Tipping the Velvet (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's notes

This is a three part BBC miniseries. The term "tipping the velvet" is to Victorian England as "chewing the carpet" is to contemporary America. That's right, it's a distinguished BBC look at hot girl-on-girl action in Victorian England. It relates the lesbian love affairs of a girl from a simple seaside village who makes her way to London as the assistant, then stage partner, then bed partner, of a beautiful "male impersonator." She is eventually betrayed by the glamorous vaudeville actress (with a man, no less!), and we then follow the trials and tribulations and eventual triumphs of the village girl as she struggles to make it on her own in the big city, hoping that she will someday be able to throw her hat in the air for a freeze frame. In the end, she has to decide between staying with a sincere average-looking woman who loves her, or going back to her glamorous sexy actress/lover, who wants her back.

(Cue up Kenny G music.)

I guess you can tell that it has chick-flick written all over it. Women rate this thing 8.8 at IMDB. No surprise. It has great production values and acting and period costumes and authentic music-hall tunes and that kind of tutti-frutti shit.

"So is there anything for us guys, Scoop?"

Dudes, you're not paying attention. I already mentioned the hot girl-on-girl action. There's no frontal nudity and there are no explicit sex scenes, but there are plenty of naked women kissing and rubbing their breasts together and playing with dildos and moaning and calling each other "tarts" and making each other wear slave costumes and so forth. So you have to give it pretty high marks in the area of lesbotronic delights, especially by TV standards.

Thank God for the BBC! If not for their efforts, how could we ever get a chance to look at naked lipstick lesbians with our wives' approval, in a guilt-free environment where we can pretend to enjoy the witty dialogue and authentic period atmosphere. Best of all, women love it, so they will thank us for bringing it home as a rental! Only one important tip, guys - do not actually watch it WITH your wife. You should watch it on a separate occasion, when she can't catch you using the fast-forward through the witty fuckin' dialogue and the authentic period crap.

When you get right down to it, these BBC shows really need only one thing to be perfect. They need to provide some Cliff's Notes - some comments for us to make when people ask us how we enjoyed the show. Let's face it, our wives are going to ask how we liked it, and we can't say, "Whoa, honey, I love to watch those gazongas rubbing together. Why don't you get your sister over here, and try that out?" If we want to keep watching this stuff with their approval, we will have to offer some pretentious and fulsome codswallop that sounds sort of convincing. Therefore, at the end of each of these shows, BBC should suggest some appropriate comments that we might make to convince the wife, the boss, and our snarky friends that we are serious thinkers who are only watching BBC for the incisive cultural analysis. You know what I mean. The whole Alistair Cooke schtick. Some professors could tell us how Ibsen touched on similar themes in A Doll's House, or offer blather about the exploitation of the working classes or the repression of women in Victorian society, or how the themes of this movie foreshadow the emergence of the socialist movement in Europe. You know, all the basic phony-baloney crap we need to say so we can look at naked chicks in front of our wives and girlfriends.

Actually, I liked the show, especially when it reflected Ibsen's weltanschauung and the emergence of women's suffrage.

Just kidding.

I did enjoy it, but mostly I liked the tits.

I liked Keeley Hawes more than I liked the show. She is a turn-on for me. She basically looks like a refined lady - kind of a soft spoken Julie Andrews clone, with sparkling tender eyes. And then she drops all the Julie Andrews stuff along with her trou. She looks great naked, too. Big natural breasts, and a completely natural body that looks like what real women look like naked, as opposed to those who spend three hours a day in the gym. She has a bit of sag here, is a bit too soft there, too lumpy elsewhere, but overall she is gorgeous. Just a beautiful real woman. I kinda miss seeing those in the movies. It seems like the women today look like Cameron Diaz with no spare flesh at all, or like Demi Moore with muscles that indicate she could kick my ass, or like Pam Anderson with no recognizable human-flesh body parts. So bravo to Keeley for looking great naturally, and for letting us look.

And bravo to the screenwriters for ... um ... their incisive foreshadowing and metaphors and shit like that.


DVD info from Amazon

  • The individual episodes are presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer. Nice!

  • There is an interview with novelist Sarah Waters and screenwriter Andrew Davies



  • Keeley Hawes shows her breasts.
  • Rachael Stirling shows her breasts, her buns, and a very brief flash of her pubes.
  • Sally Hawkins shows her breasts.

Tuna's notes

Tipping the Velvet (2002) is a lesbian "coming out while coming-of-age" story which is told in three parts as a BBC mini-series. I must applaud the BBC for tackling this Victorian London tale of Sapphic love at all, but more particularly for allowing copious nudity and simulated sex, including a fairly graphic dildo scene. Author Sarah Walters simply wrote the sort of lesbian novel she would like to read. For screenwriter Andrew Davies, it covered two of his favorite topics, Victorian naughtiness and a woman's passage from girl to mature woman. He felt the novel was so good, the screenplay wrote itself, but he worked harder to create several music hall songs.

Rachel Stirling is a meek oyster girl with a boyfriend that fails to ignite her fire, when she attends a music hall performance and sees male impersonator Keeley Hawes for the first time. She starts frequenting the theater, Hawes notices her and they become traveling companions, lovers, and then partners performing. Act one ends with Hawes marrying a man, and thus breaking Rachel's heart. In act two, Rachel falls upon hard times. She wears her men's clothing to turn tricks with gay men, and then becomes the property of a rich lesbian. She finally breaks away from her corrupted life, but is destitute. In act three, she finds the love of a plain but loving woman, and returns to the stage.

Overall, women score it 8.8, and men 7.8, making it officially a chick flick. It is a lesbian favorite, which is to be expected for several reasons. First, there is a lot of kissing. Second, it is a lesbian love story with a rare happy ending. Third, it shows the depth of genuine emotion possible in a girl/girl relationship.

I adored act one, partially because I liked the characters, and partially because I like Victorian Music Hall songs. Act two was not as enjoyable for me, but act three redeemed the series with a "feel good" ending. If we had TV of this quality (and sensuality) in the US, I might actually watch it.

The Critics Vote

  • TV series - no major reviewers discussed it

The People Vote ...


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Tuna says, "Scoring this one is not easy because it pleases across several genres. As a coming-of-age story, it is a C+. As a "gay coming of age musical comedy," it has appeal well beyond that genre, and deserves a B- as I read our definition. If you call it an historical romantic comedy, then it is probably only a C, because it is entirely too much fun for the costumer crowd. I suppose I will settle on a high C+ and give it my personal thumbs up." Scoop says, "The 8.0 at IMDb speaks for itself. It's obviously at the very top of its field among period dramas. I think you can call it a B- because many other people will enjoy it who would not ordinarily sit through a period piece. If women drag their husbands to watch it, the husbands should actually have a good time, listening to some lively songs and watching some hot girl-on-girl action."

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