‘Fleabag’: A Woman in Full, Complete With Naughty Bits

Ken Tucker

Clever, rude and sometimes quite emotional, Fleabag is a half-hour sitcom from the British writer-star Phoebe Waller-Bridge about a smart singleton making her way, and often not making her way, in London. Waller-Bridge’s unnamed character runs a sad little café with a quirky guinea-pig theme, and she has alternate feelings of jealousy of and pity for her successful, uptight sister, Claire (Sian Clifford). A fair amount of Fleabag’s action alternates between our protagonist’s interactions with Claire and with a succession of lousy men, including her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Harry (Hugh Skinner).

Based on an award-winning play Waller-Bridge wrote, each of Fleabag’s six episodes is a tightly composed variation on her character’s wild, bad-girl humor, and her personal (especially sexual) and professional frustration. In the tradition of so many sitcoms (and House of Cards) before it, Fleabag frequently has Waller-Bridge’s character look at the camera and speak her inner thoughts to us, the viewing audience. She’s wry, she’s tart and her comments often contradict what she’s just said to one of the other characters. This method makes it all seem that much more personal — we’re inside her head.

I can’t say I laughed a lot at Fleabag — the jokes are smart without being awfully original — but I was never less than fascinated watching the details of this character’s life unfold. As a dramatist, Waller-Bridge has a great talent for creating tension and suspense in a comic context.

Fleabag is streaming now on Amazon Prime.