are the Girls: Single mom Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) — pregnant at 16, ran away from home — and her now-17-year-old daughter, Rory (Alexis Bledel). What keeps the blooming fan base glued, however, is the deep, respectful connection between mother and daughter, and their breakneck, pop-culture-crammed dialogue. (Lorelai explaining to Rory why she wants to marry her then-fiancé, Max: ”We’ve been completely in sync — without the slightly gay boy-band affiliation.”) It’s hard to imagine a teenage girl who wouldn’t want to live in the adorably zany little Connecticut town of Stars Hollow with an Earl Jeans-wearing, Belle & Sebastian-referencing mom who takes you to drag bars (okay, only once). Furthermore, this teenage girl — unlike most of The WB’s hyper-hormonal population — is comfortable in her own skin; Rory’s too busy reading Flaubert to think about having sex.
The most conservative characters — Lorelai’s rich, disapproving parents, Richard and Emily Gilmore (Edward Herrmann and Kelly Bishop) — are in many ways the least likable characters: Emily and Lorelai bicker ceaselessly because Lorelai didn’t marry Rory’s charming loser dad, Christopher (David Sutcliffe) — described by Sherman-Palladino as ”Robert Downey Jr. without the drug problem” — and Herrmann’s character initially comes off as stuffy. But both are motivated by an abiding love for their daughter and granddaughter that clearly shines through. ”If you think a kid’s got to have a mother and father, go nab yourself a husband, reel him in, pop out a few kids, and have ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show,”’ says Sherman-Palladino, who often sounds like the heroine of the show that she used to write for, ”Roseanne.” ”I think that’s fabulous. But there are a lot of mothers like Lorelai out there and a lot of parents like Richard and Emily. And whether you come from a good family or not, things didn’t go right at some point. That’s the stuff I write about — the stuff everyone can relate to.”