Fool Me Once

Fool Me Once
Fool Me Once
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Joanna Lumley hadn’t glance through Harlan Coben’s best-selling book “Fool Me Once” before shooting the Netflix series adaptation. That is to say, she didn’t know about the many twists of the last episode until she read the script. “I was just pounding so hard,” Lumley says. “The cast gathered and we were all like, ‘Oh, my God! What do you think of this?’”

And it appears that’s what audiences are asking each other — what do you think of this? – because its main plot and multitude of storylines meld into a primetime soap smorgasbord of lunacy and outrageousness.

In the eight-episode series, British soap star Michelle Keegan stars as Maya, a former Army helicopter pilot whose husband Joe (Richard Armitage), a wealthy pharmaceutical firm heir, is shot dead in front of her not long after her sister was killed. A few weeks after Joe’s funeral, Maya sees footage of her supposedly dead husband playing with their daughter on her new nanny cam.

What follows is Maya trying to figure out if Joe is really still alive while a detective (Adeel Akhtar) and his hunky partner (Dino Fetscher) investigate the killing. Lumley plays Judith, Maya’s possibly evil mother-in-law.

Critics haven’t been generous but viewers can’t get enough.

“Thank God [the show is] not high art because not everything has to be high art,” Lumley says. “I thought it was beautifully done. And some quite important people have said how beautifully they thought it was made, how skillfully edited it was. And it went along at such a lick that people never thought, ‘Oh, that would be interesting. I can watch another two episodes in three weeks.’ They binge-watched it! If millions of people watch it, I don’t think it’s up to us to patronize them and say they’ve got bad taste.”

The series premiered in 190 countries just after midnight on New Year’s Day. Since then, “Fool Me Once” has been watched by an estimated 90 million viewers, which Netflix calculates by dividing the show’s total of 512 million hours viewed by its 5.7-hour runtime.

“It’s complete escapism,” Lumley says. “Most of us don’t fly helicopters into war zones, most of us don’t live in grand houses where there are lots of staff and cars driving to and fro. Most of us are not being investigated by the police or looking into murders. None of us watch this and go, ‘Oh, I’m like that.’ I rather love entertainment — TV shows, films and books — that take you out of yourself and into another world.

That’s whole point of entertainment.”

Lumley credits Netflix with canny post-holiday programming. “I thought everyone might be a bit hungover,” she says. “Everybody will be poor from the holiday season. They won’t have any money left. It’ll be quiet because they have the day off. People are sitting at home with no money wondering what to do. And the answer is you could watch a gorgeous Netflix series.”

Maya is dead and Judith has gone to jail for revealing that the family was faking test results and data at their drug company. Also, the detective who is investigating Joe’s murder takes one of their drugs to treat a nameless sleep disorder that makes him pass out without warning.

“Richard Armatige has been in three of Harlan’s TV things,” Lumley says. “I’m going to try to chase Harlan and see if I can be in something else. He’s got the storytelling genius. People like Dickens had it. They knew exactly how to tell a story that people wanted to hear.”

Of course, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask Lumley about the possibility of a Patsy and Edina reunion in another “Absolutely Fabulous” project. The last time she and co-star/show creator Jennifer Saunders joined forces was for an ill-advised movie spinoff in 2016. “I think Patsy is sleeping in a coffin in the corner of the room and anytime I can creak the lid open and get her out,” Lumley cracked. “If Jennifer said, ‘Let’s say more,’ I would be there in a flash. I adore playing that part more than I can tell you. It was the most fun in the world.”

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