The term “Flack” – US slang for a PR agent – is loaded with negative connotations. An apt namesake then, for W’s new comedy drama
Flack, Thursday 21 February, 10pm, W (CH 125). Also available for 7 days in Catch Up > Channels > W
Flack pulls back the curtain on the mysterious and sometimes murky world of celebrity PR. Anna Paquin (True Blood) plays Robyn, an American public relations executive working for London-based PR company Mills Paulson. Adept at bailing her celebrity clients out of potentially career-killing situations, she’s something of a miracle worker in her field.
While her boss Caroline (Sophie Okonedo) sings her praises and relies on her for her unique brand of crisis management, Robyn doesn’t quite have the same handle on her personal life. She lives a life that’s relentlessly on the go – and it’s only a matter of time before she crashes, burns and becomes the focus of some serious flak herself.
So could Paquin do Robyn’s job in real life, we ask? “Yeah,” she replies with a wry smile. No wavering, no further explanation needed. After all, Paquin is no stranger to the spotlight or the inner workings of the celebrity world, having begun her acting career back in 1993.
On the other hand, Paquin’s co-star Lydia Wilson (Ripper Street), who plays Robyn’s entitled and materialistic colleague Eve, spent a day at a PR agency, saying, “I arrived at 10am. I was knackered by 10.30am. It was exhausting and high-octane. They work super hard. It gave me a huge sense of respect for people who work extra hours on top of the 9-5.”
So is the world of PR really as dark as Flack makes it out to be? “It can be,” says Paquin. The show is packed with witty dialogue, innuendo, put-downs and farcical yet plausible scenarios. Caroline gifts Robyn and Eve a “pet” in the form of intern Melody (Rebecca Benson, Game Of Thrones), whose initally happy-go-lucky demeanour takes a turn under their tutelage.
“Flack isn’t a cynical look at the world of celebrity. It’s a realistic portrayal of the fact that within the world of celebrity there are a lot of things that people don’t see,” says Paquin. “It’s not good, it’s not bad. It’s just realistic.”
The dark humour of Flack is what attracted Paquin to the script – so much so that she also executive produces it. “It was [writer Oliver Lansley’s] absurdly, anarchically funny writing that drew me to it. I was reading it going, “I’m either a terrible human being for laughing at this or this is the best thing I’ve ever read.” Turns out it was the latter!”
Another thing Flack does well is invert gender roles. Where Robyn’s boyfriend Sam (Arinzé Kene, Our Girl) is desperate to start a family, Robyn is hesitant. The cast and crew are also predominantly female. According to Genevieve Angelson (Good Girls Revolt), who plays Robyn’s sister Ruth, Flack is “the most feminist show I’ve ever done. Without being a show about women’s equality, it still has the power to bring in viewers who might not otherwise be drawn to that. It features incredible female roles for women with incredible things to say.” Look out for a fabulously #girlpower speech from Robyn in episode 1.
In case you’re looking for another reason to tune in, Rufus Jones, who plays Ruth’s husband Mark, sums up Flack’s USP perfectly: “[Director] Peter Cattaneo was very insistent that you play the funny stuff seriously and the serious stuff funnily.” The result? Dramedy gold.
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Image credits: Flack © UKTV/Pop