The hot, smokin' lesbians are upon us—and it's about time. Showtime is rolling out The L Word, the female analog to the network's male-centered Queer as Folk. It's like HBO's Sex and the City, but this time it's the labia-lovers—not the mandhandlers—dishing over coffee and cocktails.

The L Word, which premieres Sunday, offers up the dramas of love, dating, friendship, career building and baby making that are grounded in the basic truths of the lesbian experience. Flashdancer Jennifer Beals headlines a sexy cast—sexy, I said, not the drunk straight chicks tonguing each other that are so popular in the mainstream media. Nor are they the stale and colorless lesbian stereotypes of the 1950s and '60s—when one lesbian donned masculine garb so she and her gal could pass in public as a straight couple. No, these are the mainstream, modern lesbians, the lesbians you see sauntering about town, rarely guessing they're wives of wives. Set in West Hollywood, The L Word introduces the new lesbian archetypes: the sophisticated art museum director (Beals), the baby-ready former development executive, the closeted tennis champ, the rocker girl Romeo-ette, the bi-girl fashion journalist, the exotic coffee shop owner and the cheatin', confused straight girl who gets way too caught up in the lesbo scene for her own good. There's the cute-as-pie Pam Grier, too, and guest appearances by Tammy Lynn Michaels (Melissa Etheridge's gal), Anne Archer, Ossie Davis and Julian Sands. Oh, and there's a really nice, cuckolded straight boyfriend, and a few gay men thrown in to add . . . well, not much, really. (Gay boys have certainly had their share of exposure, so they'll just have to politely sit this one out.) The only downside to this show is the hetero sex scenes, which make up almost 50 percent of all sex in the pilot. I've seen enough straight kissing and sex to last me 10 lifetimes. And when the lesbians are so much more interesting and their sex so much hotter, why bother with the breeders? The show's writers—who are mostly lesbos—seem to be tossing hetero crackers out to entice straight viewers, which is understandable, if really annoying. The more the merrier, I guess, but lesbians who are uninterested in seeing naked male ass can politely excuse themselves to fetch another martini. Still, homo girls, do not dismay: the gals in The L Word debunk hundreds of lesbian myths every 10 minutes, and do so intelligently and tenderly. And these chicks are a riot, chit-chatting about the gossipy girl stuff we really talk about: trimming for bush confidence, the lesbian-lover "six degrees of separation," broken gaydar, the "if your ring finger is longer than your index finger you're a lesbian" game, and female ejaculation. They also talk about literature and art, and deal with all the regular boring stuff that makes up a typical lesbian life—and which differs not one iota from their straight-girl counterparts. The L Word is the cream of the crop for lesbian-fiction portrayals. And when it comes to the way Americans view lesbians, this show will change everything—if people watch it. They should. Not only for a glimpse of lesbian reality, but, hell, there's some fine acting and writing going on as well. And I guarantee, any straight man who watches this show will never again fantasize about seeing his chick get it on with another woman. But you gotta watch at least once to know why. The L Word premieres on Showtime. Sun., 10 p.m.


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