You wouldn’t think that an actress, who not only wrote a play, then adapted it into a TV series, all while starring as the lead character, would not only title the play/series Fleabag, but would also give the lead character that name too. You wouldn’t think it would happen.
Only if your name is Phoebe Waller-Bridge, that’s exactly what you did. This six part series called [ta-daa] Fleabag (a half-hour a pop for each of the episodes) opened (began streaming) on Friday the 16th as an Amazon Original Series. Well, you’ll have to forgive Amazon for their marketing strategies as this series has already aired in the UK on BBC 3. But if you are an Amazon Prime member you can watch all six episodes at no additional cost.
So what’s it all about Alfie is probably not the question forming on your lips, but that was no accident. One of the keys to this funny series is that Fleabag has a decided penchant for breaking the 4th wall and talking directly to we viewers about the imminent and ongoing situation she’s in. Michael Caine did this in 1966 in the hit film Alfie.
Then we enjoyed it in the 1990 British TV series House of Cards with Ian Richardson playing the ambitious and corrupt Francis Urquhart.
In 2004 Alfie was remade with Jude Law playing Alfie. The story was re-positioned to be a New York story instead of London.
The British H of C was remade into a US TV series called House of Cards. Netflix began streaming the series in February of 2013. The fifth season will be available on February 24th, 2017. Kevin Spacey plays Francis Underwood, a poor guy from the back woods of South Carolina who was as corrupt as Mr. Urquhart, who eventually became the British PM. Underwood’s reach would eventually take him into the US Congress, and then ultimately, straight into the White House as President.
While Fleabag may be as morally corrupt as any of the gentlemen we just named, she was far less ambitious. When we first meet her she’s prepping for a 2:00 AM Tuesday Night pop-in.
What follows is a pretty close to a transcript of what we watched.
Fleabag speaking directly to us: You know that feeling when a guy sends you a text at 2 o’clock on a Tuesday night asking if he can come and find you?
Then you’ve got to get out of bed, shower, shave, do the whole bit. Drink a bit of port. Then you find some clothes and stand by the door waiting till the buzzer goes…
Then you open the door to him and act like you forgot that he’s coming over.
Fleabag to the guy: Oh! Hi…
Here in the states, we call that a booty call. Sex looms.
Fleabag speaking to us again: Then you get to it immediately. After some pretty standard bouncing, you realize he’s edging towards your asshole. But you’re drunk, and he’s made all the effort to come over here, so you let him. He’s thrilled.
There’s your introduction to the series, the first episode, and to the leading lady: Fleabag. She a 30 something single woman living in today’s London. She’s also angry (most of the time), sexual (almost all the time), all while being in a state of grief.
You see, she’s mourning the loss of her best friend, roommate, and business partner called Boo. Together, they ran a café (not a restaurant) where the main theme was guinea pigs. As a business it is about as far from thriving as you can get.
It seems that Boo had a boyfriend that she cared for, and for no reason other than she could, and he would, Fleabag slept with this man. Boo discovered this, and decided to end it all. She stepped out into the street, got hit by a bicyclist, then got hit by a car, and then another bicyclist (all off-screen). The question that remained was this – did she intentionally step into the road as a means of suicide, or was it a legit accident?
We never do find out.
So Boo shows up frequently in flashbacks.
Meanwhile we have become Fleabag’s confidante. She’s always showing us her reactions to what is going on, and in truth, she’s a bit of a nasty and self-centered individual. Fleabag is more than adept in making us feel that we are on the inside with her, She shows us a side, that the person she’s talking to, doesn’t see.
Usually it is funny, or even shockingly funny, and often disturbing. What’s more, it is impossible for us to resist. People have said, that breaking the 4th wall, in the form of personal asides, is overdone, outdated, and sometimes a sign of laziness by the writer.
Here it seems to work just fine. There’s a certain sense of pleasure (for us) in being an insider or a confidante. I found it irresistible in this series.
Like what Fleabag is thinking about the men she’s with, or even what she’s thinking while being intimate with these very same men. Fleabag believes that sex is the cure for loneliness, grief, jealousy, and anger. Which is really the long way of saying that Fleabag will get down with any man who is both available and breathing.
There’s no real nudity, and the sex is always beneath the bed covers and simulated.
The situations include job interviews, a weekend at a retreat with her sister, a family dinner, a sexhibition (a kind of gallery opening), all liberally sprinkled with resentment, jealously, and even revenge. In short it is very funny.
Now I know I wouldn’t want to stay in what might be called a fleabag hotel. but spending six half hours with this London woman called Fleabag, is definitely something you will enjoy.
The series trailer: