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Byline: James Wolcott
It's not what you do, it's where you do it. Flash a nipple during the Super Bowl halftime show, drop a strategically draped towel before ABC's Monday Night Football, and every self-appointed bishop passes gas on the moral squalor of the media until F.C.C. chairman Michael Powell joins the farce. But depict Jesus in an art video performing sex doggy-style with a fallen woman (whose hips were doing all the work, I might add)-as Showtime's series The L Word did in its extraordinary first season-and somehow William J. Bennett, Michael Medved, and Pat Buchanan are caught napping. Showtime received barely a puff of musket fire. "It didn't generate anything I'm aware of," says Robert Greenblatt, Showtime's president of entertainment. The show's creator, Ilene Chaiken, whose script for Showtime's film Dirty Pictures (2000) dramatized the furor over the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center's exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe's violated physiques, also described the response to the Jesus love-in as "less than I imagined." Visibility may be higher for season two of The L Word (season one is available in a boxed DVD set), which begins February 20. During the hiatus, an election rudely intervened, and the political landscape shifted-tilted right. Although Chaiken declares that the character-driven show "doesn't have a political agenda," its very existence carries a political charge now. All gay-themed shows do.
When The L Word launched in January 2004, it seemed to have been assembled as the lesbian-booty-call answer to HBO's Sex and the City (which was tottering out to pasture on high heels), a revolving platter of wicked double entendres, acrobatic bopping, and soul-searching interludes of what Dame Edna would call "cutting-edge caring." Hedonism with heart, in short. On that score the series didn't disappoint. On safari through bed, hot tub, and bathroom stall, The L Word-set in Los Angeles, shot in Vancouver-traversed enough rolling acreage of lovely, undressed bodies attacking one another's yummy bits to keep the humidity raised.
Some prisses carped that the characters were too unrepresentatively pretty, predatory, and femme-y, but my answer to that is: If it's lumpy realism you want, spend more time at Atlantic City with a cupful of quarters. Besides, the bodies belong to actresses who can actually act. As the …