"In some ways it’s probably a good thing that Showtime’s revival of The L Word, now called The L Word: Generation Q, doesn’t feel as radical as the original series," says Kathryn VanArendonk. "The L Word always had blind spots; its depiction of queer women in Los Angeles was always soapy and overblown. But in its original outing, the soapy over-the-topness was its own form of radicalism. It was a way to assert that every person has the right to sexual dramas so baroque that they require careful graph-keeping, that people from all sexual orientations should have the same chance to participate in arcane and tragic murder coverups, and that hilarious interruptions and horrible betrayals can happen during graphic sexual acts between same-sex couples too. While that representation was far from enough when the show first premiered in 2004, it was still something. Maybe the fact that Generation Q, which premieres on Sunday, feels drained of that soapy radicalism says something counterintuitively good about the world. It is no longer daring in itself to tell a story about a group of queer characters, even with a cast like Generation Q’s, which includes more trans people and more people of color than the original L Word ever did. TV still hasn’t grown enough, of course, but in 2004, Generation Q’s opening scene would’ve come with a frisson of surprise at its directness."
The L Word: Generation Q fills in The L Word's blind spots: "By the two-minute mark of the first episode of The L Word: Generation Q, the reboot of the pioneering queer Showtime series has already shown two things the original never did: menstrual blood and a main character with armpit hair," says Catherine Cauterucci. "If you’re unacquainted with the 15 years’ worth of discourse The L Word has accumulated since its premiere in 2004, this may not seem particularly groundbreaking. But those of us who have a close and personal relationship with the original Ilene Chaiken series know that it was rightly faulted for portraying lesbian sex as a predominantly femme-on-femme, palatable-to-men endeavor. To me, Generation Q’s opening-scene period sex and the healthy tufts under actor Jacqueline Toboni’s arms read as a statement from new showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan: Don’t expect more of the same."
Generation Q trades in the original series’ propulsive soapiness for a more straightforward sincerity: "It follows not just a single group of lesbian friends, but two generations of queer people talking, laughing, loving, breathing, fighting, f–ing, crying, drinking, riding, winning, losing, cheating, kissing, thinking, dreaming in Los Angeles," says Caroline Framke. "(And yes, it was actually shot in Los Angeles rather than Vancouver, a fact that Generation Q flaunts with sun-dappled shots of Silver Lake that betray a far higher budget than the first series likely ever had.)"
Generation Q doesn't need to be must-see lesbian TV: "Compared to when the original L Word was airing, there are many more LGBTQ characters on all kinds of different TV shows," says Tracy Brown, adding. "In a way, this means Generation Q can be held to a higher standard than its predecessor, because there are so many alternatives. It also means the show doesn’t have to shoulder the undue burden of trying to represent all queer women, because it isn’t alone."
Generation Q successfully adapts The L Word to 2019: "The L Word: Generation Q had a lot to do," says Rebecca Nicholson. "It had to ensure it did not repeat the missteps of the original, while maintaining its spirit; it had to stand out in an age where gay storylines are not quite so scarce; and it had to be better than its 'graphic novel spinoff'-esque new title suggested it might be. It is all done of those things, with flair. It felt more joyful to have it back than I could possibly have imagined. It is popcorn fun, highly entertaining, rarely taking itself too seriously. I think the key to any renewed success will be that it has not lost its exuberant edge."
Fortunately, much of Generation Q isn’t as disappointing as first suspected: The revival understands that "it needs to react to the world in 2019 rather than trying to recapture former glory," says Pilot Viruet. "This is apparent right out of the gate: the series opens with two lesbians of color having bloody period sex—Generation Q certainly has its sights set on being low-key revolutionary as well."
The L Word: Generation Q still has a blind spot when it comes to money and class: "Over all, the cast now better reflects Los Angeles’s ethnic and gender diversity, which may be why the word 'relatable' came up a couple of times in a recent New York Times feature about the new show," says Elisabeth Vincentelli. "This relatable is debatable, though, considering that the characters are conventionally attractive and range from comfortable to wealthy. As a poorly paid production assistant — yes, on Alice’s show — the 20-something Finley (Jacqueline Toboni) is the lowest on the income totem pole. But Finley’s financial predicament is relative in terms of actual hardship and access to power, and she wastes no time moving into Shane’s new mansion in the hills."