Groundbreaking lesbian show poised to make comeback

 It has been a decade — International Women’s Day 2009, to be exact — since the final episode of “The L Word” aired on Showtime. Throughout six seasons, the groundbreaking series was the first to ever center lesbian and bisexual women.

And after 10 long, lesbian-less years, “The L Word” is coming back. 

Show creator Ilene Chaiken, now an executive producer on Fox’s “Empire” and a producer on “The Handmaid’s Tale,” changed the TV landscape with her drama about a group of West Hollywood women leading ordinary lives like, well, lesbians.

There’s never been a series like it before or since — which says something about where lesbians stand in the LGBTQ alphabet and the TV landscape. There have been quite a few series with lesbian characters in the decade post-”The L Word,” but there’s been an epidemic of lesbians killed off just as they find love. Literally dozens since “The L Word” ceased production. 

The one long-term lesbian presence was the doctor duo of Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), a fixture on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” But when the couple broke up after nine years, Capshaw’s character had a fling, but both actresses eventually left the series.  (Ramirez currently plays a butch-presenting non-binary character on CBS’ “Madam Secretary.”)

Showtime, which aired the original series, has announced “The L Word” is coming back, thanks to Chaiken shoving that envelope again. Call it a revival, a reboot, a sequel … All you need to know is Bette (Jennifer Beals) and Shane (Katherine Moennig) and Alice (Leisha Hailey) will reprise their roles and there will be more lesbians, bisexuals and trans folks this time. The three principals and Chaiken will also executive-produce.

Creators expect the show to return by year’s end, possibly as early as summer.

Chaiken said it was time to bring the series back because, in Trump-land, we need lesbian images more than ever.

Showtime knew Chaiken couldn’t do it herself — she has an exclusive contract with Fox for “Empire” — but Chaiken said tha getting a younger showrunner who was still out in the dating world and living the lesbian/queer life would put a fresh stamp on the beloved series.

Marja Lewis Ryan, a lesbian actress, director, playwright and producer, was tapped as showrunner for the new “The L Word.” 

“Ilene [Chaiken] and the original ‘L Word’ made me believe that my voice mattered,” Ryan said in a published report. “I am beyond excited for the opportunity to usher in the next generation of diverse queer people. I couldn’t imagine a better time to make this show.”

Both Ryan and Chaiken intend to address critiques of the original series head-on: that “The L Word” was somewhat tone deaf on race and class issues, had some bi-phobic aspects and — like most series until very recently — did not cast trans actors in trans roles. 

Ryan, who is married and whose wife is about to have the couple’s first child, said she’s deeply invested in bringing “The L Word” to another generation of lesbians and queer women. She has pledged to make the series even more inclusive and diverse than the original.

Ryan said she “loved the original” and wants “The L Word” to be “something you love to watch” and that there’s “something compulsively watchable inside each episode.”

Ryan, now 33, said, “I was in my late teens when ‘The L Word’ came out — and it changed my life. I wouldn’t have been a writer if I didn’t know who Ilene Chaiken was. Knowing that I could write stories about lesbians made me become a writer.”

Just remember, before there was Stella from “Orange Is the New Black,” there was Shane from “The L Word.” And she’s coming back. 

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Victoria A. Brownworth is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, DAME, The Advocate, Bay Area Reporter and Curve among other publications. She was among the OUT 100 and is the author and editor of more than 20 books, including the Lambda Award-winning Coming Out of Cancer: Writings from the Lesbian Cancer Epidemic and Ordinary Mayhem: A Novel, and the award-winning From Where They Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth and Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life.