As far as talked about TV goes, Fleabag is up there, breaking the internet with its impeccable one liners and… the hot priest.
It’s a sitcom about an awkward, tall woman in her mid-twenties who doesn’t like her family. She’s unfulfilled in her work, has a wet flannel of a boyfriend, and can’t help but make absolutely everything sarcastic and ridiculous, breaking the fourth wall as she does so. Fleabag had every opportunity to become an annoying, too-self-aware show, and yet it became one of the most charming, heartfelt comedies out there, and almost universally-loved.
That is thanks to the utter brilliance of its creator, Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The show originally started as a one-woman monologue, created for the stage, laced with embittered gags and self-deprecating laughs. These both came with her to the telly version, which adds in a host of completely unlikeable characters. Her sister is cold and overly serious, married to a misogynistic caricature of everything Brits find annoying in Americans. Her mum passed away, and her cowardly dad married an eccentric, conniving artist. Her boyfriend, as we’ve already mentioned, is useless, and gets mad at her for masturbating to Barack Obama’s speeches.
Nobody is functioning, and none of them are happy. And it’s hilarious. They’re all on a constant mission to deflect the crap that life flings at them, whilst also trying to maintain their dysfunctional relationships with each other. And these relationships continue on their ebbs and flows into the second season, which is spiced up by the addition of the Hot Priest, who Fleabag naturally falls for.
And this is where the brilliance really comes through. We sit and laugh at how terrible these people are, whilst becoming fully entrapped by their lives, desperately wishing for it all to work out for them. Our attachment to the characters is likely helped along by the faultless casting – we have Olivia Coleman as Fleabag’s step mum, Sian Clifford as her sister, Bill Paterson as her dad, and Andrew Scott as the priest.
No surprise, then, that The Guardian’s Stuart Heritage says he found himself “caught up in it purely by the strength of characters alone… I could happily watch them wallow in misery for years to come.” And The New York Times’s Mike Hale loves the series’ “restless, almost feral energy and its slap-in-the-face attitude.”
Both of them will be sad, then, that the series was limited to just two seasons. But the good news is the second was as brilliant as the first. In Vanity Fair Sonia Saraiya calls it “magnificent,” saying “it’s hard to let go of such a vibrant show, one that takes so much joy in the giddy mess that is life.” Whilst The Guardian’s Hannah Jane Parkinson says: “series two raised the bar so utterly that, at times, Waller-Bridge’s risks and progression were so impressive all one could do was shake one’s head in appreciation.”
First shown August 2016. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.