three women standing in Flack





Lauren Cook

TV Series Review

Flack opens with a disclaimer. “WARNING,” it reads, “The celebrity culture you see is highly manipulated. Behind the scenes it is sordid, shocking, and salacious…” It then pauses for a few moments before concluding, “…just like this show.”

Well, at least it’s self aware.

Flack follows Robyn, an American publicist working at a public relations agency in London. She’s calm, collected, professional, and excellent at keeping her celebrity clients’ scandals out of the media.

Now, if only she had as much skill keeping her personal life together.

Cut Her Some Flack

Robyn’s not exactly doing so well right now. She and her sister Ruth moved to London after a family tragedy, and while Ruth distracted herself from the pain by devoting herself to her husband and young children, Robyn delved into her. She copes with her internal conflict with drugs, alcohol, and the ocassional surrender to her destructive tendencies, as well as a complete focus on her job.

She’s also completely numb to the gloss and veneer of Hollywood, operating under the knowledge that everything everyone is told about the entertainment industry is a fabrication: She would know, since she’s instrumental in fabricating it. After hearing that one of Robyn’s clients, a celebrity chef, has been cheating on his wife, a disappointed Ruth laments, “I thought he was one of the good ones.” Completely unemotive, Robyn responds, “There are no good ones.”

Behind the Curtain

Flack isn’t shy about showing what celebrities do behind the scenes, or the duplicitious, amoral methods that (according to the show) people like Robyn use to cover it up. It’s an incredibly pessimistic view of entertainment that wants the viewer to understand that the veneer we see of social media and celebrity culture is a myth: no one’s life is as perfect as it seems, and everyone has something to hide.

There’s truth to that, of course. Yes, it’s important to understand that the celebrities we often place on pedestals are just as fallen as the rest of us. The problem here is that Flack uses nonstop vulgar content to get it across. Sexual references and dialogue are almost constant, as well as profanity and drug use. Hardly anyone we see onscreen is worth rooting for, which may be the point—but it can be exhausting for the viewer.

It’s not as if Robyn’s not aware of the immorality of her job, and neither she nor the show glorify it. She knows that she goes to work every day to protect the worst that Hollywood has to offer from the consequences of their own actions, helping themmaintain a wholesome façade. She just doesn’t care—or at least, not at first. To quote Robyn herself as she teaches new intern Melody a lesson about her new job, “In the future, just assume we’re lying to everyone.”

Robyn is a complicated person who’s dealing with a lot. But none of that means that her actions, or the way the show portrays those actions in graphic detail, should be as ignored as her clients’ indiscretions.

Episode Reviews

February 28, 2019: “Summer”

Robyn learns that one of her clients, a teen singing sensation, is about to be dropped by her record label, and Robyn has to come up with a way to rework her public image before the announcement is made. Ruth begins to notice Mark acting strangely, and Robyn thinks she might be pregnant.

The second episode of the season only builds on the content issues from its predecessor. Robyn and her team decide to film a sex tape with Summer, the firm’s 17-year-old client, and a female soap opera star, then leak it in order to create Summer’s new, mature image. Graphic discussions of sex and sexual actions permeate the entire episode, including jokes about bondage, imitations of explicit sexual noises, and discussions of pornography. Robyn attends a club where we briefly see a same-gender kiss, and we see her urinate on a pregnancy test.

Drug use is also prevalent, though Robyn is attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings and attempting to get clean; we see the soap opera star hired for Summer’s tape doing a line of cocaine in her dressing room. People do shots at the club Robyn attends, and Ruth, Mark, and Robyn’s boyfriend Ravi split a bottle of wine at dinner. Robyn also smokes a few cigarettes throughout the episode. In terms of foul language, the f-word is used five times, the s-word used four, and God’s name is taken in vain 11 times. Other profanities like the c-word and ‘d–k’ are also used sparingly.

Spoiler Warning: Summer gets cold feet before filming the tape, and her mother volunteers to act as her body double. We see blurry rear nudity and simulated sexual acts between the mother and Carly, the hired actress; we also hear explicit sounds and dialogue. Robyn and her team, as well as Summer and her father, watch from behind the camera.

February 21, 2019: “Anthony”

A former one-night-stand of celebrity chef Anthony Henderson threatens to release compromising photos of him, and Robyn is tasked with maintaining his public image as a loving husband and father by any means necessary.

Don’t be fooled by the episode’s TV-14 rating. Nudity, drug use, profanity, and constant discussions of sex are all integral to the episode. The opening scene depicts Robyn performing CPR on a naked male prostitute passed out on a hotel floor (who we later learn is only 15) while her adult client, also naked, suffers a drug-induced breakdown. Full rear nudity is shown, and we see Robyn do a line of cocaine to calm herself down.

The content issues continue throughout the episode. Drugs and alcohol are constantly shown, and sexual references abound. Eve, Robyn’s coworker, tells the story of how she slept with Henderson, and she makes graphic references to how he constantly cheats on his wife. Crude jokes, including some about same-gender sexual encounters and sexual assault, are also made. Robyn smokes a few cigarettes and is shown doing cocaine multiple times. Foul language is constant; the f-word is used around 25 times, while the s-word is used 10, and God’s name is taken in vain 15 (twice paired with d–n). When Ruth asks if she and Robyn should pray as they mourn the death of a family member, Robyn mocks her, and they burst into laughter at the idea.

Spoiler Warning: Robyn sleeps with Henderson, despite claiming she was going to rebuff his advances. No nudity is shown, but explicit motions and noises are seen and heard. Robyn discusses how her mother committed suicide by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. We also learn that Robyn has a serious boyfriend that she cheated on with Henderson, and she’s secretly taking a contraceptive pill, even though her boyfriend thinks they’re trying to have a baby.

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Lauren Cook Bio Pic
Lauren Cook

Lauren Cook is serving as a 2021 summer intern for the Parenting and Youth department at Focus on the Family. She is studying film and screenwriting at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. You can get her talking for hours about anything from Star Wars to her family to how Inception was the best movie of the 2010s. But more than anything, she’s passionate about showing how every form of art in some way reflects the Gospel. Coffee is a close second.

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