The L Word: Generation Q opening scene goes where Queer as Folk did some two decades ago. With actors naked, in the middle of oral sex and about to reach climax.
Whoa! It’s as (ahem) in-your-face as it gets. But predecessor The L Word never did apologise for its sexy, overt scenes that shocked American television.
After 10 years off air the show returns, led by three of its key characters: Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals), Alice Pieszecki (Leisha Hailey) and Shane McCutcheon (Katherine Moennig). As the title suggests there is also a younger breed of LA women, a reboot device recently deployed by Armisted Maupin’s Tales of the City, and various shows including Fuller House and Dallas.
The L Word: Generation Q, which sees creator Ilene Chaiken as an executive producer, opens with such confidence and sunny LA disposition, it is hard not to like. And everyone looks terrific.
Bi-racial Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals) is now running for office as the first lesbian mayor of LA, and is single moher to a young teen Angie (Jordan Hull) who is already into vaping and truancy as well as living in the shadow of her famous mother.
Alice (Leisha Hailey) is TV talk show host (sorry Ellen), but seeking validity from her partner Nat (Stephanie Allynne) in helping to raise the latter’s young children. In 2019 families come in all shapes, sizes and genders.
Shane (Katherine Moennig), the show’s resident stud, flies back to LA sending an excited ripple through the locals but keeping a secret that belies her tough exterior.
Most of the new additions are housemates who interconnect with our seasoned cast, generally as workplace assistants. Party girl Finley (Jacqueline Toboni) is an exec assistant and producer Sophie Suarez (Rosanny Zayas) is part of Alice’s TV crew along.
Dani Nùñez (Arienne Mandi) is a PR rep for her father’s big pharma group, challenged by the ethics of Bette who refuses a political donation, but who is also unaccepted by her father.
There’s also a queer subplot involving housemate Micah (Leo Sheng) and his crush on a Latino caretaker.
Writer Marja-Lewis Ryan (The Four-Faced Liar, 6 Balloons) guides us effortlessly through this new / familiar hybrid like an LA breeze, retaining is trademark sassiness, humour and sex appeal. Visually it is also rich and inviting (they had no drones a decade ago!), capitalising much more on exteriors and adding hints of a #metoo moment.
Sure, The L Word is -and was- pure melodrama from a lesbian perspective, and by episode two it settles into standard genre territory. But it’s hard to ignore the glowing strength of Beals, Hailey & Moennig. I wish Tales of the City had been this engaging given it was also a comeback from a groundbreaking blueprint.
Whether it’s generation X, Y or Z, everyone is proudly Q in this promising reboot.
The L Word: Generation Q airs Monday on Stan.