It took a great deal of intestinal fortitude for the WB network to schedule the first of its "prestige" drama series, Gilmore Girls, opposite the NBC powerhouse Friends on Thursday night. But the gamble paid off: a critical success virtually from the outset, Gilmore Girls gradually built up a loyal following which assured WB some of its best ratings of the year. The series was set in the town of Stars Hollow, CT, home of 32-year-old single mother Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Martin) and her 15-year-old daughter, Rory (Alexis Bledel). Having never married Rory's irresponsible father, Christopher Hayden (David Sutcliffe), and long estranged from her wealthy parents, Richard (Edward Herrmann) and Emily (Kelly Bishop), Lorelai had been forced to go it alone in life, ultimately landing a good job as manager of Independence Inn, a Star Hollow landmark since 1779. She had also done a good job raising her straight-A student daughter, Rory -- though because of the close proximity of their ages, the relationship was more sister-sister than mother-daughter. As the first season opened, Rory was poised to enter the prestigious Chilton Prep School in nearby Hartford. The tuition cost obliged Lorelai to swallow her pride and seek out funding from her parents, who agreed to foot the bill on one condition: that Lorelai mend her relationship with them and once again become part of their lives. This condition was primarily set up by Lorelai's mother, who had plans to mold young Rory into the "perfect" granddaughter that her own child had never been.
In the tradition of Northern Exposure, Gilmore Girls was populated with a large and colorful supporting cast, ranging from lovable eccentrics to not-so-lovable drama queens. The staff at Independence Inn included pompous French concierge Michel Gerard (Yanic Truesdale) and klutzy but talented chef Sookie St. James (Melissa McCarthy). Not far from the inn was the diner run by curmudgeonly Luke Danes (Scott Patterson), who, as the season wore on, revealed that he'd had a long-standing crush on Lorelai. The self-appointed "leader" of Stars Hollows' merchant class was Taylor Doose (Michael Winters), owner of the town's main grocery store and employer of Rory's off-and-on boyfriend Dean Forester (Jared Padalecki). Others in town included Rory's best friend, Lane Kim (Keiko Agena), whose efforts to assert her blossoming womanhood were constantly being thwarted by her super-strict Korean parents; busybody dance instructor Miss Patty (Liz Torres); supercilious Babette Dell (Sally Struthers) and her husband, Morey (Ted Rooney); and funky handyman Kirk Gleason (Sean Gunn), a classic example of "still waters run deep." At Chilton, Rory ran smack-dab into a maelstrom of snooty snobbery and calculated cattiness personified by Paris Geller (Liza Weil), editor of the school paper. Halfway through season one, Lorelai began dating Rory's English teacher, Max Medina (Scott Cohen) -- a relationship that nearly cost Max his job. Complicating matters was the return of Rory's prodigal father, Christopher, who was still unwilling to make a permanent commitment to Lorelai -- or was it the other way around? Likewise on the romantic front, Rory found herself caught in the middle of the tempestuous relationship between the jealous, spiteful Paris and the trouble-prone Tristan DuGrey (Chad Michael Murray). The first season of Gilmore Girls ended on a cliffhanger as Lorelai pondered whether or not to accept Max Medina's marriage proposal. There was, however, no doubt that critics and fans alike had thoroughly taken Gilmore Girls to their hearts. ~ Rovi