tue 18/02/2020

Lip Service, BBC Three | reviews, news & interviews

Lip Service, BBC Three

Lip Service, BBC Three

The Glaswegian L Word would have been unthinkable a decade ago

Frankie (Ruta Gedmintas) and Cat (Laura Fraser) prepare for more than lip service

Far more than gay men, lesbians are one of the great invisible minorities of British TV drama – British TV generally, in fact. Sure, there have been the milestone moments – the Brookside kiss that titillated the nation back in 1994 and was the making of the then 18-year-old Anna Friel, or Jeanette Winterson’s terrific 1989 adaptation of her own novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Both featured lesbianism as an issue or a problem rather than a well-adjusted sexual orientation.

More recent dramas have set the Sapphism in the past, with the likes of Fingersmith, Tipping the Velvet or The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister. But what of the promised land – a contemporary British (or, more to the point in this case, Scottish) equivalent of American TV’s feisty and unapologetic The L Word, in which female gayness is a given?

Does a Glaswegian The L Word sound unlikely? Well, here’s news; Lip Service is enjoyable - breezy and funny, and, like its heroine Frankie, not carrying an ounce of flab. This was as light and entertaining as any episode of Mistresses – which should come as no surprise as it was created by one of the writers of that show, Harriet Braun. And being set in Glasgow rather than, say London, means it isn’t striving to be metropolitan hip, although that said, there’s a nippy soundtrack from a selection of apparently up-and-coming Glaswegian bands that is bang on trend.

Yes, of course it’s a fantasy, but that’s almost the point – a political point, if you like. And of course all the women are gorgeous (pictured below) – something it shares with The L Word. No scary diesel dykes here, just mostly the unthreatening femme variety - this is a Sapphic TV show where even the one butch girl is butchly pretty.

Last night’s opener began in New York, where fashion photographer Frankie (Ruta Gedmintas) was busy seducing one of her models when the phone rang to inform her that her beloved auntie had died back in Scotland – which news didn’t stop her finishing what she had started. There was a message from the said auntie herself back at Frankie’s apartment, informing her niece that she had a secret she wanted to share with her before she popped her clogs. This mystery is going to be one of the series-long story arcs, and the means for getting Frankie back to Glasgow – and back into the life of Cat (Laura Fraser), the girlfriend she had upped and dumped two years previously. And there’s the other story arc: Frankie and Cat’s will they/won’t they get back together romance.

219281

Ruta Gedmintas, with the looks of a comic-book punk heroine, was terrific as the lanky, chain-smoking, impulsive and promiscuous Frankie – well matched by Laura Fraser as the uptight architect Cat, nervously preparing for her date with the handsome butch policewoman she met on the internet. A sweetly comic turn was provided by Fiona Button as Cat’s flatmate Tess – a struggling actress oblivious to the hungry looks from Cat’s brother, which brings me to another point about lipstick-lesbian dramas – the way they key into the male erotic fantasies. Does it matter if a heterosexual male audience is getting turned on, along with the lesbian audience?

Either way, Lip Service was frank with its sex scenes, Frankie’s straightforward mode of address being a busy hand down the opposing trouser front. Such scenes would have been unthinkable 10 years ago, but otherwise there’s no reason other than sheer prejudice that Lip Service shouldn't find a mainstream audience.

In a recent report commissioned by the BBC, 18 per cent of viewers said they were either "uncomfortable" or "very uncomfortable" with the depiction of gay, lesbian or bisexual people on TV. Put another way, that’s 82 per cent who are comfortable with it. That’s a wide enough audience for Lip Service to be shown on BBC Two instead of BBC Three, you'd have thought. But, no, it seems lesbianism isn’t quite out of the ghetto yet - even if this particular BBC ghetto is the youth one.

This is a Sapphic TV show where even the one butch girl is butchly pretty

Share this article

Comments

Here's a novelty - let's ask the lesbians what they thought of it, and if they think it either speaks to or represents them...

I really enjoyed it and was really enjoying the positive review on here until a blatant "no scary diesel dykes" popped up out of nowhere. Jeez it seems lesbians are only alright if we have hair past our shoulders and we wear a ton of make up. To call Heather Peace's character butch is just ludicrous. Not enough short hair and attitude yet - but it was such a promising start, but hey it's our one token programme so there's a lot riding on it!

I agree Emma; and I'd be interested to know if all this casual picking up really does happen - how realistic is it? The scenarios did seem very contrived. With reference to the article, am I the only one who remembers Sugar Rush?

Being a "lipstick lesbian" myself, I felt the characters were conveyed rather thoughtfully. I'm a huge fan of US Showtimes L Word and I think it's great that the usually conservative and "play it safe" BBC have stuck their necks out into modern society and decided to air Lip Service. Makes a refreshing change to have no adverts as I expected this from channel 4. I for one am thoroughly prepared to give Lip service my attention - well done BBC

My partner and I secretly loved it whilst constantly tutting about the lack of representation of women who actually look like lesbians - you don't have to be a "scary diesel dyke" to look a lot more like a lesbian than even the Shane-clone (L-word reference) that is Frankie. I have around a 100 lesbians in my social circle and none of them look like these women, or like scary diesel dykes either. They look like lesbians, cos that's what they are. The general consensus of our circle - we're utterly appalled, but we'll keep watching!

No, Steve - I too remember Sugar Rush, which, being a guy, I enjoyed tremendously for the wrong reasons

So the police officer was butch? What rock have you been hiding under Gerard Gilbert?As for the script, I have issue with two women fornicating next to a dead body.Firstly it's a highly unbelievable scenario and secondly it portrays lesbians as crass and insensitive. By the way I am a lesbian who wears make up.I look like a lesbian in make up not a straight girl pretending to be one.

I am torn. Pleased to see this kind of drama, good acting and passable (sometimes great) writing, but not particularly happy with the 'L Word-wannabeness' of it. It SHOULD appeal and continue to do well, afterall, it is full of gorgeous women, so why not? But it won't go down in history -I don't think.........

Although I thoroughly enjoyed Lip Service I did think that the scene with Frankie at the Funeral Parlour was unrealistic. I am gay but do not go around trying it on with every woman I come into contact with. Its not a true dipiction of gay women but fun to watch.

...And one more thing. We do not go aound wearing vest tops all the time!!?? What is the fascination to vest tops..Frankie, Cat and Tess all had them on a certain points...why?

I'm in two minds about Lip Service. For what it's worth, as a bisexual woman I'd really like to see a show in which a bisexual people are shown having (or having had) positive relationships with people of both sexes, rather than falling in love with one gender and using the other gender for casual sex when they're bored (which is how they seem to be flagging up Frankie and Jay). But what *really* irritates me is the debate that ensues whenever there's any public representation of women in same-sex relationships over what constitutes a "real" lesbian. Heterosexual women in public life can be represented by anyone from Jodie Marsh to Michelle Obama but somehow, wherever lesbian or bisexual women are discussed, this idea seems to emerge that there needs to be some sort of gold standard, and sexuality is defined, not by who you fall in love with but by how you look and what's on your iPod. It's like listening to 15-year-olds.

...."there is no reason but prejudice it can't bring gay drama into the mainstream".... .....because there is mothing like two Glaswigan Dykes fucking in a morgue next to a corpse in a first episode to REALLY make gay life appear normal and acceptable is there. Next week focuses on group sex in a play school?

hmmm what exactly does a lesbian look like? for me they come in all shapes and sizes and all walks of life. I dont think this programme is any different from a straight TV show where everyones "beautiful" I dont think thats about not portraying lesbians well I think thats just TV in general. I watched it thought it was ok, I agree with Frankie being a Shane from L word clone but other than that that it was entertaining and I will watch again.

lip service i do enjoy watching i think its good we have a lesbian tv servies about time i say :) but ... im a lesbian only 17 and the way they portray lesbians is kinda wrong i think its great they dont just have butch lesbians with short hair but it frustrates be there making it out like all lesbians sleep with anyone ectt ecct , other than that its great, but som scences are like hmmm that would never happen, lilke the one were there in the place were the dead go. who would have sex there ?? maybe im cynicl whoo knows, but im a fan of lip service needs to be a little more realistic thooo x

No scary diesel dykes? What a put down. Imagine a 16 year old "butch" girl coming out of the closet reading that. It's distressing to think of the impact on her. Our site is www.LipServiceFans.com. We're fans of the show -- but we welcome ALL, especially diesel dykes and anyone else others deem to be not as worthy as pretty femmes. You are welcomed and valued and loved by us!

I wear vest tops all the time XD. Its just an outfit, Jeez, don't pull it apart and feast on anything you don't like or anything, will you. If its being broadcast on T.V, why are you bothered which channel? And it's only just not a porno, thats probably why it wasn't on BBC 2. Same reason being human was not on BBC 2. you wouldn't show straight sex on BBC2, so you don't show lesbian sex. You see, that would be discriminatory.

PS. They portray the lesbians in the same way they portray the straight. give them a break. They're trying

You might enjoy Book Drum's illustrated profile of Tipping the Velvet. Sarah Waters herself described it as "awesome": Tipping the Velvet

Not only is the one butch girl butchly pretty, she's bi! What a pile of crap.

OK, so it has scenes that stretch the boundaries of credulity, but so does Taggart, Casualty, indeed any TV prog, even the soaps, particularly the soaps!! If it were all about how we live our lives it would be a documentary and it would be boring. Something like this should provide escapism, otherwise why watch it!! So there are no "diesel dykes", what is a diesel dyke, can anyone explain what exactly that means? I'm a 55 year old dyke and i think it's great to see anything that portrays lesbianism in terms of the current culture, believe that is a world anyway for my experiences of being a twenty something lesbian. We have moved so far, it seems such a shame that we want to have every exact detail of being a lesbian just so, lets enjoy the escapism of it and accept that this is such an amazing development for us. If it was believable, would it entertain??

i wish people would stop bitching that lesbians in tv shows are 'too attractive'. For gods sake, look at ANY tv show ie. The OC, Gossip Girl, etc etc. TV shows always use stretch reality and use very attractive people otherwise no one would watch them. When will you be happy? when all the lesbians are fat ugly badly dressed bulldykes who work in a tattoo parlor? Because believe me, that is NOT real life either. At least people will watch THIS fantasy. Give them a break.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters