It’s like a Queer, British My So-Called Life …
Autostraddle isn’t exactly the go-to spot for glowing reviews of lesbian teevee. But today I come to you with Change We Can Believe In — on Friday February 6th (today!), critically and commercially acclaimed Channel 4 British series Sugar Rush debuts stateside on the here! network [catch the preview here — and I believe other eps are also available online]. Based on controversial journalist Julie Burchill‘s novel by the same name, the series follows 15-year old Kim as she fights her burning crush on her new BFF, super-bad girl Sugar, and struggles with her dysfunctional family — Mom’s shagging the carpenter while her Dad’s oblivious and heart-breakingly kind, and her brother literally believes he’s from another planet and therefore wears an astronaut helmet 24/7 and does strange things with blue paint.
At Season One’s start, the family has just moved to gay-friendly sunny Brighton from London hoping for more “family time” and by season’s end all aspirations of togetherness have dissolved into Hot Mess and Kim has confirmed that she’s really, really gay and even met a girl … just as Sugar gets into some serious trouble …
And here’s the thing — this show is really, really fucking good.
It’s not a revolution … but it’s solid. It’s sweet, it’s snappy, it’s clever, smart, delicious. It gets away with things American teevee shows never try for. It’s everything television should be. You’ll be hard pressed to find a South of Nowhere-esque PSA or rewarding homosexual message of quasi-togetherness here. There’s no messing around with ovulation, there’s no excessive Tim & Jenny sex while the audience would prefer Jenny & Marina — in fact, Sugar Rush opens on Kim in bed fantasising about Sugar while masturbating with an electric toothbrush.
While admiring Sugar playing pool (one of many up-skirt shots, which’d never fly in Peoria), Kim voice-overs that Sugar will: “do anything, say anything, have anything (with a dick) … it was a twisted relationship from the moment we met.” Later: “I’m a 15-year old queer virgin obsessed with my best friend and her magnificent tits and if I don’t shag her soon, I’ll explode.”
If you’ve ever wished for a gay My So-Called Life , here it is. Kim’s the slightly sassier British lesbian Angela Chase of our brightest television dreams. Sugar does the tarty Rayanne Graff thing right down to the blonde-on-black ringlet always slipping over her eye. She’s got the flask and the cigarettes, the do-anything attitude, slutalicious track record and the mission to coax straight-laced Kim out of her shell and into heels & a mini-skirt. Kim’s family is very reminiscent of the Chases, from her parents’ floundering allegiances to her overshadowed younger sibling’s craving for attention.
Even in the first episode they’re already slutting up their outfits in in the graffitied school bathroom, skipping class, smoking & drinking and making (ultimately thwarted) plans for Kim to lose her virginity (“you’re such a virgin!” says Sugar) — which is just to say it can often feel like Angela-Rayanne fan-fic but with a shit-ton of swearing.
At the core of any adolescent-focused teevee series is, of course, the angst. “We walk around pretending we’re in a Disney movie,” Kim muses in one of her frequent voice-overs, “when it’s really gangster porn. You’ve got to expect nothing, except lies.”
After two seasons on Channel 4 (The show’s second season, which I’ve seen a bit of on YouTube, introduces a new love interest for Kim and a bunch of other stuff I won’t say ’cause I suppose it technically counts as a spoiler), the show was mysteriously cancelled .
Maybe we can riot for an American re-make and extension, a la The Office, Queer as Folk, and, apparently, Bad Girls .
Sugar Rush starts Friday, February 6th on Here! – read all about it.