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Fans aren’t only ones upset by ‘Gilmore’ feud

Lauren Graham says on-screen dispute didn't seem true to character
/ Source: The Associated Press

This season's "Gilmore Girls" story line where the normally tight mother-and-daughter team of Lorelai and Rory feuded and gave each other the silent treatment caused some sharp arguments among the show's rabid fans.

Turns out there were some divisions on the set, too.

"It wasn't my favorite," admitted Lauren Graham, who plays mom Lorelai.

Lorelai and Rory have since made up; tears flowed. Their rapid-fire repartee is back, although usually by phone. Rory is in Yale now, and, in one busy episode this month, became editor of her school paper and moved in with her boyfriend.

The show's creators are clearly trying to push things and avoid the fatigue that usually afflicts television shows in their sixth season.

Long the WB's most critically acclaimed series, "Gilmore Girls" has quietly grown to become its second most popular after "7th Heaven." The show averages just under 5 million viewers a week, up from 4.1 million two seasons ago, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Last month's announcement that the WB and UPN will shut down to form a new network in the fall has left all of their programs in flux. But "Gilmore Girls" would seem to have earned the right to determine its own destiny and make the move to the new CW network.

The growth has come despite the widely objected-to story line.

Part of Graham's problems with the feud were personal; she missed working with co-star Alexis Bledel every day. Primarily she believed it didn't ring true to her character.

"I struggled with the idea that this character, being the parent, would go so far as to stop speaking to her daughter and not make more of an effort," said Graham, taking a break in her trailer on the Warner Bros. lot during a slow day of filming. "We had it in bits and pieces, but it was hard for me to justify — that I wouldn't try harder, that I wouldn't reach out more, that I could stand to be away from her for that long."

She questioned co-creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino more this year than ever, "and I'm sure they enjoyed it not at all," Graham said.

Some critics took her side. Ted Cox of the Chicago Daily Herald said "it seemed suddenly as if the characters were being manipulated to create drama, rather than allowing the drama to flow naturally out of the characters."

The Palladinos concede that it's tough to come up with new stories for a long-running show without them seeming contrived. But in this case, they said it was important to do something that shakes Rory to her foundation — a typical rite of passage for budding adults, who learn about themselves by how they respond.

"To really rock Rory's world, we had to go to what the core of the show was and to really have them have a rift and explore what the show would be," Sherman-Palladino said. "I know there are two camps. Personally, for me, I've loved the psychological implications of this year more than any other year because we've really gotten to do some real mother-daughter stories."

Think deeply about the characters, and the silence rings true, she said. Lorelai has spent her life trying to do everything differently from her own mother. And if it was Lorelai taking time off from Yale, her mother would have personally dragged her back to school.

While things are better now between Lorelai and Rory, it's not so for Lorelai and Luke, her diner-owner beau.

They're engaged after an agonizingly long courtship. But the sudden emergence of Luke's daughter from a previous relationship has thrown their marriage plans in doubt.

It's never simple, is it? Driving wedges between seemingly well-suited characters is another risk to an audience's patience. The Palladinos like the idea of exploring the difficulties in bringing together two strong personalities very set in their ways.

"It's very different if you get married at 29, than at 38," Sherman-Palladino said. "It's a very different world, and that's what we're trying to tap into."

The future of "Gilmore Girls" is a convoluted plot itself. The Palladinos say they're genuinely undecided about whether they will continue with the series after this season — alarming news for fans of a series that, more than most, reflects the strong sensibilities of their creators.

One factor that may have driven them away — a pilot for a new series, a romantic comedy, that would have been filmed in New York — is no longer in the picture. It was scrapped with the WB's dissolution.

The Palladinos are making plans for a cliffhanger ending to this season (wedding? no wedding?) and for the show to run without them in the fall, just in case.

Graham said the signs point to one more season after this one; the production company is making sure to add another year for people who had six-year contracts. Graham said that's when she'd like to move on, citing the show's workload.

"Getting the language perfect requires a number of takes that you might not have on another show," she explained. "It's just a lot of work — 13, 14 hours door to door. I've missed weddings, I've missed babies being born. I'm not complaining, because of what it has brought me, but I would be ready for a different balance."

She has a hard time imagining the Palladinos not involved, particularly if the series is coming to an end.

Television economics may also play a part in the decision. The WB is canceling "7th Heaven" because, after a decade on the air, the network's most popular show was losing money because it was so expensive to make.

"They've come to us before and asked point-blank how long we think the show can go," Sherman-Palladino said, "and we say it's a family show, it can go on forever. If `7th Heaven' could have gone on for 10 years, why couldn't this show go for 10 years? There's no reason. They're going to be hard-pressed to assemble a cast this good on television again."