The title says it all: “The Real L Word” is a reality-TV clone of Showtime’s departed drama “The L Word,” with Ilene Chaiken joining the producing team behind sundry Bravo shows in cashing in on her past creation. Despite colorful language that needn’t be bleeped on pay TV, however, the show doesn’t just ape the original’s cast but is awash in reality-TV cliches. 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.”
Like “The L Word,” the show features women at various stages of their lives, set against a media-heavy L.A. background of shot-downing, hard-partying nightlife and high-stress jobs.
Nikki and Jill, for example, are well-to-do yuppies planning their wedding, while Mikey is a high-powered, order-barking fashionista preparing for L.A. Fashion Week. The pierced and tattooed Whitney, meanwhile, is a promiscuous sexual omnivore, while Rose is still something of a party gal, bringing conflict into her committed relationship.
“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.
And so it goes. While “The L Word” worked as a soap, the characters here could desperately use better writing than (again, from Whitney) observations like, “Lust is exciting. Love is scary.”
Mostly, the series seeks to fill a void the dramatic version vacated, albeit at what’s presumably a considerably lower cost. Granted, TV’s dearth of fleshed-out gay and lesbian characters — in drama or reality — is significant enough in the ad-supported space to ensure the show a niche audience. Yet as produced, the lone distinctive aspect of the series is that when a couple gets into a public spat, here they can go into the same restroom to argue.
While the “This season on … ” tease hints at nudity and on-camera trysts (this is, after all, Showtime), there’s relatively little of either to separate the show from Bravo fare in the first two episodes. Indeed, in one sequence, a sexual encounter is signaled by having someone blow out candles (yawn), and in another, two characters being followed independently meet and flirt in the same bar.
After enough moments like that, it’s pretty clear “The Real L Word” is just another reality show that’s only moderately real — the further adventures of “The L Word” with a non-SAG cast.