It’s amazing how much of an impact your immediate environment can have on how much you like something. As of this writing, I’m sitting alone in a San Francisco hotel room, and it’s cold and raining outside. I have nothing to do for the next 5 hours beside chill out and binge some TV. If I was anywhere else – home, at my conference, in a city with good weather—I never would have watched Flaked, a new Netflix show by Will Arnett. The reason I wrote all that is because this is the perfect show to watch in that kind of environment.
Flaked doesn’t really have a point. Arnett plays Chip, a recovery (maybe?) alcoholic who lives in California and doesn’t really have anything going for him. He’s kind of not a great guy who has one good friend he treats poorly. And…that’s the premise.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a pure comedy. With Arnett and Mitchell Hurwitz (Arrested Development) attached to it, you might think it’s a laugh-out-loud kind of show. It’s not. When present, the humor is very understated, but the show is more sad than funny. The characters all have major issues, especially Chip, and Flaked reveals all their flaws intelligently.
I’ve never seen Arnett in anything but zany comedies, so there’s a bit of an adjustment to make watching him play the role of a guy who wants people to think he’s cool and laid back but is battling some pretty tough depression. Arnett has more range as an actor than I thought, proving he’s much more than a goofball side kick.
Not everyone is going to like this show. I’m still not super sure how I feel about it. But despite its disappointing lack of jokes, there’s something appealing about the vibe it gives off. It’s saying that none of us are totally okay. But even though we have to fake it sometimes, so does everyone else.
On the total opposite side of the spectrum you will find Love, Netflix’s other recently-released comedy. This Judd Apatow-driven sitcom is, on the surface, a romantic comedy about two young adults trying to figure out who they are in the busy city of LA. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
There’s nothing unique about Love. It’s not particularly funny, and unlike Flaked, lacks any heart. There’s no reason to care about the two main characters, Mickey (who’s a bitch) and Gus (who’s a giant dweeb). There’s also no reason to watch their uninteresting lives play out one long-ass scene on dialogue at a time.
If this show was made 10-15 years ago, it would have been a cult hit that would be forever remembered on Shows Cancelled Too Soon lists. But we live in an age in which we’re being inundated with shows that are funnier, more diverse, better written and better acted. Netflix is really making a push for more original content. By and large, they’re doing a great job. But this show feels much more like quantity than quality. It was a nice try, but Love sucks.
BETTER CALL SAUL
The Breaking Bad spin off was better than I could have imagined when it debuted last year, instantly becoming must-watch TV. Season 2 has started a little slower, but it’s still one of my favorite things on right now.
Saul (or Jimmy, as he’s currently know), is trying to make it as a by-the-book lawyer working on the massive Sandpiper lawsuit. While it’s interesting to watch Saul try to fit within the uncomfortable confines of a normal job, a lawsuit about old people being charged slightly more than they should be isn’t super great TV. Bob Odenkirk’s terrific performance and a few deviations into the lives of minor characters have helped keep the season more intriguing, but it has yet to meet the expectations set by its predecessor.
The one thing that has continued to improve is Mike’s story line. For as compelling as it was to see Jesse and Walt slowly devolve into monsters they never thought they were capable of being, it’s almost more interesting to watch Mike fend off the temptation to do what he’s best at but knows is morally irreprehensible. If Mike had his way there would be no show, because everyone would already be dead.
I fully expect a dramatic turning point some time the season, something to really make people jump up from their couches. But for now I am very much enjoying the slow, campy ride of AMC’s best show.
THE WALKING DEAD
I am trapped in a metaphorical zombie apocalypse. No matter how far I run or how much I try to ignore it, The Walking Dead and its massive popularity always catch up to me, methodically chasing me down after weeks of pretending it doesn’t exist. This. Is. Not. A. Good. Show. But here is my review.
I don’t really do episode-by-episode reviews of anything, because 1. I rarely watching something the night it debuts, and 2. I tried doing that with this show and it almost drove me insane. Nothing ever changes with The Walking Dead, so it makes reviews really difficult.
Sure, I can write about how Carl got shot in the eye (and was perfectly fine), or how so and so was almost killed by a zombie (but was perfectly fine), or about how these characters have been without running water, make up and razors for years (but all look perfectly fine). But why? The Walking Dead is popular for the same reason Law & Order has been on since the Great Depression. People like TV that’s easy to watch, that’s predictable, and this is the most predictable show on right now.
A small silver lining could be the Neenan character, who will be introduced at the end of this season. In the comics, he is a wonderful character. Funny, charming, unhinged – he really revamped the series. Hopefully he can do the same for the show, because I might actual start turning into a zombie if I have to keep reviewing a show that never changes.
I would rather write a review for every minute of The Walking Dead than even pretend I would ever watch this abomination of a show. Netflix should be ashamed of itself.