January 16, 2013

IconWhy Lip Service is worth saving

Despite a well-intentioned attempt to petition the BBC to save the series, fans were left disappointed this weekend when it was announced that Glasgow-set lesbian drama Lip Service had been cancelled.

Don't worry Cat, your character was killed off anyway

BBC3′s budget cuts meant its future was always going to be a bit uncertain, particularly as it was announced in April that fellow BBC3 drama The Fades had been axed despite strong viewing figures.

I reviewed both series of Lip Service, firstly on my own website, then for Lesbilicious. At first I thought it was terrible. The characterization was flat and central couple Cat and Frankie were a terrible match with virtually no chemistry whatsoever.

Their ‘climactic’ sex scene at the end of series one was like watching a whippet attempt to mate with a dead swan, all obscene buttock clenching, jutting bones and pale flesh. I vowed I’d never watch it again, despite the fact it was the only lesbian drama on UK TV.

However, when I was asked to review series two for Lesbilicious I went back on my vow, girded my loins and prepared to take one for the team (so to speak). Then, something strange happened…

I started to enjoy it.

Sadie: everyone’s favourite love child of Holly from Red Dwarf and a Cockney barrow boy.

Not at first, of course. The addition of faux butch footballing characters called Fin, Tigger, Badger, Pooh and Piglet (ok, I may have made a few of those up) was poor to say the least.

The first series of Lip Service had been crying out for some boyish totty, but Glasgow isn’t West Hollywood and the (largely English) cast were so skinny and femme they look like they’d escaped from a Boots ‘Here Come The Girls’ advert. They were representative of precisely 1% of the UK lesbian community, and approximately 0% of Glaswegians.

However, although welcome in theory, Tigger and the rest of the bois were the worst bunch of stereotypes I’ve encountered outside a Julie Birchill column. They were football watching, lager guzzling dullards who looked like they’d escaped from the Top Gear studio audience.

Thankfully Fin and her cohorts were quickly sent packing by Tess, and although no other butch characters emerged to fill the gap they left we were content with the utterly fantastic Sadie (Natasha O’Keeffe). Yes, it turned out that what Lip Service really needed was a gravel-voiced, cockney Cleopatra lookalike with a penchant for petty theft and noisy sex.

What it also needed was a bit of cast pruning, notably Cat and Frankie. Cat was pruned by a speeding Vauxhall Corsa in a scene that saw Lip Service temporarily morph into an episode of Casualty, complete with unpleasant, bone crunching sound effects.

Of course, Frankie couldn’t stick around after losing her ‘soulmate’ so she packed and headed off to New York. This left new characters Sadie and Australian doctor Lexy (Anna Skellern) free to grow and expand without being constantly put off their stride by a moping skeleton who looked like the ghost of Princess Diana.

It's entirely a coincidence that her name rhymes with sexy

Dr Lexy really was fantastic. Funny, charming and sexy, she gave Tess (one of the few original characters who were actually entertaining) someone to moon over, while in turn Lexy mooned over the recently bereaved Sam, aka the thinking women’s crumpet, Heather Peace.

This fun, gossipy love triangle gave the second half of series two a great hook. At the same time, the programme stopped taking itself too seriously and suddenly became genuinely funny, at least in part due to another new character: Tess’s bitter, divorced actor colleague Hugh who was so amusing he deserves his own spin off.

I was genuinely sad when series two came to an end, and I’m equally sad to hear there won’t be a series three. It’s a real shame to kill off Lip Service just as it had started to find its feet and display real potential. Also, lesbian dramas are very thin on the ground at the moment. Nothing has really emerged to fill the void left by The L Word and the excellent Sugar Rush is now a distant memory.

There’s a small chance that another channel might wake up, smell the coffee and take it off the BBC’s hands. After all, it worked for Big Brother. So let’s keep those petitions coming and in the meantime, here’s a picture of Anna Skellern at the British Independent Film Awards to keep you going.

5 Responses to Why Lip Service is worth saving

  1. Lucretialive says:

    Loved this article, especially the humour, it made me laugh out loud in places e.g. “Frankie… a moping skeleton who looked like the ghost of Princess Diana.”
    That was a big ROFL moment for me!
    I too found the series irritating in places but with so little lesbian content on the box I would happily enjoy a third season of incidental irritation from the Lip Service lassies!
    So yes, let’s hope that someone at another channel will wake up and smell the succes this series has to offer.

    • Hilary says:

      Thanks very much! Glad you liked it. Maybe we should club together and create a new TV channel and then buy it from the BBC? …or we could just, y’know, write a new version that’s better.

  2. Stanners says:

    Brilliant one liners in there! Loved the Princess Diana gag. I couldn’t agree more with what you said. I wrote it off after the first series then randomly streamed the second series online and started to enjoy it ( I noticed that I started enjoying it more when Lexy arrived ;-) ). I thought Cat’s death was classic. We don’t fuck around us Brit’s do we when it comes to death! Unlike the glamour of Dana’s departure in The L Word and the sprinkling of the ashes in the waterfall and the American cheese etc, god Im starting to cringe as Im writing this. BOOM! See ya Cat! Brilliant. I was actually shocked when I saw it which surprised me as I had engaged with the characters more than I had realised……that or maybe I had started to fancy her.
    It really was starting to find its feet and its a shame that they have pulled it as we just don’t have enough lesbians on the telly……Oh well I think I will go drown my sorrows and go watch an episode of The L Word (Carmen era)

  3. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Until there are more lesbians in positions of power in studios, networks etc it will remain an uphill battle for us to enjoy representative entertainment …let alone quality lesbian entertainment.

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