Sunday, 27 March 2016

Flaked, a Netflix Original

It was more than just the seemingly endless grey skies dulling London throughout 2016 and a sick-leave-severe neck crick (you know things are bad when you have to bend from the waist to eye your stream when urinating) that caused me to watch all 8 episodes of the first series of Netflix's Flaked in about 4 days recently.

Those skies were part of it, though: Flaked is set in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, a place where such unpleasantries as clouds and sweaters are apparently unheard of, and watching it feels like spending 30 minutes on a sunbed and then getting an icecream, too.

That brevity was part of it as well: the episodes are short enough that you don't feel you're doing the programme an injustice if you watch it when less than fully sharp - unlike with, say, the superb Peaky Blinders, the second series of which I've yet to build myself up to.

But also there's a likeably roguish main character, Chip, played by Will Arnett (who also produces and co-created), a warming / strained (i.e. interesting) best-friend relationship, quality dialogue, and an unusual overall tone that balances feelgood slacker with the threat or promise of something slightly sour. Most of the characters are coping(ish) alcoholics, and the tone is redolent of red wine on the cusp of going bad that gets drunk anyway cos it's all there is and what the hell.

That threat of something not-quite-right slowly builds and realises as the series develops, such that the compulsion to keep watching morphs away from wanting to catch up with friends and get some vitamin D to wanting to know whether Chip really is the nice guy most people think he is and whether, nice or not, he's going to do or suffer something awful.

This is, I think, the first Netflix Originals series I've watched more than a few episodes of without giving up (Jessica Jones seemed to aim for a similarly adult-ish tone,  but was more troubled-teen faux-attitudinal, plus it was taking forever to go anywhere), and has for the first time got me thinking that my Netflix subscription could become a permanent fixture, rather than something to wring dry then toss away. If Netflix produces more Originals like Flaked, based on interesting characters and good writing, and not just more sub-par superheroes, I might start to think of it less as a slightly soiled bargain-basement outlet and more as a rare premium service I can actually afford.

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