Metadata: TV-MA | 2016 | 1 season, six 30-minute episodes
Genre: Black Comedy (the last one for awhile, I promise!)
Why I watched: Do you see the title card for this series?? Phoebe Waller-Bridge just standing there, looking at the camera, dimly lit by the London street lights—mascara streaming down her face. The bright red, all-caps title "FLEABAG" practically screaming at you? I ask you, how could you not watch this?
You might also like: There is nothing like Fleabag out there. EXCEPT maybe, and hear me out on this, I, Tonya. Both follow complicated women. The camera style is interestingly similar, built around direct addresses to the camera. And in both cases, you'll find yourself loving an unlovable protagonist. I, Tonya is streaming on Hulu.
I've been sitting on this recommendation since Christmas, when I binged all six episodes. Why didn't I recommend it sooner? Probably because I'm slightly (only slightly) concerned about what my friends and family will think about my complete and utter love for this very bizarre, dark, and over-the-top but also honest show about a mid-twenties woman who has an unhinged obsession with sex. Watching Fleabag feels like you're having a conversation with the most interestingly flawed person you've ever met. Sure, it's NSFW. And yeah, you won't want to be best friends with her. But she's hilarious and insightful, poignant and provocative, and definitely has a story worth hearing.
Known only as "Fleabag," Waller-Bridge's character finds her way through mourning her dead best friend and mother, while running a guinea pig-themed cafe . . . and hitting on everything with a pulse (including a dog, her OBGYN, an ex-boyfriend, bartender, etc.). Fleabag is irresponsible and never takes anything seriously. She's fairly selfish. She can't maintain relationships with friends, family, or lovers (many of whom are just as flawed as she is.) And, as previously stated, she has a deeply problematic relationship with sex. “This woman thought sex was something that she chased, she needed for validation, for pleasure,” Waller-Bridge has said. “It was also the one thing in the world that she felt destroyed everything." That about sums it up.
While she's a broken character, she's also an endearing one. Through flashbacks and confessionals, we come to understand how she became this way, using sex and crass comedy as a shield. This setup makes Fleabag perfect for TV. She enters our lives in tiny, sharp 30-minute bursts. Her story initially lures us in with the comedy, which is uproarious. Over the course of the series, though, we realize that drama is at the heart of it. The trauma isn't stereotypical or obvious. And when it hits us in the finale, it hits us hard.
This show is brilliant. Ready yourselves.