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Checking in with the "Girls"

After what seemed fairly like an eternity, last night finally brought loyal Gilmore Girls viewers what they've been waiting for: a new episode, the first since February. So, the question is: was last night's Gilmore Girls ("I'm OK, You're OK") a triumph or a tragedy?

If asked, I'd have to fall on the side of it being a certifiable tragedy. Seriously, what has gone wrong with this once great show? Coming off of a season that many argued was a return to form, this sixth season has been slovenly, slow, and just plain oddly plotted at times. Each episode seems haunted by the lack of Amy Sherman-Palladino and husband/creative equal Daniel Palladino, who in my mind embody the spirit and vision of Gilmore Girls. Without them, the series just feels... painfully average.

Yes, I know that they can't write every single episode (though I would really, really, really like them to) and that no one on the writing staff can even come close to their rapier wit and Howard Hawks-esque dialogue, but who is steering the Gilmore ship? Granted, we had a great run for a bit back there in February when the episodes were nearly entirely written by Amy or Daniel. It was like a shot of B-12. Characters returned to themselves, the dialogue came fast and furious (and most importantly was outright funny again), and storylines pushed forward with the strength of Hannibal crossing the Alps.

But then a (not so) funny thing happened. Other members of the writing staff took over the scripting chores and the show went on a binge of repeats for over a month. When we returned--mere minutes after the unintentional February "cliffhanger"--it was as if those episodic gems had never happened. Rory moved back in with frenemy Paris... and then five minutes into last night's episode moved back out. Paris and boyfriend Doyle reunited as did Rory and her philandering boyfriend Logan (never has "We were on a break!" sounded more pathetic than it did now). And then Rory showed up in Stars Hollow to surprise Lorelai, who still hasn't dealt with her fiance Luke pushing her out of the relationship to spend more time with his newfound daughter April.

The effect was as startling as it was depressing. I spent the first ten minutes of last night's episode with a painfully fake smile plastered to my face, as though I were willing myself to like the episode and to stop finding fault with the show's suddenly zany logic (Richard and Emily are looking for a house in Stars Hollow?!?). What happened to the fact that Emily spilled the beans about Lorelai's impending nuptials to everyone she knows and took out a wedding announcement in the local paper... for a wedding that Luke and Lorelai postponed but never bothered to deal Emily about? We've had two episodes since then and this plotline is still dangling in the wind like a downed power line.

The treatment of the once-strong supporting cast is equally astonishing. The once amusing snark of Independence Inn co-worker Michel has turned sour as poor Michel is given nothing to do but throw a drawn-out and decidedly unamusing snit every few episodes (last night's was about Rory misusing his colored Post-It Notes; before that it was about Luke fixing things around the inn--thrilling, I know). The same goes for Richard and Emily, who seemed to virtually disappear during the second half of the season, only to now show up unannounced in Stars Hollow, house hunting. Now, I assume it's a misunderstanding on Lorelai's part and they are actually looking for a house for Lorelai and Luke as a wedding present, since the Gilmore Seniors don't like Stars Hollow and I doubt they could find an expansive and expensive manse as theirs in genteel Hartford.

Which is odd, then, that Rory's former friend Lane has gotten so much screen time this season. Her storyline--Korean girl with a strict religious mother becomes a drummer in a rock band, moves out, and starts dating her non-Korean bandmate Zach--reached a zenith last season when Lane's mom, Mrs. Kim, sent Lane and the band on a tour of Christian colleges. I assumed that would be a perfect way to phase out Lane, especially as she and Rory have had maybe three conversations together in the last three years or so and have drifted inexoribly apart. Don't get me wrong, I love Lane and I love the actress (Keiko Agena) who has played her for the last six years. But to continue to focus so much time and energy on a supporting character who now seems to hold up half the show (without interacting with the main characters) is an exercise in futility.

I had my doubts about the whole Luke-has-a-daughter storyline but, during February sweeps at least, the show won me over... especially due to the strength of the actress playing April (Vanessa Marano). But lately the show is just treading water. Luke and Lorelai barely speak and neither of them seems to want to confront the fact that April is indirectly tearing them apart. Likewise, Rory's idea to spy on April's mom Anna (guest star Sherilyn Fenn, gorgeous as ever) seemed like something that would come out of Lorelai's mouth and not the other way around. And her disclination to deal with the Logan issue (shouldn't he, caring boyfriend that he claims to be, have called the police when he couldn't find Rory for three days?), instead of highlighting the parallels between Rory and Lorelai, just felt clunky and useless. In a show about talking (and talking and talking), why are the character not saying anything of any importance?

I was shocked to discover at the end that there are only four more episodes remaining before we get to the season finale. Can we get the Girls back in line? Or is it too late for this once amazing show?

What’s On Tonight

8 pm: The Amazing Race (CBS); Deal or No Deal (NBC); One Tree Hill (WB); George Lopez/Freddie (ABC); Bones (FOX); America's Next Top Model (UPN)

9 pm: Criminal Minds (CBS); Law & Order (NBC); The Bedford Diaries (WB); Lost (ABC); American Idol/Unan1mous (FOX); Veronica Mars (UPN)

10 pm: CSI: New York (CBS); Heist (NBC); The Evidence (ABC)

What I’ll Be Watching

8 pm: The Amazing Race.

Now in its new Wednesday timeslot. On tonight's episode ("Sleep Deprivation Is Really Starting to Irritate Me"), several teams manage to get lost while attempting to find a clue in Sicily; teams also encounter a roadblock that requires them to score a goal in kayak polo against professional players.

(As an aside, I have no comments on the recent discovery of, er, certain incriminating photographs that have emerged of Racers Eric, Jeremy, BJ, and Tyler. But if you wish to check out the stomach-churning pics--which are decidedly Not Safe for Work, I won't stop you.)

8 pm: America's Next Top Model.

I'll be switching over at commerical breaks to America's Next Top Model. On a new episode of ANTM ("The Girl With Two Bad Takes"), the girls have to improvise acting in a cosmetics commercial. Me, I'm just watching to find out what the hell is up with those promos showing Tyra falling off the couch. Gee, could she be... faking?

9 pm: Lost.

Wow, we seem to have gotten quite a string of new Lost episodes lately (there's also another new episode next week as well). On tonight's episode ("Dave"), Hurley turns to his crush Libby for help when he begins having visions of his friend (Dave perhaps?) from the looney bin. Just don't fall off that cliff, big guy. Meanwhile, the Other Formerly Known as Henry Gale provides the castaways with some new information, causing Locke to have a bit of a crisis.

Oh, as it's a Lost episode focusing on the Big Guy, it's only fitting that tonight's episode is a big one too: it runs 65 minutes in fact. Be sure to set your TiVo (or VCR, but really, who uses one anymore) to run a few minutes over, just in case...

9 pm: Veronica Mars.

On tonight's episode ("Plan B"), Weevil asks everyone's favorite teenage sleuth (that would be Veronica M.) for help unmasking Felix's real killer. Let's hope she has better luck with that than solving the mystery of the serial rapist from last week. But at least Rob Thomas and the writers are getting around to solving some of the 240 mysteries that have been hanging around this season. I just hope they don't solve the mystery of where Jackie's been. That girl bugs.

10 pm: Top Chef.

Or if you're watching Lost (remember, 65 minutes tonight!), catch the 11 pm re-airing of tonight's Top Chef episode ("Blind Confusion)." Tonight, contestants face a challenge where they must serve their fusion dishes from street carts. Meanwhile, Lee Anne learns two things that Top Chef viewers have known for a while now: that Stephen is hands down the whitest man in San Francisco and that he is truly quite terrible with people.


Anonymous said…
While I understand that no one can match Daniel and Amy's crackling dialogue or wit, what confuses me is the recent odd plotting of the show. Lately, there seems to be a lot of filler and storylines that center around minor characters (like the mentioned Lane storyline). Emily and Richard seem to pop in and out with no real purpose and, indeed, all of the characters bounce from here to there without true motivation. I was also shocked to learn that there are only four episodes left. What was this season even about? Not much, unfortunately. When this season ends I'll have to go back and watch the old seasons on DVD to get my Gilmore Girls fix since this season was, ultimately, unsatisfying.
Jace Lacob said…

I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. What was this season about ultimately? The first half had the Gilmore Girls fighting and living separate lives but since they've come back together, nothing has really happened... other than the Luke/April situation and the back and forth between Rory and Logan. But there's been no forward thrust or dramatic movement for most of the season, lending the series a flat, static air. It's all very odd.

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