“L Word” Co-Creators Michele Abbott and Kathy Greenberg Break Their Silence

 
 

AE: How did you envision the show then? As a Drama? Comedy? Horrifyingly
tedious nonsense?

[Laughter]

AE: A soap?

MA: It’s a fine line… When we were rehashing all of our stories,
they did seem pretty unrealistic.

AE: But unrealistic is different from preposterous, right? The word
‘campy’ has been thrown around, but camp is over the top and makes
a statement …

KG: It wasn’t satirical enough.

MA: But the characters stayed true to what our vision was, and we were always
floored by the actresses and what they were able to do with what they got. They’re
all great.

KG: That’s absolutely true, but the storylines weren’t always what
we envisioned.

MA: In the beginning, we were thinking it would be more self-deprecating …
like if Tina Fey were a lesbian. But it didn’t go that way.

AE: I suppose it’s hard to find that tone when dealing with serious
issues.

KG: I think finding a tone … was always going to be difficult in terms
of appealing to a broader audience. Comedy works when people are aware of the
references. Making this too comedic would have gone over many people’s heads,
because it assumes an inside knowledge, and that, perhaps, would have ghettoized
the show.

MA: The execs didn’t want it too niche. …There
was an intentional awareness at Showtime to make it super-glamorous, appealing
to straight people.

AE: I get it. So, Kathy, as a screenwriter, do you think The L
Word
writers had a greater responsibility to accuracy — to do a good
job portraying our distinct differences — or to make good TV?

KG: See, she waits till we’re drunk. …

MA: She’s, like, ‘Oh, I’m getting them!’

AE: I want to be Katie Couric when I grow up.

KG: I have to be honest, that’s a very difficult question. I don’t
know. …The show’s defense has always been, ‘We’re trying
to make good TV, as well as be accurate.’ … But that’s not
really an issue anymore, is it?

AE: Well, the more visible we become on TV, the less critical we’ll
be, I suppose. But criticism of the show began early, primarily because it was
all we had and we wanted it to be as close to perfect as possible. Even though
everyone was well aware that it was only a TV show …

MA: Why criticize then? Sex and the City was not
a show that captured the diversity of all women. It was about niche group. And
so was our show.

AE: Okay, but what do you say to the people who complain that they
weren’t represented well? To bisexuals, for example, who felt let down
because they found representation in Alice in one season, and then lost it in
another?

MA: The intention was there. … You say, “There’s a Shane
in every group,” and that’s true, but that girl might not be dialed
in the same way as Shane. …

AE: She might not be an arsonist?

KG: Or a skateboarder!

(Laughter)

MA: Exactly! But there’s a ‘cad’ everywhere.
Ours was just dressed-up for TV. …Every character was. Marina, for example,
was ‘The Predatory Lesbian’ dialed up.

AE: So the writers did a better job of making good TV than they did
at making it accurate?

KG: Yes. But trying to straddle those two things might have been the failing
of the show in the eyes of some people. The right answer is to strive for good
storytelling. It’s not about TV or accuracy, it’s about more filled
out and rounded storytelling, and pulling storylines all the way through.

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