the l word: pilot
1.01 / Original air date 18 January, 2004
Written: Ilene Chaiken
Directed: Rose Troche
Is The L Word the answer to all our entertainment prayers? Well yes, and no. At least, it isn't for everyone. It isn't even for all lesbians.
When will people learn that no single program is going to satisfy all the wants, needs and desires of all lesbian women? What were people expecting, the lesbian messiah? We should be proud of the fact that as a community we are a diverse, intelligent and demanding audience. Why should we expect one show to please us all? We should demand many different shows that combined might please us all!
I picked up a lesbian magazine when the show was first shown that predicted doom and gloom, citing the fact that "no one they knew liked the show". That's funny, because all the lesbians I knew did, even as something they loved to hate. Within days of the broadcast of the pilot I went on the Internet and found at least ten websites, five message boards and three mailing lists, after ONE episode!
Lesbians, and I presume other audiences, flocked to the show in ways the Nielsen ratings don't have a hope of measuring. But you know, if you don't like it, that's OK too.
The L Word was Showtime's drama about the life and loves of a group of lesbians living in LA, dealing with everything from coming out to the trials of long-term love and impending motherhood. There's Bette and Tina who are trying to get pregnant while staving off the effects of lesbian bed death. There's Alice, the quirky, proud bisexual journalist. Shane, the local lesbian lothario who decries relationships. Dana, the pro tennis player who has coming-out issues, and is in love with the cute sous-chef at her country club. Plus, sexy Marina the café owner who is trying to tempt straight Jenny away from her sweet boyfriend Tim.
Lets talk well-worn negatives first. Phrases like "bush confidence" and "nipple confidence" drop from their lips. Sorry, who says that? In true soapy style all are successful, gorgeous, literate, feminine (even the butch!), sex-obsessed and self-centred. No one is ALL those things. There is character variation, but we're not seeing the full spectrum of the lesbian rainbow here. There are no butch tomboys here, and no plus-sized women to be seen.
OK, so all that is true. When Rose Troché and Guin Turner released the classic Go Fish there was an outcry. Lesbians complained there was no femininity in sight, that the film was cast with a bunch of ugly, butch, lefty feminists with chains hanging from their pockets and an agenda to flog. Well, what I say now is, neither the lipstick lesbians of The L Word nor the ghetto dykes of Go Fish look anything particularly like me and my group of friends, but they do have one thing in common: they're women who sleep with women. So I'll give any representation of women loving women a chance, because I'm proud of the diversity of our community. Let's judge the material on merit, not on make-up.
In what was a really promising premiere, the pilot contained at least one scene that made me want to leave the room in disgust. Bette andTina's "threesome" adventure, while admittedly sexy in some ways, was one of the most idiotic, irresponsible and thoroughly badly written scenes I've ever seen. Did I mention before that these women are all intelligent? Let me rephrase. Mostly intelligent, except when in this day and age they take a complete stranger home for unprotected sex to make a BABY! In one scene they almost unravelled the good work of the entire show.
So, what we have is a mostly good pilot, with mostly great ideas, mostly good (and non-selfconscious!) performances, but with a few lessons to learn about social responsibility. Hey, it's only the pilot, it can only get better from here. Like it or hate it, no one can deny that the mere existence of this show is an incredible milestone in television history.