By Marta Macedo, Third Year, Film & Television
Unrelentingly cynical, Pop TV’s Flack grabs its audience from the very opening scene and thrusts them into the murky world of public relations without ever giving them a chance to look back.
Starring True Blood (2008-2014)’s Anna Paquin as Robyn, an American PR executive working for a London-based firm, the show never lets up on the misery it trusts its protagonist with. Still reeling from her mother’s suicide, Robyn throws herself into her work but, as she scams and manipulates her way through her celebrity clients’ various misconducts, her own personal life spirals out of control.
Dysfunctionally close to her sister Ruth (Genevieve Angelson), Robyn tries and fails, only to try once more and fail yet again, to establish some semblance of normality in her life. Her emotional hang ups, however, coupled with an explicit addiction to recreational drugs and a general lack of awareness of what is and isn’t okay to do to other people, prevent her from enjoying the calmer and quieter side of life. By choosing to be expertly in command of her professional duties at all time, she sacrifices the happiness and well-being of those who surround her, including her well-intentioned, if at times perplexing, boyfriend, Sam (Arinzé Kene).
The rest of the cast are given a fraction of Robyn’s complexity to explore and, more often than not, these characters fail to register as something more than a semi-developed stereotype that never bothers to subvert its own expectations. Playing Robyn’s despotic boss Caroline, Sophie Okonedo offers the viewers her own rendition of The Devil Wears Prada (2006)’s Miranda Priestly and pushes our protagonist further and further past her own boundaries.
On the opposite end of the masochism spectrum, and always ready at the drop of a hat, is Melody (Rebecca Benson) the eager intern unfailingly out of her depth and never spared by Eve (Lydia Wilson), the quintessential and inappropriately razor-tongued co-worker who thrives on chaos. Though entertaining and the major comical contributors to the show, these characters beg for more comprehensive storylines and a chance to come out of Robyn’s tumultuous shadow.
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Flack is frequently a fascinating show to watch – mainly as a result of its main character’s unwavering and unmatched work ethic – even if it occasionally loses track of the balance the audience requires from it and slips, instead, into a hard-edged and sadistic showcase of incomprehensible decisions made by selfish and seemingly emotionless characters.
Although damnable characters aren’t exactly a novel concept for viewers, there is an equilibrium to be found and, while shows like Fleabag (2016-2019) keep the ball rolling back and forth between abhorrent, comical and emotionally draining, Flack lacks the finesse to keep itself from going overboard every so often.
Its myriad of guest stars, however, help keep the flow and novelty of the show, as Robyn jumps through increasingly crazy hurdles in order to fix their crises. It’s in these moments that Flack shines brightest and makes itself worth watching.
Will you be watching Flack?