BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. At the risk of raising expectations too high, I've got some good news for all you "Gilmore Girls" fans.
"Privileged" is the closest thing we've seen to that show since it left the air.
The new CW series, which premieres Tuesday at 8 p.m. on Ch. 30, is not a remake of "Gilmore Girls." It's a totally different situation with totally different characters.
But the tone, humor and heart of "Privileged" are reminiscent of the good ol' days of Lorelai and Rory.
"It's very much 'What if the Gilmore Girls were teaching the Gossip Girls?"' said executive producer Rina Mimoun, who worked on the final season of "Gilmore" and proved herself a superior show-runner on the made-in-Utah "Everwood."
Based on the book "How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls," by Zoey Dean, "Privileged" centers on 23-year-old Megan Smith (JoAnna Garcia, "Reba"), a smart, driven Yale grad for whom life is not going really well. In the first few minutes of Tuesday's premiere, her New York apartment burns up and she gets fired albeit from a job she didn't really want in the first place.
On the recommendation of the woman who fired her, Megan lands a job working for billionaire cosmetics mogul Laurel Limoges (Ann Archer) in Palm Beach, Fla. She becomes the tutor to Laurel's two teenage granddaughters wild child Sage (Ashley Newbrough) and sweet Rose (Lucy Kate Hale), who's being swept along with Sage into a world of excess.
There's tragedy behind the billions. Laurel's husband died young, leaving her to build her empire. And, 10 years earlier, her daughter and son-in-law were killed, leaving her with Sage and Rose. She's hired Megan not only to tutor the girls and get them into Duke, but to be sort of a surrogate mother to them.
"What I loved about the 'Gilmore Girls' was the (upbeat) tone," Mimoun said. "And there was this tremendous sense of heart and this fantastic mother-daughter relationship that I think made it very accessible, not just for the teenagers, but for families to watch it together.
"I think that's really what we're sort of hoping to do on this show is kind of tap into that vein again."
She's plans to "play up all the fun they get to have on 'Gossip Girl' with the sort of money and privilege and wealth." But she'll come at it "from a different perspective, using Megan as our Lorelai ... to sort of bring it all back down to our earth."
At the same time, there's a "sort of wish fulfillment" of a middle-class girl suddenly thrust into the world of enormous wealth.
"Privileged" gets off to a strong start. There's a lot of story to tell in the first hour not just the story of the Limoges family, but the story of the Smith family as well. (Turns out Megan is from nearby Fort Lauderdale, and her family has had more than its share of trials.) We find out everything we need to know, but it doesn't feel like exposition is being heaped on top of us.
No, we're introduced to a whole lot of characters who quickly feel like real people, not caricatures. And it's the characters that will carry a show like "Privileged."
The cast includes live-in chef Marco (Allan Louis), who becomes sort of a flamboyant father figure to Megan; Charlie (Michael Cassidy), Megan's best friend who's secretly in love with her; Will (Brian Hallisay), the wealthy and handsome neighbor; and Megan's estranged sister, Lily (Kristina Apgar).
And, while there's drama in "Privileged," it's definitely not a drama. It's not only heartfelt, it's funny. Garcia, who played the airheaded daughter on "Reba," is very good as the supersmart but goofy and awkward Megan, who is decidedly out of her element.
But Megan has good, old-fashioned values she'd like to share with Sage and Rose. And, while Sage is far from receptive, Rose just might be."When you want to change the world, sometimes you just have to start with two spoiled teenagers and go from there," Mimoun said. "That's the idea in a nutshell."
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