[15 June 2012]
PopMatters Managing Editor
Edgy, dark, and with much better theme music than the now-defunct, US-based lesbian TV show, L Word (although you don’t get to hear that theme music in the video, below) Lip Service, on Neftlix streaming stateside, had me hooked at the first episode.
Our L.A. “girls in tight dresses, who drag with moustaches, chicks driving fast, ingenues with long lashes” are always glam, always dressed fashionably, always living—and eating—relatively well, no matter their employment status (a topic not delved in too deeply but not matter, they all look so pretty in their fancy dresses at those fancy restaurants), and they always have lots of free time and very little inhibition to indulge in impulsive sex in semi-public places.
In typical American-style PC fashion, L Word tries to cover every subject and sub-culture in the lesbian world—to a strenuous degree, at times (Max/Moira, anyone?)—albeit with lots of ‘pretty’. Indeed, L Word is titillating soap-opera, albeit with a ridiculous amount of, well, slippery soap. Why not? Bubbles are fun.
Across the Atlantic, set to the raw, blusey sound of an aching harmonica, we’re introduced to the chilly, hard edges of Glasgow which, like real life does for most of us, constantly intrudes into the daily lives of our ladies in Lip Service. Indeed, the title is the only silly thing about this relatively well written drama (note: drama, not soap-opera). Un- and partial-employment, crappy jobs, misunderstandings and the messyness of ‘other’ real world people and the pressures that come with them regularly pierce that sweet, brief (and mercifully private) little bubble that is love (or lust).
As for the characters, I’ll take Lip Service‘s deeply haunted, deeply buried heart of gold, dog-for-sex that is Frankie (played by Ruta Gedmintas in series 1—look up ‘bedroom eyes’ and you’ll see her picture) to L Word‘s cute-in-boy-underwear also dog-for-sex—but not so deep—that is Shane (Katherine Moennig). Motives for Jenny Schecter’s destructive behavior in L Word are as dark and mysterious as Mia Kirshner’s amazing eyes (OK, you’ll find her picture in that dictionary, too), whereas borderline criminal Lip Service’ Sadie Anderson, who just begins to come into full bloom in series 2, feels a little too much like someone we’ve all rubbed shoulders with in our lives; that is, her selfish, hot / cold, wounded, tender / rough persona feels awfully real.
After a shocking incident—I wish I had blinked and not seen that, it’s too much like real life—a dangerous aura gathers around the otherwise tender Det. Sgt. Sam Murray (Heather Peace), and I feel compelled to follow her brooding persona into series 3. Indeed Lip Service‘s characters are complicated and three-dimensional; simultaneously attractive and repulsive, sweet and at times, well, stupid. Don’t let the sexy L Word-like poster fool you; that’s just the shiny lure drawing you in before you feel the sting of the hook.
Is Lip Service a riff on L Word? Sure. Sans the L.A. sunshine, pool and pedicured toes. Does Lip Service get soapy, at times? Sure. I’m hoping that Tess (Fiona Button) finds true love, next series. Granted, Tess ain’t no Alice Pieszecki (L Word‘s Leisha Hailey) but then, who is? There’s only one Alice Pieszecki. Tess is, however, so sweet! Who wouldn’t love to love her? Apparently, the striking Dr. Lexy Price (Anna Skellern) wouldn’t, as she cant resist her own impulse to try to save everyone (what are you thinking, Dr. Price? Save yourself!).
In typical British-drama fashion, however, Lip Service gives us a lot more pretty girl skin—and a lot more shocking punch to the gut—than the Hollywood-style storytelling of L Word. Indeed, watching Lip Service is like having a good, hard run; you come back sweating, tired, and satisfied. You may occasionally indulge in that soothing bubble bath, yes, but no matter how sore it left you before, you’ll keep going back out for the run. Even on a cold, grey, Glasgow day. Because it fills a need that’s hard to explain.