Arts is Entertainment
Big Screen/Small Screen
Nice, Jewish Maidlach
Amy Sherman-Palladino turns "Gilmore Girls" into a homage to the Catskills.
sandwich!' — that eventually seeped
into my writing."
Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles
But since her mother was an ex-
dancer, Sherman-Palladino says she
was "supposed to be a hoofer in a
acclaimed WB series,
Broadway musical." She didn't segue
Gilmore Girls, began when
writing until she chanced to take
the Jewish Valley girl visit-
comedy class at the
ed the picturesque town of
famed Groundlings comedy club in
Washington Depot, Conn., several
L.A. and hooked up with fellow stu-
dent Jennifer Heath around 1990.
"It was so ridiculously Norman
"We were two short, Jewish, annoy-
Rockwell," says Sherman-Palladino,
ing women that no one wanted to
Sherman-Palladino, for her part,
37, the daughter of ex-Catskills comic
deal with, so we dealt with each
grew up in Van Nuys, Calif., with a
Don Sherman. "Like, we're driving
other," she told Written By
down the street and people
are going, Where's the
"But I didn't want to be a
pumpkin patch?' It was so
writer; I wanted to be
funny that I thought, 'I
Rumpleteaser in Cats," she
should set something here.'"
Gilmore.s fictional town of
Heath had another idea. She
Stars Hollow, Conn., has its
pumpkin patch, but it is also
peopled by characters with
a Roseanne script, which prompt-
ly landed the novice writers staff
speech and vaudevillian wit.
jobs on Roseanne Barr's hit
show. The temperamental star
mom Lorelai Gilmore
had fired her entire staff.
(Lauren Graham) and her
"She needed female writers,
brainy 18-year-old daugh-
we were cheap," says
ter/best friend, Rory (Alexis
Bledel), spew one-liners faster
She was 24 and learning the
than Joan Rivers on speed.
sitcom ropes on TV's hottest
When Rory balks at visit-
comedy. But her mother wasn't
ing her blue-blood grandpar-
ents, Lorelai suggests she can
"Even after I was nominated
"pull a Menendez" on the
an Emmy, mom would call
way home. When the town's
say, "They're auditioning
sluggish postman wonders if
for Cats over at the church on
a neighbor died, Lorelai says,
Highland and Franklin, and
"[You mean] while you were
can't you get away for an
delivering her mail?"
hour?"' she says.
"We [also] have a whole
"Gilmore Girls"• Alexis Bledel as brainy daughter Rory
Four Roseanne seasons and
run about Lorelai saying she's
failed sitcom pilots later,
going to get a tattoo of Mel
Brooks on her a—," says
to pitch an
Sherman-Palladino, whose rau-
mom and a dad and a living room full hour-long show to the network.
cous, Borsht Belt humor contrasts
Her response was Gilmore Girls,
of ex-Catskills comics.
with her petite frame.
whose pilot featured dialogue she had
"There were six or seven of them at
"Part of what's so fun about the
scribbled during that fateful trip to
my house at all times, all trying to
series is putting words in people's
outdo each other," she says on a
mouths that normally wouldn't come
While Sherman-Palladino is about
recent afternoon in her bordello-red
out of [them]."
same age as the fictional Lorelai,
As a result, she says, she's been told
the only similarity she can see
"It was like the circle of comics in
"the show sometimes sounds like it's
between her and the characters is that,
Woody Allen's Broadway Danny Rose,
written by an 80-year-old Jewish
like Rory, she didn't care about being
but with Shecky Green, Jackie Mason
popular in high school.
and Jan Murray. They had a rhythm,
Gilmore Mel Brooksian dialogue,
The rest is fiction. She says she cre-
an energy, a fatalistic way of looking
along with its healthy but unusual
ated Lorelai, in part, to have "a single
at life — 'so you're gonna die, have a
parent-child relationship, mirrors
what is now almost a third of U.S.
families, those with children headed
by single parents. The "non-normal
family" has increasingly become "the
norm on television" according to
Gilmore is considered among the
cream of a TV crop that also includes
the WB's Everwood, about a single
dad in small-town Colorado, and
HBO's mortician-family saga, Six Feet
mother who gave birth at 16 but is
not living in a trailer park."
She created Rory to counter the
prevalent TV im/ge of teenage girls as
"either popular or longing to be in the
in-crowd. Rory, by way of contrast, is
comfortable in her own skin," she
says. "She has her mom and her one
friend and she's too busy reading
Flaubert to think about having-sex."
For her efforts, the writer-producer
was included in Emmy magazine's 2002
list of the "25 best in the business."
Now in its third season, the series
and its dialogue continue to reflect
childhood. Because she believes
"comedy must be fast — if it's slow,
it's not funny" — Gilmore scripts fea-
ture more than twice the dialogue per
page as standard screenplays.
Sherman-Palladino even hired a
vocal coach to help the actors with
their lines. "I try to channel Amy,"
Graham said, at a press conference, of
her approach to Lorelai.
The other characters are as quirky as
those on the 1990s CBS series
Northern Exposure. There is a sni ffy
hotel desk clerk; a klutzy, perfectionist
cook; a Korean-American antique
dealer whose shop is so cluttered
patrons can't find her; and a rabbi who
pals around with the town minister.
Sherman-Palladino says she named
the rabbi "David Baron," after the Los
Angeles clergyman who performed
her wedding to Gilmore executive pro-
ducer Daniel Palladino (Family Guy)
five years ago.
She introduced the character in an
episode last season to establish that
"he and the minister share church
space; it's the Jews on Saturday and
the Christians on Sunday."
It's part of her effort to make pic-
ture-perfect Stars Hollow "not so
tiberWASPy," she says. So does
Sherman-Palladino intend to intro-
duce more Jewish characters on the
show? She laughs, then lapses into
Catskills-style shtick. "By year seven,
everyone on the show will be Jewish," ,
she says. "Believe me, it's going to be
the Chabad telethon." ❑
Gilmore Girls airs 8 p.m.
Tuesdays on the WB.