Death in Venice

Flaked, the new Netflix series starring and created by Will Arnett, is a show about identity issues with a host of its own issues. It tells the story of Chip (Arnett) a recovery alcoholic who cruises around Venice, California on a bike because he lost his license after he killed someone drunk driving. Chip presents himself as ten years sober, but seems to use AA mostly as a way to find and hit on young women and sneaks sips of wine out of a Nalgene labeled “Kombucha” at any chance.

Chip dominates his friendship with sidekick Dennis (David Sullivan) and has a habit of swooping in and bedding Dennis’s crushes. He runs a store that supposedly sells stools that Chip himself built but mostly seems to exist so that people can leave messages on his answering machine there (Chip doesn’t own a cell phone). There’s painfully little at stake in the first four of the season’s eight episodes: Chip disappoints one sorta-girlfriend (Lina Esco) and invites London, the latest apple of Dennis’s eye (Ruth Kearney) to live in the studio above his store. It’s unclear whether we’re supposed to sympathize with, laugh at or pity Chip and his pals. Then in the latter half of the season, the show ups the ante and busts out the twists. People aren’t who they say they are! Chips whole reputation as unofficial mayor of Venice may be a lie! McLovin appears as a bratty tech billionaire with development plans that could compromise the neighborhood’s charm!

George Basil steals his scenes, and the show, as Cooler, the stoner who rounds out the friend group. He brings an endearingly goofy energy that livens up the surprisingly leaden chemistry between Arnett and Sullivan. Cooler speaks the truth about Chip and Dennis, and the show in general, when he tells them they’re being “too cliché even for you ass jobs.” Stephen Malkmus’ soundtrack signals what the show wants to be (shambling, mellow, California melancholia) but Flaked mostly succeeds at being exceedingly half baked.

 

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