tue 22/04/2014

Lip Service: Series Finale, BBC Three | TV reviews, news & interviews

Lip Service: Series Finale, BBC Three

Entertaining lesbian drama series deserves a second bite of the cherry

Ex-lovers: Frankie (Ruta Gedmintas) and Cat (Laura Fraser) get comfy on the sofa in 'Lip Service'

When The L Word, an American drama series following the interconnected lives of a group of lesbians in Los Angeles, first aired in 2004, much of the acres of coverage it attracted made disbelieving mention of the cast members’ attractiveness, which is an implicit suggestion that lesbians are more usually at the back of the queue when good looks are being given out. Rather irritatingly, Lip Service, a drama series following the interconnected lives etc etc... in Glasgow, and which was immediately dubbed "the British L Word", garnered some of the same responses when it first aired last month.

Borderline homophobic-looksist nonsense aside, the L Word/Lip Service comparison was, at least, reasonable to make because the British show’s main character, Frankie (Ruta Gedmintas), was a dead ringer for The L Word’s Shane, and in the opening episode was all asymmetric haircut, pouty looks and emotionless sexual encounters, just like the American bad girl. But by the last episode of Lip Service, which aired last night, the British series (created and co-written by Harriet Braun, a writer on the late, lamented Mistresses) was very much its own beast and had developed into a rather more complex and entertaining drama than that first hour promised, with sleekly edited multiple plotlines, some nicely drawn characterisations and a lot of sly humour. Oh, and some hot girl-on-girl action each week, just in case you were wondering whether to buy the DVD.

Lesbian romps (for, in the tabloid world, all lesbian sex scenes are romps) are all very well, vicar, but what defines a drama is its storylines. Braun clearly didn’t set out to make a hard-hitting drama (qv Mistresses), but has written something subtly political all the same; Lip Service could describe any group of individuals who interract in any social or work situation, but here most of them just happened to be gay. So we had an adoption mystery, a love triangle, a straight man who falls in love with his lesbian best friend, and another who cannot keep his pants on - the last of which produced possibly the best line of the series, as Frankie affectionately described Jay (Emun Elliott) as “a snatch hound”. And she should know...

Last night Braun tied up some loose ends, while throwing in a few surprises. The philandering Jay didn’t get to kiss and make up with his long-suffering fiancée (Cush Jumbo) and there wasn’t an ooh-ah moment as the lovable but ditzy out-of-work actress Tess (Fiona Button) decided she wasn’t gay after all and walked off into the sunset with lovelorn best mate Ed (James Anthony Pearson). Instead she got a lead role and hooked up with the fit neighbour she had been lusting after (Lisa Livingstone). But the ever present tension of the love triangle between ex-lovers Frankie and Cat and Cat’s new girlfriend Sam (Heather Peace) was played out to the final scenes - and Cat got a double helping of cream, as it were.

Over the course of the series' six hours, some of the content was lazy - Frankie, who supposedly grew up in Scotland, sported an English accent that was never explained - and some storylines were signalled a mile off, a case in point being the wicked uncle (Tom Mannion) who turned out to be Frankie’s father, while others popped up and then went nowhere (Cat’s boss being a homophobe, for instance).

Braun cleverly left a few storylines open for a possible second series, which I understand everyone involved with the show is keen to do

But despite occasional clunky writing, Lip Service had committed performances from a notably quality cast; Laura Fraser (recently seen in Single Father) was, as ever, superb, Peace was a nicely nuanced Sam and Button, while amusingly unconvincing as a lesbian, showed she is a fine comedic actress - as can be seen currently in An Ideal Husband in London’s West End. Gedmintas, meanwhile, just got better and better as the series developed, revealing Frankie’s vulnerabilities at just the right pace in a role that apparently half the young actresses in Spotlight auditioned for. The producers chose well.

Braun cleverly left a few storylines open for a possible second series, which I understand everyone involved with the show is keen to do. Lip Service has attracted a creditable 500,000-plus viewers each week, with minimal pre-publicity, and a further 1.5 million hits on iPlayer (and has been sold to HBO in the United States), but no announcement has yet been made about its future. At this point it’s worth mentioning Sharon Horgan and Dennis Kelly’s terrific (and in its own way, equally groundbreaking) Pulling, which the corporation also broadcast on BBC Three - where anything with adult content is rather prissily buried - not realising what a superbly written and performed comedy it was. It became a sleeper hit and won great critical acclaim (not to mention a Bafta nomination) but they pulled the plug after two series. Let’s hope the BBC have learnt a lesson.

In possibly the best line of the series Frankie affectionately described Jay as 'a snatch hound'. And she should know...

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Comments

Hi, I am from Serbia and i was bug fan of L word, but this series are GREAT and i LOVE IT. Please tell us that it will be next seasons. It was time that someone do some lesbians TV series except Americans. GREAT job and PLEASE go on... Love you Dasha
waiting for the second series...
I think there's definitely a resemblance with The L Word but the characters are more believable, closer to the real thing. Please make a second series (and a third!).
Laura Fraser was great and so was the series. Please tell us there is going to be more!
I want a second series!!!
I look forward to seeing more too! Is there going to be a second series???
Great!!! I look forward to seeing more!!!
I watched the first series thinking this might end up being a poor rip of the L Word. However & to my delight this was an awesome watch & became the 'must see TV' for me every week. I could go on about how I enjoyed seeing all the storylines develop, the tension between Frankie & Cat, the patience of Sam but I won't..... However what I will say is 'Please let there be another series'.
If you don't do another series, you gals and guys are officially nuts.Best Drama I have seen on TV for a long time.
LOVE the show - great writing, acting, and it's filmed beautifully. I'm loving all the stories. Bring on Series 2 for us LipServiceFans!
I'm an American viewer - and I love the show! It's so hard to find decent lesbian entertainment, and I hope that the show will have a positive enough response to allow the show to grow more. I think the strength of the writing is in the subtleties in the relationships between the characters. Bottom line is, it left me wanting more. And isn't that what really matters?
brilliantly written. i really enjoyed the storyline and looked forward to watching it each week. would recommend lip service to a gay and non gay audience............after all it isnot just about the sex. the sexual scenes were sensually portrayed and acted out with some thought and consideration. Loved the role of frankie and cat. Hope there is a second series. I would love to know what happened to frankie and her newly found mother.
Thank you for a great review of a show I really enjoyed watching; I thought the initial responses to Lip Service were rather snooty as if it ever had pretensions to being anything highbrow. I'd like to add a couple of mentions: I thought Roxanne McKee was great and I think it's interesting how preconceptions can colour some people's reaction to a performance, and Phyllis Logan had an hilarious turn as Cat and Ed's mother.
Lip Service was fantastic. Ruta was incredibly believable. Aggressive and pouty but with heart. Laura Fraser was amazing and it would be fantastic to have another series. Its a must,
I agree with you, Michael, on most of your points. I could have given up after the 1st ep, but I`m glad I stuck with this show. I thought it was better written than Mistresses. Some of the scenarios were contrived and convenient, as in the finale,but I found the characters compelling, and cared enough to find out about them. Unlike the production company`s other "offering",Spooks. I now hope there will be another series.
Glad you gave 'Lip Service' another look. I guess the main test is whether it stands up as a drama despite the tabloidy lesbian romp labelling that perhaps inevitably greeted its reception. I found it moved into its stride after the first couple of episodes more when it became less self-conscious of its leads' sexual orientation and the complexities of the relationships became clear. The sex scenes were very tastefully shot and seemed fairly restrained by current standards -- only the gender of the participants was in any way unusual for mainstream TV. Apart from the ill-advised one in the morgue there was only one -- at the end of the second episode that may have been startling. The production values and the acting seemed to be of a high standard. Ruta Gedmintas ought not to have worked as Frankie -- with the cut-glass Home Counties accent, comical teenage slouching and her rather beautiful, cultivated-shambolic looks. But she did make it work because she captured an very unusual mix of aggression and vulnerability.

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