The eight-episode Netlix-only series “Flaked” debuted March 11, 2016, inserting itself into my Netflix “recommended” list right smack along all the Kristen Wiig projects and the indie nerdy-snowflakes-meet-cutes. “Flaked” is a Netflix original series helmed by Will Arnett, a star of “Arrested Development” and that show’s creator, Mitch Hurwitz, written by Arnett and Mark Chappell.
Will Arnett stars as Chip (“stars” is kind of a poor way to put it; Will Arnett unstars). Chip is something the rest of the web is calling “ a self-help guru” but I’d call “a guy.” His besty, Dennis, played by David Sullivan, is frustratedly flailing his way into middle age without working out any of his post-adolescent issues. Their not-shared mission is to creep horribly on delicious newcomer waitress London (the coolly uncool Ruth Kearney). They’re joined by some stupendous supporters, including Lina Esco as tough but tender rhythm trombonist, George Basil as Cooler, a better Kramer than Kramer, and Heather Graham as a Jennifer-Aniston-level super celebrity whom Graham reveals to be (wait, what?!?!) a human being.
Caught up in the laughs and characters, I was genuinely surprised as the plot(s) unfolded. If I had it to do over, I’d stop and re-watch episodes 1-6 (episodes are named for streets in Venice, CA). I regret that I can’t watch the series slowly one more time, not knowing what I know now about the characters’ backstories. But those backstories revealed demand a second binge watch, which is an entirely different experience.
Millennial set pieces arrive often at Netflix. The shows or movies seem interesting, with obligingly anti-glam starlings, uncomfy settings and Pinterest-worthy set decor. And half a viewing produces the miserable fake smile that hanging with actual millennials does. It’s potluck gluten-free tv. I’d rather blend a printout of Ted Asregadoo’s review of “Love” into an organic cleanse to chug than have to watch another episode of it.
This is another contribution to that genre, but “Flaked” is more intriguingly written as a play than those and assumes its viewers are grown-ups about this. “Flaked,” though it is as sun-washed and consciously-unconsciously styled as a hipster boutique, is honest about what people are like. The series’ reception from critics points out the hypocrisy of all the other gluten-free tv: The wacky romantic leads can have shitty jobs and awkward fashion accessories but we still apparently need them to be conventional couples by act three or we’re cranky. If they’re difficult quirkballs, they’re unlovable, and they have to be David Cross.
The writing is the smart, smart, SMART kind that reveals better gunplay the second viewing. Or maybe you just have to be as stupid as me not to get stuff the first time. “I wanna do it right,” obsesses Dennis, and with a raised eyebrow Chip deftly rejoins, ‘Or, do it. Right?” Many words have been wasted dissecting “Flaked” as a traumedy, the on-trend name for the blankly oh-shit series we’ve been served for a while now. “Flaked” is not a traumedy, it’s a super funny show about a trainwreck of a hot guy who finds himself inexplicably aging.
The show’s music is bonkers crazy good, with incidental music by Stephen Malkmus and tracks proving its creds that I dare you not to want to download.
“Flaked” is really – actual. People say stupid things and behave in stupid ways. The men are appallingly sexist, the women are hopelessly unable to struggle to any place of independence beyond a sideboob-showing waitress job. This is actual. People hurt one another accidentally when trying to be understood. This is actual. Some people in their pool of pals are abject failures and some are incredibly accomplished for no apparent reason but blind fate and this is actual. Friends speak in customary shorthand, and constantly tragically misunderstand and manipulate one another. This is actual. The best lack all conviction while the worst are just the worst. This may be the first series I’ve ever watched where people don’t get one another, even as they call out one another’s habits and baggage and shortcomings accurately and often. They try to do right and screw things up, they have a tantrum and accidentally fix things. This is refreshing for a serial misunderstander like me, to see people not magically do exactly what was needed and laugh prettily about it later at Central Perk but rather make very big mistakes between one another. And this is actual. And, as all of this is actual, here it is also super, super, super funny.
I want this show to have so many seasons, Cooler ends up waterskiing over a shark. It won’t, so binge it soon, and then binge it again for a different story. As NOT-guru Chip awkwardly tries to wise up an angsty millennial, “life must be lived forward but can only be understood backwards?” A little like this show. And this is actual.