Best. Lesbian. Week. Ever. (November 6, 2009)



I was recently out and about with friends here in L.A. and we ended up spending most of the evening talking about the The Real L Word: Los Angeles and wondering who might be cast on the show.

We soon realized that each of us knew at least one person who had been approached about being on the new reality show Ilene Chaiken is developing for Showtime, and even more who were trying to get on the show. This surprised me.

It’s true that television (even reality television) often pays better than the average conventional job, and starring in a Showtime series does sound appealing. But I still don’t understand why anyone would want to get themselves cast on a reality television show.

Generally speaking, reality show stars aren’t usually portrayed sympathetically unless they have some valued skill sewing, cooking, over-exercising that would be useful in competition. And even then, their personal drama is often edited to overshadow their particular talent.

Yes, there are a lot of performers seeking work in Los Angeles, and reality television is work. Everyone needs to pay their rent and buy frozen yogurt. But is playing some highly-edited version of one’s self really going to highlight one’s range and technical proficiency as an actor?

I’ve heard from several sources that the folks casting The Real L Word are having a difficult time finding their stars, who would, ideally, be a lot like their fictional L Word counterparts: successful, conventionally attractive, willing to show some skin and maybe even do a love scene. (It is Showtime, after all.)

My sources have also confirmed what my friends and I have long suspected; some of the have-it-all types of women the producers most want for the show are too smart cautious to participate, and some of those who are most desperate to be on the show are not the types the producers want to cast.

Still, if the producers do assemble their dream cast and bring the show to life, I really hope it’s good.

I hope they find smart, successful women who will be portrayed in a complex, interesting and thoughtful manner. And if they happen to have some sex appeal, there’s nothing wrong with that either. (Yes, I still miss Carmen from The L Word.) We can all agree that we’d like to see more lesbians and bisexual women on television, right?

Plus, if Showtime has a hit with The Real L Word: Los Angeles, it could finally quell those complaints that the fictional  L Word portrayed lesbians unrealistically. (Though, for the record, Los Angeles really does have a disproportionate number of fashionable, gorgeous and slightly narcissistic femmes running amok.)

Ultimately, lesbians and bi women, or, more specifically, lesbian and bi sexuality, have always been great for reality television (particularly when combined with booze and a hot tub). But reality television, save for a few exceptions, hasn’t always been great for us. That’s what makes me a bit nervous about The Real L Word. We all know that visibility matters, but the nature and context of that visibility are key.

Switching topics; one lesbian on television about whom I have no reservations is Wanda Sykes. Her new talk show, The Wanda Sykes Show, premieres tomorrow night night at 11 pm on Fox.

Along with several other publications, was invited to participate in a conference call with Sykes, and, from what we heard there, it doesn’t appear that Fox is going to try to water down her style in hopes of appealing to the masses.

Our own Dara Nai reported that Sykes promised of her guest panelists, “You’ll get why I invited these people to stop by and hang out with me. … You want to feel like these people are on the show for a reason, that I enjoy them. We’re getting to know each other, it’s like mingling I should say. But of course, they will be opinionated, but it’s, ‘Hey, we’ll still have our beer summit.’  We can sit down, have a drink and laugh about it”.

Sykes also told reporters that she has her eye on some great guests, including Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jane Fonda and Mary Lynn Rajskub, and confirmed that her writing staff would be diverse. She told us, “Yes, yes. I have white women, black women, black men, white men. Yes, and hopefully the show does well and we get a bigger budget. I’ll even expand it, even open it up a little more.”

When one reporter asked Sykes to weigh in on why gay marriage was recently voted down in Maine (and pointedly asked the comic not to give a “serious” answer), Sykes replied, “… All the propaganda of ‘the gays are coming, gay marriage, and they’re going to indoctrinate your kids’ and all that crap. So fear, basically fear. And, like I said, I believe that eventually this is going to get to the highest court and they’re going to have to determine that the majority cannot vote to take away a minority’s civil rights. It’s the separation of church and state.”

When the reporter complained about and questioned her “serious” answer, Sykes wasn’t having it. She replied, “You know why? Because it really isn’t anything to joke about.”

Yes, I think The Wanda Sykes Show will provide just the sort of lesbian “reality” that I can appreciate.

by Karman Kregloe

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