Welcome to The Real L Word, where the Power of the Clam is so intense that the sun shines out of your crotch. I can’t really believe this Showtime show exists or that Ilene Chaiken, creator of The Fictional L Word, has been so hell-bent on it happening. I could understand an L Word spinoff or even an entirely new show about different lesbians, but a reality show? Ugh. It just feels cheap and scuzzy right from the opening location shots, during which we’re treated to an in-your-face montage — Los Angeles! Fashion! Sunshine! Hotspots! — and then cheesy, stylized who’s-who chyrons reminiscent of Lauren and the gang on Laguna Beach and The Hills.
At least watching The Real L Word is better than watching other The Hills or any of the Real Housewives, because you get the feeling that the people on those other shows are all desperate to become bigger stars (in the field of reality TV, or possibly something even greater, if you can imagine that) and are therefore constantly constructing a persona according to what they think viewers want. It’s impossible to avoid the awkwardness of the camera’s presence in any reality show, but I do get the impression the Real L’s are at least trying to be real. Sure, they signed up for a reality show, but it’s not necessarily their fault “trying to be real” doesn’t ever truly work. (Whoa, you guys, I totally just discovered the basic problem with reality television.)
None of these women are bimbos; they know what needs to happen for TV — especially lame reality TV — to come together. Most of them even work in the biz. So while they might not seem desperate for fans, they do seem desperate to create soundbite-filled, neat little story lines for the producers. When Whitney drops off one out-of-town visitor and swings around the airport terminal to pick up another girl, it’s a little too convenient. So is her persona. She’s either just like Shane from The L Word or trying to come across as just like Shane — either way, she has the “innocent player” character down. I think Whitney probably knows she’s full of s— much of the time, but she also knows that being the Shane of the cast makes her compelling. I can’t wait for her dad to turn out to be Eric Roberts.
My favorite person so far is Whitney’s roommate/ex Alyssa, who delivers blunt blows to Whitney about her character in the way only a longtime true friend can. She even prefaced one of the tough-love dosages with the line “I’m trying to say something profound here,” which I loved because they’d been drinking and Whitney interrupts a lot. Similarly, the genuine love-hate banter between Tracy’s girlfriend Stamie and Stamie’s ex, with whom she’s raising three children, was the funniest part of the show. That woman doesn’t have time to construct a persona — she’s just dropping off the kids! Whatever, camera!
Production has a heavy hand, like when some of the women end up at the same bar and Whitney pretends she’s never met Tracy and MUST do so immediately because Tracy’s so hot and it’s an opportunity to make Sara jealous, or when two women hash something out “in private” in a large bathroom stall and all you can think is “typical L Word bathroom stall scene!” We don’t see enough actual sex — something The L Word usually did deliver. We got more footage of Rose lighting candles around her bed than what actually went on in her bed, and we even got the dreaded sex voiceover after the camera cut away during Whitney and Sara’s hookup. Lots of times keywords seemed to be employed just so they could be crammed into the first episode — Natalie insisting to Rose’s family that they’d want a baby, a friend’s helpful definition of “futch,” Whitney’s breakdown of “pants” vs. “pumps,” and Mikey announcing that she’s such a prototypical top that when her saintly girlfriend Raquel finally makes it home to cook dinner and wait on her, she thinks “I’m the man and I have a 12-inch c–k.”
The show is eye-roll central in general, but I know I’ll probably watch it again. Let’s be honest — when am I not rolling my eyes at my TV? I want to see whether anyone puts Mikey in her place, I like looking at Rose and Tracy, and even though I am utterly bored by Nikki and Jill as people, I am fascinated by their relationship. They were old camp friends who reconnected over 20 years later, and it just seems like they’re best buds instead of lovers — giving each other pedicures and dressing as twins. I wonder if Jill’s even a lesbian. (She’s totally the Tina!)
Who else tuned in last night — and will you be back next week? Will you too do a fake loop-around of LAX and return for another dose of Whitney’s “I’m not here to play games” games?
Annie on Twitter: @EWAnnieBarrett