'Gilmore' creator appreciates WB's enthusiasm
“Gilmore Girls” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has a small beef with her network — but not over anything you might think.
There’s an audience out there that would watch “Gilmore Girls,” but some people have no idea what the WB is or that they can find it on their own cable system — and that drives her crazy.
“My constant battle with the WB is that they love the show so much,” says Sherman-Palladino, taking a break as she directs the upcoming third season premiere of “Gilmore.” “They feel like it’s doing so well, and I’m constantly calling, saying, ‘We need more promos! We can reach a larger audience!’ They turn to me and say, ‘You know, you act like someone whose show is going off the air.’
“It’s a double-edged sword. They’re so happy with the show, pleased with its demos and pleased with our ratings, (but) they’re a smaller network with less money to throw around.”
Ahh, the trials and tribulations of producing “the best show on television that you’re not watching,” as TV Guide dubbed “Gilmore Girls” earlier this year.
The hourlong comedy-drama has not only become one of the WB’s signature programs, but it’s also one of the few relationship dramas to survive the nets’ current obsession with procedural and franchise skeins.
“There’s us and ‘Ed,’ and I don’t know if they’re developing anything else like us,” Sherman-Palladino says. “I’m not sure why. I always felt that families keep shows on the air more than anything else.
“Families constantly change and evolve and die and have a stroke and slam the door and ‘I hate you’ and ‘I love you,’ that can go on forever. You never solve problems with a family. With a cop, he eventually retires.”
The scribe says she doesn’t understand the current emphasis on franchise shows — particularly because it’s strong characters that get viewers invested in a series. “Even with ‘CSI,’ if people didn’t connect with who those characters were, then it’s just another procedural show. Marg Helgenberg isn’t getting award nominations for showing up and brushing her hair.”
Sherman-Palladino notes that it’s harder to sell a relationship show to network and studio execs given today’s primetime economics. “People don’t look at a show like mine like there’s going to be huge foreign sales, so let’s get behind it. You walk into a room with a bunch of people staring at you, and they want to hear something in one line but you can’t pitch a family show in one line.”
Because it’s a relationship-driven show, writing “Gilmore” is an extraordinarily long process, as the show’s depth of dialogue translates to thick scripts. “We have the same number of (production) days, but about 15,000 more words to say,” Sherman-Palladino says. “It’s a huge burden on my actors, a huge burden on my crew. I try to do my part and keep the show up to a certain standard.”
“Gilmore” was a critics’ darling from the moment viewers were introduced to 32-year-old single mom Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and her 16-year-old daughter/best friend, Rory (Alexis Bledel).
The show’s idyllic setting, quirky characters and strong writing also fit snugly in the WB’s primetime lineup (where it worked next to shows such as the much more sexed-up “Dawson’s Creek” and much more vamped-up “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”).
When “Buffy” pulled up stakes for UPN, “Gilmore” was slotted in the crucial Tuesday night hole. Buffy may kick butt, but the “Girls” wound up winning the battle that matters: as measured by Nielsen.
“Gilmore” is also one of a new wave of passion projects that have revitalized the drama genre. Shows such as “Gilmore,” “The Sopranos” and “The West Wing” work precisely because they’re unique.
“When I sold ‘Gilmore Girls’ I had nothing to lose,” she says. “I was standing at the cliff and saying, ‘I’m never taking a job like my last one again for the money.'”
With “Gilmore” firmly established in its Tuesday slot, Sherman-Palladino says the show has hit its groove. “As far as us having to prove ourselves to the studio and network, that burden has been lifted, but you put your own burdens on it. The bar has to be raised every year.”
And Sherman-Palladino says she’s not going anywhere.
“When you’ve been in this business as long as I have, and I’ve been doing this for 12 years, when you luck in to selling something you love, that’s so rare. You wait your whole career to have that. To just walk away from that is a little loony, a little nuts.”
The TV biz
Show that first got you hooked on dramas: ” ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ When you’re young and in the Valley, you just want to leave. It had the prairie, dresses, bonnets, skirts and pinafores. Also, things like ‘MASH,’ which was comedy but almost more dramatic than most dramas I watched when I was young.”
Most compelling characters on today’s dramas: “The thing about ‘The Sopranos’ is those characters are just brilliant. The fact that you could be so chilled and afraid of this man yet so adore and love him, it’s an amazing testament to the incredible writing and beautiful performances.”
Best place to launch an innovative and realistic drama: “It depends on what you want to do. If you want to do anything that has to do with sex and violence, then, of course, you have to go to cable. There’s no way ‘The Sopranos’ could have been done on a broadcast network but I don’t think I’ve found one time where I’ve sat here on ‘Gilmore Girls’ and thought I’d rather be on cable. This show is not a show that cable would have been interested in.”