January 16, 2013
Why 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.
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.
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.
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.
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