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TV Series Review

We at Focus on the Family think the world of family. You might say we focus on it. We love moms. We love dads. We love kids. We love second cousins twice removed. We love family, and we believe that healthy families offer just myriad benefits to those lucky enough to have one. And for those families that aren’t perfect—that is, all of our families—we also offer advice to help them get a little bit better.

Which is why I think that the British family from Fleabag might want to give us a jingle.

With Families Like These …

Fleabag refers to a person, by the way—not a hotel, not a grimy, vermin-infected purse, but a woman who owns a guinea pig-themed café. It’s an affectionate nickname, if you will, or would be if anyone in her family was affectionate.

Admittedly Fleabag isn’t exactly the most put-together individual out there. She’s been known to deal with her problems and insecurities through sex and liquor and, if at all possible, more sex. In fact, Fleabag believes that her best friend/business partner, Boo, is dead because of her: Boo wandered into London traffic in Season 1 after Fleabag slept with Boo's beau. Now, in Season 2, Fleabag is trying to move on and—shocker—to become a better person.

Not that she’s impressed her father just yet.

To be fair, Dad’s never known exactly what to do with Fleabag and her older sister, Claire. Not since their mother died, anyway. When they were children, Dad would show his love by shipping the girls off to feminist lectures—which, incidentally, he still does. But he spends far more of his attention on his daughters' godmother and his newish fiancée, an artist who specializes in erotica and has mastered the art of passive-aggression. In the show’s opening episode, Fleabag described her soon-to-be-stepmother (played by Oscar-winner Olivia Colman) thusly: “To be fair, she is not an evil stepmother." What she is, Fleabag then declares, is actually a word we're not going to print.

Fleabag's relationship with sister Claire is equally rocky, especially after Claire’s husband, Martin, accused Fleabag of making a pass at him. (In truth, the alcoholic buffoon tried to smooch her.)

Laughs, Tears and Groans

Fleabag is the creation of its star, Phoebe Waller-Bridge. It began its existence as a 10-minute stand-up routine, then blossomed to an award-winning one-woman play. The series—broadcast on BBC Three in the UK and Amazon Prime in the States—has been equally well-received, with The Daily Telegraph calling it a “near perfect work of art.”

Which leaves Plugged In to offer the obligatory, “Yes, but …”

Yes, the show is sharp and beguilingly layered. At first, it feels like a madcap dark comedy filled with cleverly caricatured characters. But give it time, and the characters grow deeper, darker, and more desperate. They’re all, in a way, starving—for attention, for respect, for love. But each, in his or her own way, is either unable to show love or incapable of accepting it. Or both. Funny? Yes. But deep down, Fleabag may be one of the saddest shows on television.

And then, of course, there’s the sex.

Fleabag is described as a sex addict, and many of the characters here are defined by their level of sexual activity (or lack thereof). Everyone seems deeply preoccupied by both the subject and act, and we see more of both than we’d care to. Infidelity is both a constant threat and reliable plot point: Same-sex relations and other forms of intimate attraction can be in the offing, too. And in Season 2, at least two characters seem to be attracted to an ostensibly celibate Catholic priest.

Blood and violence can be a part of the story as well—unusual for a half-hour "sitcom." Language and alcohol use are pervasive. In short, pretty much everything we track here at Plugged In is an issue in this show, save perhaps deep spiritual messages.

Fleabag is bright, engaging, utterly devastating and morally impaired. It’s the lionfish of streaming shows: ISure, it’s both beautiful and grotesque, each augmenting the other. And man, the quills can hurt something awful.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

May 17, 2019: "Episode 1"

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Fleabag; Sian Clifford as Claire; Olivia Colman as Godmother; Jenny Rainsford as Boo; Bill Paterson as Dad; Brett Gelman as Martin; Andrew Scott as The Priest; Hugh Skinner as Harry

Director

Distributor

Network

Amazon

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Released

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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