classic episode
the l word: "pilot"

1.01 / Original air date 18 January, 2004

Written by: Ilene Chaiken

Directed by: 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 that predicted doom and gloom for the show, citing the fact that "no one they knew liked the show". That's funny, because all the lesbians I know are pretty much addicted to it, even as something they love 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, all a testimony to the dedicated fans of this show, after ONE episode! On download sites episodes of The L Word are sometimes three or four times more popular than the current week's episode of CSI.

Lesbians, and I presume other audiences, are flocking 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 is Showtime's drama about the life and loves of a group of lesbians living in LA. The shows deals with everything from coming out to the trials of long-term love and impending motherhood. There's Bette and Tina, the "couple" who are trying to get pregnant while staving off the effects of lesbian bed death. There's Alice, the quirky journalist who is bisexual and proud of it. There's Shane, the local lesbian lothario (just rolls off the tongue, don't it?) who decries relationships and who provokes Bette to comment "Does anyone else notice that every time Shane walks in the room someone leaves crying?"

Dana, the pro tennis player who has coming-out and self esteem issues, is in love with the very cute sous-chef at her country club. But is the object of her afffection even gay? There's also sexy Marina the café owner who is trying to tempt newcomer Jenny away from her sweet-as-apple-pie boyfriend Tim, with various degrees of success. It's a strong cast delivering reasonably strong performances and a premise with loads of potential.

Lets talk negatives though, or shall we say, areas of possible improvement? Phrases like "bush confidence" and "nipple confidence" drop regularly from their lips. I mean, who says stuff like that? In true soap opera style all the women are successful, gorgeous, literate, feminine, sex-obsessed and self-centred. That doesn't describe me, or any person I know. No one is ALL those things. There is character variation of a kind, but we're not exactly seeing the full spectrum of the lesbian rainbow here. (But hey, in their defence, if there was ever a group of lesbians like this they would probably live in LA.) 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 Go Fish more than 10 years ago there was an outcry. Lesbians everywhere complained about there being no femininity in sight, that the film was cast with a bunch of ugly, butch or butch-wannabe feminists with an agenda to flog and no relation to what lesbians were like in real life. 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 with me: 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.

We've already mentioned the "bush confidence" clanger. On top of that, in what was otherwise 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.

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Last updated: 20 March 2008