Nobody’s quite sure how it happened but Netflix’s slate of original programming has built up the quite reputation. No longer a little try-hard hidden in the shadows of Hollywood, it’s an out and out production behemoth steamrolling competitors on the strength of the likes of Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards.
They also churn out all kinds of crap like the horror show that is The Ranch and the dud that is Fuller House.
There’s a semi-hidden group of great little shows that don’t quite get the same buzz as the big guns, and it’s a shame. Shows like Master Of None and Love could do with the marketing hype given to House Of Cards and the like.
A new addition to that list is the Will Arnett-starring Flaked; it didn’t receive the most favourable reviews when its eight-episode run was released in March, but there’s definitely enough there to make it worth a watch.
The main draw is Arnett. Chip is a guy so far removed from the over-the-top nature of Gob in Arrested Development or the outlandishness of BoJack Horseman; he’s incredibly frustrating as he juggles his own alcoholism with helping others through theirs, but he’s also grounded and its a joy to watch multiple layers of his personality reveal themselves over the course of the season.
Arnett’s backed up by a great supporting cast as well. Some critics have described Chip and his best friend Dennis as ‘men behaving sadly’, but there’s a real connection between Arnett and David Sullivan that captures the back and for of two friends better than most TV dramedy does.
While Chip battles with his alcoholism, he’s pulled apart by his friendships, a new love interest (Ruth Kearney’s enigmatic London), a shaky business situation (twisted by Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s tech wizard) and the small matter of his ex-wife (a delightful Heather Graham).
Flaked’s not without its flaws though. The story flows along at a perfect pace for a mini-series, but it gets caught up in hipster tropes that have you rolling your eyes.
Chip makes a weird sort-of three-legged stool – that’s literally his job – while Dennis is a sommelier.
They all wear shorts and flip-flops, ride vintage bicycles and have a trilby hat perched on their heads, and Chip constantly makes a point of not having a cellphone.
All of this can be insufferable as the over-arching theme of the gentrification of Venice plays out in the background.
But there’s still plenty to enjoy as this rag-tag group of thirtysomethings stumble their way through life like teenagers. Set aside an hour or two for the first few episodes and see how it goes, there’s a good chance you’ll become enchanted by the sun-kissed streets of Venice, regardless of the pitfalls of the characters.