By Jillian A. Bogater
The ladies of “The L Word” are back with their most ambitious season to date.
After a prolonged two-year sophomore slump, the fourth season has managed to jumpstart itself.
Taking on issues including the Iraq War, biphobia, late-bloomers, heterosexual privilege, transgender identity, Deaf culture, and class and race relations, the series runs the risk of addressing too much at once. But the story arcs progress comfortably over the first six episodes, careful not to overwhelm fans with too much politicking.
This is a deliberate move by the writers.
“It’s always been the central premise of our show that … as we go on in our life, our circles overlap and we meet different kinds of people,” said Ilene Chaiken, show creator and executive producer, in a statement. “All those people who have asked me, ‘Why aren’t you representing us?’ I’ve often said, if we get to do ‘The L Word’ long enough, in all likelihood, we will get there because our lives and experiences will touch one another’s.”
As a result of the stepped-up plots, this season features several new characters, including married-but-coming-out-in-her-50s Phyllis Kroll, played by Cybill Shepherd, and Deaf artist-in-residence Jodi Lerner (Marlee Matlin). Jodi’s story is groundbreaking in that it showcases a lesbian relationship involving a Deaf woman.
“Audiences have never seen a Deaf woman and a hearing women in a relationship; it’s never been done on television before,” said Matlin, who won an Academy Award in her film debut for “Children of a Lesser God,” in a statement. “This is a very interesting storyline because this happens out there but it’s never been highlighted.”
Storylines involving new characters Papi (Janina Gavankar) and Tasha (Rose Rollins) skillfully introduce race and socio-economic issues, taking the series a step closer to overcoming its classist reputation.
Expect guest appearances from Cherie Jaffe (Rosanna Arquette) and the long-lost Marina (Karina Lombard), in addition to spots by Eric Roberts, Jessica Capshaw, Jane Lynch and Annabella Sciorra.
Season four picks up moments after the season finale.
Bette Porter (Jennifer Beales) has fled a friend’s wedding with her baby, Angelica. Bette’s ex, Tina Kennard (Laurel Holloman), is hysterical and threatening to call Canadian authorities.
All the while, Shane (Kate Moennig) is missing after leaving her wife-to-be Carmen at the altar.
After everyone arrives back in Los Angeles, Jenny (Mia Kirshner) continues on her self-absorbed, bad prose tour with a book signing for “The Sum of Me.” While this season does not appear to involve pig masks or freaky carnival scenes, it does find Jenny more unlikable than ever.
Alice (Leisha Hailey) struggles to move on after the death last season of her girlfriend, Dana, and is dazzled as a Web version of “The Chart” takes off. It is through the electronic “who-slept-with-who” that Alice befriends Papi, a female lothario who puts Shane’s sex antics to shame.
Season four also finds Helena (Rachel Shelley) facing financial hardship. This “riches-to-rags” storyline provides some of the funniest moments, as Alice coaches Helena on how to pinch pennies.
“L Word” fans, perhaps, are among the most long-suffering viewers in TV-land. By all accounts, it appears the fourth season makes the nine-month drought well worth the wait.
“The L Word”
Season four premiere
10 p.m. Jan 7
Human Rights Campaign
“The L Word” premiere party
5 p.m. Jan 7
Soho in Ferndale
Suggested donation of $5
All guests will receive an advanced copy of episode two on DVD