For the viewer who watches the show for the plot and the relationships (regardless of the parties involved), Season Two is a mega-hit. It delivers and builds on the success of the first series, with more humour, teenage hijinx, and enough love triangles to form a geometry club. It doesn't matter that we missed a lot of the "good bits" of Kim and Sugar's relationship, because there's another not-so-aptly nicknamed girl ready to step in and be pursued by Kim.
It's surprisingly similar in structure, but altogether different and interesting.
Meanwhile, more critical viewers (and probably the same ones who complained all through The L Word's third season) refuse to accept such tidy simplicity. The plot unfolds too quickly and too easily, just like the poorly written teen novel upon which the show is based. Little regard is given for realism or depth, with the audience left digesting a lingering look passed off as substantial back story.
The plot and pacing of the show may not appeal to some, but this is a stylistic aspect that is unlikely to change.
Given the unfortunate dearth of quality lesbian characters on British TV lately, queer viewers must take what they can get if they want to see same-sex relationships on TV. Currently, Sugar Rush is one of the only mainstream British shows with central lesbian characters who haven't return to heterosexuality (unlike Emmerdale and EastEnders) and are given substantial character development. (ITV's Bad Girls is the other notable exception.)
What Sugar Rush does have going for it (regardless of criticism) is that the new series gives fans more of the same characters they grew to love last summer.
In fact, character development is the show's salvation. Though clichÃ©d characters existed in Julie Burchill's source novel and also arguably in the general storyline of the show ("naive girl from broken home meets bad girl"), Sugar Rush has overcome this initial fault to produce irresistible (albeit fallible) characters to which the audience relates.
Despite her rehabilitative stint, Sugar is still the same bad girl, though she is also quietly insecure. When Kim and Saint began dating, it coincided with Sugar's renewed drug use, and to cope with being the third wheel she found a significant other of her own. This, of course, landed her in even more trouble, but it is nice to see a tough girl who is also soft and imperfect.
Kim, meanwhile, is still gloriously confused and naive. Though she's been comfortable with her sexuality for some time now (a welcome break from the common, "am I gay?" storylines that haunt many dramas), what isn't clear is what she actually wants from her relationships. As with her crush on Sugar in the first season, Kim lusts after someone, then seems to change her mind when she's succeeded.
In the new series she cheats on Saint, and then all she wants is to acquiesce and get back together with her former girlfriend. Nonetheless, we'd be hard-pressed to find someone who didn't relate to this young romantic confusion (a sort of "who do I want this week?" scenario).
Even Kim's family members have forged unique parts in the show. Intense yet humorous, they are three-dimensional characters despite their supporting roles, and they also provide some plot relief for Kim's often angst-ridden storyline.
In the new series, Kim's parents, Stella and Nathan, are still unhappy together, but to "fix" their relationship they enlisted the help of a sex therapist. When that failed, Stella decided to take matters into her own hands, and pulled Nathan into their neighborhood swinging scene. As can be expected, much calamity ensued.
For good or for bad, these diverse, humanly flawed characters are what ultimately makes Sugar Rush a success. Many viewers can relate to the ambivalence of teenage love and confusion, and here it's particularly welcome because that confusion is due not to reasons of sexuality, but to the universal indecision that comes with all young relationships, both gay and straight.
In that regard, Sugar Rush really has been successful beyond its seemingly small teen lesbian fan base, which explains why 15-20% of the people watching TV at 10:50 are tuned to Channel 4 and hooked on the cult hit. These are remarkable numbers not just because it's a new show or a strange timeslot for a younger audience, but because the show is impactful in a way that transcends the sexuality of its characters.
With no end in sight to either the wild behavior, the relatable teen love stories, or the high ratings, Sugar Rush seems poised to continue to entertain gay and straight audiences with tales of lesbian love (and lust) for several seasons to come.