A meditation on The L Word without S6 spoilers

So The L Word is over.

When I heard that the series was ending, I envisioned blog post after blog post of me not being able to let go. I’m sure you all had similar visions. I have not conducted myself on this blog as someone who would be able to let go of The L Word easily. I was enamored with the show specifically and with the idea generally that a show about lesbians could exist on my planet Earth. Recently, though, I found myself describing The L Word as “basically just like Melrose Place but everyone is a lesbian.” The more I think about it, the more I wonder if Aaron Spelling should sue Ilene Chaiken.

First, although MP wasn’t set in West Hollywood, Los Angeles is Los Angeles. I will give credit to TLW for having more ethnic and age diversity but I will take most of that credit away because TLW failed to treat its diversity responsibly. The irresponsibility was most exemplified by the character of Papi, who was a Latina lothario cartoon played by an Indian-Dutch actress who, apart from TLW, is quite lovely, gorgeous, and not obnoxious at all. (I follow her on Twitter so I should know.) The point I want to make is this: with the gay angle removed (Don’t bother to bring up the fact that Matt on MP was gay. I heard something about gayness but I never saw anything gay happen on that show), the shows have nearly identical premises. There are a handful of friends who sometimes hate each other but remain close even though any sane person would have moved a long time ago (one could call them “framily”—that’s not a spoiler). Everyone is sleeping with everyone. Most of them have crappy jobs or no jobs at all, but they live quite comfortably. And there is a pool.

It’s a good thing Spelling is dead and can’t sue. Am I right, ladies?

Well, now you know that I watched Melrose Place so you understand that my standards aren’t high. Not only do I just plain old like television, I’m fascinated by its power to define and reflect culture. It’s like Sarah Warn said on Talk of the Nation today: “Television is our cultural campfire around which we share stories.” My favorite thing about Sarah Warn is that she likes television and treats it through a scholarly lens, even when she’s watching Gossip Girl.

I knew as soon as I watched the first episode of The L Word that I would be with it until the bitter end. I could not have known how bitter the end would be, but the show was not a choice for me. I was just born that way. I didn’t watch out of a misplaced sense of obligation like when Marlee Matlin was on Dancing With the Stars, and I didn’t watch because it was such a well-conceived, well-executed television experience like Law & Order: SVU or Six Feet Under. I watched because I was having a good time. I can’t quite pinpoint when the good times ran out, but they did. At some point this season I realized that while I was still having a good time looking at Jennifer Beals, I was not sorry the show was ending in the same way that I am not sorry when the drinking is over. The first few hours of drinking are great but around hour six, I usually start to feel a little sick, and by the time I go to bed, I am glad to be done drinking. In the morning, I am hungover and nostalgic for those first few heady hours of drinking when I have a strong buzz but I can use the bathroom on my own.

That was all leading up to my admission that I woke up Monday morning afternoon with a killer L Word hangover.

About a month ago, I was talking to my sister about this season of The L Word and she reminded me not to give her any spoilers. I pondered what kind of S6 spoilers I could offer someone who wanted them. Even my grandmother knew that Jenny was going to die, and basically nothing else happened in S6. There were times when it seemed as if something might happen, but the plot points disappeared as quickly (and as arbitrarily) as they had appeared. I’m not the only one who noticed that this was a singularly un-spoilery season. Neal Conan, still talking to Sarah Warn on Talk of the Nation today, asked her not to give any spoilers about the finale because some listeners may not have seen it yet. Sarah’s reply was something to the effect of “I couldn’t if I wanted to. Nothing happened.” Amen, Sarah.

Of course I am disappointed with the way The L Word went out. Despite her mostly excellent taste in women (she introduced me to Alex Hedison and Rose Rollins and for that I will always be grateful), Ilene Chaiken doesn’t appear to have a good grasp of how to sustain and nourish characters or how to give those characters compelling and honest storylines that resolve themselves believably (not the same as realistically, which isn’t what I necessarily expect from TV). That The L Word made it to “mainstream” television (that’s what they were calling Showtime on Talk of the Nation) is incredible, although it shouldn’t be, and Chaiken deserves credit for getting the show on the air and making it last six seasons. Despite its flaws (and I know that is shoving a lot to the side), I liked The L Word, and while I won’t exactly miss it, because I kind of started missing it before it was gone, I will miss what it could have been—and Bette. I will miss the hell out of Bette.