Monday, January 30, 2006

The L word

I know there are going to be people out there who are questioning my motives for reviewing this show.

I can hear them laughing now.

I admit that the show caught my attention when I was channel surfing, and a provocative lesbian scene grabbed my attention. The show does feature provocative times. But I found out pretty quickly that the show also has interesting, dramatic storylines, side splitting humor, and strong political statements weaved throughout the show.....

..... as well as sexy girl on girl action.

The L word takes a look into the lives of a small group of close friends in Los Angeles....mostly lesbian. The characters consist of a Lesbian couple raising a child, played by Jennifer Beals (Bette) and Laurel Holloman (Tina). Tina's sister, Kit, who is NOT a Lesbian played by Pam Grier. There's also a professional tennis player who's recently come out of the closet, named Dana, played by Erin Daniels. A journalist/KCRW radio dj who is bisexual named Alice, played by Leisha Hailey, (who happens to be the only real Lesbian on the show). Rounding out the cast are a hairdresser and sexually aggressive Lesbian heartbreaker named Shane, played by Katherine Moenning, and a struggling artist bisexual named Jenny, played by an impressive Mia Kirshner.

Among the many things the show has going for it is good writing, and great characters. I don't think I'm overstating by saying this cast must be the envy of all female actors working today. Simply put, it's the best material out there available for actresses. The characters are strong, emotional, sexy, articulate, witty and multi-dimensional. It's really something one doesn't see nowadays in entertainment. It was almost jarring for me to watch the show. I kept expecting the stereotypes, and one dimensional female characters to appear and instead I got fascinating and unpredictable. It's riveting to watch, I didn't know how much I've been craving female characters like this, but after watching a marathon of roughly over twenty episodes......that's right TWENTY!......the past week, I find myself wanting more.

To be honest, I can't wait till 10:00 P.M. next Sunday.

I can't stress how impressed I am with the writing. As a man who's written female roles in the past, I've always struggled with finding the true voices of the female characters. To be honest, the female characters I wrote always seemed like ideal visions of what a man would think was cool or cute to hear from a woman. I've never felt like I've found a female character's true voice. It's probably because that's the only kind of female character's that I've been exposed to in the media. Even a show like Sex and the City, which is groundbreaking in some ways, doesn't feel authentic to me. Almost like the characters were just channeling the voices of the Gay male writers who wrote for the show.

The L Word doesn't feel that way.

At least for me, the voices and characters feel real and authentic. They sound like the female friends I have. One second they say something smart, touching and sensitive, the next second, they say something silly, flawed, cruel, or uncool.

In other words real.

It's not surprising that the series has an impressive list of female guest stars who probably begged, and bribed their way onto the show. Off the top of my head Dana Delaney, Rosanna Arquette, Kelly Lynch, Anne Archer, and Margot Kidder come to mind.

What IS very surprising about the show is how the male characters aren't objects of ridicule. Which would be what people might expect with a show like this. For example, in the first season the character of Jenny (Mia Kirshner) is in a love triangle between an exotic, sophisticated woman played by Karina Lombard and Jenny's male fiance, Tim, played by Eric Maibus. Under the typical Hollywood formula, the male character of Tim would be ignorant, neglecting, and chauvinistic. But the show goes the other way with it. Tim is incredibly loving, caring, and thoughtful. There's no reason for Jenny to leave Tim, but as in life, things are not always that simple.

The show is also politically articulate, and thought provoking. A lot of energy is spent on the struggle with the current political climate of Right Wing political leadership. Lots of that type of drama surrounds the character played by Jennifer Beals. She's a Yale educated Art Curator, with an ultra conservative father (who was played by the late Ossie Davis in his final role). Her character is constantly struggling with increasing censorship and religious backlash. She also happens to be half African American. So her character is working on four different political levels, she's a artistic loving lesbian, who's also half-African American, is an adoptive mother to a half black son, and an intelligent vocal, articulate, female, liberal democrat.

Where else is one going to find a character like that?

The real revelation of the show though is Mia Kirshner. She's outstanding on the show. She's heartbreaking and powerfully tragic. I can't believe that her work is not garnering more attention. I've enjoyed her work in the past with movies like Exotica and Love, and Human Remains. But she really shines here. Besides the love triangle I mentioned earlier, her character deals with sexual confusion, childhood rape, relationship betrayals, and self mutilation....she's also a struggling performance artist and writer.

Like I said.....fascinating characters.

I can go down the line and describe each character, and one will find them all to be grounded, fascinating and fully fleshed out. It's exciting to discover really, cause there really isn't anything on now or hasn't been anything like it on t.v. I think the show is important, and yet entertaining.

I'm hoping my description of the show doesn't make it sound pretentious or soap opera like cause it really isn't. The show is sensitive, realistic and often times humorous. It's really well done, a nice balance.

I guess if there's a weakness in the show, it's that the main characters are all mainstream society's ideal visions of lesbians. They are attractive, fashionable, feminine, educated and smart. The so-called masculine or "butch" lesbians weren't represented fully in the show. However, Kelly Lynch did have a 4 episode arch in the first season, where she played a masculine lesbian character named Ivan who had feelings for the straight Kit. This season they've addressed that issue by introducing Moira, who is a lesbian with masculine traits, as a major character, who is dating the frail Jenny. Once again the show is showing sensitivity by illustrating Moira's awkwardness around Jenny's feminine lesbian friends.

The real question is why isn't there more characters like this on television and in movies? It's unfortunate that a mediocre show like Desperate Housewives is garnering more attention. To be honest there is a lot more interesting, and dramatically impressive work being done on the L word. I'm guessing that the homosexual nature might turn people off, which is unfortunate, not to mention silly, cause people are missing good stuff. But I also think that the show isn't reaching enough audiences because of SHOWTIME'S smaller subscription base.

In any case, I'm just glad that this show is around to help fill the void of a lack of female voices.

I'm hoping more people will notice the fine work being done on the show, and it'll start a larger trend. The first two seasons are available now on DVD. The third season is currently airing on Sunday's at 10:00 P.M. As one can probably guess by now, I highly recommend it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great comment! I totally agree, the l word is an amazing show with great actors, a great story and wonderful moments. I really hope that the german tv stations will broadcasting it. I saw the two seasons on dvd and can't wait until the 3rd season will be released!!!