Idol Chatter

jezjamespicic.jpgI can’t imagine anyone admiring “Gilmore Girls” co-creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s writing more than I do. I still feel the loss of visiting Stars Hollow a year after it has gone off the air. Tonight, Fox is bringing Sherman-Palladino and her producer husband Daniel Palladino back to primetime with a sitcom, “The Return of Jezebel James.” With fiery independent film actresses Parker Posey (“Best in Show”) and Lauren Ambrose (“Six Feet Under”, “Starting Out in the Evening”) co-starring, I thought the series might have estrogen-induced fireworks that would rival “Sex and the City.” Unfortunately, watching the pilot episode I experienced more fizzle than sizzle. It’s possible that maybe its my unabashed “Gilmore” fandom that gets in the way of appreciating this new show by the Palladinos, but I don’t think so. While there are shades of Sherman-Palladino’s witty banter now and then, “Jezebel James” feels like a poor, distant relative who Lorelai and Rory would have mocked with pithy glee.

Instead of placing her characters in a quirky small town, Sherman-Palladino has decided to use New York City as her canvas, and the publishing world as her paint brush. This show—like “Gilmore Girls” features a smart thirty-something woman—Sarah (Posey)— estranged from a family member, Coco ( Ambrose). But that’s where the similarities end—except for the fact “Jezebel” uses many of the character actors from “Gilmore” for bit parts in tonight’s pilot.
In a premise that has already been played out a little too much on the big and small screen, Sarah is successful, sarcastic, and is one big ticking biological clock. When Sarah, a children’s book editor known for creating a character named Jezebel James, realizes she needs a surrogate to carry her baby, she believes she has only one option—her rebellious, troubled, down-on-her-luck younger sister. Sarah offers her homeless sister a chance to live in Sarah’s chic loft while she is carrying Sarah’s child but it is clear the two will give new meaning to the phrase “odd couple.”
What made “Gilmore” shine was that it didn’t try to be trendy in its storylines. “Gilmore” knew how to be sweet, sassy, and timeless in its broad appeal to universal family issues. “Jezebel” just settles for snarky and trying-too-hard-to be hip. “Gilmore” also worked because it relied on the notion that all of the supporting characters were way more eccentric and/or screwed up than Lorelai and Rory. That’s not definitely not the case in “Jezebel ” where Sarah is more screwed up than anybody.
With the future addition of Dianne Wiest as Sarah and Coco’s mother (Palladino is nothing if not brilliant at casting), I want to hold out hope that this show will somehow correct itself in future episodes and give me that chance to indulge in a little bit of that old Stars Hollow feeling once again. But with only seven episodes ordered, my return to Sherman-Palladino’s work is going to be a short one, regardless of ratings.

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