THE LATEST IN A LONG LIST OF GUILTY PLEASURES
Yes, I admit it. I have spent too much of my "free" time lately watching a TV show. A TV show! TV is truly horrible, the time-killer, the mind-killer, one of America's worst enemies, in so many ways.
But I can't spend ALL of my time reading about the racist, greedy, ignorant pigs that grew cotton in the 19th century, ruled the South, and believed that the most important component of freedom is the freedom to own, abuse, torture, rape and kill other human beings. (Kind of like today, when a major component of freedom is the freedom to threaten and intimidate people you don't like by imposing fines, calling them traitors, and shutting them up by the abuse of various legal means. And believe me, the rich Southern planters were just as good at playing the victim as today's conservative cry-babies.)
So I've been watching the new show on Showtime, "The L-Word." I don't have cable and my reception is really terrible, so I haven't watched TV for months, literally, not since "The Simple Life 2" ended. And I don't miss TV. At all! But I do have a DVD player, and I watch a few movies now and then, when I take a break from reading all about the slave-lords of the South. I was talking to my neighbor Glenda last week and she told me the first episode of the second season of "The L-Word" was starting soon, so I ran down to watch it.
I'd heard about the show. I knew it was about a group of lesbians, living in West Hollywood, and there's a couple of them trying to have a baby, and there's a straight girl about to get married to a guy, and the straight girl meets another girl she likes, and starts to have doubts, and stuff like that. I knew enough about it to be curious. I heard there were some interesting sex scenes. I also know who some of the actresses are - Mia Kirshner, Jennifer Beals - and they are hot! (That's why I ran down to watch it - even though it wasn't on for another hour.)
It's a great show! Since I saw the first show, I've been watching the first season (it's on DVD now) and I like it even more. I've mentioned to several people that I really like it, and a couple of people (who haven't seen it) said, "Yeah, it shows that homosexuals have the same problems as you or me." Which is kind of a baffling response. Duh! Yeah, homosexuals, blacks, Asians, women, they have some of the same problems as straight white men! Wow! How progressive! Anyway, I knew that, but you wouldn't figure it out from "The L-Word"!
Here's some of the problems faced by these totally normal lesbian women who have normal problems like you or me! They are all really beautiful, and they are all millionaires! The latter is not specifically stated, but they live like kings, queens? no, kings in huge houses with swimming pools. All the extras are really beautiful, too. All the main characters are writers, coffee shop owners, museum curators, tennis stars, just like you and me, right? This is not reality. It's something else again.
But the actors are all great, and the writing is great, too. Even if its not always believable. Episode Eight has a lesbian yacht party that was about as realistic as some of those battle sequences in "Return of the King." Hundreds of really gorgeous, skinny, toothpick, lipstick lesbians had congregated at the yacht, and they were drinking and dancing and smooching and making out and shedding their clothes to hop in the hot tub. Maybe this kind of thing happens all the time. To be honest, I wish it did happen all the time, in my neighborhood. But it had a very unreal, epic quality to it. Very entertaining, very amusing, a beautiful scene, kind of like the Cloud City in "The Empire Strikes Back." Except it's more like The Festival of the Floating Dyke Orgy. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
I don't want to give too much away or ruin it for anyone, so I'll restrict my comments to the earliest episodes. Yes, there are lesbian sex scenes, but there is a lot more to "The L-Word" than carpet-munching. All the actors are great. Jennifer Beals is Bette, the museum curator, and she is in a long-term relationaship with Tina (played by an actress whose name I don't know) and they are trying to have a baby. This particular sub-plot definitely has its moments, but its not my favorite. However, many of the best scenes have revolved around Bette and the CAC, the California Arts Center, where she works. Bette books an exhibit that shows some provocative work, and the fundamentalists descend on the museum, and then they harass her at home. I was yelling at the screen. I hate the fundamentalists. They are agents of Satan, because they twist the words of Jesus and make Him look intolerant and silly. I love stuff like that.
Tina is very excited about having a baby and is not really very well-developed outside of her role as Bette's partner. And Bette's sister Kit is played by the great Pam Grier. I found Kit a little annoying at first, but I began to realize that this is her character, and she does it very well. She is a recovering alcoholic and she is not on good terms with Bette or the rest of the family. (And after meeting their father in one scene, you begin to understand the family dynamics that may explain a little about Kit and Bette's personalities.)
Shane is the fucking coolest person on television. You have to see her to believe her. Alice is a writer for LA magazine who is really clever, really snoopy, really neurotic. Alice is great. And Dana is a professional tennis star who has become my favorite. She's kinda goofy, kinda clueless, and one of the favorite pastimes of Shane and Alice is making fun of Dana. All of my favorite scenes revolve around Dana. She came out to her conservative parents, and it was a very funny scene ... until the moment of revelation actually came about and they stormed out, in that intolerant conservative way. The look on Dana's face as she beat on the car. Again, I was yelling at the screen. (How could they do that to Dana?)
As much as I like Dana and Bette, the real heart of the show has to be Mia Kirschner as Jenny. She's such a delightful sprite, full of wonder and energy and magic. She can't help herself when she sleeps with Marina, she can't help hurting her fiance Tim. (He is so lucky to have her! I just don't see what she sees in him. And Marina is so fucking hot! Who could resist? Tim needs to get over himself and realize how lucky he was that Mia ever liked him at all! How could he be so mean to her!?) There's one scene where Mia starts crying, by herself, confused and upset with the realization that life is far more complicated than she ever dreamed. I was just about to cry with her.
The show works on many different levels. It isn't reality, but sometimes, it captures real tears, real happiness, real heartbreak with some great lines, great situations, great acting. Sometimes it is goofy, sometimes it is about relationships, sometimes it's about gay culture, sometimes it's about Hollywood. It works on so many levels. It doesn't always work on every level that it's attempting, but it works anyway because the viewer is so mesmerized and entertained and willing to smile affectionately at some of the unbelievable stuff.
Lesbian sex, great writing, great acting, a fun hour where you don't have to think too hard, and right-wing nutjobs being put in their place. Anybody who is asking more than that from a television show does not understand this medium. Bravo, Showtime!