Showtime’s The L Word is set amongst a group of women, predominantly lesbian, living and working in and around West Hollywood, CA, detailing their lives and loves. As Season Two opens they are dealing with the break-up of Bette and Tina, who split at the end of last season due to Bette’s infidelity. Tina is pregnant with the baby she and Bette planned, but is remaining quiet because she had a miscarriage previously that was devastating to Bette. Dana and Tonya are planning on getting married, but Dana has started sleeping with her friend, Alice, who is bisexual, so things are sure to get complicated. Jenny has accepted that she is a lesbian and broken up with her boyfriend. Shane, who doesn’t have relationships, denies the feelings she is having for Carmen.
Since it is a soap opera, the show involves the usual hook-ups, break-ups and switching of partners, but there is more than that. We get to see lesbians presented, for the most part, as believable characters as they deal with their relationships. Bette and her sister Kit deal with their sick father, Melvin, played by Ossie Davis in one of his last roles. We see the family dynamic as Melvin refuses to accept Bette’s lifestyle even during his last days. The show does a good job of presenting situations that depict the similarities we all share.
The uniqueness of the show’s characters also allow for stories and perspectives not usually seen on television. We get to an inside peek at a lesbian cruise ship and the Pride Parade in West Hollywood. There’s a lot of sex on the show that stands out if you are new to the show, but after a few incidents, it is not much different from sex scenes on other soap operas. It is tasteful and erotic.
I enjoyed all the main characters except for Alice. The actress does a good job, but Alice is so emotional at times that she borders on the brink of unbelievably. She begins having a sexual relationship with Dana, who is still engaged to Tonya. At Dana and Tonya’s bachelorette party, Alice looks shocked and hurt when people talk about Dana and Tanya being in love, but it’s not clear what she expected. Her reaction makes her appear very immature and feels forced by the screenwriter to create drama.
Some of the storylines didn’t resolve well or just didn’t work. Starting in the previous season, Kit is attracted to Ivan, a woman who lives life as a man, played by Kelly Lynch. Kit walks in on Ivan as he is coming out of the shower and sees her as a woman. This completely freaks the both of them out, but the show didn’t show any closure to the relationship. The entire season Jenny processes a repressed childhood trauma through her writings and dreams. While I found the storyline intriguing, the fantasy scenes that illustrate her mindset didn’t work because their mood and tone are in too stark of a contrast to anything else in the show.
This set has two commentary tracks. One is by the actresses who play Shane, Alice and Dana. Listening to the track was like eavesdropping an annoying group of drunks at a party. They weren’t too informative and spent most the time giggling at their bad jokes, talking about the clothes and making fun of elements of the show. It’s the kind of thing that friends and fans of the show would sit around and do, so there’s no reason to listen to them. The other track is far more compelling. It is by creator and executive producer Ilene Chaiken and Elizabeth Ziff, who worked with the music. They provide a lot more about the behind-the-scenes creation of the show, especially Chaiken who directed the episode they are commenting on.
Season Two consists of 13 episodes over four discs. Like most soap operas, I found I was able to skip an episode without missing much of the storyline. The extras include shorts from Showtime where The L Word girls appear separately in interviews and playing Balderdash. A number of sweepstakes offers like taking a trip on the Olivia Cruise and a walk-on part on the show.
My reaction to the The L Word is conflicted. I don’t watch melodramatic soap operas, but I would recommend it to people who enjoy them. The show does a good job of mixing drama and comedy, but I’m ambivalent towards seeing any more episodes. I think my problem is more with television in general and not with the show. I found myself slightly disappointed because that there’s not a more serious drama on television that explored these women’s issues. Lesbians are certainly entitled their own sultry soap opera, and they are not the only ones who can enjoy the show, but I wish this wasn’t the only show on television that deals with them as real people.