L Is for ReaLity
Let’s get this out of the way first: All the women on The Real L Word are beautiful and Hollywood thin.
If you have a problem with that, creator Ilene Chaiken, godmother of the lamented Showtime series The L Word, has most likely heard your complaint before. “Where are the women of size?” she says, recounting the litany of gripes she heard during the original series’ six-season run. “Where are the women of color? You’re not representing me! I’m not rich! I’m not skinny!”
Whether you loved or hated (or loved to hate) The L Word—and how could you not have mixed feelings about the series that first showed lesbians’ lives through a soap opera’s lens—there’s no denying that it was groundbreaking television. In the year since the show ended (and Jenny Schecter’s murder was left unsolved), there’s been nothing like it on TV. Until now.
One part Showtime’s original L Word series, two parts Real Housewives,The Real L Word is a nine-week reality series set in the same upscale Los Angeles of ambitious urban women that inspired the first iteration. This one, premiering June 20, will even fill Showtime’s same 10 p.m. Sunday time slot.
“It’s about six real women, so nobody can say that’s not real,” says Chaiken, whose first post–L Word spinoff idea was rejected by the cable network.
“Let’s call it a ‘docu-series’ because it’s Showtime,” insists participant Nikki, a rep for TV commercial directors, whose preparations for her wedding to fiancée Jill are chronicled on the show. “We’re not a cast. We weren’t forced to live in a house. We each had our autonomous story. All of our lives are very different.”
She continues, “I thought, Wow, I really need to reflect on some things and be a 35-year-old woman and not a 25-year-old up in the club trying to get the girl. That’s not over for me, but I’m accepting that coming to a close soon.”
And that’s all before seeing any footage. Shooting wrapped in mid April in Palm Springs, where many of the women attended the Dinah Shore Weekend. Two nights later, they gathered at Nikki and Jill’s house for Chinese food, wine, and some serious downloading. Unlike the casts of several of the Real Housewives shows, these ladies barely knew each other when the show began, but now they have a real bond.
“As cheese-ball as it sounds, a lot of these girls became an inspiration,” Rose says. “I want to have a relationship like Nikki and Jill, and even Tracy and Stamie, y’know? Kind of hopefully one day be grounded enough to achieve that.”
Lipsitz recalls initially intending to cast the show with a group of women who knew each other. “But we found this amazing group of diverse women,” she says, “and we felt that it would be really interesting to tell their different stories and see when and if they intersected.” Plus, the reality-show vet says she found these women to be particularly compelling subjects. “They are dramatic by nature, which we love, and they’re very open sexually, which we also love.”
In other words, let the complaints begin!