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.