I Love Lucy. Everyone Loves Raymond. I Hate Suzie.
On the title card it’s even ‘I Hate Suzie” with a period at the end – definitive. A title card that has made up its mind. While some people use “hate” casually, it’s still a strong word, and to name a TV show, I Hate Suzie, she must be terrible, right?
Wrong, or at least not entirely right. Hate comes in a lot of different forms. There are obnoxious people. There are people you love to hate. There are people you hate irrationally and there are people who are unequivocally evil (the highest echelon of hate). Suzie Pickles isn’t any one of those things. She’s a woman who’s had an affair and, if TV is any indicator, affairs are pretty commonplace.
What makes Suzie special, or the reason her affair is getting so much attention, is because of who she is and how the world found out. It’s been twenty years since Suzie won a singing competition. Now a series regular on a genre TV show, the big news in episode one (before the pictures come out) is that she’s been chosen to play a Disney princess. During a photoshoot to announce the casting, however, Suzie slowly finds out that her phone has been hacked and that photos of her (with a man who’s not her husband) have leaked onto the internet.
Love can turn into hate fast, and to say Suzie’s husband, Cob (Daniel Ings), isn’t happy to learn this is an understatement but, whatever the title of the show might be, you don’t hate Suzie, and while that could be knocked down to the inspired casting of Billie Piper (who also serves as co-creator of the series with Lucy Prebble), it’s not just Piper’s likability rubbing off on the character. It’s the series’ writing, too.
Prebble (who created Secret Diary of a Call Girl, starring Piper) wrote all eight episodes and while often there’s a distance to stories about celebrity, Suzie could be anyone. Her being famous means there are more people invested in her story, but she’s not the Beatles. She’s not walking around, being recognized all the time. Her problems aren’t “celebrity problems.” They’re problems any couple could have.
Strangely it’s Suzie’s husband who inspires the most ire, and Prebble plays this line particularly well because you don’t have to be lovable to be wronged and Cob is the wronged party. Suzie cheated on him and the show never forgets that.
For this season, each episode is named after one of the stages of grief, or something resembling a stage of grief. Since there are eight episodes and the Kübler-Ross’ model has five stages they reach an impasse eventually but, more than a title, the name of each episode is used to color how that episode is directed. It never feels forced, and maybe that’s why the stages are in a different order, too, but the result is each episode has its own identity. What better place than a comic con, for example, to feed into “Denial,” whereas in “Fear” every creak is amplified.
It all culminates in “Acceptance,” yet what “Acceptance” looks like on I Hate Suzie is not a clean slate. Suzie’s actions have consequences.
More drama than comedy, I Hate Suzie is available to stream now on HBO Max.