Pop TV might not loom large on the average TV viewer’s radar, but the cable network has a show that feels very much of the moment in “Flack,” a British drama starring Anna Paquin as a take-no-prisoners public-relations pro, charged with extricating celebrity clients from various crises.
The title, it’s worth noting, is a disparaging term for publicists, and the world of crisis PR provides the juiciest possible backdrop for a gig that often requires saving the rich and famous from themselves, or at least finding creative ways to minimize their missteps.
Still, in this age of social-media outbursts and click-driven journalism, “Flack” is an amusingly exaggerated look at how the sausage gets made, played as satire, while promoting these hired PR guns to a role that occasionally approximates services lawyers, agents and managers normally provide.
Paquin plays Robyn, an American working for a U.K. firm, who’s completely unflappable at work and of course a mess in terms of her personal life. The latter aspect of the show is considerably weaker – or at least, less interesting – than the matters Robyn tackles in her day job, though it does offer a nice contrast between a person wedded to her job and her married sister (Genevieve Angelson), who has kids at home and thirsts for some of the glamour and freedom that Robyn enjoys.
Robyn’s clients run the gamut of celebrity misbehavior, from being caught cheating on spouses to hiding secrets about their sexuality or (in one of the more twisted subplots) pretending to be pregnant. “Did you think we’d resolve this without lying?” she calmly tells one in the premiere.
The firm features a colorful assortment of personalities, none better than Sophie Okonedo as Robyn’s ruthless boss, Caroline. Her whatever-works mentality – which includes finding a female date for a gay-rights event, never mind that she isn’t a lesbian – is mirrored by hard-partying colleague Eve (Lydia Wilson), while a wide-eyed intern (Rebecca Benson) presents a grounded counterpoint to the absurdities these veterans of the PR wars accept without batting an eyelash.
“The world keeps turning,” Caroline says during one of the quieter moments. “We just help push.”
“Flack” certainly does its share of pushing, but more importantly it pulls you in, and reels you along through its six playfully salacious episodes.
This is a conceit that’s obviously been explored multiple times, just usually not very well. Owned by CBS, Pop has achieved modest successes with its forays into original programming (see “Schitt’s Creek”), but this represents its most polished offering to date, serving as a reminder that in this age of international TV production, a binge-worthy show can, er, pop up anywhere.
“Flack” premieres Feb. 21 at 9 p.m. on Pop TV.