Sunday, January 13, 2008

Looking In on The L Word...

Long before women were being wittily, hilariously, so coolly bedded almost round the clock by Hank Moody in Californication, they were being wittily, hilariously, coolly bedded around the clock by ... women, in The L Word, on Showtime.

Californication and Weeds are often cited (by me and others) as the spear carriers of Showtime's sweep into first place as the most innovative story telling network on cable, but this leap forward really started with The L Word, which debuted its 5th Season last Sunday.

The series has been and still is in a class by itself. It is more daring than HBO's Big Love - lesbian sex is more radical than polygamy. It explores more nuances in sexual relationships than HBO's Tell Me You Love Me. And The L Word of course has more women in positions of power and not in power than Weeds.

But The L Word feels most like Californication. Both shows take place in California, and both are intimately intertwined with writing, movie-making, and their travails, as well as sex.

My favorite characters in The L Word, however, are not in the movie or publishing business. Bette is a museum director who becomes dean of a school of design. Maybe my being a professor makes me naturally relate to her, but Jennifer Beals' performance is a perfect mix of primness and passion. She has been a pleasure to see on screen since Flashdance, and is only getting better.

Katherine Moennig is also superb as Shane in The L Word. She's usually up for sleeping with just about any woman, but brings a refreshing understanding of - or at least, an attempt to understand - the subtleties of every relationship she's in or wants into. Shane is a hairdresser, not an academic or a writer. But she thinks more than any other character on the series.

I've seen the first four episodes of the new season, and it's lots of fun, with serious themes including life in prison and the military woven in, and lots of other top-notch acting talent including Cybill Shepherd and Pam Grier, a plus in any scene they may appear.

Highly entertaining, thought provoking, and recommended, and I'll be back here with more reviews as this bright new season of The L Word progresses.

See also The L Word Concludes This Season with Powerful Lessons

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