The L Word
The L Word is an American-Canadian co-production television drama that aired on Showtime from January 18, 2004 to March 8, 2009. The series follows an ensemble cast of friends who live in West Hollywood, California; it featured television’s first ensemble cast of lesbian characters. The series' premise originated with Ilene Chaiken, Michele Abbot, and Kathy Greenberg; Chaiken is credited as the primary creator of the series, and also served as its executive producer.
|The L Word|
|Created by||Ilene Chaiken|
Lauren Lee Smith
and Dallas Roberts
|Opening theme||"The L Word" performed by Betty (seasons 2-6)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||70 (list of episodes)|
|Production location(s)||Vancouver, British Columbia|
Los Angeles, California
|Running time||50 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Anonymous Content|
Dufferin Gate Productions
Coast Mountain Films
|Original release||January 18, 2004 –|
March 8, 2009
A sequel series, The L Word: Generation Q, aired in December 2019.
The L Word was co-created by Ilene Chaiken, Michele Abbot, and Kathy Greenberg; Chaiken served as the primary creator and executive director of the series, as well as a writer and director. Steve Golin and Larry Kennar served as additional executive producers, while Guinevere Turner, Susan Miller, Cherien Dabis, and Rose Troche were among the series' writers.
The series premiered on Showtime on January 18, 2004 and ran for a total of six seasons, airing its finale on March 8, 2009. The L Word was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia at Coast Mountain Films Studio, as well as on location in Los Angeles, California. MGM Worldwide Television distributes the series internationally, and it is syndicated by Logo TV and Netflix.
Cast and characters
|Season 1||Season 2||Season 3||Season 4||Season 5||Season 6|
|Jennifer Beals||Bette Porter||Main|
|Pam Grier||Kit Porter||Main|
|Laurel Holloman||Tina Kennard||Main|
|Leisha Hailey||Alice Pieszecki||Main|
|Katherine Moennig||Shane McCutcheon||Main|
|Mia Kirshner||Jenny Schecter||Main|
|Erin Daniels||Dana Fairbanks||Main||Guest|
|Karina Lombard||Marina Ferrer||Main||Guest||Guest|
|Eric Mabius||Tim Haspell||Main||Guest||Guest|
|Sarah Shahi||Carmen de la Pica Morales||Main||Guest|
|Rachel Shelley||Helena Peabody||Main|
|Eric Lively||Mark Wayland||Main|
|Daniela Sea||Moira/Max Sweeney||Main|
|Dallas Roberts||Angus Partridge||Main||Guest|
|Janina Gavankar||Eva "Papi" Torres||Main||Guest|
|Rose Rollins||Tasha Williams||Main|
|Marlee Matlin||Jodi Lerner||Main|
Contemporary use of the phrase "the L word" as an alias for lesbian dates to at least the 1981 play My Blue Heaven by Jane Chambers, in which a character stammers out: "You're really...? The L-word? Lord God, I never met one before."
"The Chart", an undirected labeled graph in which nodes represent individuals and lines represent affairs or hookups, is a recurring plot element throughout the series. Originally, The L Word was to be based around a lesbian Kit Porter, and "The Chart" was tattooed on her back. When Kit Porter was changed into a straight character, The Chart repurposed as a physical chart maintained by Alice Pieszecki.
In season 4, Alice launches The Chart as a social networking service. Concurrently, a real-world parallel project OurChart.com was created. The website, which allowed registered members to create their own profiles and hosted several blogs on the show, operated from the beginning of season four until the end of season six, after which the site was discontinued and redirected to Showtime's official website.
The first season of The L Word premiered on January 18, 2004 and ended on April 11, 2004. The season introduces Bette Porter and Tina Kennard, a couple in a seven-year relationship attempting to have a child; Marina Ferrer, owner of the local cafe The Planet; Jenny Schecter, who has recently moved to Los Angeles to live with her boyfriend Tim Haspel; Shane McCutcheon, an androgynous, highly sexual hairstylist; Alice Pieszecki, a bisexual journalist who maintains The Chart; Dana Fairbanks, a closeted professional tennis player; and Kit Porter, Bette's straight half-sister.
Major storylines in the season include Bette and Tina's attempt to have a child ending in miscarriage, and their relationship ending due to Bette's infidelity; Jenny exploring her sexuality and ending her relationship with Tim to be with Marina, only for Marina to end the relationship when her own long-distance lover returns to Los Angeles; Shane's affair with the wealthy socialite Cherie Jaffe; and Dana's relationship with sous-chef Lara Perkins.
The second season of The L Word premiered on February 20, 2005 and ended on May 15, 2005. The season introduces Carmen de la Pica Morales, a DJ who becomes part of a love triangle with Shane and Jenny; Helena Peabody, a wealthy art patron who becomes a rival to Bette and love interest to Tina; and Mark Wayland, a documentary filmmaker who moves in with Shane and Jenny.
Major storylines in the season include Tina's pregnancy following a second insemination, culminating in Tina and Bette's reconciliation at the end of the season; Kit's acquisition of The Planet following Marina's departure from Los Angeles; Shane and Jenny becoming the unknowing subjects of Mark's documentary after he places hidden cameras in their home; a developing relationship between Alice and Dana; and insights into Jenny's past as an abused child.
The third season of The L Word premiered on January 8, 2006 and ended on March 26, 2006. The season introduces Moira Sweeney, a working-class butch; and Angus Partridge, a male nanny who becomes Kit's lover.
The season is set six months after the birth of Tina and Bette's daughter Angelica. Major storylines include Moira taking the name Max after coming out as a trans man; Dana's diagnosis with and ultimate death from breast cancer; and Shane and Carmen's engagement and wedding, which ends when Shane abandons Carmen at the altar. Helena is integrated into the primary group of characters as a friend rather than a rival; she acquires a movie studio, where she is entangled in a sexual harassment lawsuit that leads her mother to cut her off financially.
In the lead-up to the third season, the fan fiction website FanLib.com launched a contest where individuals could submit a piece of L Word fanfiction, with the winner's story incorporated into a scene in third season episode.
The L Word was renewed for a fourth season on February 2, 2006, and began filming on May 29, 2006. The season aired from January 7, 2007 to March 25, 2007, and introduces Jodi Lerner, a love interest for Bette; Phyllis Kroll, Bette's closeted new boss at California Art College; Paige Sobel, a love interest for Shane; Tasha Williams, a former Captain in the Army National Guard and love interest for Alice; and Papi, who has slept with the most women on The Chart. Karina Lombard reprises her role as Marina for two episodes.
Major storylines in the season include the adaptation of Lez Girls, an article written by Jenny for The New Yorker, into a film; Bette taking a job as a dean at California Art College; and Tasha's struggle to reconcile her military service with her sexuality under don't ask, don't tell.
The L Word was renewed for a fifth season on March 8, 2007, and began filming in summer 2007. The season aired from January 6, 2008 to March 23, 2008 and introduces Adele Channing, Jenny's new personal assistant; Niki Stevens, a closeted lesbian actress who portrays the lead role in Lez Girls; and Dawn Denbo, who opens a rival bar to The Planet with her lover Cindi Tucker. Papi and Angus were written out of the series.
Major storylines in the season include Bette and Tina reconciling their relationship, Jenny being ousted from the production of Lez Girls, and Tasha's dishonorable discharge from the military.
The sixth and final season of The L Word aired from January 18, 2009 to March 8, 2009. The season introduces Kelly Wentworth, Bette's college roommate, who attempts to open a gallery with her; Jamie Chen, a social worker who becomes involved in a love triangle with Alice and Tasha; and Marybeth Duffy and Sean Holden, detectives with the LAPD.
The season is focused on the murder of Jenny. The events of the season are depicted as a flashback leading up to the night of the crime, with each episode focused around what could have potentially motivated each character to have killed Jenny. The series concludes without revealing the identity of Jenny's murderer.
Following the series finale of The L Word, Showtime released a series of seven short videos depicting Bette, Tina, Alice, Max, Helena, Niki, and Shane being questioned by the police over Jenny's murder. The episodes were posted weekly on Showtime's website. Showtime additionally released an interview with L Word series creator Ilene Chaiken, released in two weekly installments. In the interview, Chaiken stated that Alice went to jail for Jenny's murder, but was not necessarily guilty of the crime.
On July 11, 2017, it was announced a sequel series was in the works with Showtime. Marja-Lewis Ryan has been selected to serve as executive producer and showrunner. On January 31, 2019, Entertainment Weekly reported Showtime picked up the sequel series for a premiere later in the year, in which Jennifer Beals, Katherine Moennig, and Leisha Hailey will reprise their roles. Other sources, such as TVLine, call the eight-episode order a revival, so the nature of the follow-up is unclear. The new series, titled The L Word: Generation Q, will premiere in the fall of 2019.
Unaired spin-off series and film
In July 2008, Showtime CEO Matthew Blank announced that the network would shoot a pilot for an L Word spin-off set in a women's prison, based on a pitch from L Word series creator Ilene Chaiken. Titled The Farm, the series would star Famke Janssen, Melissa Leo, Laurie Metcalf, and Leisha Hailey, the lattermost of whom would reprise her role as Alice Pieszecki, now detained in prison. The series shot its pilot episode in December 2008. In April 2009, Showtime declined to pick up The Farm for a full series order.
Prior to the announcement of Generation Q, Chaiken expressed interest in producing an L Word feature film in an interview aired through The L Word's website, although according to her declarations, it would likely not emphasize any of the unresolved plot lines of the show and would simply continue the story of the characters' friendships.
The Real L Word
The Real L Word, a reality television series produced by Chaiken, aired on Showtime from June 20, 2010 to September 6, 2012. The series, initially set in Los Angeles and later in Brooklyn, New York City, followed a group of real-life lesbian women.
L Word Mississippi: Hate the Sin
L Word Mississippi: Hate the Sin, a documentary directed by Lauren Lazin and produced by Chaiken, premiered on Showtime on August 8, 2014. The documentary, which follows a group of LGBT women in rural Mississippi, won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary in 2015.
EZgirl served as The L Word's music composed, while Natasha Duprey served as music supervisor. A total of five soundtracks were produced.
All three of Leisha Hailey's bands were referenced in the series: a song by The Murmurs was used in the first season, Shane wears a shirt for Gush in the second season. Songs by Uh Huh Her were featured in the show's fifth and sixth seasons; Tasha is seen wearing an Uh Huh Her t-shirt during the sixth season.
Reception and legacy
The show's first season was "broadcast to critical acclaim and instant popularity"; as an article from The New York Times pointed out:
- Before "The L Word," lesbian characters barely existed in television. Interested viewers had to search and second-guess, playing parlor games to suss out a character's sexuality. Cagney and Lacey? Jo on "Facts of Life"? Xena and Gabrielle? Showtime's decision in January 2004 to air The L Word, which follows the lives of a group of fashionable Los Angeles lesbians, was akin to ending a drought with a monsoon. Women who had rarely seen themselves on the small screen were suddenly able to watch lesbian characters not only living complex, exciting lives, but also making love in restaurant bathrooms and in swimming pools. There was no tentative audience courtship. Instead there was sex, raw and unbridled in that my-goodness way that only cable allows.
Co-creator and executive producer Ilene Chaiken had some issues with the reaction:
- I do want to move people on some deep level. But I won't take on the mantle of social responsibility. That's not compatible with entertainment. I rail against the idea that pop television is a political medium. I am political in my life. But I am making serialized melodrama. I'm not a cultural missionary.
By the time the sixth and final season began, The New York Times was calling the show a "Sapphic Playboy fantasia" that has "shown little interest in variegating portrayals of gay experience. Instead it has seemed to work almost single-mindedly to counter the notion of "lesbian bed death" and repeatedly remind the viewer of the "limits and tortures of monogamy" while "never align[ing] itself with the traditionalist ambitions [for same-sex marriage] of a large faction of the gay rights movement".
Unlike its network predecessor Queer as Folk, praised critically for its ground-breaking material that was both well-written and well-acted, there have been complaints from critics regarding The L Word's watered-down, unrealistically glamorous characters and melodrama. Some reviewers (and fans) are put off by the theme song (introduced in the second season) and the "graceless, clunky dialogue".
While the show is seen as fulfilling lesbians' "obvious and modest representational need" or even the "ferocious desire not only to be seen in some literal sense... but to be seen with all the blood and angst and magic that you possess", the show has been criticized for various scenes which serve to "reify heteronormativity". The show has also been praised for its nuanced consideration (in the first season) of how and in what ways lesbians should stand up to the religious right, with the "Provocations" art show storyline being "a fictionalized version of what happened when Cincinnati's Contemporary Art Center booked a controversial exhibition of Mapplethorpe photographs in 1990".
Several shows have referenced The L Word, including South of Nowhere's first season episode "Girls Guide to Dating"; According to Jim; the medical drama House; the first season finale of Weeds, Jon Stewart's The Daily Show (July 24, 2006); Chappelle's Show: The "Lost Episodes"; The Sopranos episode Live Free or Die; the US version of The Office; Gilmore Girls fourth season episode Scene in a Mall; The Big Gay Sketch Show; The Simpsons episode You Kent Always Say What You Want; and Family Guy episode Brian Sings and Swings. Also, movies such as Puccini for Beginners and I Can't Think Straight have made mention of The L Word as to reference lesbians.
The L Word production donated their press materials to the Lesbian Herstory Archives in 2010.
Awards and honors
In 2006, Laurel Holloman won a Satellite Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama for her portrayal of Tina Kennard; the International Press Academy also nominated the show for a Satellite Award for Best Television Series – Drama. In the second season, Ossie Davis received a posthumous Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a drama series in recognition of his portrayal of the father of Bette and Kit Porter. The show received multiple nominations for GLAAD Media Awards, and both Pam Grier and Jennifer Beals were repeatedly nominated for NAACP Image Awards.
In 2008 The L Word's companion website was honored at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Advanced Media Technology for Best Use of Commercial Advertising on Personal Computers.
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