Picture this: It is January 2020. The Showtime reboot The L Word: Generation Q has just finished its first season. Lesbian bars (well, the fifteen lesbian bars left in the country) have been packed with screenings and are thriving with friendship, fellowship, and community. 2020 is going to be a great year for queer!
Then COVID-19 stops everything. If you aren’t already U-Hauling with your sweetie, you consider it. We hope it will be over in a few months – by May, then by June. Once-packed bars and community centers are shuttered. The release date for the second season of Generation Q still hasn’t been announced, crushing all of our 2020 dreams.
Enter PANTS. From the very first episode, you get the impression that Leisha Hailey and Kate Moennig – co-stars on both the original L Word and the update – were bored and lonely and missed each other and that, drunk one night over FaceTime, they decided to start a podcast. It’s clear they have no idea what they are doing – sometimes you hear dogs barking in the background, for example, and there is no template to their episodes. They ramble, they argue, they laugh at each other’s jokes, they jump in over each other and go on tangents about how they pronounce words in Nebraska (Hailey’s childhood home) vs. Philly (Moennig’s childhood home). They tell the story of how they earned the nickname Pants from a fellow L Word actress, Mia Kirschner – “You can’t have one leg without the other – it’s Pants!” – in a roundabout way, spattered with sidetracks and giggles and inside jokes.
“I think it’s better if we don’t give ourselves pressure – let’s just go for the ride,” Moennig says at one point. “And if we bore the hell outta you, turn it off,” Hailey adds.
PANTS isn’t for everyone. It’s probably not for you if the words “Amy Grant,” “cassette tapes,” and “gay Rachel haircut” mean nothing to you. It’s probably not for you if your ideal podcast has a predictable structure, similarly formatted episodes, and an explicit message. But you don’t necessarily have to be a fan of The L Word to enjoy PANTS.
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Hailey and Moennig are charming and authentic. They are best friends talking about subjects that entertain them – and, in their podcast, these conversations just happen to be recorded. They aren’t particularly knowledgeable on any of the subjects they discuss (except maybe themselves), but their curiosity and enthusiasm outweigh any lack of expertise. They run the gamut from home improvement projects, travel, voting, fashion, and music – sometimes all in one episode. The cryptic and hilarious one-sentence episode descriptions never set you up for what they actually talk about – the spontaneity and surprise is part of the joy.
Sporadically, they are joined by various L Word stars and the showrunner, Ilene Chaiken, along with an unexpected mix of their favorite people. For example, Tegan and Sara show up, and they talk about lesbian haircuts and queer music. I wouldn’t call any of these episodes true “interviews,” with an introduction of their guest, or even an articulated list of questions. Moennig and Hailey just start the conversation, follow it wherever it takes them, and genuinely enjoy the result.
I particularly love the episode with Dr. Sherry Ross as their guest. The topic? Vaginas. Moennig and Hailey make gynecological health – a topic that can feel clinical or preachy, if done the wrong way – into a comfortable fireside chat, full of silliness for its own sake, rather than to disguise any discomfort. They are authentic, straightforward, and transparent about their own experiences. What more do you want out of a podcast?
PANTS is the nostalgic hug of a podcast that queer women need during the pandemic. It allows us to reconnect to the characters that we came of age with, and that connection is comforting and familiar. But even if you aren’t a lesbian – even if you have never heard of The L Word, and even if the names Alice and Shane mean nothing to you – PANTS can bring you a similar joy.
Robin Lanehurst grew up in St. Louis, MO and is currently writing from Houston, TX where she lives with her wife, son, and a small menagerie of pets. Her work has appeared in Mic, Re:Fiction, Wanderful, and More Queer Families.