‘Flaked’ Shifts Arnett into a Dramatic Gear

Flaked

Netflix’s Flaked stars Will Arnett as a sleazy self-help guru in Venice Beach

Expectations are a complete and total bitch. Netflix’s newest comedy Flaked, a jointly developed project from Arrested Development‘s Will Arnett and Mitch Hurwitz, dramatically suffers from preconceived notions of Arnett’s comic style. Here, he makes a shift from absurdist comedy into dramedy. The change isn’t a total failure, but Flaked most assuredly lacks the same fire and energy Arnett brought to previous material.

Arnett stars as Chip, a Venice Beach self-help guru and recovering alcoholic. As the pilot kicks off, Chip leads an AA meeting with the revelation that the state of California no longer wants him to drive. That’s because he apparently killed someone while drinking and driving. It’s the kind of setup that, in previous Arnett efforts, would have been followed up by Arnett in a Bugatti. And maybe in the long run Flaked will be better for not being that comedy. But for better or for worse, Arnett is known as “that guy,” the one who specializes in making heroic comedy fodder out of sleazy, self-absorbed losers.

The funny thing is that Flaked is still partially that kind of show. Arnett’s Chip is completely a sleazy, self-absorbed loser who treats women and friends with equal disregard. The problem is that Flaked marks a shift toward dramedy in Arnett’s career that nearly every major comic attempts at one point or another. And, here, the material just isn’t funny, even in spurts, and the drama is something we’ve seen done many times before. The central conflict seems to be swirling around Chip and his best friend Dennis (David Sullivan, Wicked City) as they obsess over local waitress London (Ruth Kearney). Yawn.

There are a few very funny moments, though, particularly an exchange between Chip and another quirky friend:

“And you know what they. If you can make a girl laugh, then you can make a girl go to bed with you.”

“Or in your case, if you can make a girl go to bed with you, then you can make a girl laugh.”

But with the specter of Arrested Development lingering over the material, you wish Flaked were a little sharper, a little more comic, and a lot less dramatically mopey. Arnett is a great actor, but he can do this kind of role in his sleep. Frankly, it comes across a majorly self-indulgent. I long for the difficult absurdist comedy he plays so well. Flaked feels like a missed opportunity for Arnett to carve out his own piece of the comedy world as Aziz Ansari did with Master of None.

Instead, we get to wallow in the tragedy of being good looking and getting constantly laid. Whomp. Whomp.

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