I am worryingly out of fashion on the internet. As we all know by now it’s a place for spitting bile, name calling and generally being a dick. All happy, positive and sincere thoughts are banned. Despite fears that I might end up sounding like Professor Brian Cox or the fabulous theme from The Lego Movie (everything is either amazing! or awesome!) it turns out it’s easier for me to review things I like. If I enjoy something I watch I want to tell you about it. Simples.
And even though I promised myself a full year ago to get out of my tv comfort zone and try new things I still fail. If you can only stand to watch 10 minutes of a programme, it can’t be worth discussing can it? And is it fair to judge a show on such a short viewing? Probably not. But dear sweet baby cheesus, sometimes 10 minutes is more than enough.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is good on telly. She was excellent as Lulu in Channel 4’s Crashing – a nasty, bitchy, selfish hedonist – a very suitable foil for goody-two-shoes floaty dress wearing Kate. She wrote that too. It wasn’t especially well received because I think it came too close to the stunning Cucumber by Russell T Davies and couldn’t compare (even though the comparisons were probably unfair – “It’s young people sharing a house! It must be exactly the same thing!”).
So it’s a real shame that Fleabag is just annoying. This is Waller-Bridge’s Edinburgh stage monologue picked up by BBC3 and adapted for tv (online tv of course, not actually telly in the corner of your room tv). The style pissed me off immediately. She has all these intrusive asides to camera. Every. Other. Word. Is. Interrupted. Every joke is explained. So there’s no flow. It’s not even really that shocking (she masturbates to a Barack Obama speech with her boyfriend asleep in bed next to her – lolz!). I understand she’s an anti-hero but I can’t find any sympathy or interest in the main character. One line did make me giggle – as her boyfriend breaks up with her he tells her not to contact him anymore”Don’t show up at my house drunk in your underwear. It won’t work this time.” “It will.” she says, very matter-of-fact.
Other reviews have called it unflinching, clever and wonderful. I’m not on board. At all. Is it because it’s a bad show? Maybe. Is it because I have no patience with anything that doesn’t grab me in the first 10 minutes. Probably.
Flowers first broadcast on Channel 4 over five nights in April, and now available in its entirety on Sky Box Sets, wasn’t so much annoying as cringy. I have a pretty low tolerance for cringe – please see me alternating between agonised squirming and apoplectic rage whenever Ricky Gervais turns up on tv. This short series started well for the viewer and not so well for Julian Barratt‘s character Maurice whose suicide attempt was ignored by all and then failed anyway. I like a black comedy and that’s a pretty dark start. I think maybe the husband and wife relationship between Olivia Coleman’s Deborah and Maurice was a bit too real, a bit too near the knuckle for it to be funny. The rest of the family and friends were batty, horrid or dealing with their own bleak struggles.
Olivia Coleman – soon to be national treasure – actually appears in both Flowers and Fleabag. I worry, since the dreadful Series 2 of Broadchurch, am I going off Olivia?! That’s probably tantamount to treason. Off with my head.
Depression, rage and the awkwardness of being human are all excellent themes to mine for comedy. Some comics build considerable careers out of it. To misquote Meera Syal comedy isn’t all haha hehe. But it takes serious skill to flip those dark parts of the human soul into jokes told by characters the viewer can relate to and care about. For me, both Flowers and Fleabag fall disappointingly short of that mark.
Fleabag is on BBC3 with new episodes weekly. And if you’ve got Sky Flowers is sitting in the box set section of your planner.