If you haven’t yet sat down to watch hot BBC sitcom Fleabag, it is fairly likely that friends and family have been annoying you with their gushing reviews and imploring you to do so.
Well here’s why they’ve got a point about this impressive show, that’s both written and performed by breakout talent Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
1. The grotesque but real characters.
From the main protagonist of ‘Fleabag’ (we never learn her real name) to the many small but well observed characters – they all seem have their own odd grotesqueness that makes them either incredibly lovable, weird, or downright despicable.
The main thrust of the story is Fleabag’s own transgressions (especially sexual) that stem from her struggling to cope with the loss of her best friend and also her mother. Her destructive bedroom encounters are rarely very sexy, but often very funny, allowing for an honest female perspective of sex, which is so rare in TV and film.
Then there is her evil stepmother, impeccably played by Olivia Coleman, who elevates every scene in which she appears with her bitchy and passive-aggressive one-liners. “Haven’t you got a lovely, thick neck?” she tells Fleabag in one episode.
But if it is real grotesqueness you are after, wait to you meet her slimy, leering, alcoholic (but often funny) American brother-in-law Martin. It’s probably best to leave the descriptions of him there as watching him may be quite enough. But it’s a testament to the writing that, even with the loathsomeness of this character, you will probably feel like you have met someone just like him.
2. The sisterly love.
One of the many standout performances is by Sian Clifford, who plays Fleabag’s impossibly uptight and emotionally-stunted sister in a family full of uptight and emotionally stunted people. Of course, she is married to the aforementioned Martin as well as dealing with Fleabag’s many escapades, often pushing her anxiety levels through the roof to hilarious effect.
As the show goes on we learn that, although the sisters might not like each other a great deal, the love between the two is clear and they have been brought closer with the death of their mother and their disgust at their hapless father’s new relationship. Whether it’s love troubles or work disasters, one is always there to help with the other’s mess.
And look out for an epic hair mishap is series two – “I look like a pencil!”
3. The breaking of the fourth wall
This isn’t just a well written and acted comedy, it’s also pretty innovative and unlike anything that has been on TV in recent years. Maybe why so many people have taken it to their hearts is because of the way Waller-Bridge has brought the audience into the action with Fleabag’s regular asides to camera.
This kind of thing has been done before, but what makes it fresh is how deftly it is executed. They are often no more than a quick and knowing glance to camera, a raise of the eyebrows or a single word. It makes you feel as if you are always there with her and are in on the joke, right up until the final scene of the last episode where it is used with tear-jerking brilliance.
Fleabag is mad, unpredictable, funny and often quite filthy – but ultimately very relatable. Probably why it has proved such a massive a hit. And as much as we loved the two series, there are apparently no plans for a third. Bad news for those of us that have binge-watched it all already, but if you haven’t – you are in for a treat!