52 Shows, 52 Weeks: #4 Lip Service

Over the long weekend, I watched all six episodes of the BBC series Lip Service that aired last fall, and I’m not sure how I feel.  I wonder sometimes if I’ve lost my ability to be bowled over, entirely excited by something.  I was discussing Black Swan with some colleagues this week and the reaction was pretty split between unabashed enthusiasm for the mind-fuck elements of the film and a general unwillingness to commit to a positive reaction.  I am of the latter feeling about Black Swan.  It felt very much like a movie about women made by men; it smacks of the male gaze. I didn’t hate the movie, though.  I was thoroughly entertained (which is the goal of the movie genre, of course), and I was truly impressed by it.  I am not sorry I saw it, if for no other reason than I wanted to be part of this particular cultural moment.

But, really, this post is about Lip Service, I swear.  Evidently, I had some Black Swan stuff to get off my chest.

I don’t know if Lip Service was designed to be the British L Word, but given the dearth of lesbian shows out there in the universe, comparisons are inevitable.  However, these two shows really have nothing in common except the obvious.  Lip Service reminds me much more of Queer as Folk (the American version, as I’ve never seen the BBC version) than The L Word in that both Queer as Folk and Lip Service take place in decidedly industrial-looking, gray, dirty cities—Pittsburgh and Glasgow, respectively—and feature a lot of walking around these cities in chilly weather.     

My initial impression of Lip Service was, “What’s the opposite of glossy?”  It’s still TV, meaning that the cast is still considerably more attractive than the regular people in our regular lives, but they still manage to look like real people.  That other lesbian show that I’m trying hard not to mention feels more slick, stylized, and aggressively sexy.  Lip Service lets its sexiness sneak up on viewers.

The first season—excuse me, “series”—was just six episodes, and I’m not sure yet how I will feel about Lip Service in the long run.  I so appreciated its subtlety.  I also appreciated its accents.  What?  At the end of the day, I’m just a common American TV fan, losing myself in English and Scottish accents.

Right now, Cat is my favorite character.  She has the sort of job (architect) that, on a woman, seems to spawn a creative but serious character out of thin air, and Cat is indeed very serious. As Dorothy Snarker’s handy graphic points out, she kind of has just one facial expression:

I like that about her.  She isn’t afraid to be the fun police, but she isn’t bossy like you-know-who from you-know-what.  In the six short episodes we were together, Cat seemed perpetually on the verge of totally losing her shit, and I found her ability to stay on the edge without falling over it endearing.  When she did fall over that edge, it felt like a decision she had made rather than an inevitable losing of her shit.

One of the possible downfalls of this 52 Shows, 52 Weeks project is that writing about current shows means that in a year, or even a few months, I may not be as enthusiastic about the show as I was when I wrote about it.  The potentially short shelf life of these posts is risk I’ve got to take, but it also means that I will likely be discussing mainly shows I’ve loved for years—plural.  Lip Service may not end up being one of those shows.  I really can’t tell yet.  I do know that I’ll never feel about it the way I feel about The L Word.  For better or worse, The L Word got to me first, and because of that, it took over the squishy, uncritical parts of my heart.  But, of course, there will be more on that messy affair later.