‘Crashing’: PWB’s Pre-‘Fleabag’ Birthday Present Graces Netflix

14th July 1985. The day the world was graced with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s birth. Thirty-five years on, what a great time for Crashing to be added to Netflix.

Crashing is the lesser known pre-Fleabag British comedy-drama series by the now famous Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Much like Michaela Coel’s earlier work Chewing Gum which has seen a rise in popularity since Coel’s more recent I May Destroy You disrupted the lazy mundanity of our telly watching, Waller-Bridge’s Crashing is now gaining some of the fans it may have missed out on way back when it was released on Channel 4 in 2016.

If you’ve not seen it yet, Crashing follows the complicated friendships and love-lives of six twenty-somethings living as property guardians in a shabby disused London hospital.

Lulu (played by Waller-Bridge) with ukulele in hand moves to London in pursuit of her childhood friend Anthony (Damien Molony), who is engaged to the scarily-Waller-Bridge-looking-except-way-more-sensible Kate (Louise Ford). With sex-obsessed estate agent Sam (Jonathan Bailey), French artist Melody (Julie Dray), socially awkward Fred (Amit Shah), and Melody’s middle-aged muse Colin (Adrian Scarborough), the six-episode unfolds the complicated relationships of the characters. With sexual tension, daft ukulele songs and some questionable decisions, the friends live their lives while the hospital gradually disintegrates around them.

An undeniable point: it feels very pre-Fleabag.

In many ways, Waller-Bridge’s character Lulu is the similar irresponsible and sex-obsessed twenty-something which later develops into the titular character in Fleabag, and Lulu’s sexual tension with her friend Anthony, who repeatedly keeps her at arm’s length to protect his relationship with fiancée Kate, feels very much like that between Fleabag and the Hot Priest (Andrew Scott). Likewise, the duality of Lulu’s irresponsibility and Kate’s sensible orderliness feels like an earlier exploration of the sisterly relationship with Claire (Sian Clifford) in Fleabag.

Despite the similarities, Crashing is an entertaining and light-hearted watch. With six quick episodes, it’s totally bingeable and feels more down to Earth than Fleabag. It’s younger, it’s shabbier, it’s a little less organised and middle-class than Fleabag – and I think that’s where its power is.

Sam’s character arc is a personal favourite of mine! An attractive and seemingly confident young estate agent overcompensating for his sexual uncertainty, his grief at the loss of his father, and his need for companionship coming across (as the characters repeatedly say) ‘like an arsehole.’ It’s a heart-warming exploration of masculine fragility and sees him gradually come to terms with his identity throughout the series.

While it is hard to ignore the Fleabag elements in Crashing, it is definitely its own show.

A little younger, shabbier and with slightly more ukulele songs.

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