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"Gilmore" Guy: Who is New Showrunner David Rosenthal?

A few days later and I am still processing the news that Gilmore Girls showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino--and her exceptionally talented husband, writer and producer Daniel Palladino--announced their departure from the whip-smart drama after six seasons. The news wouldn't be such a blow, save for the fact that Gilmore Girls is as much about Amy and Daniel as it is about Lorelai and Rory.

In their capable hands, the show explored a supremely complicated family dynamic through the beautiful friendship of mother and daughter Lorelai and Rory... and did so with smart dialogue usually found in a Nick & Nora film rather than on television. Zany subplots abounded as did quirky, beloved supporting characters. And now, after six seasons (including this most recent--and very shaky--season where Amy and Daniel wrote less episodes than usual), Amy and Daniel are passing on the showrunning torch to... Dave Rosenthal?!?

For those of you in the audience unfamiliar with David Rosenthal, here's a quick primer on his credits. He joined the Gilmore Girls writing staff at the beginning of the 2005-2006 season and has only written one episode of the show--"The UnGraduate"--to date (though his second scripted episode, "Super Cool Party People," airs tomorrow night). Prior to Gilmore Girls, his writing credits included the abysmal comedies Hope & Faith and Good Morning, Miami and he served as an executive producer on Spin City. Hardly the guy you'd expect to take over the reins from Amy to oversee Gilmore Girls.

Hoping to learn more about this guy, I tracked down a rather infamous Los Angeles Times Magazine article on Rosenthal, written by Janet Reitman, from 2002, entitled "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Ranter." Informative reading to say the least. According to Reitman, Rosenthal's success in Hollywood was meteoric by anyone's standards. A 1989 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the son of a rabbi, Rosenthal moved to Los Angeles shortly after graduation to pursue his dream of writing sitcoms.

Within a year, Rosenthal swiftly jumped from being a production assistant on Anything but Love (a sitcom which starred Richard Lewis and Jamie Lee Curtis) to staff writer on the same show; then two years later, another jump, this time to a head writer position on Ellen (yes, that Ellen; Rosenthal stayed for three years and then was reportedly fired). After a year-long stint developing sitcoms for Jeffrey Katzenberg, he was hired as a writer on Michael J. Fox's sitcom Spin City... and was quickly promoted to showrunner. Rosenthal married a fellow Spin City writer, bought a house and a Porsche, and landed a lucrative $2.5 million contract with Fox Television. By all accounts, Rosenthal seemed to have the perfect life.

But that's just the surface.

Going through my rolodex of Hollywood contacts, I stumbled upon someone who had actually worked with Dave Rosenthal in the past. I asked if I could ask her a few questions about Rosenthal and she agreed, as long as I maintained her anonymity. For that purpose, I'll refer to her by the pseudonym "Julia Thorn." (Ten points to whoever gets the reference.) A few years ago, "Julia" had worked in the same office as Rosenthal and became close to him.

I asked "Julia" how she would describe Rosenthal, based on the time they worked together. "When I knew him I felt like I had him pegged," she said. "He had just come off a big show, had lots of money, he was very young and successful and wanted to take advantage of it. He was always nice to me, but he definitely had this very arrogant air about him. It was like an air of entitlement or something. Like he was invincible and at the top of the world... My boss used to always say that his crash was coming soon, because he rose too fast, too easily."

And so did he crash? "The guy quit Spin City in order to concentrate on writing a play about his desire to have sex with Heidi Klum," Julia told me. "Dropped out of TV completely to do this. He pretty much had a breakdown, dropped out of society, and became the madman writing a misogynist play. He lived like this until his dad read the play and actually had him committed."

What?!? After speaking to Julia, I did some more digging. Rosenthal had in fact written a play called "Love" about his quest to get supermodel Heidi Klum to have sex with him. Reviews of the play, which apparently contained so many profanities that it rated an NC-17, were not kind. The New York Times called Rosenthal's play "not only offensive but incompetent" and said that the way that Rosenthal talked about Klum--whom he had met during a guest stint on Rosenthal's show Spin City--was "as cruel and disgusting as actual stalking."

The New York Times reviewer wasn't the only one perturbed by Rosenthal's play. Rosenthal had sent copies to his then agents at Endeavor--Ari Emanuel and Richard Weitz--who promptly dropped him as a client. His rabbi father, after reading the play, had Rosenthal briefly committed at UCLA Medical Center. Wait, what?

In 2001, Rosenthal appeared on Howard Stern's radio show and spoke about the incident. While I was unable to obtain a transcript of Rosenthal's appearance on the show, I did manage to find a fan site which paraphrased the appearance. According to site MarksFriggin.com, "David said he flew into L.A. one day after working in Miami and his father was there with two bodyguards who told him to come along peaceably or they'd have to take him by force. He was then committed to a mental hospital where they tried to make him take drugs. David said his lawyer sister was able to get him out when she threatened his father with a lawsuit. Howard found all of this fascinating. According to David there's a law in California that says a family member can have you committed to a mental institution for 72 hours if they tell a psychologist that you're mental."
So, how had Rosenthal, a formerly brilliant, determined, and successful writer, hit rock bottom? According to Janet Reitman in her aforementioned Los Angeles Times Magazine profile, the problem was Rosenthal's sudden and complete infatuation with Klum:
"What propelled Rosenthal into his downward spiral was the sudden realization that all he really wanted from life was to have sex with supermodel Heidi Klum, an occasional guest star on Spin City whom Rosenthal describes as 'the most beautiful woman I've ever met.'

He found Klum smart, sensitive, sweet, beautiful--yet another revelation, given that, as an industry man, Rosenthal had previously thought of beautiful women as 'pieces of meat.' He would marry Heidi Klum, he realized, if only she weren't already married. The idea of that was too much for him, so Rosenthal decided the sensible thing to do was to quit Fox, divorce his wife, sell his Porsche and give more than $1 million, in $52,000 grants, to 20 young women, several of whom he'd never met, but whose artistic pursuits he believed in."
A "scholarship" for young women? Rosenthal called his cash giveaway "The Creators" and there were no strings attached for the young women who received his scholarships. They were all wannabe writers or actresses, many from the assistant pool where Rosenthal worked at Fox, whom he wanted to help achieve their dreams and work on their craft. According to Reitman, Rosenthal's scholarship fund donated $1000 per week for one year to 20 women so that they could "create art--any kind of art, from writing to painting to acting." Were any of the women he supported successful? I'm not sure. What was Rosenthal's impetus to begin a project like this? Again, I'm not sure anyone but Rosenthal knows that. It's a curious juxtaposition, though: this desire to support young, creative women achieve their dreams set against what many decried as the innate misogyny of his play.

At the time Reitman wrote her profile, Rosenthal was living in virtual exile in New York, but he has since returned to Los Angeles, a city that once supported and then shunned him, and is now poised to take over as showrunner on Gilmore Girls. I asked "Julia" what she thought of the announcement. "Apparently, he did get a lot of help when he was committed, and I imagine he came back to Hollywood with his tail between his legs to a certain extent, so I think he is grateful to have the job," she told me. "I don't think that anyone can really run [Gilmore Girls] besides Amy and Dan. I think this is going to be like Aaron Sorkin leaving West Wing. I think [Rosenthal] is a decent choice, but the show will never be Gilmore Girls again."

We may never know the reason behind the decision to replace Amy Sherman-Palladino with Rosenthal as Gilmore Girls' showrunner and my research has only left me with more questions than answers. I am trying to separate my own feelings about the hand-over, yet I can't help but feel that Rosenthal is an odd choice to run a show about two intelligent and headstrong women.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: The King of Queens/How I Met Your Mother (CBS); Deal or No Deal (NBC); 7th Heaven (WB); Wife Swap (ABC); Prison Break (FOX); Major League Baseball (UPN)

9 pm: Two and a Half Men/The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS); The Apprentice (NBC); Everwood (WB); Supernanny (ABC); 24 (FOX)

10 pm: CSI: Miami (CBS); Medium (NBC); What About Brian (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

7 pm: Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. (That's 10 pm for you East Coasters... or Left Coasters who'd rather catch the later showing.)

This week, everyone's favorite sarcastic chef, writer, and Travel Channel host jets off to Sweden, the land of model-esque women, meatballs, and modular furniture.

8 pm: 5 Takes: Pacific Rim.

This week, the gang heads to the eerily sounding Northern Territory of Australia. Honestly, I don't care what they do, I love this show that much.

9:30 pm: Old Christine.

In tonight's episode ("Teach Your Children Well"), Christine throws an arts-and-crafts party for son Ritchie, instead of giving into pressure to throw a glitzy affair. It's a kid's birthday party, Christine, I'm on your side. Play some pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, unwrap some presents, hand out some cake, and call it a day.

10 pm: Elizabeth I.

Rather than miss all of the above, I'll catch the second airing of Part 2 of HBO's lavish biopic of Queen Elizabeth I over on HBO2. Elizabeth (the incomparable Helen Mirren), torn between the Earl of Leicester and the Earl of Essex, must balance her personal desires with a strategic marriage. Will she give in? Something--namely history--tells me no.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Julia Thorn.....argh! So familiar!! Why?!? Why?!? You must tell me! :)

Reading so much detail on him...I am even more scared about him running my once-favorite show.
Anonymous said…
A very interesting article! Not sure who is more of a mystery. David Rosenthal or Alby from "Big Love."
Anonymous said…
Alias, yes? Yes. Jennifer Garner's alter ego when she was out of commission all those months. Damn you rimbaldi.
Anonymous said…
Julia Thorn was Sydney Bristow's fake ID that she used when she had been brainwashed and was gone for two years. :)
Jace Lacob said…
Ten points awarded to Raoul and... Anonymous. (Too bad you didn't put your name, Anon.) Julia Thorn was the alias used by Sydney Bristow during her missing year.
Anonymous said…
This is excellent bizarro-world sleuthing.

Also, did you know that the blog feed is kaput? *spazz*
Anonymous said…
jace--
funny stuff ! 1st time ive read your blog- (you got a link from defamer that sent me here-- so kudos to you on the exposere)... and why " julia thorn? you just a big sydney bristow fan, or is there a clue in there as to the identity of your mole??.....
and lastly-- David rosentahal's life story sounds like the best script EVER!!! hello greek tragedy!! success, hubris, madness, and redemption!! i love it!! develope that!!
Mr Crosson said…
Julia Thorn was so familiar to me when I first heard it on Alias that I did some checking and remembered that Julia Thorn was the name of John Kerry's first wife.

I wonder what that means about Alias?
Anonymous said…
Don't hate on the guy because of Hope & Faith and Good Morning, Miami. Amy Sherman-Palladino wrote for Veronica's Closet and Roseanne. As far as the misogynist stuff, Dan Palladino was an Executive Producer and writer on Family Guy. People can be capable of writing in different styles at different points in their lives.

Big GG fan here who is keeping an open mind after watching "Super Cool Party People"
Anonymous said…
Wow, this guy sounds like a piece of work (but not unlike many people I know in LA...) But are you just getting his "Gilmore" credits from IMDb.com? They only recently started linking writing credits to individual episodes, and it's all user-updated, so their info may not be complete. Still, it somehow doesn't surprise me that they'd put someone with little experience on the show in charge because he's had showrunner experience somewhere else. But look on the bright side, they could have promoted one of their PAs to the job, and hired someone else to pick up lunch!
Anonymous said…
As I understand it, David was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He's medicated now. The episodes with Heidi Klum were, apparently, the result of a manic phase. Whether or not he's any good as a writer is another question.
Anonymous said…
This is a great article, but why, oh, why does anyone think Dan Palladino is "talented"?

He's not! I can always tell a Daniel "Gilmore" episode before his credit appears by the consistently LOUSY quality of the writing.

Every...single...time.
Anonymous said…
For anyone with time to kill Kansan1225 used to obsessively post about Heidi Klum on Usenet.

http://tinyurl.com/jlh4p
Rachel said…
gasp!
Anonymous said…
peter, you are clearly wrong. daniel palladino wrote the season 1 finale (1000 yellow daises), "christopher returns" the ep where we meet rory's dad for the first time, lorelai's graudation (when also a still-with-dean rory drops everything to go to new york to visit jess), and "you jump i jump jack" (the life and death brigade extravanganza) in addition to dozens more of gilmore's most memorable and cherished moments. dude wrote like a quarter of episodes, so clearly the popular belief about him being talented isn't completely flawed.
Anonymous said…
push the palladinos to keep running it please!!!! The is my favorite show in the world and i have all the seasons and i already prepaid for the 6th so please i don't wanna lose the gilmore girls!!!
Anonymous said…
Someone needs to tell David Rosenthal that instead of writing what he wants he needs to listen to the voices of the fans. Get rid of Christopher, stop making Lorelai look like a cheap tart, and make Rory a role model again for young women. He's ruining the show. Chekc the message boards, read the comments. Get your head out of the sand. Bring back L&L
Anonymous said…
I cannot believe what is happening with the show. This new writer is horrible.
Anonymous said…
I liked the old one better

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