Flack came out two years ago on Pop TV, presumably as a limited series, but all that has changed now. I only recently caught up on the first season because (for obvious reasons) there’s a little more time than usual these days to catch up on TV, and with only six episodes, it seemed like a nice binge over the holidays. Well, it definitely checked off that box, and now, another development: Amazon picked up the show for an unexpected second season, which will arrive later this year. The first season will be available to stream on Amazon Prime beginning January 22, and let me tell you this: if you are in need of some guilty-pleasure escapism, consider giving this series a whirl. That last reason’s actually the best one to click “play” because there’s zero reason to stress about anything on this show. It’s voyeuristic and at times thrilling to watch. Flack certainly isn’t a great show, but it’s a pretty enjoyable one; and even if it often feels like an amalgamation of many shows and movies you’ve seen before, the sum ends up being greater than the individual parts that make up the whole.
Those predecessors must be mentioned here because, honestly, there’s plenty of comfort-food in them. There’s The Devil Wears Prada in there, except that we’re talking about a celebrity PR agency rather than a fashion magazine. There are shades of Scandal, Sex and the City, and Absolutely Fabulous as well, and then there’s a slice of Homeland. That last one doesn’t seem like it fits into the rest of the group (it ain’t comforting), but it’s also key to understanding how the lead character functions. Anna Paquin, who portrays Robyn, is coping with her own trauma, which is part of why she’s so talented at keeping the layers of spoiled onion from revealing their rotten core.
That “spoiled” nature is what also makes this show into two mini-shows: (1) Anna Paquin playing a no-nonsense “fixer” of celebrity antics, a sort-of amoral titan and the very best at dressing down idiot clients and performing CPR at the same time; (2) Anna Paquin playing a deeply damaged antihero and survivor of trauma with deep roots that extend back into childhood. Make no mistake, Paquin is great in both capacities, which overlap but not in a heavy-handed way. We see her inner conflict arise only occasionally while the show maintains an observant distance without judging. In doing so, Flack allows the viewer to be judge, jury, and executioner of the celebrity culture (with all of its inherent falsities) that Robyn keeps churning out, but we’re so seduced that we might end up condemning ourselves in the process (and enjoying it, too).
Robyn is joined by the rest of her female-fronted firm, which includes the even more cynical Eve (Lydia Wilson), Robyn’s colleague who gets all the best one-liners even if she is otherwise obnoxious in a charming way. They’re accompanied by an amiable intern named Melody (Rebecca Benson), who edges closer to corruption every day, and a very Miranda Priestly-like boss, Caroline (Sophie Okonedo), who’s injected enough Botox on-the-job to displace that moral compass at least a decade ago. Together, these four ladies concoct a world of fiction, and lest one believe that they’re the bad guys, the show slowly reveals that the whole of society’s in on it with them. For some strange reason, people do want to believe the lies that they’re told about the rich and famous, and that’s why these agent are allowed to be as successful as they are.
Not that they feel good about it all the time. Well, Eve and Caroline feel fine, but there are glimpses of humanity inside of Robyn. She cracks, ever-so-slightly, at choice moments, and it’s high time we see Paquin starring in a show that’s equally as trashy as her most famous project (HBO’s True Blood) but in a very different role than Sookie Stackhouse. As Robyn, she’s an American expat in London, who cleans up the messiest situations for the most disastrous, enemy-to-themselves clients. She marches her well-heeled feet through the diciest situations with the sketchiest of stances, and she’s a master of controlling chaos. That need for control, of course, comes from inner and unresolved turmoil, which yeah, is fairly cliché but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
The high-paced series practically flies by, and a lot of that is owing to the structure. We’ve all heard of monster-of-the-week, and this series tweaks that for a crisis-of-the-week format. Each episode, one high-profile entertainment, fashion, or sports figure (and, often, their family as well) is rescued from impending public disaster in some shape or form. There are the clients caught in compromising positions and whose careers could disintegrate in mere minutes if not for Robyn’s talents. There’s the young star who fakes a sexy situation to save a flagging career. And there are the fake and/or crumbling marriages that exist to preserve careers. One particularly engrossing crisis takes place in a bottle episode, where Robyn is stuck on a plane with a celebrity who’s about to implode his whole career, and she must figure out how to fix that sh*t while her phone’s stuck in airplane mode and none of her usual tools (or threats) shall work.
Flack will suck you in if you enjoy your TV shows dark but breezy with a side of anything vaguely scandalous. This is a sheer confection of a series that threatens to float off into space while snorting the odd line of coke, here and there. It’s not very grounded, other than the reality inside of characters that gets pushed back into submission, so that fantasy can fly high. And that’s alright. We could still use more escapism than usual during our current situation, and Flack is more than willing to oblige.
‘Flack’ streams on Amazon beginning on January 22.