In 2011, a decently reviewed sitcom aired on the British Network Sky One called The Cafe that, despite its lukewarm reviews, was praised for one component in particular: the sharp and charming performance of a young actress on the show named Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Many critics predicted a great career for this talented performer, but what Waller-Bridge instead did was become one of the best and most important TV writers of the 2010’s, embracing a multi-hyphenate status that VERY few other performers can claim. For Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting Waller-Bridge’s incredible contributions to TV, not as a performer, but as a writer whose startling talent and ability to hop genres is unmatched by anyone else working in the medium.
In 2016 at the ripe old age of 30, she created and starred in a sitcom for Channel 4 called Crashing, a broad and goofy sitcom following the lives of six twenty-somethings living together as property guardians in a disused hospital, keeping the building safe in exchange for cheaper rent and a strict set of rules. Waller-Bridge has sole writing credit on the entire series, very rare for a show-runner, and the series was embraced for its sharp wit and broad comedy. But it wasn’t until Fleabag (released 6 months later), that critics really began to see what a rare talent Waller-Bridge is. The unconventional show mixes comedy, tragedy, cynicism, and “4th-wall-breaking” monologues to deliver what Waller-Bridge herself has described as a treatise on “female rage.” While the first season was something of a cult hit, the second season was a cultural phenomenon winning almost every award for which it was eligible. For a single writer to write both a broad, punchline-y comedy in Crashing and a dark, tragicomic TV play in Fleabag represents a rare talent for genre-hopping.
But in 2018, Waller-Bridge topped herself again and did the unthinkable, by creating a popcorn-style, edge-of-your seat thriller in Killing Eve, which The Guardian described as: a “high-wire act of misdirection that subverted stale genre expectations” and saying that it “mix[es] genres – spy thriller, comedy, action film, workplace drama and… farce – without it collapsing into a tonal mess.” Waller-Bridge wrote about 40% of the first season, including its pilot and season finale, and the show graced numerous top 10 lists in 2018.
It’s not a hot take to label “Waller-Bridge” an excellent writer, but she’s not just an excellent writer. She’s a genre technician, having created three shows that loosely (and sometimes subversively) conform to the tropes of completely different TV categories. It’s just so rare for writers to hop fences like this, and for both Fleabag and Killing Eve to get showered in Emmys shows that Waller-Bridge is not just a talent. She’s a master. Her upcoming HBO show is being described as a “comedy thriller,” and she shares writing credit on the upcoming Bond Film No Time To Die. The unifying thread tying together all of her work is a sharp wit, a commitment to telling important female stories, and an uncommonly skilled attention to character details that make even one-line characters pop off the screen.
For someone so talented to be so young means we have many more decades of greatness to come to from Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and I can’t wait to see her tackle other genres.
Will her next TV show be a wonderful Sci-Fi Space Opera? We can only hope.
About The Author:
Jeffrey C. Graham is a writer, host, and producer living in Los Angeles, California. You’ve seen (or heard) his work on Sirius XM, AfterBuzz TV, and Earwolf, among other outlets. Jeff thinks of himself “intellectual,” but he’s a voracious fan of The Bachelor franchise, so perhaps not?
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