Dyke drama and baby mamas. The skinny on new season of “‘The L-Word’

BACK FROM IRAQ, BACK FOR MORE: Alice (Hailey, left) and U.S. soldier Tasha (Rollins) are still going at it.

Season five of “The L-Word” takes on a new, downright gonzo direction and aesthetic. It’s quite a departure from the earlier relationship-drama years. Not that relationship dramas are in scant supply the tangled web of exes and fresh paramours is thickly woven.

Things kick off as art curator Bette (Jennifer Beals) and ex-girlfriend Tina (Laurel Holloman) pretend to still be together so their daughter, Angelica, can get into an elite preschool. Meanwhile, Bette is involved with a deaf artist, Jodi (Marlee Matlin), and learning things about sign language and herself.

Bisexual author, Jenny (Mia Kirshner), returns in high style, with a deal to turn her semi-autobiographical book “Lez Girls” into a movie at Tina’s studio.

Alice (Leisha Hailey) continues her relationship with U.S. soldier Tasha (Rose Rollins), whose sexuality is discovered and could result in a military discharge.

Beguiling hairstylist Shane (Kate Moennig) lands in the fire (literally!) thanks to a seduction involving two bridesmaids and considers reigning in her sex life.

Transgendered Max (Daniela Sea) finds himself attracted to Jodi’s gay male friend.

The recently out and divorced Phyllis (Cybill Shepard) realizes she wants to play the L-field before settling down, a revelation met with displeasure by her U-Haul prone girlfriend, Joyce (Jane Lynch).

As for Kit (Pam Grier), she is running the Planet and turning a profit.

Absurdity reigns in Season Five’s premiere episode (I watched the first three), especially in regard to Jenny and Helena’s storylines.

Jenny, empowered by her connection to a hedge fund billionaire (Wallace Shawn) who’s funding the “Lez Girls” movie, has turned into a real diva. She eviscerates her personal assistant over some nonsense regarding her Pomeranian’s grooming. After the assistant quits, Jenny finds a completely slavish, doting, young replacement (Malaya Rivera).

Jenny’s dealings with the studio suits, whom insist upon as much hot lesbian sex in the film as possible, seem like yet another redundant lampooning of the Hollywood industry (perhaps creator-writer Ilene Chaiken’s tribulations served as grist for the mill?).

As for Helena’s landing in prison, the scenario is played up with sitcom-level humor as she cowers in the face of stereotypical matrons, female prisoners.

Directed by Jamie Babbitt, Episode Two is just as loopy with a sex-comedy twist worthy of “Porky’s” for the promiscuous Shane.

Despite a campy “Charlie’s Angels”-homage opener, episode three mellows and allows drama, and audience connection, to develop. Tasha is forced to combat a military discharge over her sexuality, despite the hell she suffered while fighting in Iraq. Kelly McGillis plays a military lawyer within this subplot.

Bette takes an attitude-changing trip to the country with Jodi. And Max’s storyline heads into a fascinating place sure to challenge notions of sexuality and gender further.

Yet the season’s biggest head-scratcher is Kit’s wacko, unflattering hairstyle, which looks like some sort of unholy union between a pageboy and Darth Vader’s helmet. Oh, Pam!

Lawrence Ferber


Season 5 of “The L Word” premieres Jan. 6 at 8 p.m. on Showtime.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 4, 2008 htrkfvf jn ueuk