“The L Word” Reboot: Lots of Bette, Shane and Alice, a “Little Browner and a Little Less Cis”

It’s all happening: Showtime has announced its eight-episode reboot of The L Word and Ilene Chaiken has spoken and now Lesley Goldberg at The Hollywood Reporter has sat down with new showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan for her very first interview about the show. It’s a long one! Lots of details! But still lots of mystery!

Just for one example, in terms of mystery, both Goldbeg and Ryan seem to be operating under the incorrect impression that “nobody liked Jenny,” a theory that has been challenged repeatedly by this very human on this very website! But that’s not the main thing; what Ryan seems to want to get across most to her new audience is that she grew up watching the original show, just like the rest of us, and she understands what made it great and also that it needs to be “a little browner and a little less cis” (and with trans actors playing trans characters). That’s very good news, and she backs it up by noting that she started her search for writers by reaching out to Lena Waithe and then name-checked Vida, one of the absolute best queer shows on TV last year, and one whose cast and writers room were made up entirely of Latinx folks. (And also, to be honest, the first show to ever really challenge The L Word in terms of very, very sexy lesbian sex on-screen.)

There were a couple of things that really surprised me about this interview: 1) That people are still treating Jenny this way! 2) That Ryan is hoping Jennifer Beals, Leisha Hailey, and Kate Moennig will be in all eight episodes. I had assumed they’d be in one or two at most, to introduce us to the new cast, and then be on their way. 3) That the writers room will be made up of all LGBTQ writers, with one exception: Ryan’s longtime assistant. 4) That Ryan is hoping to get back to the show’s season one fun and soapy roots — “the feeling of that good cringe” — which is a relief. And 5) That Ryan might actually solve the murder mystery season six was built around, even though Ilene Chaiken herself doesn’t know whodunit.

Besides the answers to those burning questions, Ryan talks about how she moved cross-country in her early 20s to live inside IRL TLW and try her hand at becoming Bette Porter, after realizing how impossible it is to be an actual Shane. She’s got a wife and a baby on the way, so she’s kind of doing it! And she chats about how she got this job, her first meeting with Chaiken and subsequent meetings with Beals and Hailey and Moennig, and what she thinks those characters might be up to ten years after they were all arrested for killing Jenny in the series finale.

You can read the whole interview at The Hollywood Reporter. (Also, Marja, if you’re reading this: Call Riese!)

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle managing editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 890 articles for us.

24 Comments

  1. Any chance we might get actual butch / stud / masc of center characters that aren’t total caricatures? Just seeing that promo shoot where everyone is super femmed up (even Shane) and you know that was done for the straights.

    Basically just bring back Tasha 😭❤️

      • Meeee toooooo. What is it about this frequent trope that “butch = conservative” in some ways?

        Like, I am pretty damn butch, I like femme-ish women, but no, I do not want the little woman in the kitchen (actually I do most of the cooking), I do NOT want to get married, I am not monogamous, I am kinky, I don’t get jealous, I’m very feminist, I like cocktails (and beer and wine), I’m very left-wing politically, I don’t like watching sports, I don’t want to join the military or police force, I like being fucked (it’s good to give AND receive), I have a moderately-high voice and I speak “nicely”, I don’t need to control my girlfriends or get all angsty if they actually have a life and friends, I don’t like metal or MOR rock or country, I have zero negative feelings about bisexuality or transguys, etc etc etc.

        (OK, I like to fix my 40-year old car, my hair is shorter than most men’s, I ONLY wear pants, I work in IT, I’m toppy, I swear a LOT, and I’m shit at talking about emotional stuff.)

        So yes, another vote for a cool, well-dressed, good-looking (but not in a girly way, ever), butchy person, please.

  2. This bothered me, like, a lot:
    “In terms of what I didn’t like, I don’t think anyone at the time knew any better than to cast a cis person to play a trans person and that that wasn’t good and didn’t send the right message. I felt weird about it but I didn’t have any words to describe how I felt and I didn’t have a solution for it, either. It wasn’t like I was like, “Why didn’t they just cast a trans person?” We didn’t have that word.”

    “We didn’t have that word”? Are you fucking serious? We did have that word. I’m just sick of people saying “But how could we have KNOWN????” That’s flat-out bullshit. We can change things now without trying to say that their “ignorance” (and I’m not convinced that it was ignorance) was okay. Trans folks were around then. Trans activists were around then. The way that show treated trans folks, bisexual folks, people of color, any other type of queerness was atrocious. And yes, people knew and were talking about the problem.

  3. I and every lesbian/bi/cis het/fluid human being that I’ve known knon (the number though not large is sizeable) hated Jenny’s character from at least season 4 to the very last nanosecond of the show.

    I’m excited to see what they’re going to do but I’m also keeping my expectations low.

    • honestly, part of me 100% understands the argument in defense of Jenny because I felt for her so much starting out (and honestly LOVED all of her quotable feminist rants) but then they turned her into this cruel, conniving, horrible person. people talk about 6th season Jenny being awful but 5th season Jenny was actually unbearable for me. I get that she had an extremely traumatic childhood and had been severely let down many times thereafter but they turned her into a one-dimensional fucking monster.

      rant aside, I’m excited for the revival. 😂

  4. honestly, part of me 100% understands the argument in defense of Jenny because I felt for her so much starting out (and honestly LOVED all of her quotable feminist rants) but then they turned her into this cruel, conniving, horrible person. people talk about 6th season Jenny being awful but 5th season Jenny was actually unbearable for me. I get that she had an extremely traumatic childhood and had been severely let down many times thereafter but they turned her into a one-dimensional fucking monster.

    rant aside, I’m excited for the revival. 😂

    • Very much this. I rememeber watching seasons 3 and kept seeing a West Asian sounding ame and I was like which actress is Middle Eastern? When I found out Carmen is Persian(with some traces to royalty) that bothered me as they could have really showed a lesser known community in L.A. But, also they couldn’t get a Latinx to play Latinx woman? Also, didn’t find out that Papi wasn’t Asian until reading this site. We are not interchangeable.

  5. I’m sure I’ll be tuning in religiously— all the while loving, laughing and lamenting it all.

    I’m glad the show is moving to Silverlake. I hope it looks more like the LA I love, creative, and curious.

    My expectations are low for the show itself, but it will be nice to have an ensemble soap about queer women to fuel conversations.

  6. I watched The L Word for the first time this past fall and was quickly annoyed with the character of Jenny. She seemed like an interesting character in the pilot and then she got more and more irritating as the season went on and as soon as she said “sweetmeats” I was done. Her character was then rebooted every season to a different version of awful. I was so relieved when I started looking things up online and discovered that there was a consensus that Jenny was awful. Up until that point I’d thought she just rubbed me the wrong way, personally. So then I finish the series (almost 10 years after it finished airing) and want to commiserate with people about Jenny and how terrible the last season was, and turned to Autostraddle…to find that the senior staff all like Jenny! So many feelings! Such whiplash! (I’m being dramatic. You all are, of course, welcome to your own opinions.)

    And if you want to make the argument that Jenny wasn’t treated fairly by the writers then I’m with you. The way her character was rebooted every season was ridiculous and she wasn’t allowed to have any real character development. I just didn’t love the character enough that I’m willing to wave all that away with “oh it was just bad writing” like I am for other characters.

    • I honestly couldn’t relate more. The writers ruined her, like they did most other storylines and characters. I will most definitely still watch the revival though because I just have to have faith in the new writers/showrunner and seriously hope it’ll pan out 😁

  7. I am. SO PUMPED. for all of this.

    But also:

    JUSTICE FOR JENNY!! She was character-assassinated by the writers in Season 5 and she didn’t deserve it. If this reboot gives little winks and nods and inside-jokes to the idea of Jenny being an inherent monster, I will be pissed beyond all reason.

  8. I hate this show with a passion. Skinny, rich, vapid, boring white girls… and bonus, all these years later we still don’t have a mainstream hit show besides violent (albeit funny) prison sex, and the decision is to retool this in lieu of writing a new show that’s actually more real – by making it “a LITTLE” more brown? Way to leap into 1985, Showtime.

    Really, does nobody here remember that the only reason anybody watched the L Word was because nothing else was on that involved girls (although mostly straight) getting it on?

    In the skinny white girl category of lesbian show, at least the UK’s Lip Service was a million times better.

    Also, surprised nobody has mentioned the show, The Real L World, which was as a reality show, at least marginally better, and featuring actually gay-spectrum ladies.

    If the best thing I have to look forward to this year is Jennifer Beals pretending to be gay and awkwardly revenge-fingering her equally grating pretend-gay wife Tina (with her long fingernails no less), and simply knowing bi stereotype psychopath Jenny is dead and gone… I would rather go back to pining after straight characters on better shows. Do we not deserve better after all this time? The L Word was behind its time when it was out way back when.

    Having said that, I did appreciate Kate Moennig, Janina Gavankar, Sarah Shahi, and Rose Rollins for bringing what they did, with what little they had to work with.

    I guess I had to be the voice of dissent… because I felt less represented in that supposed show about gay women, than I do on most straight shows that never mention gay women at all. I just feel like the bar for lesbian TV/movie writing is set soooo low. Everyone is so happy to see girls on TV, they don’t even care that the characters are so irritating they make you want to gauge your eyes out.

    Please, please, Showtime, prove me wrong. Make a likeable show, with good writing and acting, and characters resembling people I’ve actually met before in life. Or go ahead and make Queerly Hills 9021-blow again. Maybe Shannon Doherty and Luke Perry are free.

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