Netflix’s Flaked, starring Will Arnett, has all the makings of an interesting show. It takes place in Venice, California. That is an interesting place filled with interesting people. It stars Will Arnett. He plays interesting characters, including some on other great Netflix properties (BoJack Horseman, Arrested Development reboot). It involves a community of people struggling with addiction. While that’s a serious matter, it is one that is ripe for exploration. Everyone rides bikes everywhere. That is interesting in and of itself. Yet despite all these interesting ingredients, Flaked is not a particularly interesting show.
The protagonist Chip (Will Arnett) is either a good guy who is an asshole on accident sometimes, or an asshole trying really hard to be a good guy. A lot of shows can pull of that kind of identity crisis in their main character. Heck, a lot of shows are about that identity crisis in their main character. But with Flaked the ambiguity surrounding Chip leads to more confusion than anything else. And it’s true of the other characters as well. Do Chip and Dennis really like each other? Because it really doesn’t show, their relationship is profoundly unsatisfying. Is London really that cool? Or are we just being told that by each and every character. Watching Flaked feels more like strolling through Venice Beach and meeting some strangers and guessing what their real personality is like, as opposed to being a show that really explores those personalities.
The obvious point of comparison for Flaked is the similarly “dark even though it’s sunny all the time in California” drama/comedy Californication. But one cannot also help but compare Flaked to Arnett’s other current Netflix dark comedy, BoJack Horseman. And there are plenty of similarities. A middle aged man (or horse, you get it) who does not have his shit together? Check. Addiction issues? Check. Vapid West-coast lifestyle? Check. But Flaked does not pull off the dark comedy in the same way BoJack does, and the talent does not compare either. Oh, and on BoJack half the characters are anthropogenic animals, which is delightful. In Flaked they are all just middle-aged under-employed histers.
That all said, Flaked is not unwatchable. The scenery is beautiful and there is an awkward sense of humor that is pleasant, if not laugh out loud funny. When your Netflix queue starts to look a little sparse you can certainly eat some hours with Flaked, but it is not “binge-worthy” as the kids are saying.