The Unexpected Way ‘Roseanne’ Influenced ‘Gilmore Girls’

20 years after it first aired, many people still love the WB series Gilmore Girls for its incredible cast and whip-smart writing. But not all Gilmore Girls fans know about how the 90s sitcom Roseanne had an impact on Gilmore.

‘Gilmore Girls’ remains popular in 2020

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

The New York Times celebrated the 20-year anniversary of Gilmore Girls earlier this year, noting how popular the series remains after 2 decades.

The show has several influences — Gilmore exudes pop culture knowledge — but not many fans may know that Roseanne is one of them.

That’s because Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino “was a writer on the hit ABC series Roseanne,” The New York Times reported. As Sherman-Palladino noted, that was in the 1990s, “before the creator Roseanne Barr ‘did conspiracy theories.”

The sitcom was very popular throughout the ’90s — though it doesn’t have a lot in common with Gilmore Girls on the surface.

How ‘Roseanne’ influenced episodes of ‘Gilmore Girls’

At the ATX TV Festival in 2015, the Gilmore Girls stars reunited for press events and interviews. Sherman-Palladino explained then what she learned from working in the writers’ room at Roseanne.

“The motto on Roseanne was ‘make the small big, make the big small,’” the Gilmore creator shared. She’s kept that writing advice in her pocket.

“I’ve kind of stuck to that my entire career,” Sherman-Palladino said in Austin, “because I really do believe that’s the best storytelling. It’s in the small moments that lives change.”

Roseanne cast
The Roseanne cast: Roseanne (Roseanne Barr), Becky (Lecy Goranson), Darlene (Sara Gilbert), D.J. (Michael Fishman) and Dan (John Goodman) in 1988| Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

That concept was apparent in every season of Gilmore Girls, which The New York Times argues was “stubbornly insistent on the richness of the mundane.”

Indeed, the motto from Roseanne, coined by “producer Bob Myer,” was noticeable in several episodes throughout the series. The Times pointed out moments like “Lorelai dressing inappropriately to visit Rory’s snooty new prep school, and Rory getting a D on a test,” things that in the grand scheme of things, are low stakes — but tell us what these characters really care about.

Gilmore was decidedly uninterested in plot lines that Sherman-Palladino calls “Who in the town killed Sookie?” stories.

Former Gilmore Girls writer John Stephens explained to The New York Times how this creative approach was established in the room.

Sherman-Palladino told the writing staff: “This show is about a mother and a daughter who are best friends as well as being mother and daughter, and every conflict and dynamic should tick-tock back and forth on that one point.”

‘Gilmore Girls’ on representing real life

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On the podcast Gilmore Guys, another former Gilmore Girls writer, Jane Espenson talked about the show’s commitment to realism.

“I remember distinctly Dan Palladino going, ‘OK I think that’s enough story for this episode,’” Espenson said. Rather than writing to act breaks or cliff hangers, “he was seeing it as life,” the writer shared.

That’s part of what made viewers relate to the characters — and also what made Gilmore Girls “very comforting,” Espenson argued on Gilmore Guys.

“There was something about it that made for a show that was a pleasure to watch and that felt like life,” she explained.

It also made the big things — counterintuitively — bigger.

“You’re surprised when the exciting moment happened between the seasons or off-screen or is being talked about on the phone, because that’s how life works,” the former Gilmore Girls writer said. “… You are surprised when things happen because the story didn’t set it up.”