the l word: season one
TV, 2004, 4 stars
After a shaky start, The L Word has gone on to fascinate, infuriate, repulse and attract audiences all over the world. The core cast of The L Word is what made the show work. These actresses have great chemistry with each other, so much that it's easy sometimes to overlook problems with writing and directing. After watching all thirteen episodes of season one I thought it was time to look at the top ten ups and downs.
1. The Jenny/Tim/Marina storyline
Equal good and bad here. Jenny and Marina together = HOT, no denying it. Too much screen time was devoted to Jenny's weird writing. The more I heard of Jenny's writing the more I wanted to flip through an old copy of Jackie Collins's "Hollywood Wives" for its literary merit.
Tim became rapidly superfluous. Some interesting progress was made with Marina's character after Francesca was introduced and Marina was revealed as a kept woman, both emotionally and financially. Once Gene and Jenny started conversing with Beluga whales it dived downhill. I wouldn't mind seeing more of Robin, the only woman capable of thwarting Marina's designs on Jenny. By the finale though I wanted to fast forward whenever Jenny came on screen.
2. Alice, Dana and Shane - The L Word's three stooges
Every scene involving these three was a masterpiece. They played off each other as the comic relief and helped balance a lot of the emotional trauma of the Bette and Tina storyline. Highlights included: Dana And Alice tag-teaming Dana's blind date, Dana learning the meaning of "queef", every time someone consulted Alice's chart.
3. Dana, Lara, Conrad and Subaru
The Lara/Dana relationship was adorable. Guest star Lauren Lee Smith rose above her Mutant X background and she and Erin Daniels sizzled on-screen. It wasn't the most physical coupling, but it was definitely the cutest. Dana's coming out process and scenes with her agent Conrad were less satisfying, though the storyline about staying in the closet for the sake of corporate sponsorship rang pretty true.
Good on Subaru for reaffirming their support of gays and lesbians by lending their name as Dana's sponsor in the show.
4. Alice and Lisa the lesbian identified man
What the actual fuck? Fast forward. Next.
5. Bette, Tina, the Provocations exhibit, the baby and the other woman
The L Word belongs to Jennifer Beals. She's the big name, the star, and she gets more screen time than anyone else. Bette and Tina were the monogamous couple, who improved once Tina stopped being a doormat.
The art exhibit got kind of old after a while but provided many of the most dramatic moments of the series, including the TV debate which just showed off Jenniferr Beals' range. Lastly, love her or hate her, Candace brought two very important things to the show; passion and racial diversity.
6. Shane, Cheri and Shane's mysterious past
The lothario falls from her high heights and becomes the lovesick stalker. Lots of people loved this storyline because it showed Shane first as the immune-to-love sex goddess she is and then gradually reveals her learning how to feel. I never bought Rosanna Arquette as a woman worth flipping over, but she and Kate Moennig certainly shared some heat. We got titillating snippets of Shane's past as a prostitute in Santa Monica which just makes me curious as to how she became friends with all these other women in the first place. She's certainly the odd woman out in the ensemble, which is fantastic.
7. Kit, Bette, their father and her son
Sounds like a Greenaway film. Pam Grier was wasted in the first half of the season, the writers didn't have a clue what to do with her. As Kit and Bette's relationship grew stronger, Grier scored more screen time and an entire family issues subplot. In the end, Kit's story turned out to be one of the most appealing, especially towards the end as she toyed with the idea of getting together with Ivan the drag king.
The producers of The L Word need to be congratulated for their guest star casting. They managed to get it spot on 90% of the time, in only one case going for a recognised lesbian actress.
Lauren Lee Smith as Lara and Lolita Davidovich as Francesca both had a huge impact. Kelly Lynch as Ivan was inspired. Rosanna Arquette is equal parts sexy and aloof as Cheri. Guin Turner was a fan favourite and spot on as bitch Gabby who broke Alice's heart. The kiss between her and Leisha Hailey almost melted my TV. Other honourable mentions: Anne Ramsay as Robin, Anne Archer as Lenore, and Ion Overman as Candace. All perfect.
9. Where have all the non-white people gone?
The L Word could have been more embracing of racial diversity in the series. Between Bette, Kit, Marina, Candace and Yolanda I was pretty satisfied with their efforts, but the fan reaction was enough to trigger a rethink in later seasons.
10. Dana, Tonya, Alice and Mr Piddles
Is Alice just jealous or is she serious about Dana? Did that kisser she laid on her best friend mean anything? We find out in season 2. In the meantime we need justice for Mr Piddles' murder - if Tonya is run over by a Bakery truck in a freak accident I won't complain, though I hope Dana gets the ring and her self-respect back first. Introducing such an irritating character so late in the season really cramped the Dana character, which was a shame considering the progress she was making.
The L Word achieved many important breakthroughs in its first season but the most important achievement has to be that the show found its own feet and its own unique voice. It isn't perfect and it isn't for everyone, but what TV show ever is? I can't go past the gorgeous yet goofy Dana Fairbanks for best character. A little humour and a lot of geekiness goes a long way.