Is Showtime’s Back To Life The New Fleabag?

Courtesy of BBC
Prepare to meet Miri Matteson (Daisy Haggard). She's just been released from jail after serving 18 years for a crime viewers are not yet privy to from the Back to Life's hilarious trailer. Needless to say, if she went away for such a substantial amount of time, we're inclined to assume that it was a pretty big deal; at least that's the response she's getting from residents in her small, seaside home town where this unspoken terrible thing happened almost two decades ago. The words 'psycho bitch' are spray-painted across the wall in her parents' front garden and initial reactions to her release don't extend far beyond "oh fuck" and a door slammed in her face – for the first episode at least. Its been drawing comparisons to Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag, not only because it originally aired on BBC in the Emmy-winning show's previous time slot, but also because Haggard both stars in, and co-writes, the dark comedy.
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We follow Miri as she adjusts to life in her first few weeks out of prison. The first hurdle is moving back in with her parents, Caroline (Geraldine James) and Oscar (Richard Durden). Caroline is concerned with making sure the kitchen knives are out of her daughter's reach and keeping a naughty little secret securely under wraps. Oscar is preoccupied with, well, pretty much everything else. He gives us a memorable introduction when, on collecting Miri from the detention center, he suggests a quick selfie before they get in the car. This, my friends, is a TV dad we're already excited for.
There's a difficult realization that Miri has to come to, though. Even though her David Bowie, Prince and George Michael posters remain on her bedroom walls, despite the Walkman beneath her bed and the warm familiarity of her childhood home, the world has changed dramatically in her time away, and catching up with it isn't anywhere near as straightforward as many of us would like to think.
Courtesy of BBC
It's a perspective that we've not seen explored quite like this elsewhere, particularly through an equally comedic and dramatic lens. On coming up with the idea in the first place, Haggard says she was particularly interested in what this challenge of rebuilding a life looks like for women. There was a "curiosity and fascination with how we perceive women who have done a bad thing over how we perceive men," she tells Refinery29. "There was that, and a love of coming-of-age stories and things that have huge heart and hope in them."
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That heart and hope manifests in Haggard's character, Miri, in a huge way. We're quick to laugh at her having to borrow an ill-fitting pencil skirt from her mother for a job interview, then trying to hoist herself onto a bike to get there. No, she has no driving license. Nor does she have any work experience, beyond her job at Fat Face back in the year 2000. And so our hearts sink just as quickly as we realize that her reputation for an old crime is unlikely to help her search for employment.
These sorts of harsh realities come alongside the sort of hilarity that makes you question your morals a tiny bit (in the best way). But at the root of it all is just a woman trying to get back on the horse (or bike) and put the past behind her. "I hope it's relatable because she's just a girl trying to start a life, or live a life," Haggard explains. "I hope, despite the premise and her past, that we just relate to her as a human being who keeps getting knocked down and pulls herself back up again determinedly.
"Her determination and optimism and pluckiness will make her relatable. We all, in our own way at different levels, have struggles, don't we? And I don't know if you've ever gone back to stay at your parents' but bloody hell, they're always telling me how to load the dishwasher and turn the lights off," Haggard laughs.
Trying to find a job, desperately attempting to rekindle an old romance and navigating the shift in dynamic with your parents when you reach adulthood – it's all familiar territory. But Back To Life manages to look at it with fresh eyes in a six-episode package coming to a telly screen near you. We'll not give you any spoilers but if you'd like some highlights to look out for, we've got a lot of time for Miri's handsome new next-door neighbor and something is definitely bubbling beneath the surface of mum Caroline's composed exterior.
Back To Life premieres November 10 at 10 PM on SHOWTIME
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