There’s a scene in the first episode where a very drunk Sugar climbs into a toilet stall to comfort an upset Kim. Without saying a word, she draws round each of their feet on the wall with a marker pen; it’s a moment of real tenderness and I could see why Kim would fall for her.
The second improvement: the writing. Burchill is at best a columnist, at worst a hack. Her writing style is characterized by incredibly long sentences that balance precariously on a knife’s edge of comprehension. For the adaptation, the writers have filleted the prose and made it much terser, more throw-away and sardonic. Kim’s many arch one-liners give her a veneer of world weariness that only thinly covers her insecurity.
Which brings me onto the third big plus: the acting.
So often, acting can make or break a TV drama. Fortunately, in this case, it makes it. Hallinan brings Kim to vulnerable life, she is believable as a girl who is struggling not just with a rocky home life, but to make sense of her sexuality. She may know she’s a “15 year old queer virgin” but that doesn’t make it any easier. She’s a kid who wants to be older and braver, to have the same give-a-damn attitude Sugar does.
Crichlow’s Sugar is vibrant and trouble. She’s the girl your mother warns you to stay away from, but you want to hang out with anyway: wild and unpredictable. She knows she’s sexy, and she knows how to use it. If she’s not the brightest girl in the world, it’s more from not thinking than being stupid.
Both Stewart and Lumsden are good as Kim’s parents, managing to keep their characters just this side of caricature, which is no mean feat considering the material they were drawn from.
Sugar Rush was produced by the company responsible for teen drama series As If, and shares many of the same production values. Both are glossy and vividly colored, with quick editing and a poppy soundtrack to keep things moving, making both shows the dramatic equivalent of the Bacardi Breezers so beloved of British teenagers–colorful and sweet, but with a punch.
But while As If was on in the early evening and Sunday lunchtimes, Channel 4 has scheduled Sugar Rush at 10:50pm, a little late for what should be considered its target audience, especially on a school night. This is probably due to strong language and “scenes of sexual nature” but it does beg the question: what audience is Channel 4 targeting?
From what I’ve seen so far, the adaptation of Sugar Rush is preferable to the novel, but that isn’t difficult. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the series shapes up, and what they do with the story and characters. One thing I’m already sure of: I’m glad I’m not 15 again. It’s hard work!
Sugar Rush airs Thursday nights on Channel 4 in the UK