How Phoebe Waller-Bridge is rewriting the rules for TV

With Killing Eve and Fleabag, writer and performer Phoebe Waller-Bridge has broken taboos and challenged TV convention. As a part of our Annual 2019 coverage, we look at the great work she has done this past year

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s series Fleabag started out as a one-woman play at Edinburgh Fringe. Six years later, it’s a TV sensation. Writing in the Guardian, Hannah Jayne Parkinson described it as “the most electrifying, devastating TV in years” while Irish Times critic Peter Crawley said it was groundbreaking comedy. Musicians, comedians and writers have taken to Twitter to express their love for the series, with everyone from Kathy Burke to Chris of Christine and the Queens declaring it a brilliant bit of telly.

So what makes Fleabag so special? For a start, there was the sex. TV is still decidedly prudish when it comes to female masturbation but in its very first episode, we had Waller-Bridge’s character enjoying a surreptitious wank to news footage of Barack Obama while her boyfriend slept. In another episode, she breaks the fourth wall during a drunken one-night stand to tell us that she’s about to indulge in a spot of anal.