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'The Real L Word' takes on a life of its own

In seeking to elevate the conversation around the lives of lesbians with the Showtime series, writer-producer Ilene Chaiken adds a Hollywood twist on reality.

July 15, 2012|By Amanda Hess, Special to the Los Angeles Times

And despite the narrowing of perspective, "The Real L Word" actually attracts a slightly broader, less female audience than the original show (61% to the scripted show's 69%). Showtime says "The Real L Word" is its top-performing unscripted show in prime time, averaging more than a million viewers in its first two seasons. (It has not caught up to the scripted series, however, which averaged 1.8 million in its final season.)

Chaiken knows that "the community of 'The Real L Word' is much more representative" than the one she is able to show on the screen every week. She struggles within reality television's confines to produce a show that is still "enlightening the conversation" around the lives of lesbian women, she says.

"Reality takes on its own reality. The show took a life unto itself. It's become a very different show that portrays very different characters," Chaiken says, before stopping herself. "They're real people, so I'm not sure it's right to call them characters."

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