Lip Service Review: No Balls

October 12, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

LIP SERVICE: Tuesday 12th October, BBC3, 10.30pm ALERT ME

A recent survey of the British population’s sexuality revealed that 1.5% of the population is gay (a marked reduction on the 10% figure that has been thrown around in recent times) and if this new BBC drama is to be believed, nearly all of that 1.5% live in Glasgow.

Lip Service introduces us to lead characters Frankie and Cat, who are both gay. Frankie has just come back to Scotland after a few years in New York and Cat lives with Tess, who’s also gay. Tess has an ex (gay, obviously) who’s sleeping with a girl from her Spanish class, who I guess must also be gay.

Not only is their entire social group gay – aside from two straight male sidekicks, one of whom has a predictable crush on Tess – but every girl these women meet is a lesbian, or at least bi-curious. The model that photographer Frankie is shooting? Gay. The girl crying in the toilets? Gay. The bloody funeral director? Gay. Every woman in the street seems to stop and stare at the female leads with all the subtlety of a bottom-sniffing Labrador and most of what the characters say to each other is about lesbianism and being a lesbian.

Now, I’m quite prepared to accept that everyone in Glasgow is gay. I’m even prepared to let the fact that all these characters are beautiful and apparently well-off slide because hey, that’s television. But unfortunately its improbable premise and unconvincing characters are the least of this programme’s numerous flaws. For a start, the plot is a dreary cocktail of unlikely and uninteresting events and can’t justify an hour’s worth of viewing time, which doesn’t bode well for the five further episodes in the series. The shaky storylines even fail to be supported by litres of back-story awkwardly shoe-horned into each section of dialogue.

Talking of dialogue, Lip Service must have some of the most pointless and insipid lines in recent television history. Exchanges like, “I just thought…? “You just thought you’d waltz back in here and everything would be OK? Well it’s not,? are as limp and clichéd as the very shoddiest of soap scripts.

Factor in the generally piss-poor acting (Ruta Gedmintas as Frankie is the possible exception here) and you have an infuriating and lacklustre programme that wants to be witty, shocking and entertaining, but fails on all counts. It doesn’t even manage to normalise lesbianism and bring it into the mainstream, because all the characters are constantly screaming, “Look, I’m gay! Everything I do and say revolves around my homosexuality!? at the camera. The L-Word it is not.

Ralph says:

All these reviews are valid and useful. Opinions vary greatly about every show on TV. No one likes every show, and probably everyone has seen one or more shows they dislike intensely.

Most movies and TV shows are not realistic in any way. Their portrayal of love and sex is made to be dramatic, or interesting, or glamorous in some way. Most of the actors are very poised and attractive. How is that like real life?

People who watch fictional TV shows typically do not want to see reality at all. Of course, there are exceptions, but usually a wish for realism will not be gratified by any TV show. Novels and movies may work better in that respect, but in the end, they are entertainment too. Nobody wants to get reminded that everyday life can be boring, scary or sad. We already know that very well, and we get reminded of it, day after day, at home, at work or both.

Popular TV shows are fun and an escape from everyday life. That is pretty much it.

lesbotravels says:

No balls? Puhlease. There were TOO MANY “balls”/hetero storylines and main characters. Gross. That was the major disappointment of Lip Service. One main character lesbian, Tess, throughout the season was being chased by hetero Ed. Another main character lesbian, Frankie, had two sex scenes with hetero men, one man being another main character, Jay. So annoying. No where near the standards set by the L Word, a true lesbian TV series.

Charla says:

Lip Service is just that… “lip service” to/for the queer community. Rather than use the opportunity to portray lesbians in a non-stereotypical light, the producers (clueless bunch that they seem to be) went for the easy way out and decided to make up stories that appeal more to heterosexual male fantasies than to anything I’ve ever experienced in the lesbian community. I also found it interesting that this show was compared favorably by some to the L Word, itself an insipid and completely ridiculous series that went on far too long and had way too many heterosexual actors who clearly did not have a clue about what goes on in real people’s lives. I think Lip Service, if they can find real lesbians to depict real lesbian lives, would be a good show if it also had a better writing team. The dialogue is stiff, juvenile, unrealistic, predictable and kind of pathetic. How long should queers be expected to support this kind of idiocy in the absence of something better being produced? At its best, Lip Service is pathetic and cringe-worthy, and at its worse, it’s well, pathetic and cringe-worthy.

Hannah says:

I agree that it’s not the best and the characters are unconvincing, but how can you have a lesbian drama if all of the characters aren’t lesbians? They all have to be lesbians really, and the L word works in the same way only a million times better.

It has to appeal to a lesbian audience. Most dramas have no or perhaps one, token gay person, who, in most cases is male. So I think in that respect it does work.

Michelle Mexted says:

I watched the show episode 1-6 all in one day, I origionally only wanted to watch it as it was set in Glasgow and I am from Glasgow but have immigrated to Australia. I really enjoyed it, it is really different from anything I have watched before… I think everyone is being over critical and again it comes down to it being about gay people, my question would be, would people be annalysing it as much if there was no gay people in it. Like many other soaps its about a group of friends and their day to day lives. Yeh, everyone may be gay but so what its no different than any other programme where they sleep with half the village. I am straight and I was pleasantly surprised how I never felt really aukward with all the sex schenes ect hopefully it will be the same for others. I hope they make additional episodes and I will be keeping my eyes out for it.

Elilta says:

This review is ridiculous. The show is pretty naff, but thats more the bad actors and storylines, but what are you on about that there can’t be so many gay people in one friendship group – I think many gay and lesbian people will agree that this friendship group arrangement is perfectly plausible and quite common infact.

I studied my Masters on lesbian drug-using friendship groups and used four examples, each with seven or eight people – and they were all from a town less than half the size of Glasgow.

If only there was some way to register as LGBT, I know there would still be a huge hidden statistic but it would shut some people up. Even if only 1.5% of the population is gay that is still 927,572 people, and thats 927,572+ people that deserve to be represented.

Donna says:

SUE!!!!!! WTF??? i know Lesbians of all shapes and sizes, what a rediculous comment, would wear anything more but a short back and side!! PPFT!! narrow minded, although i must admit it doesnt have a whole circle of lesbians in the show, only femmes and boyish girls.

im not a big fan of the show, i actually only watched it because i wanted to see what happened with frankie and what was going on with her family to see what it was all about.

the acting is pretty apauling and i find it very ammusing that someone who has lived in glasgow her whole life still has an english accent! pretty damn unrealistic if you ask me.

Peace out.

Robben says:

I’m an 18 year old straight boy who watches the show, being curiosity the main reason, I have only watched 3 Episodes so far, I agree the show its sometimes insipid, i’m avidly waiting to something groundbreaking to happen, i know its kind of grotesque for me to ask but i was waiting some sort of rape scene on Frankie, or some weird ass childhood memory that explain why she is the way she is (Im not mean only about being gay) but why she is so moody.

I still like it though.

Zeyn says:

Who is this Rachel Harris? What outrageous opening lines! The series was BASED around gay women who are friends probably through this common ground, how does this represent the whole of Glasgow! I have 7 very close male and female gay friends, and we all live in Liverpool, so what does that mean?!

Anyway back to the show, unfortunately the lack of gay drama means that when one comes along we are all filled with high hopes and expectations. One of the writers even said (off the record) to a friend of mine that it was, well, and I quote, “shit” (!) so what chance has the director got with an under-par script, considered so even by the people who write them? I think for us lesbians, if we don’t see the story behind a character telling our own story or life, we get disappointed. Thats why the L-word was so ground-breaking, because you could really relate to at least one (or more) of the characters. I didn’t even LIKE anyone in particular in Lip Service, at a stretch Cat may be someone who I would want to get to know, but they were all knobs! I found Frankie highly irritating and totally charmless! The final point I would like to make is that, even though comparisons shouldn’t be drawn with the L-word (hello, who wouldn’t, I mean they’re not even in the same league), is that a lot of the main people were actually gay in real life. Now Im into equal rights for all, and not for one moment am I stating that a lesbian drama must be an cast only ACTUAL lesbians, but not even one of the main ones? Sorry-I tell a lie-the police woman who was Cat’s short-term girlf is a lesbian we saw her at Pride. Big wow.

SuizeMickey says:

I am a hetro woman. And whilst I have quite a few gay male friends I am very ashamed to say that I just don’t really have any lesbian friends. I suppose I know 1 or 2 lesbians but they’re not close friends. So I really couldn’t comment on whether this is a “realistic” protrayal of lesbian community.

That said, I hadn’t heard the hype about the show. I simply flicked on to it one night and thought, “Oooh, a bit of drama” and started watching. Realised that there was a large percentage of gay characters in the show. But kept watching. Why? Because I actually really enjoyed it. And I enjoyed it because I LIKED the characters (with the exception of Frankie who is annoying/ove the top and takes the show from “drama” to “soap”)

Does anyone remember “This Life” from the 90s??? Because I basically thought this show was “This Life” with a higher percentage of lesbians. I can’t say whether this is a realistic portrayal of lesbians. But in general, I tihnk it’s a fairly realistic portrayal of people.

wheeeey says:

Personally, I think quite the opposite of this article, i dont think it revolves around them being gay all the time i think it hits other issues deep than that, just because all the girls are gay does mean thats all the program is about. i think the l word was a lot more centred around the sexuality of the characters and i think it was also alot more over dramatic, not to slate the l word because i LOVE it. i just think you have it the wrong way around. i find lip service to in a way be like any other drama but with gay people. It revolves around the different aspects of their lives; frankies family, cats work problems, jay and his relationship problems. and so what if its predictable that ed is in love with tess? it happens! if it happens then why shouldnt it be in the program? and also to sue, i’m gay, and my hair is long, my two other mates who are gay? also long hair, and the one wears make up, its ridiculous to say all gay women are butch.

Sue says:

Well I don’t recognise any of the women in this as lesbians. They certainly dont look like 90% of my lezzer friends. You wouldn’t see any of then dead with anything longer than a short back and sides and would rather die than wear any makeup or figure revealing clothes. No this is a male fantasy world. Real lezzers are butch and live as if men. Yes they do have complicated lives but they just get on with it, not navel gazing about the fact they are lesbians all the time. But they do live in exclusively lesbian social circles. But a realistic story about realistic lesbians wouldn’t interest the masses would it?

ro gray says:

I like these recent comments, especially Stu’s. Also debs, Cheddaz, Megan and Slax. Plus everyone who went against the review Haha..yeah.
It is a good feeling knowing that people are more chilled out and accepting of things, I don’t know about anyone else but I find it quite funny and strange when some people think that gay/bi/unlabelled sexuality is not normal for men or women and is weird or wrong.

My mother said the other day that society plays the biggest part in making us label everything, and that humans probably used to love and have sex with everyone in ancient times, but then it must have got out of control and some elders put some rules down so they could create a society that had more order/purpose, grew and could be controlled ( stop doing it with everyone, stick with man+woman=children). This I thought was quite funny and maybe true…
She then said that naturally as human beings we are all very different, all have different desires and as humans it is not strange or wierd to be attracted to the same sex, to both sexes or exclusively one sex.
The only thing that is weird is the way people need to label everything, and sexuality is such a big part of all of us that maybe it is best to let it be happy and unlabelled, so that people can get on with their lives and not supress their sexuality because they are afraid of what will happen.

so yeah, more of this type of entertainment should be pumped into our society/the world so we can live as unlabelled humans again 😉

Slax says:

I’m enjoying Lip Service; it reminds me of my mispent youth. It’s fun, sexy with a dark side developing too, and I can really relate to poor Tess’ predicament (straight girls… tsk!). I hope they commission a new series so the characters can grow and us grow to love them. Yeah, it’s not perfect but it’s all good.

Megan says:

There isn’t enough portrayal of gay women and men in mainstream television. Lipservice is contributing towards changing that. As an openly gay young women I think it’s refreshing to see that programmes like lipservice are being broadcasted. 1.5% of the population gay? Well I wasn’t included in that statistic either because I didn’t take no survey!

Cheddaz says:

Personally, I agree with the majority here and think that the programme is much needed. I’ve watched the first two episodes and cannot wait to see the third that I recorded last night. I wasn’t sure after the first episode as it was a bit sketchy, but I still liked it and watched the second which I thought was brilliant!

I don’t care if the amount of lesbians in Glasgow is untrue or if anyone thinks the storyline is also untrue as I know there are people out there who are like Frankie, Cat and Tess etc and that have the same problems. I’m glad this programme has been made. I think we will all be surprised at the amount of people who can relate to it!

Programmes like this are needed and really are long overdue. I hope that the rest of the episodes are as good as the second, and that a second series is commissioned. =D

stu says:

Rosie’s comments are spot on and I think Rachel is perhaps getting a little too serious in her well written review. I adore women; I’m jealous of their ability to get so close to their friends and jealous of gay women’s sex lives. I’m pretty hetero actually but constantly feel at ease when watching a feisty drama like Lip Service. Sugar Rush was way ahead of its time some years ago and it was disappointing when C4 chose not to invest in a third series. Skins raised the bar when writers created the Emily/Naomi storyline and it is this drama in particular that has had the courage to push the boat out and show us the real highs and lows of same sex relationships.
So what am I getting at here? To be honest, it’s not just about being a voyeur; although I cannot deny that women together – skin on skin – is pretty breathtaking. No, it’s dramas which successfully get inside the culture of a lifestyle which is not necessarily alien…but new, and a little irreverent. A bit like anal sex – it’s not the act but more the wickedness of it.
Lesbian films and TV dramas sit high on my ‘all time greats list’ – from Portait of a Marriage to Nina’s Heavenly Delights, they all have a certain dramatic freshness and thankfully, Lip Service is following that tradition, not only in challenging soaps for realism but also maintaining such high production values.

debs says:

Sorry to tell you love- but yes there are loads of us lot around- I’m gay, my manager’s gay, my best friends are gay,my girlfriend’s gay, my brother is gay, the bus driver is gay, the librarian is gay, the chef in my cafe is gay… got the message? 1.5% don’t be so ridiculous!!! That means that I work with 85% of the 1.5% of the whole of the gay population where I live. What century are you living in?!!

Stop moaning about Lip Service- there is little if no representation as it is- so well done Lip Service. Until idiots stop making ridiculous comments and stop taking ridiculous surveys there is a need for a series like this.

mike says:

The women are really fit….
And that’s all I care about.

We are huge fans of the show and have started a fansite for those who want more information or to chat or to read/write fanfiction. Join us at!

marie anderson says:

Well done to the cast and production team of Lip Service…’s high time we had a lesbian t.v. drama with a dash of humour. I’ve been gay all my life and the portrayal is true to form…albeit i’ve recently spent a week in Glasgow and except for gay bars the streets were not paved with Lesbians more’s the pity. I look forward to the forthcoming episodes with anticipation…i am single gotta have some fun even just on screen lol.

Rachel says:

“A recent survey of the British population’s sexuality revealed that 1.5% of the population is gay (a marked reduction on the 10% figure that has been thrown around in recent times) and if this new BBC drama is to be believed, nearly all of that 1.5% live in Glasgow.” Obviously people would never lie in a survey… and also I was not asked… statistics are not always to be taken as absolutes. Also 60 million people live in this country… 1.5% of this is 900,000 people… I think that quite a significant number. So your first paragraph… a little bit rubbish to be honest.

ro gray says:

I enjoyed it, so did my girlfriend, and all our other friend’s gay/bi and straight. I think everyone’s opinion is interesting but a lot of them are just boring complaints because their expectations were too high/or have nothing better to do. It seems that people see it as unrealistic because they do not know of people who are like the characters in the show. When actually there are so many men and women who are like this in our world. Two of my friends are very much like the character Frankie, one of them only sleeps with ‘straight’ women, has a high drive for sex but a past relationship with a woman she loved made it hard for her to hold down relationships with others. She also slept with a man, she only did this for fun and says she prefers women . The other friend looks and dresses like her, hides her emotions and bottles up her feelings while keeping the outside of her cool/chilled. We have straight men in our friend group, very much like Ed ( having a crush on a lesbian friend ). Another who can talk about women comfortably with us and have a laugh. we go out, gay clubs straight clubs, have a good time, chat about sex openly as a big group of friends who do not label each others sexual preferences, but who embrace their sexuality and have fun with it.
I am 19, a young woman that most societies would call a bisexual, I have had partners of both sexes and come across many women who do not label themselves and talk about sleeping with a woman when they have only ever been with men, others who actually do sleep with the same sex-have spontaneous first lesbian experiences with attractive women, this has happened many of times to friends. It happens, people seem to be stuck in the past or do not experience this sort of life themselves, do not know anyone like this therefore they dismiss it as unrealistic.
Something that is unrealistic are soap operas that have a character die, someone gives birth, another character have an abortion, someone murders a husband, another has an affair with a step dad and a person on the same street manages to get cancer and discover they are adopted all in the space of one week. Yet there are not many complaints about that.
It looks like there is only a minority who don’t like it, the ones who take things a bit too seriously. A woman’s sexuality has apparently been accepted by most people in the UK but clearly there are still some people who do not accept it because they think a woman having sex with ‘straight’ women is strange/gives a false interpretation of young women and is unrealistic. When actually, it is a common thing that really happens and has been happening throughout human existence, only recently has it been brought to the surface with shows/films like the L word, south of nowhere, Mulholland drive, tipping the velvet, My summer of love etc.. . Everyone I have spoken to here in Cardiff really enjoyed Lip service and will keep watching it, this city is full of amazing women, and men who can accept that this is an interesting and at times funny show, one that a lot of us have been waiting for. Hopefully it will be the start of many more shows about women’s/men’s lives and sexuality (Maybe someone will create a show that will appeal to those who do not like this kind of show. For instance: Less sex in unusual places, less women and men who are comfortable with their sexuality, less sexually confident females, less gay people and less ‘apparently straight people who actually like to sleep with the same sex now and again’)
I am glad we have people out there showing human sexuality as it should be, free and not black or white.
Oh, and has anyone heard of a gay model? Yes, there are many, some are open about their sexuality and some are not. A famous bisexual supermodel is Janice Dickinson who was a very good model in her day.


Sarah says:

The character of Frankie is a carbon copy of shane from L word and the characters appear to be wholly unbelievable without depth. I would be very suprised if any of the team behind this programme have any knowledge of lesbians as the first episode was somewhat shallow in its representation. I’m always amused by surveys about homosexuality, not everyone is going to be honest when surveyed about their sexuality!

MC says:

Bring back Queer as Folk!!!

emmielou says:

I may well be the only one but I enjoyed it and will be watching for the next five weeks.

kt says:

When there is more than one lesbian show on mainstream television I will begin to criticise. Until then this show remains the only thing on television I can identify with, and should therefore be commended.

moollaa says:

Sadly, I have to agree. I wanted this to be good, I really did yet it failed to impress me on many levels. It not only gives an entirely false depiction of any gay scene (ESPECIALLY that of Glasgow’s), there is also a massive lack of conviction in any of the performances. Perhaps the casting director’s would have been wise to choose a) gay actresses b) scottish ones!

Marie says:

It is fluff and light TV, of course, however it is about time that we had a ‘soap’ like this produced in the UK. The L Word is of course fabulous but this series needs a chance to develop. I as a casting agent do not think the acting was that bad, but the script does need work. And it needs to get to grips with reality as watching this as per the reviewer it gives the impression that everyone is gay or at least easily persuaded that they really are ‘deep down’…

matt says:

i think they will get all the views they need if they just addvertise it to teenage boys im 18 n i think its grate haha

Lo says:

I wanted it to be good, but I have to agree with the review that it really was so awful. Such a shame. I wish there was a British drama or sitcom that brought a lesbian into friendship groups as just another character instead of making a fuss out of the fact that they’re gay.

helen says:

Just as everyone is presumed ‘straight’ in television programmes which take up the majority of air time…this programme is the alternative…which appeals to a huge population up and down the country, as did The L word. With over 1.5 million tuning into this last night shows the demand for such entertainment. Just a shame its not on main stream or at an earlier time, but that would most probably cause homophobic uproar which is socially acceptable amongst most. Theres on gay/lesbian person per every 35 people…maybe there should be consideration to these statistics when producers follow the ‘norms’ of tv. Hollyoaks, corrie and home and away are about the only ones in tune with todays reality of mixed viewers.

Ee says:

Given the genre it is bound to revolve around their sexuality. Just as, say, Sex and the City revolves around the character’s heterosexuality.

han91 says:

This thing is like a bad version of The L Word – no mean feat. And yet, just like The L word, I will watch every episode avidly. Lets face it, who is going to put any effort into writing decent TV when they know that every gay in the country will watch it anyway.