Netflix made all eight episodes available of its new series “Flaked,” which answers the nagging question that arises while watching the first chapter of this Will Arnett vehicle, “Is this going to get any better?” The answer is: only marginally, including a few late-in-the-game twists that don’t really do much to enrich the experience. The premium TV world is a magnet for vanity projects, but few are as pointless – or unnecessary – as this one.
Already making hay with Netflix on the animated “BoJack Horseman,” Arnett co-created “Flaked” with Mark Chappell (“The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret”), and is reunited with “Arrested Development’s” Mitchell Hurwitz among its producers. But other than a very particular snapshot of the quirks associated with the beach-adjacent L.A. hamlet known as Venice, the combination has yielded a half-hour series that’s arrested primarily by its half-baked approach to comedy or drama.
Arnett plays Chip, introduced baring his soul at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where he talks about having committed vehicular manslaughter, which explains why he rides a bike everywhere and thinks the universe ends at Lincoln Boulevard. The proprietor of a store that virtually no one frequents, Chip lives adjacent to his AA pal Dennis (David Sullivan), who has set his eye on a new waitress, London (Ruth Kearney), at their local eatery. Aware of Chip’s easy way with women, Dennis quickly proclaims, “I saw her first.”
For much of “Flaked,” that sort-of triangle amounts to all the tension the writing can muster, built around the male duo behaving like 13-year-old boys, where calling “dibs” on a girl makes her off-limits, regardless of her say in the matter. Gradually, the plot thickens, but never gels, to include development plans that risk uprooting Chip from his hermetically sealed sphere, prompting an opposing “SaVenice” campaign as the locals attempt to protect their off-kilter way of life.
Netflix has demonstrated the value of binge viewing, allowing the audience to consume a serialized plot such as this in an extended four-hour gulp. But “Flaked” is such a flavorless affair that there’s scant suspense about the ongoing story, leaving little over which to get excited other than a series of guest-star-punctuated interludes, with Heather Graham as Chip’s estranged actress wife, Kirstie Alley as Dennis’ hippy-dippy mom and Annabeth Gish (briefly) as a developer.
Hardy souls who survive until episode 6 will encounter a few unexpected turns, as various secrets and lies are exposed, although they’re not especially convincing. And the ending doesn’t do much more than run out of time, which is presumably good news for those who can’t wait for Chip to hop on his bike and continue to lead this guided tour of the neighborhood.
As a small slice of L.A.-centric life, “Flaked” has a good deal in common with “Love,” Netflix’s other (and somewhat more satisfying) recently introduced half-hour. Yet one shouldn’t confuse the cultural aspects these series explore within the city as a substitute for compelling characters or fleshed-out storytelling. And frankly, the AA underpinnings are mined more effectively, for both comedy and drama, on CBS’ “Mom.”
Granted, with all the talk about production fleeing Los Angeles, it’s nice that producers have rediscovered its possibilities as a location. But except perhaps for those westside denizens who seldom venture east of La Cienega getting to see their local haunts garner a few more minutes of screen fame, too many series like “Flaked” threaten to give the town – or at least, parts of it – a bad name.