Volume four, Issue 7 | February 17-23, 2005

Lesbian Drama Thrives on Showtime
“The L Word” second-season promise to deliver more sizzling sexual candor

Tina, played by Laurel Holloman, lost her first baby and Bette, but is pregnant again, and still winning hearts and grants; Alice, played by Leisha Hailey is freaked out because she realizes she is hot for her old friend Dana; and Shane, portrayed by Katherine Moennig… well, Shane is Shane.

By WINNIE MCCROY

I admit it: when the Showtime series “The L Word” hit the airwaves last year, I was among the first to point a finger at the myriad ways creator Ilene Chaiken missed her mark in accurately depicting lesbian life.

It was clear from the get-go that the lesbians on the show were prettier and more successful than real life usually allows, and their the issues they faced were decidedly those of upper middle-class L.A. women—some might say luxury problems.

Still, after a few shaky episodes, things started to sizzle, and I was unable to resist the one thing “The L Word” provides in spades—lesbian drama. There is no arguing that finally seeing us depicted, during prime time, if even only somewhat realistically, is satisfying. But it’s the catfights and make-out sessions in public places that keep us all tuned in.

Last season, viewers witnessed some sexual ambiguity, as fiction writer Jenny (Mia Kirshner) ditched her boyfriend Tim for Marina (Karina Lombard), a sultry café owner. Couple Bette (Jennifer Beals) and Tina (Laurel Holloman) dealt with one heartbreak after another as they attempted to have a child through artificial insemination. Tina lost the baby, and Bette, after caving in to the advances of a hot carpenter working on her art installation, broke Tina’s heart.

Tennis pro Dana (Erin Daniels) came out to her parents, met a cute sous chef, picked up a disgustingly manipulative fiancée, Tonya (Meredith McGeachie), and realized she actually was in love with her old friend Alice (Leisha Hailey). Alice, fresh from ditching a series of lovers—including a lesbian-identified man—was also surprised to realize she harbored romantic feelings for Dana. (Hailey, who plays bisexual Alice, is the show’s only known lesbian, having made her name as a member of the girl group The Murmurs.)

Hairdresser Shane (Katherine Moennig) thrilled us with her sexual conquests sans commitment and Bette’s straight sister Kit (Pam Grier) joined a 12-step program and met a handsome transman, Ivan (Kelly Lynch). And let’s not forget about the video shoot episode starring Snoop Dogg.

“The L Word” made network history as the fastest show to be renewed for a second season. And season two, which premieres on Sunday, February 20, promises to live up to this legacy. Star cameos this season include Arianna Huffington, Camryn Manheim, Sandra Bernhard and Gloria Steinem. Like last season, the show’s sound track is stellar, with promises of guest artists including BETTY, Heart and my favorite foul-mouthed bisexual, Peaches. The show’s new intro—compliments of BETTY—is sassy and sexy.

Once again this season, you will see plenty of making out in the ladies room, dramatic screaming fights and twisted love triangles. Not to mention the fact that you will be kept up to date on innumerable au courant lesbian fads, including knitting, adopted Chinese babies, placing Craigslist ads, hanging in cafes with your laptop and shopping at Whole Foods.

In episode one, we discover that Tina, who left Bette after a final angry fuck, is pregnant. Marina is off the scene, presumably having attempted suicide and then whisked back to her villa in Umbria. (The truth is that cast members have said Lombard was “difficult” to work with.) In her absence, Kit tries to buy the nightclub Planet with the help of Ivan, who says, “Marina may be a contessa, but as far as I’m concerned Kit, you’re a queen.” This transman ends up being a pretty great guy, fixing up Kit’s car and coming in as a silent partner—until the illusion is broken when Kit sees an image of Ivan pre-drag and freaks out.

Alice is also unable to stop freaking out as Tonya’s claws become more and more deeply hooked into Dana, who is unable to deny her attraction for Alice. Expect lots of clandestine kissing as this plot line unfolds, plus an eventual hook-up scene that is simultaneously hilarious and very, very hot. I don’t want to spoil it, but you’re not going to believe how this one ends.

The kissing tapers off a little for Jenny, who ditches her jealous New Age bisexual boyfriend and her sexy New Age girlfriend Robin (Anne Ramsey), and moves in with Shane. Jenny signs up for a writing course, and the tension is high between Jenny and her new teacher, played by Sandra Bernhard, who brings a nice dominatrix tone to the role.

Old reliable Shane, however, continues to mack on the ladies like the player she is. When client Arianna Huffington asks her if “Dykes are the new fags,” she politely sidesteps the question and heads to the DJ booth to get it on with Latina hottie Carmen (Sarah Shahi), personal assistant-cum-DJ. She later insults/impresses producer Veronica Bloom (Camryn Manheim) by pacifying a pouting actress Alyssa Mori, who looks more than a little like Alyssa Milano, and lands a PA job of her own.

Tina, looking way more than three months pregnant, picks up a ball-busting, gay rights lawyer, played by Jane Lynch (you may remember her as the lesbian dog trainer in the Christopher Guest film, “Best in Show.”) Lawyer Joyce takes time between litigating for an ill-timed grab at Tina’s cookie, after which Tina moves back in with an oblivious and still self-involved Bette, and begins a dalliance with a lesbian limousine-liberal (Rachel Shelley).

Meanwhile, Kit is juggling her feelings for Ivan with her new fascination for self-help guru Benjamin Bradshaw (Charles Dutton). On a high note, she opens the Planet with girl-band BETTY on stage, and seems poised for success.

Sister Bette is in the dumps, having said goodbye to carpenter Candice, been rejected by Tina, and losing her Peabody Grant money to a social-justice grant written by, of all people, Tina. The scene in which altruistic Peggy Peabody, played by Holland Taylor, lolls around in bed with a young foreign hottie, complete with a translator at their side, is too good to be missed.

Be assured that from loss to leaving to lap dances to lawyers, “The L Word’s” second season is serving up some pretty hot licks. And although some of the ladies’ problems still seem a bit outside the realm of everyday use, Chaiken—with the help of such indie film directors as Lisa Cholodenko, Rose Troche and Alison Maclean, to name a few—has succeeded in bringing a lesbian reality to the mainstream consciousness. And if these rose-colored glasses paint lesbians as unusually good-looking, successful, libidinous vamps who live for pussy, parties and potlucks, who am I to shatter the illusion?

Just keep serving up the water-cooler drama and stylish lesbian hairdos, and I’ll continue to tune in.

MCC’s Rev. Pat Bumgardner marries four couples in protest of Bloomberg legal appeal

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