It’s a bit confusing that in our TV-saturated landscape there are still so few series where main characters who aren’t cis men are as freely screwed up and unfulfilled as many of us are in our own lives. An exception is Flea bagthe instant-classic dramedy about grief and sex that didn’t shy away from showing the more humiliating sides of the titular character’s wants and needs.
But no matter how many fans beg and beg, chances are the very busy Phoebe Waller-Bridge won’t budge and a third season of Flea bag finally happening – she’s done writing and starring in blockbusters, from James Bond to Indiana Jones. It’s a miracle the second season happened at all; famous she was planning to keep the first season as a standalone adaptation of her popular one-woman play, until she was struck by sudden inspiration for a storyline about Fleabag falling in love with a priest. This led to a TV season that was, in some ways, even more iconic and storied than the first go-around, and ensured that Flea bag went out on a high.
Flea bag was rightly praised for showing all the protagonist’s flaws and foibles, from her erotic fixation on Obama to her complicated relationship with her sister. She may have been one of a kind, but we could all find something to relate to in Fleabag’s constant quest for love and understanding, and the many mistakes she makes along the way. Plus, iconic and hilarious minor characters like the over-enthusiastic Bus Rodent, neurotic ex-boyfriend Harry, and dastardly saccharine stepmother made the show memorable.
If the show doesn’t continue, if you’re looking for something to watch that pushes the same buttons as Flea bag, check out one of these five great shows featuring female or non-binary dirtbag protags. Each has a main character that is sure to appeal to all of us who don’t have it together as much as we’d like.
Flea bag meets: misfits
misfits ruled our world in the early 2010s. The series, broadcast on UK channel E4, depicted a group of young adult idlers who all receive superpowers during a freak storm that hits their entire town. Starring Robert Sheehan as the immortal Nathan and Iwan Rheon as the time-traveling Simon, misfits‘ storylines were often very ridiculous and at the same time very moving.
If you’re looking for a larger than life genre TV show that combines wacky superpowers with a Flea bag-like MC, look no further than Exceptional on Hulu. Starring newcomer Máiréad Tyers as the chronically unhappy Jen, who stands out as a rare powerless person in a world where everyone gains a power at age 18, the show is laughably funny and unafraid to explore its characters’ flaws . Jen’s relationships with her best friend Carrie (who can channel the dead) and her roommate Jizzlord (who used to be a cat) take center stage. Jen makes a lot of mistakes in pursuit of what she wants and is often unsympathetic, but in a world of flying one-night stands and super strong snobbish sisters, she and her friends are a joy to watch as they tackle all the issues of young adulthood. .
Exceptional is available to watch on Hulu.
This side up
Flea bag meets: Catastrophe
On Catastrophe, Sharon Horgan stars as a single teacher who accidentally gets pregnant and immediately enters into a relationship with an American businessman (Rob Delaney). With a staunch attitude to parenting and all the chaos that comes with it, CatastropheThe unsentimental yet compelling approach to life’s big issues like death and addiction has a lot of lightness and hilarity, and it’s lifted by its excellent cast.
Fans of Horgan’s endearing Irish comedy will find a lot to love in her role in the Channel 4 series This side upbut the real attraction is star Aisling Bea, whose Flea bag-like protagonist Áine deals with mental health, family and romance as a teacher in London.
The series, devised by Bea, is perhaps a bit cozier and more subdued than Flea bag, but it’s great for how seriously it takes Áine’s issues while still allowing her to mess it up and experience the highs and lows of big city life. Performances from Tobias Menzies as her shy, mysterious love interest and Horgan as her patient sister – whose unexpected encounter with a female love interest is one of the show’s big moments – make This side up‘s two seasons a recognizable and enjoyable watch.
This side up is available to watch on Hulu.
Flea bag meets: Russian doll/Columbo
Russian doll made Natasha Lyonne a star to a whole new audience when she brought the time-running Nadia to life. If you enjoyed the irreverent attitude of the Netflix mystery and how Nadia had to confront her past if she wanted to escape the loop and finally go to the future, Lyonne’s new noirish collaboration with Rian Johnson, poker face, is just the show for you.
Both Flea bagthe seasons more or less stand on their own, and Poker face takes that independence to a new level with an anthology-style season, where each episode revolves around a different crime for Lyonne’s protagonist Charlie to solve. As in Columbo, the crime itself is depicted at the beginning of each episode, and the rest of the runtime is taken up by twists and turns discovered by Charlie as she drinks, smokes and fights her way through an assortment of odd and quirky guest stars. Charlie’s own weaknesses tend to trip her up, and she’s certainly no saint, but her triumphs in the face of criminal adversity are thrilling every time and feel like a triumph to the viewer too.
Poker face is available to view on Peacock.
Flea bag meets: Crash
On Crash (the American show, not the British one of the same name starring Waller-Bridge himself), comedian Pete Holmes plays a fictionalized version of himself struggling in the comedy industry after the collapse of his marriage has left him homeless. Featuring many real-life comedians, such as Sarah Silverman and Bill Burr, the show makes no compromises when it comes to themes of religion, narcissism, and codependency.
The two seasons of Feel good stars Canadian comedian Mae Martin in a similar semi-autobiographical role as a non-binary Canadian comedian named Mae trying to make it big. Mae falls head over heels in love with love interest George, played by Charlotte Ritchie, who is just as brilliantly drawn, exploring her sexuality as Mae tries to kick back a drug addiction and come to terms with their complicated relationship with their mother. The second season, just like the second season of Flea bag, complicates the premise with a change of situation as Mae enters rehab, spends time without George, and tries to revive their comedic act. The show can be sad, heartwarming and ridiculous as the characters find their way into situations that expose all of their best and worst tendencies.
Feel good can be seen on Netflix.
I hate Susie
Flea bag meets: Black mirror
Charlie Brooker Black mirror anthology series is an imaginative and engaging look at how modern technology affects people, relationships and the media we consume. As the legendary line goes: “What if phones, but too many?Iconic episodes like “USS Callister” and “dive” are unflinching glimpses of worlds like ours where the pitfalls of the digital characters’ enthusiastic embrace spiral into terrifying situations.
Co-created with star Billie Piper and Succession staff writer and playwright Lucy Prebble, I hate SuzieThe first season of ‘s begins with an incendiary incident that Brooker would approve of: Leaking Suzie’s nude photos, causing instant chaos in her marriage and career, sending her into a downward spiral that majestically turns out as a critique of pop culture and the celebrity system. inability to accept complexity in the women it raises.
Suzie is a compelling character, played incredibly by Piper, whose own backstory as a teen pop star and subsequent escape icon in a sci-fi show informs her portrayal of the uptight, impulsive Suzie, who struggles and often fails to adjust course. . of her out of control life. Side characters include her husband, son, and intense cop; her phone, social media, and the terrifying nature of the entertainment industry are ever-present adversaries.
Despite many networks turning down the show because, like Prebble claimedthey already “have (their) wife-with-a-bad luck show” (perhaps referring to Flea bag), I hate Susie triumphed and was released to universal acclaim. The sequel, the recently released second season I hate Suzie too raises the bar and champions Piper as a one-time star performer.
I hate Susie is available to watch on HBO Max.