Leather vests at the ready! The L Word is coming back

The L Word.
Ahead of its time … The L Word. Photograph: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

When The L Word first appeared in 2004, it was entirely new and different. LGBT stories on television had mostly been subplots up to this point, hungrily consumed by an audience of people desperate for any scraps of representation, but The L Word was all about them. It took what Queer As Folk did for gay men in Manchester and applied it to absurdly glamorous women in Los Angeles. It was soapy, explicit, entertaining and, at times, as infuriating as the season-two-onwards theme tune. By the time it saw out its sixth and final season in 2009, you got the sense it had reached the end of the line, having taken the bizarre decision to bump off Jenny and coast off into the sunset on a whodunnit plot.

However, 13 years after its debut, The L Word is ready to return. A sequel is in the works at Showtime, with original showrunner Ilene Chaiken (who has since been busy with Empire and The Handmaid’s Tale) back on board as an executive producer, along with original cast members Jennifer Beals (Bette), Katherine Moennig (Shane) and Leisha Hailey (Alice). The idea is that the three would appear in the reboot, and their characters would act as a “connection” to a new generation of women. Sort of like Saved By the Bell: the College Years, only with more conversations about whether it’s ok to sleep with all of your friends or not.

The L Word took what Queer As Folk did for gay men in Manchester and applied it to absurdly glamorous women in Los Angeles.
The L Word took what Queer As Folk did for gay men in Manchester and applied it to absurdly glamorous women in Los Angeles. Photograph: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

Frankly, I can’t wait. If anything, its cult status has only grown since it disappeared from the air. A friend recently had an L Word-themed dinner party, with fedoras on hand for those who had not managed to track down Bette-style shoulder pads or a Shane-esque leather vest. Its frequent diversions into shlockiness were greeted with eye rolls at the time, but they’ve aged well; on rewatching, they seem camp-trashy rather than bad-trashy. Jenny’s short stories told in breathless voiceover and flashback, the entire season where they made a movie version of their own lives, the turf war between The Planet and She Bar – all were preposterous and ridiculously fun. I hold a particular fondness for the part where Bette and Kit said a tearful farewell to their dying father, a moment cut with scenes of their friends watching Peaches perform a song about threesomes.

The L Word.
Cult status and crimes against asymmetric hair … The L Word. Photograph: Showtime/Everett/Rex Features

But an astonishing amount has changed in the last decade, and if it has any chance of seeming relevant or even revolutionary again, it has much to catch up on. In 2015, a YouGov poll suggested that the number of young Brits who identify as exclusively heterosexual is now just 46%. As Shane says in the very first episode of The L Word, sexuality is fluid; it’s just that now, more people are embracing that than ever before. Same-sex marriage is legal in many parts of the west, so there would be no more running off to Vermont to tie the knot. If these stories are more mainstream, how will The L Word stand out? Now that lesbian bars are all but extinct, has The Planet survived? If Bette thought the Christian right were bad when they picketed her art show, how will the women exist under the Trump administration? How is it going to incorporate apps, which have changed the dating landscape beyond recognition? (Perhaps in the sequel, Alice’s dot com dabbling will have turned The Chart into a hook-up money-maker.)

While ahead of its time, the show also covered plenty of “issues” in a perplexingly anachronistic way. Max, the trans character, was a clunky addition, and much of the dialogue around gender – there’s no mention of non-binary identification, for example – seems like the product of an era very far away from now. Lothario Papi was a one-note stereotype; even fan-favourite Carmen was criticised for being a cliche (and despite playing Latina characters, neither actor was Latina). In many respects, this is why the prospect of a revival is promising: it couldn’t possibly retread the same ground, not least because the majority of the cast would be arrested for crimes against asymmetrical hair.

Mind you, it could never be the same anyway. Some reports have cruelly suggested that we might see the return of tennis player Dana, who was unceremoniously killed off in season three by an aggressive form of breast cancer. Chaiken has recently expressed regret at that decision, but still, it would be tricky to bring her back, unless everything after season two was a dream. That would mean no Lez Girls, no Peggy Peabody’s secret lesbian past, no chance to see the gravity-defying evolution of Shane’s hair. Still, Dana or no Dana, I’m thrilled we may get to see the old gang back together again.