By Nicholas Fonseca
Updated January 08, 2007 at 09:43 PM EST
The L Word: Everett Collection

Isn’t it a trip when you suddenly realize that one of your favorite TV shows has gone and grown up without your permission? I hunkered down onto my couch last night to watch the season premiere of The L Word and found myself gaping wildly — not so much at Katherine Moennig’s scarily skinny body — but at the fact that we’ve already reached year 4 of Showtime’s maddening lesbian drama.

I say “maddening” because, well, that’s part of the bargain we L Word fans have made since the show’s lush, groundbreaking premiere in January 2004. I shuddered at Queer as Folk, but oh, how I’ve grown to love creator Ilene Chaiken’s take on L.A. lesbian life in the new millennium, even if the past two seasons suffered from a raft of idiotic storylines (Mark’s hidden-camera antics, the ludicrous Carmen/Shane wedding, Angelica’s kidnapping, Max’s testosterone-fueled temper tantrums, Jenny and the paper dollies) that nearly derailed the show and alienated a sizable chunk of fans.

Based on last night’s premiere, though, we’re slithering back toward the frisky, creative chutzpah of the show’s inaugural season. I’m saving my thoughts on the Bette/Tina feud for another posting because I want to use this space today to posit a theory. I believe The L Word lives and dies by three characters: Alice, Crazy Jenny, and Shane. And I’m hopeful for Season 4 because last night, each of them shone in new story lines that will propel them in new directions. (In Jenny’s case, may the road lead directly back to complete and total psychosis. Amen.) Let’s start with Alice, whose infamous “chart” has been given a fresh, tech-y update; it’s become some sort of online portal where lesbians showcase for the entire online world every single one of their hookups. And she’s after a stranger named Papi (can’t understand why she keeps pronouncing it “Pappy,” but I’ll let it go for now) who has more than 1,350 sexual partners to her credit. It’s cute, but… spare me, ladies. Nobody’s denying that past flings often become “friends” on MySpace and Friendster, but most of us here in the civilized world do prefer to keep things on the d.l., don’t we? Am I being a prude, or is the entire notion of a website loudly broadcasting to the world whom you’ve slept with a wee bit preposterous?

addCredit(“The L Word: Everett Collection”)

Crazy Jenny (love you, Mia Kirshner, pictured)is primed for another historic blowout now that she’s written a bookand can’t stop reading her own reviews. (Wasn’t the pointless return ofMarina and her fedora made all the better when Crazy Jenny turned downthat threesome — ALL BECAUSE SHE HAD TO GO WAIT FOR HER NEW YORK TIMESREVIEW TO BE POSTED ONLINE?! Oh, Ilene Chaiken, you know writers sowell.) And after ditching Carmen at the altar last season, Shane threwa pity party by blowing lines with Cherie Jaffe and driving drunkthrough LA until she crashed her car. This, friends, is the Shane weall know and love; this, friends, is the Shane I’m hoping will findpeace and clarity now that she’s been charged with raising her younghalf-brother. After three years of watching her fumble for somenormalcy, I’m starting to feel for the girl.

This wouldn’t be The L Word if a scene or two didn’t leaveme yelling, “Oh, come ON!” at the TV screen. It happens each week whenthe atonal theme song finishes, and last night, it happened again whenKit encountered some anti-choice nutjobs at the abortion clinic whereshe had enrolled as a patient. (Sidebar: Still can’t bring myself togive a whiff about Kit and Angus.) This overdone, shrill scene — inwhich a protestor entered her room and tried to talk her out ofterminating her pregnancy — had a false, contrived air, and it playedinto the very worst of The L Word‘s with-us-or-against-ustendencies. I don’t deny that this kind of thing happens; I do denythat it would happen in what’s presumably West Hollywood, or that Kitwouldn’t have done better research before choosing a clinic. Thiswasn’t about making a statement. It was all about making a scene.

What do you think? Was Kit’s abortion-clinic encounter realistic? WillJenny’s book be a triumph or a failure? Is Shane ready to raise herbrother? And will Alice ever learn to pronounce Papi’s name correctly?Get the L on with it and start talking back!