I Hate Suzie: Billie Piper is spectacular as a spiralling star in this train-wreck comedy

The series follows the trajectory of a former child star whose life is beginning to unravel

The runaway success of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag has undoubtedly made it easier for stories about women on the verge of a nervous breakdown – or actually having one – to get to the screen. While its writers had trouble convincing at least one broadcaster to get on board, I Hate Suzie is another show that puts women on the edge at the, er … centre.

It’s streaming now on Stan, and it’s spectacular.

The series stars Billie Piper and is co-created by Piper and British playwright Lucy Prebble, whose TV writing credits include Secret Diary of a Call Girl and Succession.

It kicks off its first episode with a woman whose life has just blown up. Suzie Pickles (Piper), a former child star, has retreated to the country with her husband (Daniel Ings) and child and is getting ready to enjoy the next stage of her career after being offered the lead as an ageing princess in a Disney production.

When we meet Suzie, a pack of magazine ghouls have descended on her house for a photoshoot. Amid the chaos and hallway full of strangers, she gets an alert: explicit photos of her giving someone oral sex have been released on the internet. She’s been hacked.

I Hate SuzieEpisode 05 - Bargaining I Hate Suzie
Piper plays the title role of Suzie as if she were born to it. Photograph: Hal Shinnie/Sky UK

So begins the set up for Suzie’s spiral. The first episode – all set on the morning of the photoshoot – is intensely tense, verging on unwatchable in the best kind of way.

Suzie, affixed with a rictus grin, offers cups of tea to the photoshoot team, while unplugging every modem in the house, trying to prevent her husband from finding out about the hack. Is it even his dick in the pic? At one point, she makes tea in two glasses and the glass cracks then disintegrates in the sink, adding touches of horror and comedy to the mix.

Meanwhile, the photographer is trying to get Suzie to look equal parts sexy, relaxed and happy. But when your life’s falling apart, cracking as surely as boiling water cracks glass, your eyes will betray you every time. So it is with Piper, who plays the title role as if she were born to it. She dutifully performs the high-wattage smile but her eyes are wide with terror.

a woman in a fur coat screaming in the street
Suzie Pickles has her life upended when she is hacked and pictures of her in an extremely compromising position emerge. Photograph: Photographer: Des Willie/Sky

Things plummet even further in episode two, when Suzie, in denial about her tabloid troubles, dives nose-deep into a cocaine binge at a sci-fi convention with her agent Naomi (Leila Farzad) and a fellow burnt-out sci-fi actor. She winds up in the nightmare sequence of being disoriented in a long hotel corridor, her face reflected and distorted on the chrome fixtures.

I Hate Suzie is told through the eight stages of grief, beginning with shock, moving on to denial, and so on. It’s a solid device to move a character through the journey of a life falling apart, and is realised impeccably, right down to Suzie’s wardrobe – typically, pyjama tops and fur coats.

Anyone who dreams of celebrity will be brought back down to earth by I Hate Suzie. As well as the precarious nature of fame, it’s a gulag of Q&As, long-winded fans at convention events, tabloid intrusion and near-constant insecurity about work, money, relevance, ageing and beauty.

In a world where female characters are judged on their relatability, there is nothing much relatable about Suzie. But that’s OK. Television shouldn’t always be about comfort and recognition. Sometimes, it should take you deep into a world that you wouldn’t normally have access to, and reveal the emptiness behind the facade.

• I Hate Suzie is now streaming on Stan


Brigid Delaney

The GuardianTramp

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