The Unexpected Link Between ‘Gilmore Girls’ and the Movie ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’

Gilmore Girls, the TV series that first aired in 2000, is well-known for its husband-wife showrunner team, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino. While the writers/executive-producers (who would later go on to co-create The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) are often credited as the creative force behind Gilmore Girls, the original germ of the idea — a TV show about a mother-daughter relationship — actually came from producer Gavin Polone. How did Polone’s experience working on the 1999 comedy film Drop Dead Gorgeous influence Gilmore Girls?

‘Gilmore Girls’ and ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ don’t share cast, writers, or much else — but they do have a producer in common

Gilmore Girls
Alexis Bledel as Rory Gilmore and Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore on Gilmore Girls | Mitchell Haddad/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images

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Polone spoke to BuzzFeed in 2014, 15 years after Drop Dead Gorgeous, the dark comedy movie he produced, came out in theaters.

While the film is often referred to as a cult classic; it experienced relatively low ticket sales and harsh reviews from movie critics, but picked up steam over the last 2 decades as a counter-culture favorite.

As the publication put it, Polone “cut his teeth on Drop Dead Gorgeous, and is now a big name in Hollywood.”

In the years after the mockumentary came out, the producer worked on several prominent TV shows and movies: ZombielandCurb Your Enthusiasm, and Twisted, to name a few.

But there was something unique about Drop Dead Gorgeous that Polone picked up on.

“While producing the film, Polone found himself intrigued by the complicated mother-daughter relationships depicted,” the BuzzFeed article pointed out. Some of those relationship are less than ideal; for example, the tension between Gladys Leeman (Kirstie Alley’s character) and her daughter, Becky Ann Leeman (who Denise Richards played) doesn’t exactly represent family goals.

However, the loving friendship between Amber Atkins (played by Kirsten Dunst) and her relatively young mother Annette Atkins (portrayed by Ellen Arkin), is — while not perfect — something lovely to see on screen. (Especially amidst all the very dark jokes.) Annette is flawed, of course, but she is active in her support of her daughter’s dream to get out of the small Minnesota town.

That’s why Gilmore Girls, as BuzzFeed argues, is one of the “more tangential achievements inspired by Drop Dead Gorgeous.”

How ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ provided a ‘direct link’ to the 7-season TV series

Polone thought the kind of mother-daughter relationship depicted in the 1999 movie could work well as the basis for a TV series.

Drop Dead Gorgeous
Ellen Barkin, Allison Janney, and Kirsten Dunst in Drop Dead Gorgeous | Getty Images

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Polone was so inspired by the relationships in Drop Dead Gorgeous, he took the concept and ran with it — straight to television. BuzzFeed confirmed:

He arrived at the idea of a TV series that would explore another mother and daughter who were close in age — though less of a mess than anyone in Drop Dead Gorgeous — and pitched the concept to writer Amy Sherman-Palladino.

Viewing both Drop Dead Gorgeous and Gilmore Girls in tandem, it’s hard to see a clear connection. One is a bleak and pretty blue mockumentary about beauty pageants. The other is a sometimes-saccharine depiction of a book-smart teen girl and her ambitious, witty mother (both who talk way too fast and use way too many pop culture references to be realistic). But Polone maintains that the TV show would have never made it to the WB — or any other network — unless Drop Dead Gorgeous happened first.

Gilmore Girls wouldn’t exist if I had not produced that movie,” Polone revealed to BuzzFeed.

“However tenuous the correlation,” the publication explained, “there’s a direct link from Drop Dead Gorgeous to a seven-season-long, critically acclaimed television series.”