Michael Lavine, Fox
Parker Posey, Lauren Ambrose

The return of Jezebel James" is — and it pains me greatly to say this — terrible.

A comedy that's not funny, full of characters that aren't believable, it's one of the most disappointing shows to come along this season. Disappointing because it comes from Amy Sherman-Palladino, the woman behind "Gilmore Girls" — one of the best shows of the past couple of decades.

I feel ungrateful and disloyal dissing "Jezebel James," but you can't watch a show simply because of gratitude for a previous show.

Parker Posey stars as Sarah, a neurotic thirtysomething book editor who has just broken up with her longtime boyfriend. She decides to become a single mother — until her doctor tells her she can't carry a baby.

So Sarah wants to make a deal with her estranged, hippie-ish sister, Coco (Lauren Ambrose) — she'll pay Coco and give her a place to live if Coco carries her baby. (Jezebel James is a book character based on Coco's childhood imaginary friend.)

For reasons that defy explanation, the same sort of fast-talking dialogue that worked so well on "Gilmore Girls" completely fails in "Jezebel James." Posey seems positively unnatural, and it's entirely off-putting.

When she goes from stiff upper lip to a crying jag, it's like bad local theater.

And not only did Sherman-Palladino write the pilot script, she directed it, too.

The second episode is no better than the first. And, given that Fox is airing the first two episodes back-to-back Friday at 7 and 7:30 p.m., that Sarah goes from living in a small house to a fabulous loft (without explanation) is somewhat jarring, too.

The folks at Fox know "Jezebel James" is in trouble. They cut the order from 13 episodes to seven and buried the show on Friday.

It should give everyone a chance to move on quickly. And Sherman-Palladino's next show may not be as good as "Gilmore Girls," but its unlikely to be as bad as "Jezebel James."

Sherman-Palladino likes to talk. A lot. She can go on for , oh, 10 minutes before taking a breath.

But ask her about the end of "Gilmore Girls" and she clams up. Unable to come to an agreement with Warner Bros. before the show's seventh and final season, Sherman-Palladino left the show in the hands of others.

From the time the show premiered, Sherman-Palladino said she knew how she was going to end it. She even knew what the last line in the last episode would be.

As it turned out, she didn't even watch the finale.

"I couldn't watch it because it wasn't going to be my ending," she said. "It wasn't going to be what I have had in my head forever. And I was going to do something crazy, homicidal, suicidal, something with an 'idal' in it."

Sherman-Palladino said there may be a way of doing her ending.

"We've talked about maybe sometime in the future ... wrapping it up," she said. "I rule nothing out."

So, what was that last line she had in mind for so long?

"It was ... 'By the way, Rory, you're adopted,"' Sherman-Palladino joked — a line that would completely undercut this show about a mother and daughter.

E-mail: pierce@desnews.com