This week, TV audiences waved goodbye to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag for what appears to be the final time. Sticking to the tradition of other UK sitcom greats (including The Office and Fawlty Towers), this was never going to be a long-drawn-out love affair. Instead, we’re left with 12 exceptional, hilarious and often heartbreaking episodes to treasure.
There’s no replacing Fleabag or mimicking Waller-Bridge’s voice, but if you are searching for something to fill the void then look no further. Here are six television shows exploring love, relationships and the human condition in ways that will make you laugh out loud (and maybe shed a few tears).
The Emmy-award winning series just returned for a second season, which sees Bill Hader as the titular Barry attempting a career change from assassin to actor. This might sound like a concept more in tune with another Waller-Bridge TV creation – the hit series Killing Eve – but Barry is a lot more Fleabag than Villanelle (Jodie Comer). He finds it hard to let his emotional guard down, he has a tonne of guilt about a close friend and flashbacks to his messy past interrupt his daily life. Where Fleabag has British national treasure, Olivia Colman; Barry’s acting teacher is played by the Fonz himself, Henry Winkler, scoring high on the legend status.
Pamela Adlon is both the star and creator of Better Things, which is currently midway through its third season. Falling under the dramedy sub-genre, it is an honest and often-hilarious portrayal of a single mother and working actress living in Los Angeles, trying to keep it together as she raises three daughters and attempts to date. As with Fleabag, Adlon strips away the facade and delivers a searing and amusing look at modern living.
Another recently finished series and one that explores the inner-workings of its lead in an interesting fashion; unlike Fleabag, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) breaks the fourth wall via song. Bloom co-created Crazy Ex-Girlfriend with Aline Brosh Mckenna and throughout the four seasons, they rode the traditional romantic comedy narrative in a way that both subverted and celebrated this form. Exploring sexuality, mental health and what it means to not know who you really are, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend shares a lot with Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, including sticking the final episode landing.
Debuting earlier this year on Channel 4, Pure is based on the memoir of the same name by Rose Cartwright. Marnie (Charly Clive) moves from a small town in Scotland to London, as a way to find herself and figure out exactly why she has such explicit thoughts at the most inopportune moments – including mid-speech at her parents’ anniversary party. Quick cuts, direct address and a protagonist who talks about sex might sound a lot like Fleabag, but this isn’t a case of masturbating to Obama speeches under the covers. Instead, Pure opens up the discussion about OCD, a condition people will often reference without the knowledge to back it up.
The Other Two has already been hailed as the “first can’t-miss TV comedy of 2019”, and despite a familiar premise – siblings having to contend with their 13-year-old brother’s Bieber-esque rise to fame – it manages to feel like “something entirely fresh”. From former head Saturday Night Live writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, it stars Helén Yorke as former dancer Brooke and Drew Tarver as Cary, who is still waiting for his big acting break. It has already been renewed for a second season by Comedy Central and UK viewers will be glad to know that E4 has acquired the rights. As well as Fleabag, The Other Two looks set to help fill the hole left by the also recently-departed Broad City.
Romance plays a role in Fleabag and Russian Doll, however, it is the impact of a personal loss, as well as non-romantic love that is the true binding force. Both Fleabag and Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) excel at building a protective wall around their hearts, giving the impression that they don’t give a shit. Existential adventures examining mid-thirties crises that don’t centre on the “Can a woman have it all?” conversation are at the heart of these refreshing narratives.
Published 10 Apr 2019
By Emma Fraser
Netflix’s hilarious and heartbreaking comedy-drama stretches far beyond the reset gimmick.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s beautifully flawed protagonist is back with a delightful vengeance.
By Al Horner
Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney bow out after four riotously funny seasons.