‘Flack’ Season 1 Review: Derivative with Sprinkles of Brilliances 


Spoilers Below

Flack Season 1, created by Oliver Lansley, is about Robyn, an American-born P.R. executive a.k.a. fixer in London, who is on the top of her career but struggles in her personal life. 

Flack is an enjoyable series that tackles some exciting P.R. “cases,” but it feels a lot like Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal. The only difference is Robyn deals with athletes, celebrities, and actors in the U.K. while Olivia Pope fixes messes for politicians in Washington D.C. The “anti-hero” woman was new ten years ago, but now it’s old news. If the series felt unique, then having Robin being morally questionable would work, but it is not.

The series feels too heavily influenced by Scandal to feel fresh and relevant. The most significant similarity is that both Olivia Pope and Robyn are fixers who sweep controversies under the rug. One of the first scandals that we see Robyn fix is a footballer named Patrick whose gay lover Pedro overdosed at a hotel. She revives Pedro and pays him off. Robyn keeping Patrick’s sexuality out of the press feels like it’s straight out of Olivia Pope’s playbook. The characters Melody and Quinn Perkins are the same archetypes. Both are young, innocent new hires who get sucked into the tawdry world of fixers. 

The only differences between Scandal and Flack are the location and their technical jobs. Even though Olivia Pope and her associates don’t practice law, they are all lawyers. Caroline, the head of Hills Paulson, Robyn, and the rest of her co-patriots are P.R. executives. The other difference is that Robyn is the top underling in the London branch of Hills Paulson. Olivia is the head of her own company. Along with the fact that Flack’s heroine is White while in Scandal, Olivia is Black. 

What makes Scandal the better show is the fact that Olivia Pope only takes on clients who don’t lie to her. Robyn will take almost any case, and the crime has to be beyond immoral for her to take the high ground. The one positive difference that Flack has is that Robyn doesn’t allow Melody to be corrupted by the “fixer” culture.

Since Flack’s premise is unoriginal, Robyn feels uninteresting. During the 1990s, the male anti-hero rose with characters like Tony Soprano and Vic Mackey. Anti-heroes are characters who commit horrible crimes, are immoral, and usually have a troubling personal life. Audiences root for the anti-heroes because of their humanity. With characters like Olivia Pope and Carrie Mathison, the 2010s started the rise of these anti-hero women who could operate in this grey zone. There is nothing wrong with having the female anti-hero trope, but if your television show already feels contrived, it doesn’t work. 

Robyn is an alcoholic and drug addict who lies to her boyfriend, the E.R. nurse Sam. At this point, there are so many characters who are addicts that making her an addict feels unoriginal. Robyn telling the press that a beauty client’s husband is beating her to cover up that she had plastic surgery doesn’t seem edgy; instead, it comes off as over the top. Robyn’s relationship with her sister Ruth is intriguing, but the British tv show only lasts six episodes and doesn’t go deeply enough into her personal life.

The best episode is “Rodney,” where Robyn’s morality leads her to put her foot down with a client. The episode occurs on an airplane during a flight from London to New York. The majority of the show is fast-paced and in multiple locations, so the small set makes everything feel more urgent. 

Robyn is accompanying American actor, Calvin Cooper, home. At first, Calvin seems like one of those typical old school self-entitled actors who sexually harass women. The actor misses the good old days when he could get away with anything. Robyn and Calvin briefly connect over both having horrible childhoods. But he gets a phone text and rushes off. Robyn’s soft side comes out when she comforts this little girl who is scared of flying. Her good moods quickly end when she learns that Calvin’s maid dropped his laptop filled with child pornography at a repair shop. 

Robyn spends the rest of the trip desperately sneaking phone time. She tries to find an innocent explanation on why Calvin would have those photos to stop the police from arresting him. Robyn is disgusted that she doesn’t judge him. All she can think about is what kind of suit Calvin should wear during his apology tour. 

When she learns that Calvin will get away with his egregious crime, she has a change of heart. The P.R. executive can’t stand Cavin’s arrogance and relief from not getting caught. Robyn reports her client second hand to the police for having child pornography on his laptop. Robyn’s lack of moral compass toward Calvin’s sick behavior awakens her need to do the right thing.

I won’t say everybody should run off to see Flack Season 1, but if you want to watch something mildly entertaining, check the show out on Amazon Prime. 

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