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5 shows like Fleabag that prove there’s nothing better than a dirtbag lead

Fleabag may be done, but you don’t have to be

Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) casts a knowing glance back over her shoulder as she sits in a pew of a church, listening to a service. Image: BBC

It’s kind of messed up that in our TV-saturated landscape, there are still so few series that will let main characters who aren’t cis men be as freely fucked-up and unfulfilled as many of us are in our own lives. One exception is Fleabag, the 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 as much as fans beg and plead, chances are good that the very busy Phoebe Waller-Bridge won’t give in and make a third season of Fleabag finally happen — she’s off writing and starring in blockbusters, from James Bond to Indiana Jones. It’s a miracle the second season even happened at all; famously, she was planning to keep the first season as a stand-alone adaptation of her hit one-woman play, until she was struck with sudden inspiration for a storyline about Fleabag falling in love with a priest. This led to a season of TV in some ways even more iconic and legendary than the first go-round, and made sure that Fleabag went out on a high.

Fleabag was rightfully lauded for showing all of its protagonist’s flaws and foibles, from her erotic fixation on Obama to her complicated relationship with her sister. She might have been one of a kind, but we could all find something to relate to in Fleabag’s ongoing quest for love and understanding, and the many mistakes she makes along the way. Plus, iconic and hilarious minor characters like the overeager Bus Rodent, neurotic ex-boyfriend Harry, and dastardly saccharine Stepmother made the show unforgettable.

In the absence of the show’s continuation, if you’re looking for something to watch that will hit some of the same buttons as Fleabag, check out one of these five awesome shows with female or nonbinary dirtbag protags. Each one has a main character who will certainly appeal to all of us out there who don’t have it as together as we’d like to.


Jen (Mairead Tyers) holds a bunch of balloons in a blue dress while looking confused in Extraordinary. Photo: Natalie Seery/Disney Plus

Fleabag meets: Misfits

Misfits ruled our world in the early 2010s. Airing on British channel E4, the series depicted a group of young adult ne’er-do-wells who all receive superpowers during a freak storm that affects their entire town. Starring Robert Sheehan as the immortal Nathan and Iwan Rheon as the time-traveling Simon, Misfits’ storylines were frequently highly ridiculous and very moving at the same time.

If you’re looking for a larger-than-life genre TV show that combines wacky superpowers with a Fleabag-esque MC, look no further than Extraordinary on Hulu. Starring newcomer Máiréad Tyers as the chronically unlucky Jen, who stands out as a rare powerless person in a world where everyone gets a power at age 18, the show is laugh-out-loud funny and unafraid to explore the flaws of its characters. 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 plenty of mistakes pursuing what she wants and is frequently unsympathetic, but in a world of flying one-night stands and super-strong snobby sisters, she and her friends are a joy to watch as they take on all the problems of young adulthood.

Extraordinary is available to watch on Hulu.

This Way Up

Aisling Bea drinks what looks like a mimosa near a buffet while wearing something approximating pajamas in This Way Up. Image: Channel 4

Fleabag meets: Catastrophe

On Catastrophe, Sharon Horgan stars as a single teacher who accidentally gets pregnant and dives directly into a relationship with an American businessman (Rob Delaney). With an unflinching attitude toward parenthood and all the chaos that comes along with it, Catastrophe’s unsentimental yet compelling approach to big life issues like death and addiction has plenty of lightness and hilarity sprinkled in, and it’s lifted up by its excellent cast.

Fans of Horgan’s brand of endearing Irish comedy will find a lot to love in her role on Channel 4 series This Way Up, but the real attraction is star Aisling Bea, whose Fleabag-esque protagonist Áine deals with mental health, family, and romance as a teacher in London.

The series, created by Bea, is perhaps a little bit cozier and more low-key than Fleabag, but is wonderful for how seriously it takes Áine’s issues while still allowing her to mess up and experience the highs and lows of life in the big city. Appearances by 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 great moments of the show — make This Way Up’s two seasons a relatable and enjoyable watch.

This Way Up is available to watch on Hulu.

Poker Face

Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale, wearing a trucker hat and big sunglasses, leans in as Sara (Megan Suri) nibbles on her vape and looks at her phone in Poker Face Photo: Evans Vestal Ward/Peacock

Fleabag meets: Russian Doll/Columbo

Russian Doll made Natasha Lyonne into a star for a whole new audience when she brought the time-looping Nadia to life. If you enjoyed the Netflix mystery’s irreverent attitude and how Nadia had to face down her past if she wanted to escape the loop and finally move into the future, Lyonne’s new noirish collaboration with Rian Johnson, Poker Face, is just the show for you.

Both of Fleabag’s seasons more or less stand alone, and Poker Face takes that independence to a new level with an anthology-style season, with each episode revolving around a different crime that Lyonne’s protagonist Charlie must solve. Like in Columbo, the crime itself is depicted at the beginning of each episode, and the rest of the run time is occupied by twists and turns uncovered by Charlie as she drinks, smokes, and charms her way through an assortment of odd and quirky guest stars. Charlie’s own foibles tend to trip her up, and she’s certainly no saint, but her triumphs in the face of criminal adversity are thrilling each time, and feel like a triumph for the viewer as well.

Poker Face is available to watch on Peacock.

Feel Good

Mae Martin lies down on the ground in a black hoodie  with the zipper open. There are leaves next to them on the stone. Photo: Luke Varley/Netflix

Fleabag meets: Crashing

On Crashing (the American show, not the British one by the same name starring Waller-Bridge herself), comedian Pete Holmes plays a fictionalized version of himself, struggling in the comedy industry after the collapse of his marriage leaves him homeless. The show features many real-life comedians, like Sarah Silverman and Bill Burr, and doesn’t compromise when it comes to themes like religion, narcissism, and codependence.

The two seasons of Feel Good star Canadian comedian Mae Martin in a similarly semi-autobiographical role as a nonbinary Canadian comedian named Mae who is trying to make it big. Mae falls head over heels for love interest George, played by Charlotte Ritchie, who is just as brilliantly drawn, exploring her sexuality as Mae attempts to beat back a drug addiction and come to terms with their complicated relationship with their mother. The second season, like the second season of Fleabag, complicates the premise with a change of situation as Mae goes to rehab, spends time apart from George, and tries to revamp their comedy 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 is available to watch on Netflix.

I Hate Suzie

Billie Piper tilts her head while wearing a red beret and black coat in some sort of wooded area in I Hate Suzie. Image: HBO Max

Fleabag meets: Black Mirror

Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror anthology series is an imaginative and enthralling look at how modern technology affects people, relationships, and the media we consume. As the legendary line goes, “What if phones, but too much?” Iconic episodes like “USS Callister” and “Nosedive” are unflinching glimpses at worlds just like our own where the pitfalls of the enthusiastic embrace of the digital drop characters into terrifying situations.

Co-created by star Billie Piper and Succession staff writer and playwright Lucy Prebble, I Hate Suzie’s first season kicks off with an inciting incident that Brooker would approve of: Suzie’s nude photos leak, causing immediate chaos in her marriage and career and starting her on a downward spiral that plays out majestically as a critique of pop culture and the celebrity system’s inability to accept complexity in the women it raises up.

Suzie is a compelling character, played incredibly by Piper, whose own backstory as a teen pop star and subsequent breakout icon on a sci-fi show informs her portrayal of the high-strung, impulsive Suzie, who struggles and frequently fails to adjust the course of her out-of-control life. Side characters include her husband, son, and intense agent; her phone, social media, and the terrifying nature of the entertainment industry are ever-present antagonists.

Despite many networks turning down the show because, as Prebble claimed, they “already have [their] woman-having-a-breakdown show” (perhaps referring to Fleabag), I Hate Suzie triumphed and was released to universal acclaim. Its sequel, the recently released second season I Hate Suzie Too, ups the ante and makes the case for Piper as a once-in-a-generation star performer.

I Hate Suzie is available to watch on HBO Max.