From the beginning, the Sugar Rush television series seemed doomed because it originated from a novel by Julie Burchill, the famed journalist that every Brit loves to hate. The book had been panned by critics (including AfterEllen.com) because of its outrageous stereotypes and poor character development, though it did manage to become a cult hit among young lesbians, probably because of the dearth of teen fiction featuring gay girls.
Results for a dramatization of those lifeless pages didn't seem promising, but last year Britain's Channel 4 spun off a television series based on the book. Using material only loosely based on the plot of the novel, the show allowed for much more development, giving viewers a chance to feel something for the characters.
The series–running in a ridiculous after-10 p.m. time slot in the middle of the summer–surprisingly became a modest hit. This year Channel 4 decided to extend the story further, and a second Sugar Rush season is scheduled to begin June 15 in the UK.
The show, like the book, follows the life of Kim (Olivia Hallinan), a middle-class teenage girl from an imminently broken home. She fell madly, obsessively in love with her friend Sugar (Lenora Crichlow), a promiscuous bad girl. Sugar was initially too interested in boys to notice the affections of her best friend, so instead the pair set off into the land of teenage stereotypes, complete with drugs, crime, and sex in Brighton, England's gayest town.
But somewhere amongst the stereotypes and easy teenage characterizations, a tender story emerged.
Like other recent portrayals of teen sexuality, Kim's crush on Sugar was both heartfelt and confusing, and the obligatory "crush on a straight girl" is something most lesbians have had to deal with in their lives. Also, their friendship is genuine and cute, making them a relatable, believable couple despite the dramatizations of their delinquent antics.
Thus, the story moved beyond the trite "middle-class meets wrong side of the tracks" storyline and produced characters–and acting performances–the audience could care about.
By the time the first season ended, viewers were left with the happy cliffhanger of Sugar and Kim together at last, and a third wheel named Beth (Laura Donnelly) left out. Although Kim and Beth's relationship had their share of fans, this resolution was befitting for a storyline that revolved around Kim's obsessive crush on the seemingly unattainable Sugar. It may not have been pleasant for those involved, but it was a very real, believable ending.
Because the television series only loosely followed the plot in the book, Sugar Rush's run last summer left open the possibility of subsequent seasons, and Channel 4 announced earlier this year that they were in fact working on a second season, scheduled to air in June.
In the new season, Sugar is still unattainable for Kim, but for slightly different reasons.
The story picks up as Kim begins to engross herself in gay Brighton whilst Sugar is locked up in a young offenders' institute because of her violent behavior. Though she visits her friend often, Kim longs to get out and explore herself further without being tied down to her one-time crush.
So, like Season 1, the second season contains another potential love triangle.
This time the unexpected interest comes in the form of Saint, a life-savvy girl who proves that all cool people have strange nicknames. Though Channel 4 has remained mum on all things Sugar Rush, they promise that Saint will deeply affect Kim and cause her to question how she feels about love and friendship, which seems to suggest that Kim will be caught in the middle of two girls again.
Also in the middle of Kim's conflicted life is her Goth brother Matt and their dysfunctional parents, a potentially banal plotline that is again saved by skilled acting and extended character development.
The second season, takes place 18 months later, a move reportedly done because of the disparity between the ages of the characters and the actresses portraying them. Most fans agree it's no longer practical for 22-year old actresses to be playing 15-year olds. Unfortunately, this also poses a plot problem, so these feelings may turn to outrage if–after ten episodes of waiting–all the heart of Kim and Sugar's relationship has been glossed over in favor of aging the characters.
In Season 3 of The L Word, writers used a similar "fast forward" technique as a way to avoid telling stories that viewers actually wanted to see, including Dana and Alice's messy breakup. Though they supplemented the story with flashbacks to some of the missing events, it wasn't enough to satiate most fans.
Sugar Rush's writers have fast forwarded three times as far as The L Word. They have a lot of catching up to do, but by the first episode we should know if they will adequately fill in the missing plot details or simply pick up with a brand new storyline and leave viewers to fill in the blanks.
This may very well turn out to be the fulcrum upon which the success of the second season revolves. Until the writers are able to show that they've incorporated the missing time, the verdict on the new series is one of tepid anticipation, strangely not unlike the way most people felt about Season 1.
So, with the character development firmly in place, it's these missing plot points that will determine whether we're hurrying to get another summer Sugar Rush, or merely wishing for the dissipation of a headache from another missed opportunity.