‘The L Word: Generation Q’ Review: New Vision, Old Blind Spots

Back when the lesbians of “The L Word” first roamed Los Angeles, they had to travel to Canada to wed — or to be dumped at the altar, as it happened.

Now that the show is back, 10 years after its original six-season run ended, the nationwide legality of gay marriage means much easier access to stories about engagements, weddings and divorces.

It’s a changed world out there, and the series’s sequel — whose title bears the more inclusive appendage “Generation Q,” for queer — does it darnedest to reflect it.

Back in the 2000s, for instance, the transgender character Max was depicted as miserable and an object of ridicule. “The L Word: Generation Q,” which premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. on Showtime, is comfortable in a world where announcing your personal pronouns has become routine for many, and where a series like “Pose” is an Emmy favorite.

But just as important — maybe even more important when it comes to the “L Word” DNA — is what has not changed: By the middle of the first episode, a half-dozen plots have already been hatched, some of them promising to be as far-fetched as we need them to be. Happily, the new showrunner, Marja-Lewis Ryan, is sticking with the common-sense-defying soap opera antics that made the original series a love-hate phenomenon that fans derided while obsessing over it. (This may be what happens when a long-neglected demographic finally sees itself on television, as musical-theater folks who loved to mock “Smash” can attest.)

Based on the three episodes made available in advance to journalists, “Generation Q” both follows in the first series’s footsteps and expands its scope.

The three returning cast members start off in fairly exalted positions, having spent their decade away from our screens working their way up the social ladder.

The power lesbian Bette (Jennifer Beals) is campaigning to become the first female and first gay mayor of Los Angeles after heading its department of cultural affairs. She has sole custody of her daughter, Angelica (Jordan Hull), now a headstrong teenager, and she hates anything having to do with opioids for reasons that are sure to be painfully personal.

Best of all, Bette still gets classic Bette lines: “It’s incredible, right?” she says, looking mistily at a painting hanging at her office. “Judy Chicago loaned it to me.”

The Lothariette hairdresser Shane (Katherine Moennig) is first seen returning to Los Angeles on a private jet, her bank account fatter but her mood uncharacteristically forlorn. As for the goofy spark plug Alice (Leisha Hailey), she now hosts an “Ellen”-like television talk show while playing reluctant stepmom to the children of her new girlfriend (Stephanie Allynne); she also brokers a peace agreement between the former spouses, because how could that possibly backfire?

The newcomers are grafted onto this central trio in a fairly organic manner — meaning that once again we find ourselves in a metropolis of approximately 30 inhabitants, all of them connected by sex, employment or both.

Among them are Dani (Arienne Mandi) and her live-in girlfriend, Sophie (Rosanny Zayas), who happens to work with Alice. Although Dani’s father runs a large company and she has the kind of job that requires stylishly tailored pantsuits, she and Sophie somehow have a roommate, Micah (Leo Sheng), a transgender man with an active, if fraught, dating life.

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.

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.

Admittedly, “The L Word” is an aspirational soap. Still, based on its first three episodes (of eight total), the new series has not adapted to every way in which the world has changed: We just don’t watch rich and powerful people like we used to. Now as before, the series focuses on the characters’ sentimental and sexual experiences. But it always stood on shaky, uncritical ground when it came to money and class, and “Generation Q” offers little progress in that regard — unlike, say, the Starz show “Vida,” in which sexual, ethnic and cultural identities are pointedly explored within the context of Los Angeles’s divisive gentrification issues.

Bette, thus far, remains the perfect distillation of that persisting disconnect. She has always been the show’s authority figure, the woman all others look up to, partly thanks to Beals’s dashing presence — a steel blade sheathed in velvet — and partly because the character is written that way. But she also exhibits fascinating hypocrisies, and the series never seems sure how to handle them. Bette toes the party line, be it lesbian, artistic or political, but she often does not put her money where her mouth is.

And where her mouth is can be a problem, too: When it comes to sex, Bette is an impulsive horndog and a cheater. A couple of early loaded glances indicate there is no reason to believe she has settled down.

Now that she’s in politics, her “do as I say, not as I do” attitude may come back to bite her. Or perhaps she will get away with everything once again. In either case, here’s hoping that the show will finally acknowledge Bette’s true nature, allowing this wolf in Armani clothing to be the glamorous villainess she was always meant to be.

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