‘L Word’ Fields a Provocative Nine

Oct 25, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Showtime’s “L Word” is really about the H-word, as in “hit.”

Showtime executives don’t like to discuss actual ratings for “The L Word,” a drama that follows the lives of nine lesbian women in Los Angeles. “I don’t really know what the numbers are, but I hope they are good enough,” said the show’s co-creator and executive producer Ilene Chaiken.

Ms. Chaiken doesn’t have to worry-numbers don’t matter much to the pay TV network. In keeping with its “No Limits” marketing line, Showtime seeks to air controversial or provocative programming that, like last year’s “The Reagans” TV movie, generates the media buzz and Emmy attention that often translate into new subscribers.

Showtime President of Programming Bob Greenblatt didn’t want to disclose viewer numbers for “The L Word,” but said they’re typically about three times higher in prime time than those of other Showtime original series.

But in the end, he said, “We are all about making some noise. It’s hard to come up with stuff that is provocative.”

Showtime’s story lines for “The L Word” are just that. In one episode, a woman separates from her husband and wants to go back to dating women, but still has feelings for her ex. In another, a longtime lesbian couple tries to have a baby, but the pregnancy is unsuccessful and the couple breaks up.

With “The L Word,” writers and producers feel they have something special on their hands. “This is the rarest thing,” Ms. Chaiken said. “We approach it with tremendous excitement. We are telling stories to some people who have felt they have been unrepresented on [TV].”

By creating a series based on the lives of so many lesbian characters, Ms. Chaiken and Showtime could be said to be making up for the disparity all at once. “I can’t think of a show where there are two lesbians, much less nine,” Mr. Greenblatt said. “But it’s not just that. We are able to show lives that are authentic [and] more realistic than [lesbian] characters are treated anywhere else.”

And create a buzz in the process.