November 13, 2012

25 Little-Known Facts About ‘Gilmore Girls’

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Gilmore Girls

1. Alex Borstein (who plays Ms. Swan on MADtv) was the original choice to play Sookie but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with MADtv and Family Guy, on which she plays Lois Griffin. Like Rachel Dratch on 30 Rock (who was the original choice for the Jenna role), Borstein instead makes numerous cameos in the show as different characters — like Ms. Celine, Emily Gilmore’s ambiguously aged, celebrity-name-dropping stylist. Borstein would be replaced with Melissa McCarthy and Borstein’s husband would land the role of Jackson. Lisa Weil originally tried out for Rory and was denied the part, but the producers were so taken with Weil that they wrote Paris Geller for her instead.

2. Gilmore Girls was executive produced by Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband, Daniel Palladino, who previously worked on Roseanne and Over the Top (starring Tim Curry, Seinfeld’s John O’Hurley, Annie Potts, Steve Carell and Marla Sokoloff). That show also featured Liz Torres, who would later play Miss Patty on Gilmore Girls. This is one of many examples of the Palladinos re-using actors they’ve worked with before, and Torrez likewise worked with Sally Struthers on All in the Family.

3. While working on Gilmore Girls, Daniel Palladino was also one of the producers and head writers for Family Guy, which often references and lampoons Gilmore Girls’ fast-talking precociousness, despite having a similar pop-culture-reference-heavy style. In one episode, Peter and the Griffins sit down to watch Gilmore Girls, only to see Rory and Lorelai make out. #cantunsee

4. Almost none of the young actors are the same age as their characters. Alexis Bledel was the closest, at the age of 18 when the show started. (Her only previous role was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore the year before.) Liza Weil was 21 when she took the role of Paris and Keiko Agena (Lane) was 25.  Agena is only six years younger than Lauren Graham, who plays her best friend’s mom. She will turn 40 next year.

5. Keiko Agena is Japanese, not Korean, and like Lauren Graham, she was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Emily Kuroda (who plays her mother, Mrs. Kim) is also not Korean and was born in Fresno, California. Like Agena, her first language is English, and Kuroda doesn’t speak with the thick accent you see on TV. (Her voice IRL is disconcertingly high pitched.) However, Alexis Bledel, who is half Argentinian and considers herself Latino, did not start speaking English until she entered elementary school. Her first language is Spanish. (Also, she hates drinking coffee and had to have all of her coffee cups filled with Coke throughout the run of the show.)

6. Although Michel is French in Gilmore Girls (and apparently the only black man around), Yanic Truesdale, who played Michel, is French-Canadian. This makes sense, because his character is a fan of Celine Dion, the famous Quebecoise singer. In addition, the Dion thing is a reference to Michel’s sexuality, which is left ambiguous throughout the show (although the night manager, Tobin, is more overtly gay). In early seasons, scenes suggest that Michel is straight, but the more the show goes on, the more it alludes to the opposite (like Stewie on Daniel Palladino’s other show, Family Guy). He is also the only character of the show’s core group to never get his own romantic storyline. (P.S. If you ever want to solve this debate at a party, just say Michel is bisexual. Win!)

7. The character of Lane was modeled after Amy Sherman-Palladino’s best friend, Helen Pai, who is a producer on the show. Lane’s band, Hep Alien, is an anagram for Pai’s name.

8. Stars Hollow is a real place that you can visit. It’s called Washington Depot and is located near Danbury and Woodbury, both of which are name-dropped. When visiting there, the Palladinos were taken with the small-town charm of the place and the fact that patrons at the local diner were able to go behind the counter and serve themselves, as we see Lorelai do in the show. The town also features a town meeting form of government, which I hope means Taylor Doose is also a real person.

9. The show features a number of interesting continuity errors and changes, in terms of character and plot. Early in the first season, Rory turns 16, which is interesting because her character was introduced as being 16 in the pilot. (Perhaps they were rounding up?) Also, Kirk’s original name in the show was Mick, which changes when his character is given a larger role on the show. Jacqui Maxwell (who plays Summer) and Sherilyn Fenn (April’s mother) both play different roles throughout the show, like Borstein. Fenn got the part of April’s mother because she was originally going to be featured as Jess’ stepmother in his spinoff, Windward Circle. However, that show was cancelled before it ever went to air.  (For Gilmore devotees, you can find snippets of the pilot-that-would-have-been floating around online.)

10. Like Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls makes many references to its stars’ previous roles and often casts people because of their previous pedigree. Kelly Bishop was a former Broadway star and a Tony-winner for A Chorus Line, which makes sense as her character is a fan of musicals. She also played Mrs. Houseman in Dirty Dancing, a show referenced multiple times in Gilmore Girls’ run. Her husband, played by character actor Edward Herrmann, was likely cast because of his notable roles the film adaptation of Annie, Eleanor and Franklin (in which he played FDR) and Here Come the Munsters (where he played Herman Munster). He and Bishop won Tonys in the same year. In addition, Gilmore Girls also featured former TV stars Marion Ross (Happy Days) and Sally Struthers (All in the Family) and Whit Stillman regular Chris Eigeman.

11. Many of the show’s cast left to star in other shows. Chad Michael Murray’s Tristan was shipped off to military school so he could be free to be on One Tree Hill, Jared Padalecki went off to star in Supernatural and Adam Brody left Stars Hollow to join The O.C. In true Gilmore Girls fashion, the show bids Brody adieu with a clever in-joke. They say that Dave “moved to California.”

12. The show was also notable for interesting stunt casting that may have gone way, way over the heads of its target audience. Gilmore Girls cast notable musicians Grant-Lee Phillips (as the town troubadour), Sebastian Bach (of Skid Row) and Carole King (who sings the theme song) in the show and gave former David Lynch girl Madchen Amick a role as Sherry Tinsdale. Character actress Nancy Lenehan also got her turn to shine as Ladawn on Gilmore Girls, despite having been killed by Buffy Summers three years prior. However, the weirdest casting in the show’s history has to go to former porn star and John-Waters-alum Traci Lords, who plays the interior designer for the Dragonfly Inn for one episode in Season 4. To think, this show airs on ABC Family. Quel scandal! (Side note: The show also features before-they-were-famous turns from Krysten Ritter, Danny Pudi, Nick Offerman, Mary Lynn Rajskub and future scream queen Scout Taylor-Compton.)

13. Alexis Bledel and Milo Ventimiglia famously dated during the course of the show’s run, even after their characters broke up. However, they aren’t the only ones with notable relationship choices. Lauren Graham dated Matthew Perry back in 2002, when both of their shows were still on the air. Meaning that Chandler Bing and Lorelai Gilmore were boning IRL. (That Matthew Perry really gets around, eh?) Also, Sean Gunn (Kirk) is the brother of director James Gunn, the helmer of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie who was once married to Jenna Fischer of The Office. Meaning that Kirk and Pam were once brother and sister-in-law.

14. On the show, Kirk’s last name is Gleason, a reference to Jackie Gleason, who played Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners.

15. While appearing on Gilmore Girls, Lauren Graham appeared in a number of highly interesting roles. She notably co-starred in Bad Santa, in which she nearly ruins Gilmore Girls by having sex with Billy Bob Thornton, and The Pacifier, where she inexplicably ends up with Vin Diesel. (Seriously, WTF.) The latter role references Lorelai Gilmore by making her character a coffee addict. She also played Keanu Reeves’ ex-girlfriend in Sweet November, meaning there’s an alternate universe where Lorelai Gilmore and Neo made out. (Woah.) In addition, she was Jerry’s love interest on an episode of Seinfeld.

16. During the show’s run, Melissa McCarthy also starred in some weird crap. These include Pumpkin (with Christina Ricci and a pre-fame Amy Adams), Charlie’s Angels, White Oleander, Go and Drowning Mona. But the strangest was her bit part in the Kate-Winslet-starring The Life of David Gale, a film so notoriously bad it ended the career of its director, Alan Parker. McCarthy’s character’s name (I’m not shitting you) is listed as “Nico the Goth Girl.” She has black hair, piercings and fishnet sleeves. It’s amazing. She also appeared in Jenny McCarthy’s sitcom, The Jenny McCarthy Show, as “Melissa.”  This is because Melissa McCarthy is Jenny McCarthy’s cousin.

17. When Melissa McCarthy worked with Judd Apatow on Bridesmaids, they were already connected to each other through the Six Degrees of Gilmore Girls. (Which is a fairly addictive game to play and weirdly easy.) Amy Sherman-Palladino worked with Apatow on Roseanne, a show that gave a number of revered or well-known comic writers their start. These also include Chuck Lorre (of the execrable-yet-popular Two and a Half Men) and geek overlord Joss Whedon. Traci Lords appeared in three episodes of Roseanne and Meagen Fay showed up in four, as the Conners’ snooty next-door neighbor, Kathy. Fay would later be cast on Gilmore Girls as Mrs. Shales, the hapless mother of twin girls having their wedding at the Independence Inn. Fay also appeared on Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks.

18. Originally, Luke was supposed to be played by a woman. (If he were a girl, his name would have been Daisy. No joke.) However, the network felt there were too few men on the show and room in it for romantic entanglements, as was the WB’s way (see: Dawson’s Creek). Thus, Luke got a sex change in the script and was made into Lorelai’s coffee enabler and future mate. Luke was originally only going to be a recurring character, but Scott Patterson’s chemistry with Graham was so great in the pilot that they bumped him up to a lead.

19. Luke wears a baseball cap throughout the show’s run, which is a reference to his previous career. Before appearing on the show, Scott Patterson played in the minor leagues for the Yankees, Dodgers and Rangers. This is made further reference to in an episode where Luke and Dean play baseball together.

20. The show features a number of sets used on other programs. The exterior for the Dragonfly Inn is actually the same one that they used for the Waltons’ house on The Waltons. The sets they use for many of the sites in the town square and its surrounding areas (including Dooze’s Market, Luke’s and the Gazebo) can also be seen in The Dukes of Hazzard and The Music Man. Because it’s Gilmore Girls, the characters make references to all three of these throughout the show’s run.

21. Like the actors on the show, the directors of Gilmore Girls have some cool pedigree. TV shows are directed on an episode-by-episode basis and a long-running show like Gilmore Girls will feature numerous directors throughout its run. In its seven years, the minds behind Gilmore Girls have also been responsible for (take a breath!) But I’m a Cheerleader, 30 Rock, The Middle, Twin Peaks, The Newsies, Hocus Pocus, High School Musical, Mad Men, True Blood, Now and Then, The West Wing, Sports Night, Arrested Development, Dharma and Greg and Golden Girls. Two of those directors are Oscar nominees, and neither nomination is for But I’m a Cheerleader. #injustice

22. The series was widely critically acclaimed throughout its run, championed by Entertainment Weekly and listed by TV Guide and Time Magazine in their lists of the best TV shows ever. But despite this, Emmy voters repeatedly snubbed the show. Lauren Graham got nods from both the Screen Actors’ Guild and Golden Globes but was left out of the Emmy’s main categories because of Emmy bias against smaller networks like The WB. (The show did get a pity win for Outstanding Makeup in 2004.) Graham’s continued Emmy omission created a scandal with the organization, who also got heat for snubbing The Wire. However, The Wire got writing nominations, unlike Gilmore Girls, which got zero, despite having scripts twice as long as normal programs. (It’s why the characters had to talk so fast.) The Emmys were restructured numerous times to get these shows nods, but neither were ever nominated in the main categories.

23. The character of April is widely seen as an intentional plot device meant to destroy the show, as goes fan legend/internet rumor. When April was originally brought onto the show, Sookie refers to her as Luke’s “lovechild,” and in a humorous segment, she wonders if Jackson has any lovechildren. The lovechild or “long lost child” device is a classic “jump the shark” move in TV land, and the show was seen to decline in quality when April and the custody battle over her dominated Season 6. During this time, the Palladinos were in contract disputes with the network and eventually left the show over it. Afterwards, they went onto create The Return of Jezebel James for Fox (with Parker Posey, Dianne Wiest and Lauren Ambrose), which was quickly cancelled — for good reason. This is because it was so, so much worse than Gilmore Girls at its lowest.  (It’s allegedly on Hulu, if you ever feel like hating yourself.)

24. Amy Sherman-Palladino originally had the last line of the show planned out in her head before she bowed out of the show. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, she vowed never to tell what it was — although if she ever jumps from a tall building, she mentioned she will scream it as she plunges to her death. Wide speculation is that if that Gilmore Girls reunion ever gets off the ground (yes, please!), she will save that line for the end of that special.

25. While you wait for that to happen, Sherman-Palladino now executive produces, writes and directs Bunheads on ABC Family, which recycles a lot of the same elements that fans loved about Gilmore Girls. It takes place in a small, quirky town; features smart women talking really fast; is about a dance studio; and also stars Rose Abdoo (Gypsy) and Kelly Bishop, whose character is what would happen if you mashed up Miss Patty and Emily Gilmore. (It’s kinda weird.) Also, Tony-winner Sutton Foster (of Anything Goes and South Pacific) plays the Lorelai Gilmore surrogate, because it wouldn’t be a Amy Sherman-Palladino show without a ton of Broadway references. TC mark

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