So far, Netflix and Will Arnett has been a successful combination. First we had the new season of Arrested Development, and then the wonderful Bojack Horseman. When it was announced that Arnett was developing a show with Netflix, it seemed like the stars was aligned. Unfortunately, Flaked is the biggest misfire that Netflix has released so far.
The eight-episode series focuses on Chip, a recovering alcoholic who lives in Venice, LA with his friend, Dennis and they both meet a girl, London. The series premise of Chip being self-centred in the beautiful backdrop could catch the attention of many, except he doesn’t always put himself first. He is a collection of things, greed and jealousy – sure, but none of them are ever enough to make him a unique character. Instead we just get a tamer version of Californication, without the snappy dialogue, sex, backstory, character drive, social commentary and anything else that made Hank Moody the perfect man child.
That being said, there is one thing Chip consciously puts himself in front of: the plot. Despite how dislikeable the summary of the show tries to make Chip sound, by the end of the eight episodes I felt like Chip couldn’t make an impression over me. He simply washed over me. Instead, the supporting characters are where the true talent in the show was. Admittedly, Dennis suffered from the same overwriting (or perhaps, in the case of the show, underwriting), but the star male performance was from Robert Wisdom, who played the role of Chip’s previous sponsor. More stand out performances come from the semi-love interest of Chip’s, played by Lina Esco, who appears in a sex scene in the first episode, but quickly becomes the most interesting character in the show. Finally, we are given a few appearances of Heather Graham, who brings a stunning light to the show like she does with everything she touches.
What might be the one congruent thing to Flaked’s tone, but is another disservice to the audience, is how little the show focuses on anything else but Chip. Any situation that has the potential to be a subplot, such as people having their own interests, or even disliking Chip, is quickly stuffed aside by Chip committing a gesture that any human being could do and being forgiven for it. By the first episode you’ll have some substance and wonder how it’ll be spread across eight episodes, and by the time that the series is finished you’ll still not have an answer to that question.
The theme of alcoholism is important in the series, but after a few episodes rather than being shown as the humane side of Chip it’s more just to be used for his exploitations. Chip uses his role in helping others to get sober to get others into bed, help secure his finances and to increase his standing in the community. While for a character such as Chip this is believable, Flaked fails to show any other benefit the recovery program has had on anyone else. Once again, everything is all about Chip, and for the wrong reasons.
Even the location of Venice Beach isn’t mentioned much, or shown off for all the beauty that it’s worth. Instead it seems to be a convenient location for stereotypes of laid-back surfers and people who like to cycle anywhere. For a show about a recovering alcoholic who wants to get whatever he desires’ Flaked is remarkably safe, and never has any dark tones that could save it from being boring. Chip just does slightly bad things and gets forgiven for them, reducing any sense of drama that should exist in the show, and stopping it from taking on any life of it’s own.
Perhaps one of the saddest things about Flaked is what it could have been. Arnett is a fantastic and hilarious actor, and Netflix has seen great television made in its presence. This just feels like something that should have been perfect, but ended in bad news. Whether it was due to studio interference of lack of talent in the writing room, due to its creators we just want to put our head in the sand and see and hear no evil, and no Flaked.
There isn’t one overall issue with Flaked, it’s just that it has absolutely nothing to keep people hooked. Perhaps Netflix’s binge watch nature will be in favour so that fans feel obligated to finish the show. Once they realise that it never really gets good, however, audiences will be feeling disappointed. Instead of having a strong current that pulls the viewer in any direction, Flaked just sits there, being passive, and quickly grows stagnant.
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