Sugar Rush (2005-2006) was an after-the-watershed dramedy, broadcast by Ch4, which centred around a closeted teen lesbian, Kim, who moves to a new town with her family, and promptly starts crushing on her best-friend, Sugar… who, rather unfortunately for our heroine, is a flaming heterosexual. Hilarity and heartbreak ensues! When I first spotted the DVDs of both series in the second-hand section at Blockbuster, I was a little wary. On the one hand, I’m actually trying to write a script with some sapphic romance in it, and I thought that watching it might help to inspire me… on the other hand, I resent shows about “cool” teens drinking and drugging and getting off with each other. But my totally-professional-and-not-at-all-prurient curiosity won out in the end, and I went back to buy them the following week. I was a little surprised to see them both still sitting there seven days later, so I’ve convinced myself that it was kismet, and that my “teen lesbian superhero” comic book is now guaranteed to be a huge success! Assuming there are enough Buffy-fans out there like me, who think the show went downhill after season four, when the cuteness-to-darkness ratio got all skewed.
Anyhoo, back to Sugar Rush… a Guardian reviewer, quoted on the front cover of the first series, described the show as “brilliant in every way”. I’d disagree, and say that I found it to be roughly 70% Brilliant, and 30% Feh. It’s one of those shows where every character is written as deeply selfish and dysfunctional, and even the supposedly sweet and innocent central protagonist tries to spike her BFF’s drink, just so she can cop a feel! Tch, tch! Maybe I’m just naive, but it seemed strange to see Class A drugs appear in people’s hands (minors and adults alike), as if conjured out of thin air… but maybe they really are that easy to find, if you know where to look? I dunno. There were also an annoying number of fantasy fake-outs… and flashbacks to things we’d either just seen in the pre-credits recap, or in a previous scene from the same episode! But, as I say, the show was still very enjoyable and engaging, thanks to its fresh angle on unrequited teen love/horniness, and the talent of the cast.
‘Kim’ was played by Olivia Hallinan, who I was already familiar with from a series called Girls in Love… which also has a pretty sapphic-sounding title, but was actually a tame teatime kids’ show about three best friends crushing on random boys and being stroppy with their parents. I used to watch it now and again (mainly because one of the girls was a Goth), so when I first started seeing the adverts for Sugar Rush, it amused me to think of the confusion it might cause her younger fan base. Kim doesn’t always seem the most sympathetic or upstanding of characters, but Hallinan brings so much wide-eyed innocence and happy-go-lucky charm to the role, that it’s easy to forgive (almost) all of her sins. Apparently she’s currently starring in BBC1’s hit costume-drama Lark Rise to Candleford, but that’s not really my cup of tea, so I can’t really comment. ‘Sugar’ was played by Lenora Crichlow, who also manages to make her character seem strangely loveable, despite her deeply sociopathic (and sometimes straight-up criminal) tendencies. I guess it doesn’t hurt that she’s mighty, mighty cute, of course… but it also helps that Crichlow is such a good actress, and that the two leads had such a complex, conflicted chemistry. By a wacky coincidence, Crichlow has also scored herself a lead role in a BBC show, playing ‘Annie’ in the cult supernatural flat-share show Being Human… which I can’t watch, because it’s so much like the sort of thing I want to write, that it fills me with a raging envy every time I even think about it. But she was very funny in the one episode I did see, where she was worrying about her ex-boyfriend coming to visit the house that she was haunting at the time. Kudos to them both, for making such an apparently smooth transition into adult roles… but I can totally understand their frustration over the inexplicable cancellation of Sugar Rush, since it was such a successful show at the time, and the writers had clearly set up storylines which would have provided ample conflict and comedy for a third series. I guess there’s no chance of a spin-off movie to tie up the loose ends, is there? Probably not.
Meanwhile, Kim’s not-even-vaguely-maternal Mum, ‘Stella’ was played by Sara Stewart, who seemed to be channelling Pippa Haywood (of The Brittas Empire and Green Wing fame) for her performance… although I don’t actually mean that as an insult. In series two, Kim started flirting with a new lady-crush, named ‘Saint’, played by Sarah-Jane Potts. I thought she made a good addition to the cast, because she brought such a different “energy” to the screen… even when she was being romantic, there was something slightly stand-offish about her character that I could relate to. Maybe it’s because she’s older and a little more gun-shy than Kim is… or maybe that’s just the way Potts does business? Either way, I dug her… although I still don’t understand why someone with such a cool hairstyle would wear such silly hats! What a waste! While watching Saint spin some discs at a lesbian club, Kim also runs into serial seducer ‘Anna’, played by Anna Wilson-Jones… who Spaced fans will recognise as ‘Sarah’, the “glacial beauty” who broke Tim’s heart at the start of the first series. Later, at the very same club, Kim has a close encounter with a foxy rock chick named ‘Montana’, played by none other than Jemima Rooper, of being-awesome-in-Hex fame. I was sorry to see that Kim’s short-lived crush from the first series, ‘Beth’, didn’t return in the second run… partly because she was so cruelly stood-up by our heroine, and partly because Laura Donnelly, the actress who played her, is super-cute.
On the boys’ side of thing, I have to give props to Kurtis O’Brien, who played Kim’s younger brother ‘Matt’. In the first series he had to be caked head-to-toe in blue paint… then in the second series he had to prance around in lacy lingerie, and very little else! You have to respect that kind of courage and dedication to the craft. The first series also featured future-Spiderman-in-waiting Andrew Garfield as ‘Tom’, the gawky boy-next-door. I thought he had an interesting off-kilter vibe about him here, and it’s pretty obvious that the guy has star potential!