Fleabag begins with arsefucking, but don't let that put you off! It's not like it begins with pigfucking. Don't look at me like that.
Instead, look at Fleabag, who is looking at you. Fleabag—who is never referred to by name, which is true of many characters like "Arsehole Guy" and "Bus Rodent"—invites you into her story, constantly addressing the viewer, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge is so incredibly deft at what should be a gimmick that she breathes new life into the whole idea of breaking the fourth wall. She will make comments to you in the middle of a conversation, switching back and forth—it's a testament to the rest of the cast that they never react to it—as if you're best mates. Oddly enough, I was actually glad I watched this show on my phone because it made that connection even more intimate. Fleabag needs someone to talk to, she needs someone to say things to that she won't say out loud, she needs to not feel so alone.
And the way she tends to not feel so alone is sex, as the beginning of the series makes clear. Pretty much every episode features one or two sex scenes (without nudity), which is why I watched this show in the privacy of own phone. But the sex scenes are never sexy; they are awkward and funny, especially since, of course, she cracks jokes to you during them. But this isn't simply some show about a woman sleeping with a bunch of men. The relationships that truly matter here are those with her sister, Claire, and her best friend/business partner, Boo (and to a lesser extent, her godmother-turned-stepmother and her father). She isn't the best sister (or the best friend, for that matter), but you can tell she loves them both so much, even if she doesn't show it or say it. Also, however, this show is about sex, and female sexuality in particular, explored in a uniquely honest fashion not often portrayed onscreen.
Fleabag is a hard show to describe, as it initially appears to be a comedy with the requisite tinge of angst and sadness but then proves itself to be far more emotionally rich than that, as the second half begins to pay off elements in the first half in unexpected ways, leading to the finale that stabbed me in the gut. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is compelling every second she is onscreen, and her performance in the finale, just, goddamn. But the show is also laugh-out-loud funny, with an offbeat sense of humor, especially with how it delivers its title card and end credits. If you have Amazon Prime and the time to watch six <30-minute episodes, it's absolutely worth your time.
Donald Glover is certainly having a Cultural Moment, what with Solo and "This Is America" and Atlanta. Troy Barnes sure has come a long way. But what's the deal with Atlanta, anyway? What is Atlanta?
Ostensibly, Atlanta is a show about down-on-his-luck Earn, who decides to manage his rapper cousin Paper Boi just as he's hitting it big. He is so down on his luck he doesn't have an actual place to live, though he tends to stay with his girlfriend, Van, with whom he has a daughter, Lottie; they are...sort of in an open relationship but sort of not, their relationship status is definitely "It's complicated." Also Paper Boi's friend Darius exists on his own weird plane.
In order to enjoy and appreciate this show, however, you must understand that it is not the heavily serialized narrative we've come to expect from Prestige TV. Each episode functions as a short film, centered on one particular story, as it were, and the next episode will be something else, like the previous episode never happened. Which is not to say that there's no continuity; everything in every episode did happen and occasionally gets referenced. Sometimes a character from a previous episode will return, or a plot point will come back in subtle or major ways. The second season displays more of this than the first season, which frustrated me in the way it seemed to tease narrative (the second episode does result directly from the first episode, but the show abandons that flow immediately); the second season is more ambitious in its commitment to creating powerful stand-alone episodes but also more conscious of how these characters are changing, even if the big character moments aren't always onscreen (or if they are, the emotional fallout occurs offscreen).
Working both for and against it is the show's marvelously understated tone, cultivated both in the writing and acting but also in the direction (primarily by Hiro Murai, director of "This Is America"). Though it's categorized as a "comedy," it is only occasionally funny, as it's not about jokes but characters either being kind of absurd or reacting to other characters being absurd, but all with a grounded tone that paints a surreal picture of black life in America. I did laugh out loud sometimes, though, usually at anything Darius said or did. But mostly I was drawn in by the various character conflicts, like Earn and Varn trying to suss out what their personal relationship is or Earn and Al (Paper Boi) trying to suss out what their business relationship is. I liked when supporting characters got spotlight episodes, showing they had their own lives apart from Earn.
And then there's fucking "Teddy Perkins." Fuck. Motherfuck. Goddamn. Shit. "Teddy Perkins."
Atlanta is a hell of a show. It is not entirely my thing, since I do gravitate more toward serialized narratives, but I admire the craft behind the individual episodes, unsatisfying as their own open-ended narratives might be, because I just enjoy spending time with these characters. It challenges a lot of typical conventions, but it almost never comes off as pretentious, which is a feat. It's doing its own thing, and when it hits, it hits hard.