Misc. Reviews

SHOWTIME’S “THE L WORD”

By • Jan 15th, 2004 •

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(Showtime)

Thank goodness HBO’s “Sex and the City” is over! It indeed paved the highway for female characters liberally indulging in sex without guilt, but now comes its worthy successor racing around the track: Showtime’s “The L Word.” While “Sex” was primarily about clothes and shoes and then sex, “The L Word” celebrates lesbian sex first and foremost. There are no clotheshorses in the cast. Everyone takes their clothes off.

“The L Word” is about gay love in Los Angeles. Nothing else. Be prepared. This is raunchy material expertly produced and starring famous actresses hungry for each other. It might well be about lesbians, but it is certainly about lust.

Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals) is a sophisticated art curator of a small Los Angeles museum. Bette and her partner of seven years, Tina Kennard (Laurel Holloman), want to have a child together. They are looking for a sperm donor. Their close knit group of friends include Shane McCutcheon (Katherine Moennig) who, everyone grudgingly admits, is an ambivalent sex magnet; Dana Fairbanks (Erin Daniels) is a professional tennis player “in the closet” and looking for love; bisexual journalist Alice Pieszecki (Leisha Hailey) is also a failure at relationships; and Bette’s half-sister Kit Porter (Pam Grier), a recovering alcoholic and musician. Jenny Schecter (Mia Kirshner) is a young writer who comes to Los Angeles to live with her boyfriend Tim Haspel (Eric Mabius) who happens to live next door to Bette and Tina.

Who knew there were so many lesbians in Los Angeles?

The two-hour pilot introduces all these characters as they have sex and then talk about it. Jenny becomes infatuated with the lesbian lifestyle especially when she meets the devastatingly sexy café owner Marina (Karina Lombard). Marina goes for Jenny like a wolf hunting prey. Jenny is like a deer caught in the headlights of overpowering sexual magnetism. She cannot resist. Karina Lombard, who made such a sensual debut in “Wide Sargasso Sea,” is breathtaking here. She looks at Jenny with such absolute desire and passion that you wonder why directors have not exploited her raw, seductive appeal. What has she been doing?

The people behind “The L Word” know something about casting. Unlikely as she may be as a sex symbol, Katherine Moennig as Shane McCutcheon is a real standout among an interesting cast. You might want to be seduced by Marina, but Shane is the one you will want to hang out with. Shane has a peculiar androgynous attraction that is compelling. McCutcheon will likely be “The L Word’s” breakout star and her appeal will confound everybody.

The pilot guest stars Melissa Etheridge’s new wife, Tammy Lynn Michaels, as a spurned ex-lover of Shane’s. The pilot starts off with an all too familiar storyline that reminded me of the “Queer As Folks” lesbian couple having a baby together. And my least favorite character is Bette’s “half-sister” Kit. She really is the “half sister” of that horrible, foulmouthed character on “Queer As Folks” played by Sharon Gless. Bette and Kit share a proud black father played by Ossie Davis (in the February 15th episode titled “Lawfully”). Bette’s father Mel finds the idea of her child with Tina being his grandchild ridiculous. He’s appalled by the notion.

The January 25th episode, “Let’s Do It,” guest stars the fascinating Guinevere Turner (we haven’t forgotten her smart-assed role in “American Psycho,” which she also co-wrote). Once again, her presence as a conniving, selfish bitch is delicious.

The special guest stars are imaginatively cast: Holland Taylor as a wealthy art patron who was gay for a year back in the 60s (“Longing” airing February 1st) and Anne Archer as Alice’s mother who has a brief sexual encounter with Shane (in the February 8th episode titled “Lies, Lies, Lies”).

For those of us who are fascinated by lesbian sex but do not have the nerve to actually rent porn because we want drama, story, terrific acting, and well-directed and well-lit sex, “The L Word” is now here to satisfy our needs. The camera does not fade to black.

“The L Word” series premiere is scheduled for January 18th at 10:00 PM. Don’t miss it!

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