Fix: British TV, unlikable female protagonists, likable female protagonists, morally gray characters, hot priests, bad decisions
Platforms: Amazon Prime
Fleabag is a hilarious and poignant window into the mind of a dry-witted, sexual, angry, grief-riddled woman, as she hurls herself at modern living in London. Award-winning playwright Phoebe Waller-Bridge writes and stars as Fleabag, an unfiltered woman trying to heal, while rejecting anyone who tries to help her and keeping up her bravado all along.
How do I even begin to describe this show? Fleabag, whose real name we never learn, is sort of a hot mess. She’s got a shitty boyfriend, owns a guinea-pig themed cafe that no one ever comes to, her dad is about to get remarried to her awful godmother, she’s lost her best friend and her mother, and her uptight sister’s creep husband won’t stop hitting on her. She’s dealing with some heavy shit in the best way she knows how: through sex, alcohol, black humor, and the occasional glance toward and side-of-mouth comment uttered at the camera. Season one feels like an emotionally honest yet dark sitcom that explores painful themes through the lens of a hilarious “bad girl.” But season two is when Fleabag hits her stride, and the show is elevated to a complex, gorgeously written look at relationships, agency, intimacy and grief in which every word–every millisecond glance at the camera–is so meticulously crafted that the end result is one of the most impressive seasons of television I’ve ever experienced.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Fleabag
PWB is not totally new to the small screen. Just before season one of Fleabag premiered, she wrote/created/starred in a single season of a show called Crashing, which you can (and should!) watch here, and had a small part in the second season of Broadchurch. She’s done loads of theatre – Fleabag even began as a one-woman show. And she wrote and adapted the first season of Killing Eve for television. Seriously – by the time she was 31 years old, she’d written three television shows and also starred in two of them. I can’t wrap my brain around that kind of talent.
But since season two of Fleabag premiered on Amazon Prime earlier this summer, PWB has been EVERYWHERE. And really, she’s only just getting started. She’s writing on the new Bond film, she’s an Emmy winner, and as of, like, yesterday, she’s signed a $20 million deal with Amazon to keep making content for Prime Video. So yeah, get ready, because PWB is about to be a household name.
Andrew Scott as Priest
You may recognize him as Moriarty from Sherlock, or that driver in Black Mirror. Andrew doesn’t actually appear in Fleabag until season two, where he comes in like a wrecking ball, as the priest who will marry Fleabag’s dad and godmother in their upcoming nuptials. It’s clear from the beginning that he and Fleabag have insane chemistry, which Fleabag sees as a fun challenge, natch. Andrew’s performance as the Priest is really incredible, and in large part the reason that this show became so popular in its second season.
Sian Clifford as Claire
Clifford is so good as Fleabag’s older sister who is trying, and failing, to pretend that she’s got her life together. (So good, in fact, she got an Emmy nom for this part!) She’s got a good job in law or finance or something, a creepy husband, and an even creepier step-son. She’s the perfect foil to Fleabag, who revels in the messiness that is her life. Clifford’s performance after she gets her mid-life crisis haircut alone will make you cry with laughter.
Olivia Colman as Godmother
This year’s Best Actress Oscar winner plays Fleabag’s terrible, awful Godmother, who will soon be upgraded to Stepmother. Olivia is so hilariously terrible, you will love to hate her. She’s selfish, pretentious, passive-aggressive (or maybe aggressive-aggressive?), honestly just a real bitch.
Brett Gelman as Martin
Comedian Brett Gelman has been in just about everything, most notably as Murray in Stranger Things or Dr. Colter in Love. He plays Claire’s horrible husband, a creep and an alcoholic who hits on Fleabag and can’t say anything without a heavy dose of sexual innuendo.
Bill Paterson as Dad
Bill has a mile-long IMDB list full of uber British stuff, most of which I don’t recognize (though he did play Ned Gowan on Outlander). As Fleabag’s dad, he’s a bumbling, clueless widower, so emotionally unavailable he can barely look his daughters in the eye.
Couch-Sharing Capability: High
This show is so good, so hilarious, so well-written and complex that watching it with other people is a MUST. Trust me: you will need to talk about it when you finish season two. When I finished watching it (in one sitting, duh), I had to watch it a second time in the same weekend, and I have been unable to talk about anything else ever since. Fleabag is my personality now.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Viewer’s Choice
I’ve watched this show drunk and I’ve watched it sober, both times I ended up sobbing at the raw emotion that PWB manages to pack into compact 25-minute episodes. If you’ve got pain to numb, grab the nearest can of G&T from M&S, otherwise, go in with a clear head and Closed Captions on so you don’t miss anything.
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Required Viewing
If you haven’t watched it already, I’m sure you have friends and loved ones talking about it incessantly and FOR GOOD REASON. Just this week, Fleabag swept the Emmys, winning best direction and best comedy series, plus Phoebe Waller-Bridge taking home trophies for best writing and best actress in a comedy series. And bonus: it’s two seasons made up of six half-hour episodes each, which means you can binge the show in its entirety on a lazy Sunday afternoon.