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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 21, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Netflix Original “Flaked” thrives on actors’ talent

"Flaked"

About two dozen sobering alcoholics sit facing a keynote speaker at the front of the room. Formerly one of them, this speaker shares his story about how he has turned his life around and now helps others who suffer from alcohol addiction.

“I came to Venice by accident,” he said. “Let me rephrase that. I came to Venice because of an accident. Ten years ago, I killed a man.”

Set in beautiful Venice, California, Netflix Original Series “Flaked” follows the journey of recovering alcoholic Chip (Will Arnett) and his friends who have been formerly or are currently in the program. The entire eight episode–long comedy aired March 11 and is a close-to-home autobiographical series about Arnett’s real-life struggle with his sobriety. Written, produced and co-created by its main actor, “Flaked” has been Arnett’s passion project since its conception in 2012. With thoughtful writing, the deep characters and complex, yet easy to understand, plot and backstories make “Flaked” a success.

Chip, who years before killed a man in a drunken driving accident, now owns a rundown furniture store in downtown Venice and counsels others in the AA program. Charismatic and devilishly handsome, Chip is virtually irresistible to everyone he encounters. But he’s not exactly the reformed hero outsiders perceive him as. A constant and compulsive liar, Chip manipulates the people and situations in his life, making sketchy deal after deal just to keep himself afloat. Although he cares deeply for others, there is always something in it for him. And for all of his work with the AA group, Chip is shown secretly drinking again and stealing wine from his best friend’s cellar.

Despite his faults, however, Chip really is a sympathetic character. Between losing his place of business to his landlord, who is also his ex-father-in-law, and damaging relationships with his friends and slew of lovers, Chip is down on his luck. However, Chip has never been very lucky, so he’s used to dealing with this. All too comfortable in his lies about his former life and his current drinking habits, Chip seems to manipulate his way into viewers’ hearts.

Throughout his trials and tribulations, Chip leans on his kind-hearted but emotionally exhausted best friend and housemate Dennis (David Sullivan), who is kept busy running his wine distribution business and untangling Chip’s web of lies that runs so deep, it seems even Chip has lost sight of what’s actually true. To complicate matters, a gorgeous mystery girl, London (Ruth Kearney), with whom Dennis has fallen madly in love, comes from out of town. Just as the other Venice women are, London is drawn to Chip. The attraction and tension build throughout the season, but even London has a secret from her past she’s hiding. Rounding out the cast is Chip and Dennis’s pal Cooler (George Basil), the long-haired, marijuana-smoking comedicrelief character.

The halfhour–long episodes follow the characters as they face life headon, or avoid life’s problems, and put together the pieces of their not-so-perfect pasts. The storyline, while not exceptional or unconventional, sets “Flaked” apart from other adult sitcoms because of its developed characters and subplots. Viewers are constantly entertained by the new developments about the family, friends and the complicated, and in many cases untrue, backstories of the characters. The character development is really what makes “Flaked” so meaningful. The characters, although all flawed and deceitful, become such complex and relatable individuals that audience members may find themselves easily justifying their questionable and seemingly unforgivable mistakes.

The acting in “Flaked” is in itself worthy of praise. The autobiographical nature of the show aside, Chip is Arnett’s perfect character, and his talents truly show in the part. Sullivan and Kearney too give notable performances and seamlessly fall into their roles. The supporting cast, including Basil; Lina Esco, who plays Chip’s love interest, Kara; and Robert Wisdom, who plays Chip’s former corrections officer, are complementary to the show’s overall cohesion.

Arnett can be proud of season one of “Flaked,” and pending its general success, another season could be warranted. Its characterdriven storyline benefits from its talented actors and the substantive depth of character development.