Real L Word Premieres Sunday, Hated It

The Real L Word premieres this Sunday on Showtime and all you motherf*ckers better watch it because we cannot witness this monumental occasion alone, and I’m feeling a lot of pressure to recap it, like when you’re 12 and suddenly your Mom is like, “hey you’ve got a year to learn Hebrew, memorize a Torah portion, write a speech about it in preparation for an upcoming Saturday morning in September where you’ll have to stand on stage in a dress and chant like a crazy person” and if you don’t do it, G-d will hate you forevs. You know?

Hey but first wanna hear the best news you’ve ever heard about The Real L Word?!!

Autostraddle’s very own Nat Garcia of Autonatic will be interviewing new Real World cast members every week after the episode airs, right on Sho.com. On the 20th Nat will be interviewing Whitney.

Will Nat appear elsewhere in the universe of The Real L Word? You’ll have to wait and see. Obviously she is a shining star of lightbeam in any sunburst, raincloud, or otherwise-identified multi-gendered weather situation.

Tracy Ryerson & Nat Garcia

So there’s one of a few reasons to watch. And furthermore, y’all must watch it to ensure Showtime continues providing us with the steady flow of DVD screeners required to recap this program in a timely and potentially thought-provoking manner.

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Get your clits out, girls, and please do take several drinks — ’cause I might be bad at recapping this!

Let’s talk about different kinds of television.

See, The L Word OG was an hour-long serial ensemble drama. That’s my favorite genre of television! Other favorite shows of mine include Queer as Folk, Dawson’s Creek, Skins, Party of Five, The O.C., The West Wing, Beverly Hills 90210, My So-Called Life and Six Feet Under. The genre’s dedicated to character development. Each human being is given a chance to evolve, complicate and grow up along with the audience. I felt qualified to assess a series’ potential for excellence and recapped with confidence.

However, The Real L Word is a docusoap reality show, my least favorite style of television ever. As my (joking) title implies, I don’t need to wait for the premiere to hate it. I already hate it. (Update: I’ve now watched the pilot. I stand by my prediction.) Aside from the first ten or so years of MTV’s The Real World, Intervention, Hey Paula, and about four episodes of The Simple Life‘s first season, I’ve mostly stayed away from reality TV and definitely from any docu-soaps. I’ve never visited The Hills, The City, The Laguna Beach, The Jersey Shore, or the Real Housewives of any city, nor have I kept up with the Kardashians, Lived Lohan, Swapped Wives, or Inked Miami. Furthermore I’ve not Survived, Raced Amazingly, required Charm School or Tool Academy. And as far as love goes, I’ve never wanted a Rock or Flavor of Love, a Shot at Love, or the Love of Ray J. Howevs, I read a lot online and edit other TV writers and therefore am peripherally aware of these shows’ continued existences.

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Once upon a time while recapping Two & a Half Men (I don’t know, I was feeling reckless) I made a graphic for you to illustrate my feelings about television:

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I’m not judging those who do enjoy such programs, but I’m just warning you that I am one of those people who just doesn’t get it. I flee the room when Millionaire Matchmaker is being watched. I know many find these programs to be guilty pleasures but I’ve never found pleasure there, let alone guilt.

I need a heart to grab onto when I engage in a story: I require something fleshy and honest and sincere in there to focus on and feel for. Actors are better at honesty than reality TV “personalities” because being honest in “real life” while being filmed is literally impossible; the presence of the camera inevitably taints your behavior and that of those around you, particularly when the activities being filmed are supposed to be things you do every day regardless of the camera’s presence.

But in scripted television, actors can rely on writers to do the truth-telling. It’s an arrangement which’s worked well for centuries. Then the actors learn the lines and say them right and ta-da! We have excellent, honest television like The Office and Glee where even if the plot is heightened/”unreal,” the emotions are genuine.

Every now and then, an actual human creature lands themselves on a Reality TV Show but is not really a Reality TV person (often they landed there on a “dare”), good examples include the people we often discuss here: Adam Lambert (American Idol), Dani Campbell (A Shot at Love), Kim Stolz (America’s Next Top Model), Kelly Clarkson (American Idol),  Ashley Merriman (Top Chef), half of the casts of the first several seasons of The Real World (excluding Miami)  — people you’d just as easily be friends with as you’d want to observe on a TV set. Those “characters” have the power to make or break a show.

Perhaps I’m kidding myself to insist there’s something sociologically fascinating about how drug addictions evolve and how families struggle to enable/detach and how Allison inhales so much computer duster she thinks she’s walking on sunshine while simultaneously insisting that Lauren Conrad has not and never will speak a word I want to hear.

But drama for the sake of it — particularly when staged by real people instead of by actors — just really bores the fuck out of me.

In other words, I’m destined to hate this, just like I hated Gimme Sugar (with all due respect to Charlene, who is a lovely girl)! I mean, this show is basically Gimme Sugar: Five Years Later.

BUT I’m hoping that a little heart-shaped feeling will pop up in future episodes. I think it will. I have some specific hopes. I can see places where a heart-shaped feeling might grow.

My second concern w/r/t recapping is that I feel weird that the cast of The Real L Word are actual human beings. Luckily, I’m pretty confident they’ve been made into ‘characters’ to a degree where I can’t possibly be criticizing anyone besides my nemesis Ilene Chaiken. I was put on this earth to criticize Ilene, so this is perfect. It’s still her story after all yeah?

You’ll have to tune in for our full recap on Sunday after the 10 PM premiere on Showtime. In the meantime, there’s plenty of advance word to increase the “guilt” of the guilty pleasure you’ll be enjoying.

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1. New ‘Real L Word’ Clips

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Preview Clip One: Whitney Cannot Multitask Ladies

In Showtime’s first offering, Whitney learns that “multi-tasking is bad for you.” If you’re interested in why multi-tasking is bad for you, I’d suggest Walter Kirn’s 2007 article from The Atlantic, The Autumn of the Multitaskers.  However Whitney isn’t here to teach you about words, this is the REAL L word, not everyone can learn sign language or English overnight here.

In this context, “multitasking” means running into a girl you hooked up with at a lesbian bar. This happens all the time, actually, so on a scale of 1 to 10, this counts as “stopping being polite and starting to get real.”

Preview Clip 2: Rose vs. Natalie

All her life Rose has been going out with girl after girl after girl, just like Papi. Then she met Kit Porter and knew it was time to change her ways, she even brought flowers to the botanical garden Mangus was building in Kit’s office after diddling the conehead Nanny Robotress (long story) to seduce her straight paramour. But now Rose has met Natalie and this has inspired her to keep her clit in her pants. In this scene, Rose communicates with another human female and her girlfriend freaks out. Watching this scene is like taking two Xanax while your parents fight in the other room.

We’ve also seen this season’s premiere. we have some feelings about it JK no we don’t. There are no feelings in this show! Just “fighting about nothing” and “having fights about having sex” and “tattoos.” Do I have feelings about animated lezbot sex/money robots? Not really.

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2. New ‘Real L Word’ Press & Reviews:

AFTERELLEN:

The cast of the The Real L Word (sans Tracy) celebrated with Mama Chaiken at the show’s premiere and enlightens us with new facts about the show.

Whitney uses a strap-on and you will see her use it on your TV
Nikki & Jill won’t let cameras in their bedroom
Tracy is half Puerto Rican and half Jewish
Rose‘s family is Puerto Rican and will appear on the show

THE NEW YORK TIMES:

Gay, Female and Overworked Like Everyone Else:

“Too often “The Real L Word” feels like sitting in a restaurant and hearing about some incredible specials that happen to be sold out. Anything genuinely interesting seems to have already taken place. If you are wondering, for instance, how Tracy’s girlfriend wound up with joint custody of three children, or how they came to be named Jagger, Dautry and Nikos, “The Real L Word” isn’t inclined to tell you. For all of its nonsense, the fake “L Word” never seemed this stingy.”

NEWSWEEK:

Ramin Setoodeh did not write this article:

So while Chaiken may not purport to introduce America to Lesbianism 101—as she once told The New York Times, “I won’t take on the mantle of social responsibility”—between the tits and ass, the lights-out groans, and constant references to “f–king,” she does more to glamorize that tired old Sapphic fantasy (girls making out? hot!) than to teach us anything about real-life lesbians. Even an on-air discussion of “sexual fluidity”—the idea that people can be attracted to others, regardless of gender—is completely negated, as references to “pants and pumps,” Mikey’s complaint of “starving to death” because her woman hasn’t cooked her dinner, and the production’s entire undertone, which is more or less an excuse to show hot chicks making out, couldn’t be any more stereotypically gendered. It’s entertainment, sure. But if The Real L Word wanted lesbians to be seen as real people, for real—maybe it should have stripped away the pseudo-“reality” and shown real life.

THE BARKY:

Not Enough Sex, says The Barky:

“Their trials, tribulations, betrayals and sex talk without the sex aren’t exactly enthralling. Nikki and Jill are the most relatable stars of Real L Word. But wishing them well doesn’t exactly get the blood flowing.”

THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS:

Showtime’s “L Word” needs some real drama:

“You get the distinct feeling some cast members see this show as an opportunity to make a sex tape.”

VARIETY:

The Real L Word Review:

“When the second hour opens with the participants being asked, “What kind of lesbian are you?” the most honest answer in TV terms would be, “Shamelessly derivative ones”…”I don’t play games,” Whitney says during the direct-to-camera confessionals, the content of which — other than the same-sex orientation — could be culled from almost any network dating show.

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3. Final Thoughts:

a) We are so excitant about Nat! Every episode she’ll be asking a new cast member questions afterwards live on Sho.com, somehow this will involve an iPad, and you will have lots of questions for her to ask I’m sure. You all must go to Sho.com right after the show on Sunday okay? Thx.

b) We are gonna do this thing because despite Autostraddle’s commitment to convincing you that we’re super-smart and intellectual, the fact remains that Autostraddle.com itself was birthed from the belly of The L Word. It was my own little L Word recap blog which led me to The L Word Online (s4, s5, s6) which led me to an unpaid OurChart guestbian gig (remember OurChart you guys, wasn’t that so much fun? Were you on it? I was totally on it.) (our Executive Editor Laneia also not-enjoyed a columnist position at OurChart!) and then to Showtime’s Lezberado and then to creating this here Autostraddle.com! — when The L Word ended, I didn’t want to lose the online community we’d built around it, so I thought I’d try to build a new one around something smarter. One year and three months later, here we are!

Therefore I am obligated by some sort of cyber-peer-pressure or karmic retribution to recap this television program for you. This show’s got nothing in common with the original, I think Ilene Chaiken just likes to call everything The L Word so that people remember what she’s the Producer, Creator, Writer and Masterbrainer of. She’ll probs name her next daughter “The L Word.” People will be like, “Hey L Word, you big Gaymo.” Regardless, Nat is super cute and Tracy Ryerson is a supreme being and lesbians love hummus.

Riese is the 38-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2836 articles for us.

41 Comments

  1. *sporks self in eye*

    Sorry. I had some shallow lesbian dating docu in my eye. It’s better now.

    I’m trying not to blame IFC for everything, despite that she is clearly responsible. Some of the blame must go to Betty for this… somehow.

  2. I think Autostraddle should make their own online version of the real L word. Might have to call it the real real L word or something to avoid copyright issues but seriously can you imagine how incredible that would be.

  3. “I need a heart to grab onto when I engage in a story: I require something fleshy and honest and sincere in there to focus on and feel for.”

    Yes. Fleshy and not in the sense of flesh. Well said!

    I’m just pretending the show doesn’t exist. It’s working for me so far.

  4. We promised to have a viewing party for this, but now we have a Stars show to go to. CONFLICT. I can’t wait to hate this show. Just the thought of hating this show makes my twat twitch!

  5. I don’t like to hate on Chaiken, after all, she was instrumental in bringing us the best/only lesbian TV drama series ever, and I’m of the opinion it’s better to have tried to do something and done it badly than never tried at all.

    What’s more, despite her constant trumpeting on about “telling our stories” being more repetitive and irritating than a vuvu-fucking-zela, I do believe she’s onto something.

    While same-sex partnerings continue to be outside the moral mainstream, they will have the inherent drama that comes with any relationship caught between the external pressures of society, and the internal pressures from the people within coming to terms with themselves. And even when we are mainstream, lesbians love us some drama, and drama = tales to tell.

    Here comes the but… (actually I prefer to say however, because I think it makes me sound cleverererer)

    But, for all she talks ad nauseum about storytelling, I just don’t believe that reality TV is capable of delivering it. Reise makes makes an excellent point: that actors do a better job of portraying truth than constructed reality characters, who usually end up as exaggerated caricatures tempered by canny editing.

    The NYT reviewer makes another great point: anything genuinely interesting seems to have already taken place. Even while watching the staggering number of promos, I had zero interest in the clips of the programme footage, and was far more intrigued by what the cast had to say to the camera directly. I don’t doubt that good reality tv-makers can capture those moments of drama as they happen (and I’ve seen plenty of bloody good documentaries that manage to do it), but veracity aside, I don’t think it’s as entertaining as when someone recounts their version of what happened. I’m much more into tell than show.

    A few weeks ago I was sat around, hungover with a group of friends after a party. Someone was regaling us with a truly epic account of the love triangle she’d been entangled in (it was a good one, I always think queer love triangles are so much better because everyone usually ends up sleeping with everyone else). She had half a dozen of us entranced with this tale for about an hour. Would I have been half as interested if this story was shown to me as grainy images of girls bickering over text messages and warping their emotions for the camera?

    We’re already “telling our stories” in a much more capable way than this programme can hope to (see: The Internet); I think it would be far, far more powerful to take our own anecdotes and deliver them Ladies of Letters style or some other format more compelling than this.

    • Well said. I don’t think reality TV is the right venue for anyone to do anything productive. It’s a money-making vehicle, essentially, and that’s fine, but pretending it can be more than that (as I think Ilene wants us to do) is silly.

      Also I admire Ilene Chaiken quite a bit for all I trash talk her. She is quite a trailblazer and I have an “in defense of ilene chaiken” essay i will publish here one day. She’s a crafty bitch and did something very special and unique that few other lesbians have done: she found a way to make lesbians highly marketable. And in America, where Capitalism is basically our religion and governmental structure, that’s everything. However I think she’s creatively an idiot, and also an asshole. Unfortch.

  6. So thrilled that Riese is recapping this! I expect hilarity at every turn. *Sigh I just had a flashback to when this site was nothing but L Word recaps and Advice Vlogs. <3 I'm excited/scared/preparing my barf bag for The Real L Word.

  7. I’m pretty sure I will not watch this show. Just looking at the trailer makes me realize, it’s going to be along the lines of the real housewives of where ever. I suppose the only REAL lesbian, is one that, no matter how many tats, at some point wears makeup, and of course has medium to long, flowing locks. Oh did I forget that, all Real Lesbians are about a size 6, with very girly sexy bods?? Oh well, just means I’m left out of one more of societies cliques.

  8. Yay, I loves me some reviews by Riese! I doubt I’ll have a chance to watch TRLW (I’m Canadian, darn) on TV (probably stream it online), but I’m excited for it, nonetheless. As a straight lady, I guess I’m not as apprehensive about it as my sapphic sisters are, just because my sexuality prevents me from becoming actually invested in it. At the risk of sounding as if I’m patronizing, I couldn’t fathom being able to see representatives of my sexual community pretty much limited to a trashy reality TV show. I mean jeezus, I gripe enough about not seeing enough Ukrainian (my people!) characters on TV/in films, and about how there are so many Ukrainian actors playing non-Eastern European roles. If I were queer, I’d be totally livid.

    Also Riese, I’m sure you know this, because you know things, but in better (hopefully!) queer news, Degrassi: The Next Generation is welcoming its first transgendered character in its 10th season! The character’s name is Adam, and is being played by actress Jordan Todosey. It’s suspected that the character will be MTF. I hope to see some blurbs from you about her.

  9. I’m not sure that I can find access to the drugs I would require in watching this. I’m not even sure that the stoned guy who hangs out in my alleyway has access to the drugs I would require in watching this.

    Hell, I’m not entirely sure that @god ever created the chemical compounds that would be necessary for the creation of the drugs I would require in watching this.

  10. I’ve been dreading this show from the beginning. I’m totally on board with you Riese! I just can’t stand reality TV. Every time I watch an episode I feel as though my life has just wasted away for those 30 minutes. I’m not sure how much I can take of watching the actual show. Looks like I’ll be reading your updates and watching Nat Garcia’s Q&As.

    On another note, I went to showtime’s website and saw the character intros. Why are all of these women in there 30s? Why are they all in serious relationships/about to get married? If they wanted more drama and sex they should have casted 20-something-year-olds.

    And by the way, what the hell happened to OurChart?

  11. OMG this is probably going to be even worse than the worst L Word… but there’s a tiny hope things are going to better if they give her the chance to experiment with different characters and different cities…. you know, after a number of attempts things might come out right, as if by mistake…

  12. I found a couple of different things wrong with the first episode:

    a. whitney pretending she didn’t understand why sara was upset. really??

    b. whitney saying lesbians can go from fighting to fucking. that can apply to any people with sexual attraction to one another who just had an argument

    c. nikki saying she is the straightest lesbian ever. unnecessary and an oxymoron.

    d. the friends of the Real L Word girls are hotter than the actual Real L Word girls

    e. I’m concerned that this show may be borderline pornographic. not that I’m offended its just…on the clip they played for the upcoming episode whitney is clearly boinking this chick with a strap on. this is a reality show. granted it is on showtime. However, I feel there is double standard being applied. I have not seen a reality show like this about straight people where they clearly show a guy boinking a girl. (excluding Real Sex and similar shows)

    • I’m sure mere moments after the sex scene airs, there’ll be 300 copies up on youtube.

      I’m pretty much in the camp that’s asking whether Showtime’d porn it up like this if it were a reality show about, say, gay men, or straight folk.

    • actually, Queer as Folk had really explicit sex scenes. REALLY explicit. But I guess The L Word did too sometimes. It’s just that it’s a “reality” show that makes it so weird. I mean then it’s almost like gonzo porn or something.

    • I agree with your last point in particular. I wasn’t expecting to feel so awkward when they started making sexy sounds. On a scripted TV show you know they’re not actually having sex, but when the two people are actually having sex… that’s pretty porny.

      I’m not offended either… it just makes me wonder what kind of backlash there will be.

  13. they would definitely NOT show such a scene involving gay men. we are worlds away from that ever happening in this country. hell we can barely get a gay kiss on a fictional television show. for those who say this show is for straight people looking to see what happens in the world of lesbians I would say as a hetero that was why I watched “The L Word.” this show so far has been much less informative, less funny, and all around less entertaining. it lacks all the elements that made me tune in to the L Word. At times even the L Word disappointed but never to this extreme. I would almost hate to judge on account of it being the first episode but I thought the pilot episode was supposed to be the best?? and wasn’t the L Word *slightly* more diverse (ethnically speaking)?

  14. My older sibling (also queer) said it was “throw-up in your mouth TV!” Yikes! Maybe one can’t base a “reality” televison show on the pedestrian performance of 20th century notions of sexual identity, especially without including this thing called “story”? Oh, but that would mean writers that CAN write would have to be paid. Nowadays, producers are paid to manipulate “reality” by creating faux scenes of conflict, tension, and public humiliation which is like watching train wrecks (yawn). I wish SHOWTIME would give other talented queers a chance to produce decent television dramas.

  15. Reality tv. NOT!!!!
    Lets get real here people not everybody drives a jag or a beamer.
    Some of us dont even work in the movie business. But we still have very good, and full lives. For the people who thought they were making a (Gay Reality Show well you are wrong. Take it way down. I know it will work, but it because we all need to have our own fantisies. Reality no way. aA good way to make money yes. I want to stay a fan, but make it real because it’s not……………

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