Gilmore Girls by Scott Humbert/The CW Gilmore Girls by Scott Humbert/The CW

Imagine finding a Christmas present under the tree - and knowing it could very well turn out to be a lump of coal. That's how I felt when a DVD labeled " Gilmore Girls Season 7 Premiere" recently came into my possession nearly a month before its Sept. 26 airdate. As you know, I had read - and loved - Dave Rosenthal's inaugural script as show-runner. But that was no guarantee that the gold wouldn't get tarnished, or altogether lost, in translation. So while I was hopeful, I was fearful, too.

Well, I must've been a good boy this year because Santa came through. For the most part.

First, the good (and it's a biggie): The episode looked, sounded and felt like a typical hour of Gilmore Girls. Actually, I would rank it up there with some of the show's most entertaining episodes. The pacing and tone were what we have come to expect - and love - and, despite all the sturm und drang of the Luke/Lorelai/Christopher triangle, it was funny. Very funny. At times, even hysterical. And there was also a fair share of romance courtesy of Rory, Logan and a two-foot-tall rocket ship (yes, that's the flying object I've been hinting at).

Other highlights ( warning: spoilers abound):

* Any scene that ends with Babette explaining to Lorelai how she'd like her "intimates" dried is a winner in my book.

* Paris's SAT-tutoring business exceeded all of my comedic expectations. When a mother of one of the control freak's potential pupils asks why they both have to take a preliminary aptitude test, Paris barks, "Basically, I need to know how much of this is her fault and how much of it is yours." The funniest Paris line is also the one most likely to fly right past you, so pay really close attention. (BTW, I hereby nominate Liza Weil for president. Of anything. Just put her in charge of something. The girl's a genius.)

* Taylor's decision to install a red-light camera to catch lawbreakers leads to all sorts of frivolity, not to mention one of the funniest Kirk sight gags ever.

* Although some of you will likely groan at the mere thought of Lorelai and Rory playing a sport, the Girls' racquetball game/exercise in distraction works precisely because it is so preposterous. And if you had any doubt whether Rosenthal could nail AS-P's signature prose, consider this line, in which Rory tells Lorelai that there was nothing good about her tearful good-bye to Logan: "It's a very poorly-named ritual," she laments. "It was a bad-bye, very bad-bye." Speaking of Rory and her beau, the aforementioned rocket was a gift from London-bound Logan and is, initially, a source of great angst for his favorite Girl. I don't want to reveal why, but I will say the symbolic gesture ultimately brings them closer together than ever. (Hint: It all goes back to the episode title, "The Long Morrow.")

Ironically, the weakest part of the episode was something boss man Rosenthal likely had little control over: Lauren Graham's emotionally guarded performance. Don't get me wrong, LG was at her gloriously pithy best. And a summer away in Virginia shooting Evan Almighty clearly suited her; she looks even more fetching than usual, if that's possible. But much of the episode called for Lorelai to be distraught over what she had done to Luke (i.e. bedding Christopher), and, unfortunately, LG rarely gives you a sense of that anguish. Lorelai behaves as if she had just broken up with some poor schlub she dated for a few weeks - a Max, for crying out loud - rather than the love of her life. The final, heartbreaking scene should have torn Lorelai's insides up but instead elicits little more than a frown. The way it plays, she's not devastated, she pities Luke. Huh?

Perhaps a line change in the episode may shed some light on the show's direction this season and, possibly, the increased creative role LG has in this post-Palladino era. In a telephone conversation with Christopher, Lorelai - according to Rosenthal's original script - told her ex this "will never happen again." This, of course, being the dirty deed. But on screen, the line was delivered as, "I don't think it should happen again."

That's a big difference. And not a positive one, IMHO. Regardless of where you fall in the Luke vs. Christopher debate, I think we can all agree that it's extremely out of character for Lorelai to even entertain the idea of falling back into the sack with Christopher mere hours after the original sin was committed. If Lorelai loves Luke the way we were led to believe she does, she would be disgusted with herself and would have instantly rejected such a notion regardless of where the exes are headed later this season.

But I'm willing to forgive such a glaring inconsistency because the rest of Rosenthal's Gilmore debut is such a smashing success.

Phew.