Fisk

4 out of 5

Created by: Kitty Flanagan

covers season 1

Fisk is a workplace comedy, shot in an Arrested Development / Office style, very much mining the same vibe of cringe and oddball humor running through both of those series. But maybe because it’s an ensemble focused around a lead – Kitty Flanagan, creator, co-writer, and starring as Helen Fisk – it feels also more focused in its application of yuks, letting most of the excess leak to its costars, with Flanagan acting as something of the straight-woman in the middle. There’s further to add to that, though, as Flanagan’s Fisk isn’t exactly “normal,” but presents a version of silly and strange that still runs slightly counter to those by whom she’s surrounded, giving the show a perpetual bit of unpredictability and mirth: you can’t just assume Helen will be the dour one, or the outcast, or the no-nonsense type, while you can take comfort in her office mates sticking to their various shticks; it’s a best-of-all-worlds humor mish-mash in that sense, given that you’re down with the dry-but-absurd UK / Aussie tone.

And I am.

Lawyer Helen Fisk wants to start over with a small firm, thinking – taking on wills and probate – she’ll not have to deal with too many people, or too much nonsense. Each episode loosely follows a thread of problem solving for some particular client (or in just dealing with that client) while we fill in more details on Helen’s home and personal life, fleshing out the ridiculous character that’s on display in the fantastic first episode with a more grounded – but still ridiculous – persona. Rewatching the series (which is quite easy to do, with 6, 30-minute bite-sized episodes), it’s actually remarkably consistent, we’re just tossed into the deep end of quirk at first, and by episode 2 we can accept quirk as the standard of the day.

The shooting style mimics the documentary AD / Office thing, which is, unfortunately, distracting and not necessary, as this isn’t a documentary; it becomes a bit more traditional in the series’ latter half, which is a much better fit. If none of the above sounds especially groundbreaking, I’d agree: Fisk is a show that you can pretty much tell whether or not you’re going to like it after a few minutes, and if you stick with it, it’s not like it reveals any greater depths as it goes along. By the same token, it’s very, very consistent with what it does, and filled with a lot of actors with great comedic instincts that provide every moment with something amusing to look at or listen to.