There are more LGBTQ characters on television today than anyone could have imagined when “The L Word” premiered in 2005, so how is it possible that there’s only one show with a predominantly gay cast? While “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has unleashed jam-packed viewing parties and wild drag shows on gay bars across the country, gone are the days of the weekly lesbian potluck, when women gathered around the TV to visit their fantasy world of a lesbian-filled Los Angeles — one where straight people were the side characters for once.
Fire up the grill and get your quinoa salad recipes ready: “The L Word” might be returning to TV.
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According to reports from Variety, Showtime is developing a sequel to Ilene Chaiken’s wildly successful lesbian drama, which aired for five seasons from 2004-2009. While the series is not confirmed, many of the pieces are already in place if Showtime gives the green light. Insiders say Chaiken, the creator and an out-and-proud lesbian, approached Showtime with the idea herself. Chaiken has kept busy in the intervening years since the series has been off the air, acting as showrunner on Fox’s “Empire,” as well as executive producing Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Both shows indicate her particular skill for tapping into the zeitgeist while still providing good old-fashioned addictive television melodrama.
The sequel would feature a new cast of characters laughing, living, and loving in L.A., with key players from the original returning to guest star and produce. If greenlit, fan favorites Jennifer Beals, Leisha Hailey, and Kate Moennig would act as executive producers and appear as their characters as a way of connecting the two shows.
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Showtime is currently in the process of looking for a new writer, executive producer and showrunner who has ties to the lesbian community. According to Variety, the person would “bring a fresh perspective to the show by documenting how relationships and experiences have evolved today, and what has changed and hasn’t changed, since the show first aired.” In the hands of the right person, that sounds very promising.
While the quality of the show’s writing dropped off after Season 2, the series’ passionately devoted fanbase stayed with Chaiken until the bitter end — and it was indeed bitter. Chaiken is a polarizing figure amongst diehard fans of the show; at once beloved for the joy her creation wrought and vilified for often cruel and incomprehensible plot twists. (RIP Dana Fairbanks.)
Dana’s untimely death was all the more painful given television’s fondness for killing off lesbian. “The past few years have seen lesbian and queer women characters in television killed off in shockingly high numbers,” said GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis, who runs the leading media advocacy group for LGBTQ visibility. “It is refreshing and exciting to see GLAAD Media Award-winning ‘The L Word’ returning to television where it can tell nuanced, entertaining, and beautiful stories of a largely underrepresented community.”
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For Showtime, the benefits far outweigh the risks. Even if it’s not very good, the show’s integrity was already compromised by a shark-jumping whodunnit in the final season. The audience will almost certainly watch regardless. If it’s good, they could have a monster hit along the lines of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.” And Netflix also proved, with the success of its recent “Gilmore Girls” reboot, the power of nostalgia viewing.
As more and more high-quality shows make demands on our diminishing time and attention spans, it can be hard for viewers to know where to start. “The L Word” comes with a built-in and loyal fanbase (sometimes scarily so), and it’s one that has been sorely ignored for far too long.
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