Netflix has become a force to be reckoned with over the last couple of years but the last few months have seen it put out some of its best content yet. Over here in the UK we’re getting Better Call Saul weekly via the service, House of Cards dropped its best season yet (and is rivalling The Leftovers as my favourite show on TV, if Netflix counts as TV) and only two weeks after that superhero fans went crazy for Daredevil season 2 which upped the scale from the first season but was a little less focused. However, released within this maelstrom of awesomeness was a different kind of show which was lost within the waves of Frank Underwood’s political machinations and Daredevil’s brutal punches: Flaked.
How best to describe Flaked? A comedy? A drama? Honestly it’s tough to say; while one episode may lean on the straight up comedy side the next will be much more of a dark drama. This is one of the reasons why it is so enjoyable to watch but also the main reason why it has been given some pretty negative reviews or been ignored all together. Some claim the show doesn’t know what it wants to be but it’s quite the opposite for the show knows exactly what it wants to be: a unique experience which shifts the tight boundaries of genre. Problem is that a lot of people don’t understand that and went in to binge the 8 episode season with the wrong mentality.
So what exactly is Flaked about? (That’s the last time I start a paragraph with a question, I promise). The show follows Chip, portrayed by Will Arnett, a former alcoholic who, and the audience finds this out in the first scene so it’s not a spoiler, once killed a man through drink driving. He now helps others at AA meetings while also running his own business/store which produces and sells furniture but it’s TV so we never actually see him do any work despite the store having a pivotal role is the narrative. He’s surrounded by friends who hold both stereotypical and symbolic positions and act almost as a physical representation of Chip’s internal dialogue and struggle. The show focuses on Chip’s daily struggles as he lies, manipulates and tries to be the best man he can be while his life dangles on the edge of sanity, sobriety and the ever present threat of gentrification to his precious home of Venice California.
The location of Venice is a character in its own right, perhaps the most important of the show, as it engulfs all of the others, particularly Chip, in a perpetual haze of smog; a physical and tonal embodiment of the cloudy motivations, lies and deceit told to the supporting characters and the audience. How I’m describing the show I hope it’s clear that this isn’t the return of the Arrested Development style of humour some might expect from a collaboration of Arnett and Mitchell Hurwitz, the showrunner of AD and executive producer of Flaked. Arnett is about as far away from G.O.B ‘I’ve made a huge mistake’ Bluth as can be with a subtle performance as an exasperated guy using humour mainly as a defence mechanism. Think of him as a modern day slouch version of Mad Men’s Don Draper; a subdued performance as a man who struggles to move on and is stuck in a cycle of self-deprecation. The least subtle thing about the entire show is a few gratuitous and awkward shots of Microsoft product placement which you don’t expect to see from a very rich and internally introverted company like Netflix.
This may sound completely like a drama but there is an ample amount of good humour dropped in hefty lumps throughout the 8 episodes. Most come from Chip’s interactions, and more often than not, misunderstandings with the supporting characters of Dennis, Cooler, Kara, London and George. These supporting players are often more than meets the eye too with some interesting revelations shifting the dynamic and style of the show. The audience is rarely all knowing and information is revealed at the perfect moment making the show perfect for both a quick 4-hour binge or having a break after each episode to revel in the new perspective we have after one of these revelations.
Flaked is a deep and misunderstood character study in which humour is used as one very important level of characterisation, a form not usually seen in other such depictions on television which stick purely to drama. Captured brilliantly by director Wally Pfister, best known as Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer and for directing Transcendence (the film in which Johnny Depp plays the Internet which is one of his least weird roles of recent years), Flaked is a unique comedy-drama which deserves to be seen by as many people as possible and not left in the dark recesses of the world’s most popular streaming service. Flaked is Netflix’s hidden gem; a cult offering that needs a larger audience and an open mind.
Have you seen Flaked? Let me know in the comments and let’s talk about it on Twitter @kylebrrtt. Like, Subscribe and why not have a look at all the awesome stuff on the site like the many podcasts and blogs. I’ll be back next week so come back then for some more First Time Writing.