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"Gilmore Girls" Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino Returns to Comedic Roots with "Jezebel James"

While there are a number of pilot and series orders worthy of keeping one's eye on during this busy pilot season--The Sarah Connor Chronicles, The Canyons, and The Bionic Woman being the first three to come to mind--every now and then there's a certain project that comes along that you can't help but root for, especially when it comes from the fertile minds of one of your favorite television creators.

Especially when said creator has let you down a wee bit by leaving the series that made them a mythic name around the Televisionary household after sort of sinking the show a bit.

If you couldn't guess who I was talking about just from that sentence above (or if you don't bother reading the title, I suppose), here goes. Fox has ordered a multi-camera pilot from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino with the working title of The Return of Jezebel James.

First of all, I'm extremely curious to see how Sherman-Palladino will handle a traditional half-hour multi-camera sitcom, albeit one with a modern twist. The story revolves around two estranged sisters, with a vast age difference, who come together after one agrees to carry the other's baby. Because of the difference in their ages, these two barely know one another and are, obviously, forced into a relationship.

"They never forged any relationship at home, and now they're forced into a situation where they're not only negotiating over the carrying of the baby but also over who they are," Sherman-Palladino told The Hollywood Reporter. "The catalyst of the relationship is them finding out who they are to each other."

Sherman-Palladino will write, direct, and executive produce the comedy, which harkens back to her early multi-cam sitcom days as a writer on Roseanne.

The news of the pilot order comes just a few days after Sherman-Palladino's appearance last week at the Hollywood Radio & Television Society's Hitmakers luncheon at the Regent Beverly Wilshire (where, yes, she was wearing one of her trademark hats, referred to by MC Jimmy Kimmel as a "magician's top hat"). At a panel discussion with fellow series creators Greg Daniels (The Office), Damon Lindelof (Lost), Anthony Zuiker (CSI), Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica), and Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy), Sherman-Palladino blasted the industry's insistence that the comedy genre was dead.

"I don't begrudge the existence of reality shows," said Sherman-Palladino. "I think it's a shame that their existence has become a crutch and an excuse for not creating great shows."

Sherman-Palladino went on to say that the Big Four Networks should be doing more comedy. "They have the biggest audience and the biggest budgets," she continued. "Comedy used to make money, but everybody turned their back on it because it's just too easy not to trust good writers."

Sherman-Palladino's decision to reinvigorate the traditional sitcom definitely intrigues me, especially as the only multi-cam comedy I can watch nowadays is CBS' Old Christine. (Meanwhile, my TiVo is constantly overflowing with single-cams like The Office, Everybody Hates Chris, 30 Rock, Scrubs, and My Name is Earl. Hell, I still can't bring myself to delete episodes of Arrested Development off of it.)

I do think it's somewhat frightening that a quick glance of the networks reveals less comedy now than, say, five or ten years ago. Even comedy stalwarts like The King of Queens and According to Jim are feeling the burn; both were renewed by their respective networks, albeit with reduced episodic orders. Filling that void are typically cheap-to-produce reality programming, which Sherman-Palladino bemoaned at the panel as being forgotten five minutes later. Say what you want about NBC (I usually do), but they at least seem committed to the idea of the single-cam comedy, anyway, with their reinvigorated Thursday night lineup.

Still, Sherman-Palladino believes she can stem the tide of both networks and viewers switching off comedies. "I'm sorry it's become the wasteland and people are turning their backs on it," Sherman-Palladino told The Hollywood Reporter. "It doesn't have to be this way."

Let's just hope that with The Return of Jezebel James, Sherman-Palladino proves to be as tenacious (and obstinate) as her TV creations Lorelai and Rory. Especially on a network as trigger-happy as Fox.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: The King of Queens/The King of Queens (CBS); The Biggest Loser (NBC; 8-10 pm); Next Top Model: British Invasion (CW; 8-10 pm); Show Me the Money (ABC); Bones (FOX); Wicked Wicked Games (MyNet)

9 pm: Criminal Minds (CBS); Day Break (ABC); Bones (FOX); Watch Over Me (MyNet)

10 pm: CSI: New York (CBS); Medium (NBC); Primetime: Basic Instinct (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Next Top Model: British Invasion.

Okay, Top Model might be over and CariDee was crowned the victor, but I need my ANTM fix... Fortunately, the CW is giving us a highlights package of the Blighty version of Top Model. So sit back, relax, and prepare to unleash your inner model.

9-11 pm: The Lost Room on Sci Fi.

On the final installment of Sci Fi's latest epic mini-series, Joe Miller (Peter Krause) must use everything at his disposal to find the Prime Object, his last chance of rescuing his daughter Anna (Elle Fanning) from the Motel Room.

10 pm: Top Chef on Bravo.

It's the second season of Bravo's culinary competition Top Chef. On tonight's episode, it's supposedly "party season" (despite it being the dead of summer when the show was filmed) and the remaining contestants have to cater a party, but this being Top Chef tempers flare and the knives are drawn, particularly when Cliff becomes a little too bossy. Uh-oh. All this and Queer Eye's Ted Allen? It's synergistic hilarity waiting to happen!


Anonymous said…
I just read a tvtracker alert about this and thought, "I will email Jace!" and then I thought, "Just go to his site...I am sure he has it already."
I will tune into any new show that Amy Sherman-Palladino is a part of but I'm a little sad that her next project will be a sitcom rather than another one hour. I just think she captured the dramedy concept so perfectly with "Gilmore Girls." And I'm still upset that her modern day "Nick and Nora" inspired pilot didn't ever come to fruition.

That said, maybe she can breathe some new life into the old traditional sitcom form!
Anonymous said…
If anyone can resurrect the multi-cam format it's probably Amy, but I'm not sure how her rapid patter and character interaction will fare with locked down angles and forced pauses for the laugh track. I'd be more excited if this was a single camera show. Regardless, it'll be nice to see new work of her's back on the tube.
Anonymous said…
did you see Top Chef tonight? Of course you did! Then tell me, did Mia really know that they were going to cut Elia before she bowed out of the competition? I couldn't tell with the way it was filmed...from my end it seemed that Mia quit herself before even knowing what the final decision was b/c when she spoke up it was right before Chef C said the name, right after he went down the line and commented on each of their positions. Anyway, that was GOOD TV...

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