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I Hate Suzie Too, Sky Atlantic, review: Billie Piper’s best work yet

The i 12/20/2022 Emily Baker

It is deep into I Hate Suzie Too that someone observes “when there’s this much chaos around a person, eventually you have to ask yourself if it’s because they quite like it”. But that has always been the central question at the heart of this show: how much is a person responsible for their actions? And how much they are a victim of circumstance?

Created by Billie Piper and writer Lucy Prebble (Succession, A Very Expensive Poison), the first instalment was perhaps one of 2020’s most anxiety-inducing series, following the catastrophic implosion of Suzie Pickles (Piper), former child singer, sci-fi franchise star and mid-level celeb.

We pick up with Suzie locked in an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Cobb (Daniel Ings) who has helpfully sold a mournful tell-all story to the Daily Mail. Living in her pregnant sister’s poky flat while she pays extortionate legal bills, Suzie’s relationship with Naomi (Leila Farzad), her best friend and former agent, has cooled almost to freezing point.

Meanwhile, the tatters of her career – shredded by last series’ intimate photo leak that revealed an extra-marital affair – are being resurrected by her new management team via Dance Crazee, a manic Strictly-esque TV competition show in the run-up to Christmas. The three-episode series is billed as an “anti-Christmas special” and its garish portrayal of celebrity is certainly well-suited to a gaudy festive makeover.

In a neat revisiting of the nerve-racking series one opener in which Suzie’s life fell apart during a high fashion photoshoot, series two sees her once again physically caught in the suffocating whirlwind of fame. Pushed, pulled and primped behind the scenes of Dance Crazee, the outfits and makeup have only been heightened – her life was already a circus, but now Suzie is literally in clown face-paint and dancing for affirmation.

If you had forgotten how stressful this show is to watch, there is no easing in. The series is even more claustrophobic than the first, with both Suzie’s success on the dance show and her relationship with her son under the immense pressure of a Christmas deadline.

Piper’s performance is gamely grotesque, her forced smile filling the screen as stifling camerawork follows her every move. Certain sounds, like the creaking door of her divorce lawyer’s office, echo above everything else as the show’s direction submerges us in her waking nightmare.

Billie Piper as Suzie Pickles (Photo: Tom Beard/Sky) © Provided by The i Billie Piper as Suzie Pickles (Photo: Tom Beard/Sky)

I Hate Suzie Too is creatively bold, playing with form and convention and utilising musical numbers and fantasy sequences to disrupt and surprise. But while the dance show premise is the perfect canvas for magnifying Suzie’s predicament – the costuming, in particular, continues to be fabulous and faintly ridiculous, and the choreography is wonderfully weird – Prebble always finds space for humanity beneath the pandemonium. The opening episode sees Suzie perform an abortion at home with blunt and detailed authenticity while later, the depiction of Naomi beginning IVF treatment (injecting hormones into her belly in a car park) is equally un-squeamish.

If the first series veered close to an uncomfortable line in pointedly asking whether or not we love or hate this difficult, complicated character, series two has made things even harder to call. Suzie’s desperation and dysfunction have escalated alongside her self-destructive tendencies, but the series offers moments of sickening selfishness alongside extraordinary empathy, particularly in the triumphant panic attack of a finale.

At times excruciating to watch, at others laugh-out-loud funny, I Hate Suzie Too will probably be as divisive as the first series but this is a singular and boundary-pushing viewpoint of both the absurdity of celebrity and the impossibility of womanhood that Prebble and Piper pull off with confidence.


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