The L Word: Generation Q, Sky Atlantic review - is the new Word as good as the old Word?
| Despite new themes and fresh characters, it's still soap
The L Word originally ran for six seasons between 2004 and 2009, and its then-revolutionary depiction of the lives of a group of lesbians in Los Angeles won it both a fanatical audience and acclaim for its game-changing content, exploring such topics as same-sex marriage, gay adoption and female sexuality which weren't being seen elsewhere on TV. But more than a decade later, how will this revamped version (on Sky Atlantic) fare?
Whereas the prototype landed in a TV environment where viewers needed extra-sensory perception to detect a lesbian (let alone trans) character, that now feels like ancient history. Characters depicting an array of sexual orientations have become commonplace in shows as varied as Gentleman Jack, Billions or Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Thus the trio of returning L Word characters – Shane McCutcheon, Alice Pieszecki and Bette Porter – look a little staid and backdated (as Shane, Katherine Moennig is beginning to bear a weird resemblance to Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler), so the producers have installed a new layer of younger, more diverse characters to ring the generational changes.
There’s Micah (Leo Sheng), a transgender academic, Sophie (Rosanna Zayas), a producer on Alice’s TV chat show, and her fiancee Dani (Arienne Mandi), unhappily employed in her father’s unscrupulous Big Pharma corporation. Bette (Jennifer Beals) now has an opinionated young daughter, Angie (Jordan Hull), who she scraps with in between running for Mayor of Los Angeles (she used to be an arts administrator). Bette comes out with po-faced platitudes like “I am not willing under any circumstances to compromise my values,” but did nobody whisper to her that the body of Jenny Schecter, found floating in her pool back in season 6, might prove to be electoral Kryptonite?
While the new cast-members add a few megawatts of freshness, the new L Word still doesn’t resemble a planet the rest of us might live on. This is the sybaritic world of sun-kissed, interior-designed West LA, an enchanted place where the characters have lifestyles, rather than lives. They effortlessly sustain their upscale careers while always having time for sex.
Sophie and Dani starred in a startlingly explicit opening sequence which imparted just a little too much information, while hair-salon tycoon Shane stepped off her Learjet and promptly Advanced to Go with the lissome flight attendant. Meanwhile straight men (admittedly rare) are reduced to caricatures of prehistoric boorishness, laughably ignorant of such concepts as non-normative gender identity. But its mood-swings between soap and self-absorption make it pretty entertaining.