"The Real L World" is a reality show version of the fictional "Showtime" series, "The L Word". Rather than following a set of fictional lesbians as they work, play and go through highs and lows, "The Real L Word" follows 6 very different lesbians throughout their daily lives in Los Angeles. The series is produced by Magical Elves productions, who are behind "Project Runway" and "Top Chef", and the series often has the technical feel of the "in-between"/behind-the-scenes segments on both of those shows (I swear, I think some of the generic music from those two shows returns here - if not, it's awfully similar at times.)
I certainly didn't know what to expect when viewing the series, which could certainly have been a train wreck like one of any number of "VH1" reality shows (not that those shows aren't fun on occasion), but the result certainly is different in tone from the fictional series that spawned it. "Real L Word" certainly has different target audiences; one that can watch these individuals find love, find drama and go through the trials of daily life. In terms of the other target audience, let me just say, to quote "Family Guy"'s Quagmire: "Giggity, Giggity!" The series has a few of those moments (although more on that in a minute.)
The six woman are Nikki, Jill, Tracey, Rose, Whitney and Mikey. They are all professionals with different styles and different friends. The series does mostly not bring these characters together (although Nikki and Jill are in a relationship), which is a negative in this case, as rather than being able to follow a bunch of people within one world (see "Real World", etc), the series instead tries to follow all of these different people in their own worlds and the series isn't always able to move smoothly between the different lives of the characters.
The other issue with the series is that it's guilty of being a little on the bland side at times (and if this was going to be a series that separately followed a bunch of people, 3-4 would have been a better number, to allow the characters to develop and the audience to keep track), with a couple of the characters lacking strong personalities. The series does provide a couple of hooks - Mikey's working towards Fashion Week and Nikki and Jill prepare to get married - and those two main stories do provide a bit of focus for a series that can feel all over the place.
Again, casting plays an enormous part, and hopefully the change in cast - the website notes that the series is casting for season 2, which means it's apparently going to start over with fresh cast members - will find people that can really fuel viewer interest to a deeper degree. In terms of being scripted, the series doesn't feel quite as heavily, aggressively scripted as "The Hills" - which turned moments like Lauren screaming, "You know what you did!" at Heidi into watercooler discussion for the MTV set - was, but it needs something to give it more consistent energy. It wouldn't even have to mean they all be forced to live in a house with each other: "The House Husbands of Hollywood" (yes, I watch way too much reality TV) at least was able to weave the different characters into each other's stories (pretty much their discussions of the trials of being married) with a reasonable amount of cheesy success. "The Real L Word"'s cast pretty much not interacting with one another but off in their own worlds is a real structural flaw and hopefully that will change in season 2.
As for the previously mentioned bit of naughtiness, "Real L Word" is fairly tame for the most part, with some raunchy discussion and a fair amount of cutaways (or pans away). It's later in the season that the series brings out the real nudity, with a scene in "It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To" that's raw and pretty steamy (two "Giggity"'s up), but it feels like a bit of a departure from the series that came before it - and apparently was teased during a press conference ("Viewers will get to see a lot more of the ladies of Showtime's 'The Real L Word' in the last three episodes of their first season. The group previewed the rest of the season, which Chaiken promised will bring some of the "shock value" that was a hallmark of her scripted series, 'The L Word.'" - http://www.imdb.com/news/ni3542134/) While the series shouldn't go trashy for the sake of being scandalous (or go way over-the-top, "Real Housewives"-style), the series needs to zero in on what it wants to go for: does it want to be a straightforward exploration of who these people are, or the traditional scripted reality show? The series seems to want to walk the line, but can't consistently pull it off in an entertaining fashion.
Overall, this series may get a mixed reception for fans "The L Word", which won awards and offered powerful performances. Viewed on its own, it may have some potential but really needs to narrow its focus, find a couple more dynamic characters and all interact (whether all in a house together or otherwise) with one another.
• Season 1
1 1-01 20/Jun/10 The Power of Clam
2 1-02 27/Jun/10 Game On!
3 1-03 04/Jul/10 Bromance
4 1-04 11/Jul/10 Gambling With Love
5 1-05 18/Jul/10 Free Pass
6 1-06 25/Jul/10 Family Ties
7 1-07 01/Aug/10 It's My Party And I'll Cry if I Want To
8 1-08 08/Aug/10 Runway Bride
9 1-09 15/Aug/10 Dinah Or Bust
VIDEO: "The Real L Word" is presented by Showtime Home Entertainment in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is about as good as one can expect, given the material. Sharpness and detail are a tad soft throughout much of the episodes, although never to the point where the picture looked hazy or blurry. A few traces of pixelation were also spotted in a handful of scenes. Colors generally looked natural and well-saturated, with no smearing. Flesh tones looked natural, as well.
SOUND: Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that delivers crisp, bassy music and clear, well-recorded dialogue.
EXTRAS: "National Gay and Lesbian Winter Party With Pam Grier", "Live Lounge Reunion", audition tapes, behind-the-scenes footage, bios and photo gallery.
Final Thoughts: The idea has potential, but not all of the personalities are compelling and the structure of the series needs some work. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality and a few minor extras. Rent it.