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  "The L Word", Showtime's new skinematastic lesbian drama, stars the round-eyed Mia Kirshner, whose latest role is only slightly more adventurous than her last. (In "24," she was the frighteningly hot terrorist who blew up the plane and then launched herself via a  
  parachute landing onto a motorcycle in the middle of the desert). Kirshner plays a Midwesterner who comes to Los  
  Angeles to live with her boyfriend, Eric Mabius, a musclebound Mark Wahlberg lookalike swim coach. There she finds herself smack in the middle of a lesbian subculture in something that closely resembles the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Other characters in this world: Jennifer Beals as a rather uptight museum director (it's true about what they say about "black don't

    crack" -- she hasn't changed a bit in the last 20 years) in a serious relationship with Laurel Holloman; and Katherine Moening, the stunningly androgynous cousin of Gwenyth Paltrow, who definitely stands on her own after her incredible performance in the WB's Dawson's Creek summer spinoff "Young Americans". In that WB show, she posed as a guy to go to an all-boys' school and, well, you get the idea: think Abercrombie porn and you're on the right track. Katherine plays the part  

of "Shane", the bad girl lesbian who plays everyone and can't commit to a "stable, girl on girl" relationship to the distress of several chubby, short-haired extras.

What's immediately striking in "The L Word" is that this isn't another "Will and Grace" or "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy". First off, it's

  about lesbians, and not stereotypical, mulleted diesel ones, either. These women are hotttt, and moving away from the typical mullety butch/prancing homo stereotype seems to be the one thing that makes this show truly groundbreaking.

Shows like QEFTSG and W&G are simply dancing around the gay issues. QEFTSG 's premise, while focusing entirely on straight men, is supported by

their idiodit troupe of prancing clowns that should have been forgotten about by now. While "Will and Grace" is all about gay stereotypes: the 'clownish', 'fabulous' men and the flat-chested hag, even though it was initially marked as a huge breakthrough by placing gay characters into a more positive light -- it's just not an entirely accurate light.

"The L Word" offers a more refreshing point of view because it

    depicts a portrait of life in the middle of a hipster lesbian "community." The show's perspective is firmly within this lesbian environment rather than without. It's as direct as "Chappelle's Show," in the way every single story fearlessly tackles the touchy social issues, be it sexual orientation or race. This is what's so edgy. "The L Word" is marketed in such a way that it's easier to swallow for a straight audience, in the same way it's easier for white people to watch the "Chappelle's Show."  
  (And Mr. Chapelle, in his brilliance, has pointed this out, asking if it's actually risky if white people are coming up to him and complimenting "that funny Nigger sketch.")

Now the hype is worn down about "The L Show," it's settling into what it is: a strong enough show that will get its message across no matter what. It'll survive the hype, at least for now.

We all know that Showtime is notorious for its T&A, even moreso than Cinemax, and there's no avoiding the issue of "The L Word's"

  use of extremely attractive women. On the one hand, it's a departure from the old stereotype, but on the other, it's possible this is a simple play to grab ratings from straight men. But the quality of the drama is such that this question is rendered moot. Finally there exists a 'real' drama, in the sense that it's a drama as much as "Melrose Place" was, where our face isn't shoved into... um, the so-called 'taboo' idea of lesbianism. The less said, the stronger the message. Whether 'gay' shows are a    

trend or not, we can hope that "The L Word" will provide us with what we need: A higher class of lesbo-tainment.

"The L Word" may have been renewed, but it's still relegated to the ghetto of a relatively unwatched cable network. Nonetheless, seminal (if you'll forgive the word) TV shows like this are ahead of their time, and, by paving the way for a new generation of gay-oriented dramas, will no doubt produce popular offspring. It's not unlike how the extremely short-lived teen cult favorite "My So Called Life" became the blueprint for the entire WB network.

Initially these shows go unnoticed, or have a brief run through pop consciousness, but they're what actually fuel and make possible the over-hyped ones of tomorrow. If nothing else the next person making a show can have a point of reference for the 'normal' show they're pitching.

"The L Word's" not very memorable, but it won't be forgotten, either.