An ode to Fleabag: why the Emmys got it right

Molly Greeves writes about her love for Olivia Colman's comedy-drama Fleabag.

Molly Greeves
3rd October 2019
Photo: Emmys on Instagram
Ahh, the Emmys. By the time you read this you would have probably seen Amy Brown’s fantastic roundup of the night’s events. I couldn’t tell you much about what happened as, quite frankly, I don’t really care about award shows and so instead I spend my evening watching the 1999 classic film Drop Dead Gorgeous. But do you know what I do care about? Fleabag. 

For the unaware, Fleabag is a comedy-drama written by Pheobe Waller Bridge, a British actor, writer and producer who also created the BBC series Killing Eve. It’s one of those shows where describing the plot feels redundant, as while the premise of a young woman in London dealing with grief is not original, there is no show that matches its unique blend of heartbreak, hilarity and relatability. 

Award shows like the Emmys are frequently criticised for being elitist and out of touch. For viewers, there are always moments of confusion; Game of Thrones winning Best Drama after what most fans agree was their weakest season led many to question the reasoning behind certain awards being given. 

But if it were up to me, awards would be given on the impact of the show on both culture and individuals. Following this principle, Fleabag deserved its four nominations and more.  

I’m far from being the only person who could write a dissertation on “What Fleabag Means to Me”. Our relationship with TV is often fleeting – we love a show while it’s on the air and then forget about it for a year until the next season. Fleabag only ran for two short seasons (I watched it in its entirety in under twenty-four-hours) yet I’m still desperately recommending it to people as an excuse to talk about it again. 

"What other show has Olivia Coleman as a bitchy step-mum, a sexy priest and deep reflections on the instability of being in your twenties?"

The first season, which deals largely with the subject of grief, is painfully real as the main character (referred to only as “Fleabag”) struggles with directing the love that she has for her late mother and friend back to herself. Despite this, Fleabag’s bluntness about sex and her relationship with her sister allow the show to be as funny as it is devastating.  

Somehow the show gets even better with its second season, with episode S02E1 being one of the best episodes of television I’ve ever seen. The season, which opens with Waller-Bridge cleaning her bloody face in a restaurant bathroom, follows a more stable Fleabag as she falls in love with a priest (Andrew Scott). While introducing new themes of faith and romance, the show further explores family dynamics and breaks down the façade we put on for the people around us. 

My favourite shows have always been the ones that combine ridiculousness with reality, and no one show does this better than FleabagWaller-Bridge masterfully uses humour to soften up the audience only to sucker-punch them with heartbreak. What other show has Olivia Coleman as a bitchy step-mum, a sexy priest and deep reflections on the instability of being in your twenties? That alone warrants Waller-Bridge's success in my mind. 

While it pains me that there won’t be a third season, I’m glad that Waller-Bridge is showing some integrity by not stringing it out. In a world of ten-season Netflix shows that get worse over time, Fleabag is a tiny, perfect treasure, and though it’s over, it’s two Emmy’s are proof that it’s legacy will last. 

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