I Hate Suzie review: Unmissable TV
Charlotte Harrison | On 27, Aug 2020
Over the past few years there has been a spate of TV series with 6 to 8 episodes of roughly 30 minutes, fronted by women who are directly involved behind the scenes, that deliver a dark blend of drama and comedy that seems tinted by direct experience and reality. Memorable examples – which are must-see TV in their own right – are Aisling Bea’s This Way Up, Mae Martin’s Feel Good and Roisin Conaty’s GameFace. While disparate in topic and tone, all three are like I Hate Suzie in the sense that they are about messy female experiences told by characters who are portrayed with blistering honesty. Finally, we are getting to see women who feel human on screen. These characters well and truly do not have it together. At all.
Billie Piper is the star of I Hate Suzie, which she co-wrote with Lucy Prepple (a reunion for the pair after working together on Secret Diary of a Call Girl over 10 years ago). Billie first became known as a teen singing sensation, when she was offered a record deal at 15. In her early 20s she shifted into acting, first cast as companion Rose in Doctor Who then a smattering of television work as well as stage work (her performance in Yerma at the Young Vic was extraordinary). Her personal life has frequently been in the press, particularly her marriage to – and subsequent divorce from – actor Lawrence Fox.
Here, Piper plays the eponymous Suzie. Suzie Pickles became a teenage singing sensation when she was offered a record deal at the age of 15. In her early 20s she shifted into acting, cast in a science fiction show with a large and dedicated following and a cult-like status. Since then she’s had a smattering of TV, stage and possible film work. Her personal life is constantly in the press and much speculated about.
In other words, Suzie Pickles is Billie Piper. Sort of.
These real-life nods and parallels to Piper’s life add an extra layer of compulsion to this series; they draw us in, forcing us to speculate on how much is truth and how much is fiction. Most intensely though, the main thought while watching is whether this really is what it feels like to have grown up in the spotlight and be this level of famous. If so, there really is very little that is actually appealing about achieving that status of fame and notoriety.
Suzie’s life implodes in Episode 1, during an in-home photoshoot for a magazine feature. At the stylist’s insistence, she is wearing a huge fur coat that matches the two dogs that have been borrowed for the shoot, posing for photos while she is in internal freefall. She is one of numerous celebrities whose phones have been hacked and intimate pictures have been leaked. This would have been awful enough, but the co-star in her pictures is not her husband Cob (a fantastically passive aggressive Daniel Ings). We witness Suzie as she attempts to maintain order as her house is thrown into chaos, literally by the photoshoot with an endless amount of crew, while also trying to keep her husband and young son from finding out about the photos that are all over the press.
The episode is called Shock and that title very much reflects what happens in the episode and the overall tone. Piper plays Suzie with heartbreaking believability – you truly feel her discombobulation and utter disbelief at what has happened to her, yet she plays it with such nuance and dedication that it’s also bittersweetly funny. It’s almost impossible not to watch her face as she attempts to engage with what’s going on around her while she’s all-too-aware of how her apparent idyll is about to be destroyed forever. Her determination to delay her husband and son from finding out is fruitless yet utterly understandable.
The first four episodes were made available for review – Shock, Denial, Fear and Shame respectively – and they make for fantastically addictive television. Each episode is littered with moments and dialogue that are wonderfully scathing – a line from Suzie about being cast by Disney as a Princess being truly shocking as being in her 30s she thought it was villains from now on is truly [chef’s kiss].
Piper’s performance is like the show overall – unafraid to hold anything back. It’s a depiction of a messy life that continues to be worsened by poor decisions that make for tragicomedy of the finest order. Sly, sardonic and simply unmissable television.
I Hate Suzie Season 1 is available on Sky Atlantic. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it live and on-demand legally on NOW, for £9.99 a month, with no contract and a 7-day free trial.