The legions who’ve tuned in to ABC’s Desperate Housewives have probably noticed who the sanest female in the cul-de-sac is: It’s Julie, the serenely clever teenage daughter of Teri Hatcher’s single mom, Susan Mayer. Played by Andrea Bowen with a skeptical smile and a perfect understanding of her mother’s lovelorn state, Julie is a parents’ dream come true. It could have been an icky role-swap—kid tending to fraying parent—but instead provides a neat contrast to Wisteria Lane’s usual relationship: blackmailer to blackmailee. Susan is a loving mom; in return, Julie steals evidence and acts as savvy romantic wingman (that’s love indeed in this corrupt setting!).
The rise of the Sane Teen is the season’s most unexpected trend. It can be seen—if only you’d watch—in Jack and Bobby, where the brothers cool off single mom Christine Lahti’s hotheaded prof; the boys’ calm, articulate confidence is what we want in our once-and-future presidents.
The princess of sane teenager-hood is, of course, Alexis Bledel’s Rory Gilmore. Gilmore Girls has, in its fifth season, moved beyond its fantasy premise (that a single mom and her offspring can be best buds without becoming rivals or neurotically co-dependent) to find its bliss. As Rory moves toward adulthood, Lauren Graham’s Lorelai jabbers less and they converse more: The series moves ever closer to what creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has always wanted: Nick and Nora Charles as a mother-daughter team, knocking back coffee instead of martinis, (wise)cracking the mystery of life.