lip service: the actual real l word

I didn’t expect anything much from Lip Service.

I’m an Anglophile from waaaaaaay back, but I didn’t have high hopes for a show that claimed to be any kind of answer to The L Word. I’m sure you know this by now, but I’ll say it anyway: I have a strong — passionate, even — love/hate relationship with The L Word. I wanted it to be everything. It was barely anything.

So imagine my surprise, then, when Lip Service turned out to be not just good, but actually satisfying. Who woulda thought?!

It’s partly the setting: pretty, gritty Glasgow. What don’t you have? The people, the sunset, the buildings, the workaday yet wondrous way of life: you’re it. Of course I love your accent, but it’s your attitude that really gets me.


Your attitude is Cat’s. She’s practical, neurotic, sexy, selfish, insecure, competent, adorable, maddening. She’s everywoman in the way that Bette Porter is, with one exception: we can get to her. She’s not unattainable or perfect or out there in any way. She’s right here, brows furrowed, mouth slightly agape, heart open. Present. Steadfast. Yours. Almost.


And that spills over into all of Lip Service, which doesn’t apologize or explain or speechify — because it’s focused on just being. You know how The L Word was about lesbians? Well, let that go and put your arms around something better: Lip Service is beyond that by nature. It’s too busy showcasing lesbians to be about them. It’s too busy being gay to talk about being gay.

For me, that all comes down to one specific gay lady: DS Sam Murray, played by Heather Peace.

What is it about her? I’m not actually asking, because I think I know: she’s the one we recognize. She’s the one we see walking down the street — make that sauntering or strutting — and when we see her, we exhale. We smile, we stop in our tracks, and we say, "Oh, yes."


Heather Peace is a recognizable (soft) butch, and that makes all the difference. Lip Service still gives us the quirky fun one (Dana/Tess), the buttoned-up one (Bette/Cat), the tough broken one (Shane/Frankie). But Shane/Frankie is not the true butch: that’s Sam, and as a bonus, we get Tess’s fully butch neighbor, the "spark" who rivals Corky in Bound. Taken together, she and Sam are what we were missing in Chaiken-land.

In a mere five episodes (oh god I can’t believe it’s almost over), Lip Service has done more for butch lesbians than The L Word did in five seasons. And more for all of us, worldwide, accents aside.

Nobody would dream of playing fast and loose with DS Sam Murray’s sexuality the way Ilene Chaiken played with Alice Pieszecki’s very nature. And why is that? Because Sam — and Lip Service itself — is really, truly gay, and that’s really, truly hot.

(You) rule, Britannia: we humble colonists thank you, and some of us are fully sorry we ever left.


When Lip Service ends, I’ll be lost again, and all the worse for having had a glimpse of what the truly gay ladies can be. Come back, hot cop!

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6 Responses to “lip service: the actual real l word”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by One More Lesbian, scribegrrrl, irene rodrigues, CheA Vic, MeL and others. MeL said: Great write-up of a great show! RT @scribegrrrl: On why I love, admire, appreciate, and adore Lip Service: [...]

  2. TgB says:

    I’ve missed reading your reviews. Couldn’t agree more re. the butch-visibility aspect.

    I guess the Brits just know how to make good lesbian TV – Lip Service is giving Bad Girls some competition as my all time favorite show.

  3. Deb says:

    I was a bit shocked with Frankie and her guy friend, but drunken stupid stuff does happen in real life, so it didn’t hurt the genuine feel of which you speak, and about which I agree.

  4. Brunette says:

    In total agreement. This show at least has a story line. And good acting. Hot and complicated women.
    I knew I’ve seen the actress Laura Fraser (Cat) elsewhere, saw her on Knight’s Tale, small role in Vanilla Sky and of course TITUS, she was Lavinia!! with Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange and Alan Cummings…

  5. Wimp says:

    Really good review. I looooove Sam as well. Why she’s not a lead character, is beyond comprehension. That scene in the car with the colleague, how much depth and emotion was in those eyes. Ohmy, that’s what got me hooked. I love that woman’s acting.
    Frankie, on the other hand, is a joke you’ve heard a thousand times.

    Hey, do you still write for afterellen?

    • scribegrrrl says:

      Agreed, both about the scene in the car and the “joke you’ve heard a thousand times.” Perfect assessments of both of them!

      Nope, I no longer work at AfterEllen.

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