Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Pilot Review: Fleabag

Fleabag (Amazon)
Premiered September 16

I find these days that there are so many new shows premiering on Netflix and Amazon that it’s hard to keep track, and inevitably I’ve missed one or two even in the past month. But I happened to catch a very positive review of this one and made sure I didn’t miss it, and I’m very glad for that. This show aired its six-episode first season on BBC Three in England back in July, and now it’s come to Amazon to be seen by American audiences. Immediately, this show reminded me in a very good way of “Secret Diary of a Call Girl,” mainly because Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag started out in the episode’s first scene directly addressing the audience and then continued to do so throughout the episode even while events were happening around her and others were present in the frame. While that device might seem overused, in this case it works very well since it offers us some welcome insight into the twisted mind of this show’s protagonist. I’m not sure many people could cite Obama as the reason for their breakup in quite the same way, and she seems to do just about everything possible to rile people up, wearing her sister’s stolen sweater and then swiping her stepmother’s very expensive piece after being told that she couldn’t take it. Lashing out at the nice guy who asked her out because he was making excuses not to sleep with her was probably an instance of her poorer judgment, and she definitely has a complicated relationship with just about everyone in her life. Her ending narrative was sobering but it’s hard to know what’s really true since she flashed that devilish smile at the camera to close out the episode. I’m intrigued and definitely want to see more.

How will it work as a series? It’s so much like other British comedy series that meld dark humor with a more dramatic undercurrent. This one isn’t quite as awkward because Fleabag totally owns it, not shamed at all by the things that happen in her life. Six episodes isn’t too long, and there was a good amount of material covered in just this first episode, which is promising for the remaining five.
How long will it last? That all depends on how long Waller-Bridge wants it to. Most British series like this only run for two seasons purely for creative reasons, and I suspect that might be the case here too. Amazon’s participation is a positive, and I would imagine that this one will earn a renewal from both its producing networks soon.

Pilot grade: B+

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