I knew The Flatshare (Paramount+) was going to be unrealistic when, in the opening scenes, Tiffany moves into her new rented flat and almost immediately bangs a picture hook into the wall. This, I thought, is a woman who has never had to deal with an estate agent’s punitive charges. The flat turns out not to be Tiffany’s, at least not entirely: this is an adaptation of the 2019 novel by Beth O’Leary, and follows an untraditional flatsharing arrangement. Tiffany has the flat from 8pm to 8am and at weekends; she has entered into an agreement with Leon, a night nurse trying to earn extra money for what obviously turns out to be extremely big-hearted reasons, who gets his own flat from 8am to 8pm, and stays with his annoying girlfriend at weekends.
Tiffany immediately starts leaving her pesky lady things everywhere: candles, floral cushions and herbal teabags. After a frosty start and some misunderstandings about tidiness, etiquette and whether you should move into another person’s flat and hang a huge vagina painting on the wall, Tiffany and Leon begin to communicate flirtatiously, via Post-it notes. It’s basically Love Is Blind, without the pressure to get married, but with the pressure of Leon’s brother Richie being imprisoned for an armed robbery he didn’t commit and Tiffany somehow managing to get involved in that, while also quibbling over the quality of the shared loo roll.
Journalists cannot endure TV shows about journalists without bursting a blood vessel or three
Tiffany is a journalist. A chef I know couldn’t sit through 10 minutes of The Bear because he said it was a busman’s holiday. I tried to watch Danny Boyle’s Yesterday with a musician, who drowned out most of the dialogue with an excessively detailed grumble about the impracticalities of the way it portrayed recording contracts. In the same vein, journalists cannot endure TV shows about journalists without bursting a blood vessel or three. The soft-focus Tiffany inexplicably works for an edgy online magazine that seems a bit like Vice, in that it occasionally mentions ketamine and, er, street art, but it is called Bother, which mostly makes me think of posh old ladies dropping handkerchiefs and not wanting to swear in front of the great-grandchildren. Oh, Bother! Someone’s done an edgy content.
At Bother, Tiffany is tasked with doing edgy content, as it’s her job, and also the site is losing money and needs to get more hits. “If it’s real, if it’s personal, it will get us traffic,” says her editor, who has clearly never worked on a website before. I get so distracted by how irate its inaccuracies make me that it knocks me sideways when the editor finally says something that rings true: “You were underprepared yesterday – you’re hungover as fuck today and your interview is full of typos.” Maybe he has worked on a website, after all.
Nobody cares about consistency. Tiffany is so poor she is time-sharing a bed with a stranger and claims to be living off sample snack boxes, but buys the kind of organic milk that would set you back at least three quid. She isn’t supposed to ever meet Leon – it’s in the contract – though why they wouldn’t be allowed to say hello before they share a living space is unclear. All of Tiffany’s many best friends talk in a slightly irritating way, and say things like “that’s not your narrative”, as if they are Apprentice-bots who have activated the emotion setting. Tiffany and Leon’s main, nay only, personality trait is that they both dole out trivia at inappropriate times. No wonder they fancy each other’s handwriting.
Obviously, it’s a romcom, a cost-of-living cheesefest, a baked camembert served with mozzarella dippers and a parmesan crisp on the side. Downton’s Jessica Brown Findlay wafts along as the aimless, amiable Tiffany, while Brassic’s Anthony Welsh broods as the uptight-with-hidden-depths Leon. It is Emily in Paris-ish, yet it’s set in the UK, so it’s more self-deprecating and, instead of haughty glamour, it has a soft heart and soppy centre.
I should hate it, and I sort of do, and yet I also don’t, which I appreciate is confusing when it comes to a review. In truth, I can’t stop watching it, because I really want to know if Bother is ever going to smash out some “killer content”, if Leon is going to ditch his needy and controlling girlfriend, and whether Tiffany will ever twig that her needy and controlling ex-boyfriend is actually a terrible person, and yes, it’s a curveball, but I also want to know if Richie was the victim of a miscarriage of justice and whether he will get out of prison. In short, I got sucked in. Bother!