Still loving The L Word 12 years later
Who remembers the TV show The L Word?
Silly question. Perhaps even if we ask this question 20 years from now, people will still remember The L Word. It was, after all, the show that blew the lid off the once-quiet, under-the-radar lesbian community.
And when we say ‘blew the lid off’, we mean that in a phenomenal way.
In a look back by Shewired for the 10th year anniversary of the show, Leslie Dobbins wrote: “The impact of showrunner Ilene Chaiken’s characters is undeniable. They helped change TV’s LGBT landscape forever.”
The L Word: End of a drought
January of 2004, The L Word premiered on Showtime. It came out not quietly, but with a bang. This was because television– and actually the whole world– was ripe for this kind of show at the time.
Alison Glock in The New York Times wrote, “Before The L Word, lesbian characters barely existed in television. Showtime’s decision in January 2004 to air The L Word, which follows the lives of a group of fashionable Los Angeles lesbians, was akin to ending a drought with a monsoon.”
“Women who had rarely seen themselves on the small screen were suddenly able to watch lesbian characters not only living complex, exciting lives, but also making love in restaurant bathrooms and in swimming pools. There was no tentative audience courtship. Instead there was sex, raw and unbridled in that my-goodness way that only cable allows,” Glock added.
The L Word a.k.a. Earthlings
When The L Word was being filmed, its working title was Earthlings, which is a slang for ‘lesbian.’
Likewise, long before the gay-themed TV shows Queer as Folk and Will and Grace, Chaiken was already selling the idea to Showtime. But at the time, they told her: “Nobody was quite ready to do a lesbian show.”
Fortunately, with the success of the other gay-themed shows, Chaiken was able to pitch her show. “Right there he said, ‘Oh my god, we have to do this’,” Chaiken told Curve.
The characters of The L Word
If The L Word will be remembered 20 years or so later, it’s because its characters were so unforgettable.
For example, there were Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals) and Tina Kennard (Laurel Holloman), the power couple and their up-and-down relationship. There was Alice Pieszecki (Leisha Hailey), the fun-loving, bisexual who was everybody’s friend. There was also Shane McCutcheon (Katherine Moennig), the mysterious heartthrob who left a trail of broken hearts.
Likewise, there was Jenny Schecter (Mia Kirshner), the straight woman turned lesbian. And last, there was Dana Fairbanks (Erin Daniels), the closet athlete.
The L Word ended after six seasons, and in six years we saw the characters grow, multiply, die, and become archetypes. Though the show had its own share of weaknesses, its strengths were also uniquely its own.