The premium cable network used its time Thursday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour to announce that the revival of the groundbreaking lesbian-focused drama is moving forward with an eight-episode series order. The series is expected to premiere before year’s end.
Playwright and screenwriter Marja-Lewis Ryan will serve as showrunner and executive produce alongside original series creator Ilene Chaiken. Stars Jennifer Beals (Bette), Katherine Moennig (Shane) and Leisha Hailey (Alice) are also on board to exec produce and will reprise their roles from the original series while also introducing a new ensemble of self-possessed LGBTQIA characters experiencing love, heartbreak, sex, setbacks and success on the east side of Los Angeles. The reboot, first announced in July 2017, arrives nearly 10 years after the original show wrapped its six-season run and is considered a sequel. Lewis-Ryan was selected following an extensive search for a writer with ties to the LGBTQ community to document how relationships, lives and experiences have evolved — as well as what has and hasn’t changed since the show launched in 2004. Other characters from the original — which included fan favorite Erin Daniels (Dana), Laurel Holloman (Tina), Mia Kirshner (Jenny), Sarah Shahi (Carmen) and Pam Grier (Kit) — may appear in a potential new version.
Chaiken, who remains under an overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television, exec produces Fox’s hip-hop drama Empire and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale after writing the original draft for Showtime, which passed on the Emmy-winning drama.
The L Word bowed on Showtime in 2004, a year before the pay cabler’s Queer as Folk concluded its five-season run. At the time, both series were hailed for their groundbreaking portrayal of the gay and lesbian community. Queer as Folk and The L Word were the first U.S. dramas to revolve around the lives of gay men and lesbians, respectively. A new take on Queer as Folk — based on the Canadian series that inspired the Showtime drama — is currently in development at Bravo. Both shows continue to be hailed for their realistic portrayal of the communities, and they helped provide representation on television that inspired a new generation to come out. The success of both series ushered in a new era of LGBT visibility on the small screen that helped pave the way for such shows as Will & Grace, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Looking and The New Normal, among others.
Set in the gay mecca of West Hollywood, The L Word earned multiple GLAAD Awards, as well as NAACP Image Award nominations for Beals and Grier. The series kicked off with Jenny’s arrival and followed her friendships with a group that included married couple Bette and Tina as well as their friends Shane, Dana and Alice. During its run, the drama included storylines about equality, legal marriage and benefits, and HIV/AIDS, as well as a transgender storyline that saw Daniela Sea’s Moira transition to Max in an era well before Amazon’s breakout Transparent.
The L Word sequel comes years after Showtime developed and ultimately passed on a spinoff, the prison-set The Farm starring Hailey. Since then, network topper David Nevins revived the franchise as a racy docuseries, The Real L Word — which ran for three seasons — and then a one-off documentary.
The L Word sequel comes as Showtime is also reviving Penny Dreadful with a new take — City of Angels — from series creator John Logan. The cabler is set to part ways this year with flagship drama Homeland. Its scripted roster includes Ray Donovan (with Moennig), Billions, The Chi, Shameless, Kidding, SMILF, Black Monday and the upcoming Halo and City on a Hill, among others.