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:: T O D A Y ' S  L - W O R D  I S . . . L O O P Y ::
by Lawrence Ferber
Bay Windows


"We’re like, let’s just switch it up a bit," shares Angela Robinson, a director of Showtime’s The L-Word, in an online teaser video entitled "5 Things to Expect in Season 5." Indeed, Season Five of the groundbreaking lesbian series does step outside the L-box, taking a new, downright gonzo direction and aesthetic, quite removed from that of its early, relationship-drama-driven years. Not that relationship dramas are ever in scant supply - the tangled web of exes and fresh paramours is woven thick, as illustrated on the show’s (and internet’s) famed Chart.
At the start of Season Five, which debuts on Showtime Sun., Jan. 6 at 9 p.m., art curator Bette (Jennifer Beals) and ex-girlfriend Tina (Laurel Holloman) are pretending to still be together so their child, Angelica, has a better chance of getting into an elite preschool. Meanwhile, Bette is involved with a deaf artist, Jodi (Marlee Matlin), and learning things about sign language and herself. The sometimes bi, always tumult-causing author, Jenny (Mia Kirshner), has returned in high style, with a deal to turn her semi-autobiographical book Lez Girls into a movie at Tina’s studio.

Alice (Leisha Hailey) continues her relationship with U.S. soldier Tasha (Rose Rollins), whose sexuality is discovered and could result in a military discharge. Beguiling hairstylist Shane (Kate Moennig) lands in the fire (literally!) thanks to a seduction involving two bridesmaids and considers reigning in her sex life. Transgender Max (Daniela Sea) finds himself attracted to Jodi’s gay male friend. The recently out and divorced Phyllis (Cybill Shepard) realizes she wants to play the L-field before settling down, a revelation met with displeasure by her U-Haul prone girlfriend, Joyce (Jane Lynch). The privileged Helena (Rachel Shelley), meanwhile, has landed in prison but finds unexpected protection and lust with her super-butch cellmate, Dusty (Dutch kickboxing champ Lucia Rijker). As for Kit (Pam Grier), she is running the Planet and turning a profit.

Absurdity reigns in Season Five’s premiere episode (I watched the first three), especially in regard to Jenny and Helena’s storylines. Jenny, empowered by her connection to a hedge fund billionaire (Wallace Shawn) who’s funding the Lez Girls movie, has turned into a real diva. She reams out a personal assistant over a bit of nonsense regarding her Pomeranian’s grooming, and later, after that girl quits, finds a completely slavish, doting, young replacement (Malaya Rivera). Jenny’s dealings with the studio suits, whom insist upon as much hot lesbian sex in the film as possible, and the frustrated Tina, seem like yet another redundant lampooning of the Hollywood industry. (Perhaps creator/writer Ilene Chaiken’s experiences and tribulations during The L-Word’s initial pitching and development around town served as grist for the mill?)

As for Helena’s landing in prison, the scenario is played up with sitcom-level humor - admittedly chuckle-worthy - as she cowers in the face of stereotypical matrons, female prisoners and an intimidating cellmate whose motives, and reason for being incarcerated, could be sinister.

Directed by Jamie Babbitt, Episode Two is just as loopy, with a sex comedy twist and turn worthy of Porky’s or Superbad for the promiscuous Shane. Despite a campy Charlie’s Angels homage opener, Episode Three finally mellows a little and allows drama, and audience connection, to develop. Tasha is forced to combat a military discharge over her sexuality, despite the hell she suffered while fighting in Iraq and an enduring commitment to the armed forces and her country (Kelly McGillis plays a military lawyer within this subplot). Bette takes an attitude-changing trip to the country with Jodi. And Max’s storyline heads into a fascinating place sure to challenge notions of sexuality and gender further.

Yet the season’s biggest head-scratcher of sorts so far, if I might be trivial, is Kit’s wacko, unflattering hairstyle, which looks like some sort of unholy union between a pageboy and Darth Vader’s helmet. Oh, Pam!

Meanwhile, the interactivity of The L-Word - namely the website OurChart.com (which is part of the show’s universe but exists in real life to boot as a crossover device), features all sorts of L-talk, video, blogs, personal ads for all genders and forums - remains superb and engaging for fans new and old. And the show, which could well be renewed for a sixth season (no official news of cancellation or renewing have been announced yet although rumors and whispers persist), has inspired the scent L Eau De Parfum from Apothia Los Angeles. Something different is certainly in the air - and it’ll likely strike you as funny, however you decide to interpret that.

 


The L Word Online has been designed by Oz and Slicey.  Unique images designed by Oz.  Site maintained by Oz & Slicey.  This website is intended to be fun and informative, and was created with respect to show appreciation for the women and men involved in the creation of TV's first real lesbian drama.  This site is not endorsed, sponsored, or affiliated with Showtime Networks Inc., the television series "The L Word," or any person involved in the making of the show.  No copyright infringement is intended.  Images and other borrowed content are copyright their respective owners.  Credit is given where due.  All original content is the sole property of  the creators of The L Word Online copyright October 2003.