Watching the first installment of the A&E documentary series Rollergirls, about the lives of a handful of roller derby die-hards, I was struck by a feeling that you don’t see women like this much on TV: hard-working, hard-ass and sexy. They know how to waylay an opponent during a match, raise hell afterward and lead a normal working life otherwise. But most important, based on the debut episode story of derby rookie Venis Envy, we get to see a respectful camaraderie across crews that offers a stark, welcome contrast to the backstabbing portrayals of all-girl assemblages on reality shows like Survivor, The Apprentice and America’s Next Top Model. Putas Del Fuegos player Venis, a brick-house brunette with a freckly, open face, looks up to Rhinestone Cowgirl star jammer Lux — a wiry blond and notoriously mean jammer on the track. She worries about her big game debut, in which she’ll have to play hard against Lux to win. But afterward at the bar, the two clink drinks and Lux cheerily toasts, “You are officially initiated.” Suddenly the two are drunkenly squealing with glee about the addictive rush of the sport. The irony is that this exciting, interesting series comes from the producers of a show that feels like a 180-degree turn in female role model television: Laguna Beach.

—Robert Abele

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.