Before “Fleabag” cleaned up at this year’s Emmy Awards, networks and streaming services had already showed increasing interest in dark comedies centered on troubled, troublesome women, like “Russian Doll,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” or Showtime’s own “SMILF” — shows often created or cocreated by their female leads. But comparisons to “Fleabag,” especially given the several producers it shares (the executive producer Sarah Hammond is a third), seemed inevitable.
Gary Levine, Showtime’s president of entertainment, said he wasn’t looking to replicate the success of “Fleabag.” “With successful shows on our competitors, we try to stay away from them,” he said. “None of us were sitting here saying, ‘Wow, this is the next ‘Fleabag.’”
Haggard said she loved “Fleabag,” but she insisted that tonally, the shows differed.
“To be mentioned in the same breath is definitely a huge honor,” she said. But “Back to Life” is less worldly and a lot less sexy. Arguably it’s sadder. If people come expecting the cheek and lust of “Fleabag,” “they’ll be disappointed,” Haggard said. “It’s not that. It’s something else.”
But like that show, it stars a gifted actress in a role purpose-built to showcase her charm and abilities. As Miri, Haggard screams, she sings, she scowls, she flirts. She cuts her own hair and uses novelty balloons as a weapon and somehow makes it all seem natural.
“She’s got a very sort of rubber, versatile face,” said her co-star Geraldine James. “And she has a spontaneity that’s very unusual, so you can throw anything at her, and she will respond to it very originally and very wittily, immediately and completely truthfully.”