HBO Max's 'I Hate Suzie' Is a Nude-Hack Comedy That 'Fleabag' Fans Will Love
The British show, co-created by a 'Succession' writer, stars Billie Piper as an actress in a crisis.
There's a genre of TV show that's cropped up in the past couple of years that I refer to as Fleabag-adjacent. These series—which also include Catastrophe, Feel Good, and I May Destroy You—have some commonalities: They're British, their episodes are roughly a half hour each, they're sexually frank, and they focus primarily on a woman (usually played by the creator or co-creator) in some form of psychological disarray. While comparing these programs feels almost unfair because each is a unique showcase for their stars' voices, it's also probably true that, if you like one of them, you'll probably like the rest. The latest addition: I Hate Suzie, an eight-episode series now streaming in its entirety on HBO Max.
I Hate Suzie, which aired earlier this year in the UK, is a collaboration between the actress Billie Piper and Lucy Prebble, a playwright and consulting producer for HBO's Succession. Piper stars as Suzie Pickles, a woman with a Billie Piper-esque career. Like Piper, Suzie was a teenage pop singer. Like Piper, best known for her stint on Doctor Who as the Doctor's travelling companion Rose Tyler, Suzie also starred on a popular sci-fi show.
The premiere episode begins with Suzie receiving the news that she's been cast as a princess in a Disney project, a big win for an actress who'd thought she'd aged out of those sorts of roles. Later that same day, with a photo crew about to arrive at the quaint country home she shares with her husband, Cob (Daniel Ings), and their deaf child, Frank (Matthew Jordan-Caws), Suzie learns that her phone has been hacked and that intimate photos have been leaked to the press.
The chaotic photo shoot, with Suzie dressed up like Cruella de Vil in bright red lipstick and a fur coat, along with Cob's slow discovery of the nature of the photos (it turns out that the penis in the explicit shots with her isn't his), sends Suzie into a spiral. The episode plays like a thriller until the end, when Suzie, locked out of her house after the photo shoot, sings about her hatred of the small town she lives in, like a profane Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
Each episode that follows is titled after one of the stages of grief, and each is surprising in its own way. Midway through the season, there's an entire episode that features Suzie's attempts to masturbate while constantly being disrupted by her inner monologue that's guided by what she assumes her best friend and manager Naomi (Leila Farzad) would say. It's surreal, and also a shockingly accurate representation of the inner workings of a woman's mind.
I Hate Suzie may be about the rarefied experience of living in the public eye and use the tropes of Suzie's job to tell her story, but it's also the saga of a woman trying to reclaim her identity when pieces of her have been picked apart for public consumption. Over the course of the season, it becomes clear that, with or without the leaked photos, Suzie's private life with her professor husband and young son was merely a facade doomed to shatter, but the hack sped up the timeline.
If you only know Piper from her stint on Doctor Who—which she was great on, don't get me wrong—prepare to be amazed. The camera is frequently trained on her astounding face, which projects anxiety so well that it's downright disturbing. With Suzie, she's crafted a character so captivating, a ticking time bomb who's volatile and passive at the same time, that she exists outside of the meta narrative that resembles Piper's own career.
Why do I love I Hate Suzie and its ilk so much? In some ways, watching these shows is torturous. You watch these women make bad decisions over and over again, and cause turmoil for everyone in their path. The easy explanation is that these shows are all concise little masterpieces that play with form, are devastating emotionally, and have lots of humor. If you're also into the Fleabag-adjacent genre, I highly recommend adding I Hate Suzie to your queue.
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