Showtime Renews Lesbian Series

Despite a significant drop in audience, The L Word, a lesbian version of Sex and the City, has been renewed for a fifth season.  The series airs on Showtime, the pay cable network owned by CBS.

The L Word's viewership has declined from a third season peak of 370,000 to 310,000, less than the female population of San Francisco, and the show is reportedly still losing viewers.  Nevertheless, Showtime insists the series is a winner. Showtime President Robert Greenblatt said the show is a “signature franchise for us and one of our most popular series.” In contrast, HBO's The Sopranos attracted 9.5 million viewers for its first episode last season.

The homosexual community loves the show.  GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) awarded The L Word a Media Award for Outstanding Drama.  Showtime is backing a social networking Web site,, which was created as a plot device in the series to track the hook-ups of one of the show's characters.

Showtime's press release announcing the fifth season of the show said The L Word generates “a large and loyal audience, as well as critical praise for its provocative, sexy storylines, the principal cast and for being a magnet for celebrated directors and guest stars.” And that since its debut in January 2004, the show “has become part of American popular culture …”  Seems like a lot of hype for a show that lost 60,000 viewers between seasons 3 and 4.

Ah, but this is pay cable.  If you subscribe to Showtime you support The L Word.  When you look at it from that perspective, it doesn't really matter whether people watch it or not. 

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute (, a division of the Media Research Center.