Is Lip Service anything like Glasgow’s real lesbian life?
Second series of BBC lesbian drama returns
Any fool who saw the first series of Lip Service will be aware that sex, talking about sex and being sexy are a large part of the show. It’s glamorous, glittery and oh so slightly ridiculous. First hitting UK small screens in 2010, the drama returned to BBC Three on 20 April and follows a group of gay women living in Glasgow as they struggle with careers, friendships and, most importantly, their complicated love lives.
So what resemblance do the activities of these fictional creatures (ridonkulously good-looking creatures, to boot) bear to actual life on the gay scene in Glasgow? Not much. I mean, when was the last time you sighted a specimen as pouty lipped and jaw-achingly cool as Ruta Gedmintas in a gay bar of a weekend? Not often.
And when was the last time you frigged someone off in a morgue, surrounded by cadavers going off before your very eyes? Hopefully never …
Show creator Harriet Braun has said her goal was to create characters that felt authentic to lesbian viewers and to write plotlines that struck a chord with that audience. But Lip Service, unlike its equally outrageous but more politically aware American genre buddy The L Word, does not aim to poke and prod sensitive social issues, favouring instead some good old-fashioned soapstyle melodrama. The women in the show are largely conventionally feminine, with perhaps the most common ‘type’ of lesbian on the Glasgow scene (the sexy butch) strangely absent from the improbably gorgeous cast. Some, meanwhile, have complained about the ‘gay for pay’ nature of the predominately straight actors.
Series two picks up after the cliff-hanger fi nale of the last season in which Cat (Laura Fraser), an uptight architect, slept with her emotionally distant but über cool photographer ex Frankie (Gedmintas). Will they tell Cat’s policewoman ladyfriend Sam (Heather Peace)? And will the rest of the haphazard gang like Tess (Fiona Button) approve? Or will they be busy with their own twentysomething life-in-limbo issues, stumbling from one eyebrowraisingly dramatic social scenario to the next? You get the drift.
So, why do we watch it? What is the inexplicable charm of Lip Service? Aside from the novelty factor of spotting familiar Glasgow venues that have been turned into hot new lesbian enclaves (Hummingbird on Bath Street and the Trans-Europe Café in the Merchant City were series-one regulars), the main thrill of Lip Service is surely the opportunity for unadulterated, completely silly escapism.
No one watches EastEnders because they believe their lives are just like that of the scowling, put-upon residents of Albert Square. Lip Service offers the same opportunity to those of us whose lives aren’t already represented in an overly cartoonish manner in many other TV shows.
While things like Corrie’s coming-out storyline gave voice to LGBT issues in popular television, it is rare to have a whole series dedicated to the lives of lesbians, especially in the UK. And although many people will say Lip Service is a Technicolor fantasy version of real, normal life as a lesbian, that is surely the key to making a really, really good soap. There have been enough screen depictions of gay and bisexual ladies as unfashionable, unattractive and dull, so even if the antics of Frankie and co seem far removed from your standard night out in FHQ or trip to Lock Up Your Daughters of a Friday eve, at least the show (and its predominately female cast) are attempting to portray gay women in a way that is every bit as normal, sexy and cool as straight girls in other shows.
So, here’s to you, Lip Service, in all your ridiculous glory. We might not live quite that large in real life, but it’s still bloody fun to watch.
Series Two of Lip Service is screens on BBC Three, Fridays, 9pm.