Now that bowdlerized versions of HBO's Sex And The City and The Sopranos have successfully drawn audiences in a syndicated afterlife on basic cable, Showtime's even racier lesbian soap The L Word is preparing to turn the scissors on itself. Industry magazine Broadcasting & Cable reports that Showtime has just turned L Word reruns over to corporate cousin CBS Television Distribution, a powerful player in the syndication market, and Alice and Shane and the rest of the ladies could be appearing on basic cable as early as next fall. Other Showtime series, like heroic-serial-killer drama Dexter and terrorist thriller Sleeper Cell, may soon follow.
I'd guess most L Word fans (not that there's exactly an army of them) will be horrified and assume that the editing necessary to get the show on basic cable will ruin it. A couple of years ago, I would have agreed; there's a lot of sex in The L Word and these women -- unlike the weird inhabitants of Lesbian Indy Film World -- do it with their clothes off. It's not easy to see how the show can be successfully trimmed down to a PG product. But I was startled at how successfully Sex And The City made the transition, so there's hope for The L Word.
In fact, L Word creator/producer Ilene Chaiken's biggest problem may not be the sex and nudity, but her tendency to let her characters climb atop soapboxes for hours on end. The L Word is very much a prisoner of the West L.A. political and sexual ghetto in which it takes place, a world where having your latte with real milk instead of soy is suspiciously reactionary. And, for the past couple of seasons, every new heterosexual character over the age of 12 has been portrayed as a clueless lout. (And those are the nice ones.) That may be fine with The L Word's niche audience, but it's not going to win the show many viewers in blue-state America, which does not view itself as a mindless repository of sexual and political fascism.
There's some sign that Chaiken has, perhaps, become aware of the problem; over the past few episodes she's introduced a National Guard captain named Tasha (winningly played by Rose Rollins) who's hot for Alice but bristles with anger at the left-wing sloganeering of her friends. Now, if we could have just one guy on the show who doesn't cheat on his wife or propose a three-way within 15 seconds of meeting a gay woman, The L Word's tether to Planet Earth will have been firmly reestablished.
PS: If you didn't see Sunday's episode, you missed a wonderful canine homage to Brian DePalma's Carrie. Even my cat laughed.