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REVIEW

The show has received a lot of critical praise, but I really wasn't able to connect to it.

Following a middle-aged woman with relationship issues, family issues and money issues through modern city life in London, the premise doesn't burst forth with originality. It's yet another interpretation of Bridget Jones, probably one of the most abundant genres and plotlines in the past decade of television. I don't mind that, though. I'm strongly opposed to the idea that somehow, the number of works that came before should influence whether someone else can add their own voice.

While I do enjoy shows commenting on the absurdities of modern life, or the occasional "loser comedy", I didn't find that Fleabag offered anything that hadn't been done before, and even those parts it didn't get across particularly well. On the humorous side, there was a handful of scenes in the pilot episode that I found genuinely funny (the loan application being my favourite). The rest fell into several different categories, none of which worked for me. Addressing the viewer through the fourth wall felt forced, and is an overused gimmick. When it concerned the character's motivations, it never added any information that wasn't already sufficiently conveyed by the quite capable lead actress. The more absurd events were both predictable and far outstayed their welcome. Jokes didn't hit because their intent was transparent, and they lacked the element of surprise.

The show's fans respond to these criticisms by stating that it's not supposed to be a comedy show, in which case I'm not sure what exactly it wants to be. On the level of social commentary, none of the remarks it has to offer on city life, modern relationships and dating, dysfunctional families, sex, or feminism were original. Following on from that, the (abundant) sex jokes are of the kind that assume that just the very addressing of, say, anal sex is innately funny. They're treated in a way that is weirdly juvenile for a show that otherwise feels more mature. On that note, the production values are very good in general, from photography and sets to acting and sound design. I especially appreciate the courage of not using music to guide (or manipulate) the audience's emotions. A well written drama evokes a reaction because of its storytelling, not because someone is scraping over a cello or plinking a few heart-rending piano notes at the right moment.

The drama level might give the best indication on how my impression of the show can be so different from the critics'. The only element that got me interested was the slighly melancholy backstory of co-worker Boo, but the pilot episode didn't make me confident that it would be elaborated on much throughout the rest of the show. The few twists and revelations felt way too tacked-on and superficial for that. Ultimately, though, the main issue was that all the characters and their interactions felt alien to me. This is a genre that works if and when it reminds its audience of their real-world lives and acquaintances. By the end of the pilot, I felt like none of the traits of any of the characters reminded me of anyone I know. The suspense and the drama, the cringing of vicarious embarrassment, they only work if the events ring true and are evocative of personal experiences. My life and social interactions apparently simply don't much resemble those of a Bridget Jones, so the characters stayed distant, the relationships artificial – and the connection was lost on me.

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