Television Series #1:
“I Hate Suzie” (2020) is a British dark comedy series created by playwright Lucy Prebble and beloved celebrity (actress and former singer) Billie Piper, whose real life experiences seem to have served as inspiration for the script (which was mostly written by Prebble) and directed by newcomer Georgi Banks-Davies. The show marks the third collaboration between Prebble and Piper, who previously worked together on Secret Diary of a Call Girl (2007–11) and The Effect (2012), and for this project, the talented all-female creative team delivers a raw, uninhibited and brutally honest look into the life of a woman unravelling. The script follows Suzie Pickles, a former teenage pop star and television show actress, as her life is upended by a leaked intimate photo that is bound to destroy her marriage (husband played by Daniel Ings) whom with she shares a sweet young son (played by Matthew Jordan-Caws). Much of the story involves Suzie’s destructive behavior in dealing with the turmoil, and her best friend and manager, Naomi’s (Leila Farzad) attempts to keep her career in tact.
Though the show was developed around the dramatic tabloid story, the depth of the writing lies in its profound understanding of womanhood, motherhood, identity, trauma and our own responsibility in our happiness. Suzie can be seen as reckless and selfish. She has cheated on her husband, after all, and behaves with the noxious abandon of a twenty year old. But the show does not seek to blame her or cast her in a villainous light, but to understand her, and dig thoroughly into her psyche to understand why. Why does Suzie, who has everything going for her, make such a calamitous decision, and why do women like her do this every day?
“I Hate Suzie” thoughtfully grapples with the way women are unevenly designated responsibility for evenly comported mistakes. It dissects female sexuality and desire in refreshingly, albeit upsettingly, truthful ways. In one particular episode (Episode 4 titled “Shame”), there is a record breaking (in UK television) seven minute four second masturbation scene which kickstarted an inpouring of conversation (especially on Twitter) of fans debating the real impact of the segment. Though some viewed the lengthy timeslot of Suzie pleasuring herself through an excitable, almost pornographic lens, the major consensus was that the scene intelligently explored the relationship that Suzie has with her own sexuality and her sexual identity with men since a young age. With comedically timed interruptions from her more secure friend, she is met with observations about her inability to enjoy sex for herself, always contorting herself to appeal to the gaze of men.
The show also takes the opportunity to casually bring to screen, the experiences of a young boy with a hearing disability, creating space to show the use of sign language in the home (performed with authentic sensibility by Piper and Ings) and hiring deaf actor to portray the role. When speaking about this decision in a virtual Q&A, Lucy Prebble shared, ““I have a friend who is deaf and she’s just always very, very funny about what is funny about being deaf, and the things she gets away with as a result of that,” she thought, “‘well that, you never really see.'” Contemplating the lack of deaf representation, she said, “Could you get like a naughty boy and this, that and the other? It was just a way of being inspired by putting something on screen.” Additionally, to further illustrate the withdrawn nature of Suzie compared to her husband, the showrunners made sure to have Cob (Ings) have a more proficient handle on BSL (British Sign Language). It was something that he weaponizes against his wife. “He could communicate with her son in a way that she couldn’t,” Ings explained, “so he committed to that in this incredibly way, for all of his flaws.” The writers spoke with Matthew’s parents as well to incorporate aspects of his behavior, such as putting his hands over his eyes when he is being told off. One woman, who is a friend of Prebbles and a mother of four deaf children said, “My kids close their eyes when they are fed up with me nagging at them or put their head down on the table,” she said, “I also suggested that Frank, the character, wears hearing aids or [a cochlear implant], as deaf kids from hearing families are more likely to wear [them].” As there is a lack of fusion between people with disabilities and those without in many areas of work, including in film and television, Matthew’s parents felt it would be an important experience for their son to be involved (despite the fact that the show was too racy for their son to actually watch himself). Commenting on this, his mother Pauline said, “It helped him to see that not all hearing people are scary!”
In November 2020, the show was promoted by another English bred TV personality from a young age, Amanda de Cadenet. De Cadenet is the author of the book “It’s Messy: On Boys, Boobs and Badass Women” (2017) and is the host of a series (can be found on YouTube) called “The Conversation” where she interviews successful women (including Hillary Clinton) and was executively produced by Demi Moore. She is deeply passionate about empowering women and telling stories from the female perspective, and so it does not come as a surprise that she would be in support of a show of this grain. On her social media, she advertised the show, saying, “If you grew up in England, like I did, then you know who Billie Piper is. I was lucky enough to photograph her for British Vogue and she is an incredible talent. I HATE SUZIE her new series on HBO Max, is written and produced by Billie and directed by the fantastic @Georgiporgie. This show is a brilliant example of what happens when women get to tell our narratives. The raw honesty and beautifully messy coming undone of Suzie is me, you and so many womxn who are just doing the best they can, to keep shit together and wonderfully fucking up in the process. @BilliePiper I am in awe of the show you have made! Yes this is an ad but I mean everything I am saying about this show.”
When you are cozied up this January, grab yourself a bottle of red and stop your scrolling at this show (available on HBO MAX), if you are ready to dive into an edgy, pitch black comedy made by a team of brilliant women. Enjoy!