A ‘Roseanne,’ ‘Gilmore Girls’ Connection


Amy Sherman-Palladino, producer-writer of “The Gilmore Girls,” trained at the Groundlings theater and planned on being an actress. Instead, she got a job writing for “Roseanne.”

“I was 24 and an idiot,” she says tartly. “I was still auditioning for ‘Cats,’ I was gonna be Rumpleteaser on tour. I really, really fought it, but my writing partner at the time really, really wanted to do it. Once I accepted the idea, I realized, ‘I don’t have to diet anymore. I never have to put on toe shoes again.’ ”

Starting in 1990, Sherman-Palladino spent four years on “Roseanne,” where she earned Emmy and Writers Guild award nominations and learned the craft of TV storytelling.


“The thing they mastered on ‘Roseanne,’ in the non-24-voices-in-her-head days, is the fact that they would take the tiniest stories--like Darlene got her period, that was an entire show. One of the greatest moments was Dan trying to figure out how to say something to his daughter and he wound up just hitting her on the shoulder and saying, ‘Way to go.’ Just a father not knowing what to do, a very tiny thing, and I learned that kind of storytelling right off the bat.

“So from ‘Roseanne’ I got my sense of what is real, what is not real, how far to stray from something to make it dramatic but still keep it so that people are sitting in their living room [saying], ‘Oh I’ve said that to my mother,’ ‘I’ve had that fight with somebody’--and that’s what hooks people in week after week.”

After she left “Roseanne,” Sherman-Palladino went on to producing roles on a succession of sitcoms, including “Can’t Hurry Love,” “Love and Marriage,” “Veronica’s Closet” and “Over the Top.” During these years, Sherman-Palladino began hearing a mantra she came to loathe: “It’s just television.”

“I got very spoiled by how high the bar was raised on ‘Roseanne,’ ” Sherman-Palladino recalls, “and it’s hard then to go to other shows where the bar’s not quite so high and you’re the one schmuck sitting in the room who’s [saying], ‘But it’s not good enough yet,’ and everyone else has nannies and stuff and they want to get out by 6 o’clock. . . .

“Any time I hear a writer say ‘It’s just television,’ I want to kill them. I know it’s not brain surgery, we’re not saving lives here, but if you don’t have complete respect for the level of work you want to do, in whatever it is, I’m like a bull seeing red.”