Love It Or Leave It? Review
February 21, 2019
Definition: one who provides publicity; a press agent. “She’s a public relations flack.”
Tonight, POP, the channel best known for airing Schitt’s Creek, premiered Flack, a brand new British dramedy. It’s the kind of show that people are going to stop and take notice. Flack, which will have six hour long episodes in its Freshman season, was created by Oliver Lansley (Whites; FM) and stars Anna Paquin (True Blood), Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda), Genevieve Angelson (Good Girls Revolt), Lydia Wilson (Black Mirror), Arinzé Kene (Informer), Rebecca Benson (Game of Thrones), Marc Warren (Safe), and Rufus Jones (W1A).
Flack tells the story of Robyn (Paquin), an American living in London and working as a “crisis PR strategist.” Robyn is sharp, witty, and takes very little bullshit from her celebrity clients who routinely make poor life choices, requiring Robyn’s particular skill set to make things all better. Surrounding Robyn is Ruth (Angelson), Robyn’s sister, who moved to London with Robyn following the death of their mother; Ruth’s husband, Mark (Jones), and their two children; Caroline (Okonedo), Robyn’s acerbic boss; Eve (Wilson), Robyn’s British foul mouthed bestie and co-worker; Melody (Benson), the PR firm’s newest doe eyed intern; and Sam (Kene), Robyn’s live in boyfriend.
For as good as Robyn is at her job, her personal life is a mess and seemingly on the verge of falling apart. For instance, (SPOILERS AHEAD), Episode 1 features Robyn and Ruth dealing with the one year anniversary of their mother’s death. Ruth is terribly weepy while Robyn internalizes her emotional pain. She eventually expresses her inner turmoil by fucking her client, Anthony Henderson (guest star Max Beesley), a celebrity chef and philandering husband. Which, okay, maybe not the worst thing ever – but then, you learn at the end of the episode, there is an apparently very sweet and caring boyfriend waiting for her at home. Ooopsies.
Life is complicated, amiright?
Each week features Robyn putting out the fires of her clients (who range from hapless to despicable), while trying to keep her private life together and find some happiness. Towards the end of the first episode, Robyn is having a smoke in a park when she meets a new mother. After some small talk, she asks the mom if she is happy. The mom says she’s tired. That Robyn asks this at all betrays the stony, badass exterior she puts up all day, every day. Robyn is not happy, nor is she terribly sure how to fix it. This is her journey, the story we’re most interested in.
“The world keeps turning, Robyn. We just help push.”
Paquin, who I have been a fan of since her True Blood days all the way through to last year’s Bellevue, shines in this role. She is the perfect balance of funny yet jaded; a pro girl power professional who maybe longs for a more conventional life like her sister. A PR powerhouse who scolds clients for their dalliances but then also takes their cocaine and does lines in her bathroom. Life is messy and a tight rope to walk. Paquin navigates the line of heroine and villain with poise and style. No matter whether you’re loving what she’s doing on screen or judging her actions, I can assure you, you will never be bored.
Flack is British, with a British style, sensibility, and humor but it’s not too British. Often times, I hear audiences complain about the inaccessibility of British television, especially the comedies. The complaints are mainly that the cultural differences are too vast to be appreciated across the pond. Flack doesn’t suffer this problem. If anything, the love affair that Americans have with tabloids and expose news mag shows (I’m looking at you TMZ) makes Flack feel like a show that should have arrived a long time before now.
Love It Or Leave It? Love it! Flack is a biting breath of fresh air and deserves your eyeballs. You are going to laugh and appreciate the ridiculousness of the PR nightmares but also feel some empathy and real emotion for Robyn and her band of dysfunctional humans.
Flack is executive produced by Jimmy Mulville (Episodes) and Helen Williams of Hat Trick Productions, and Anna Paquin, Cerise Hallam Larkin, Stephen Moyer and Mark Larkin of CASM Films. Oliver Lansley is an executive producer, and the show is also produced by Mark Talbot. The first three episodes of Flack are directed by the Oscar-nominated Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty; Rev.).