There’s something oddly compelling about antiheroes.
While they’re not as perfectly put-together as the Prince Charmings of this world, who take more than their fair share of damsels in distress and live happily ever after more often than not, they do have very important relatable quality – they are refreshingly, fallibly human.
In a world constantly cajoling us to better ourselves, to FOMO the hell out of life and to DO BETTER, antiheroes such as Flaked‘s Chip (Will Arnett), ex-alcoholic and bike-riding resident of Venice Beach, are a reassuring reminder that most people, even in L.A., don’t necessarily have it all together, all or even most of the time.
Created by Will Arnett and Mark Chappell, Flaked is one of a string of Netflix originals released this year which take existential angst and its messy outworkings, as the driver of their mid-tempo dramas (think Love, easy).
While the show has been criticised in some quarters as being far too aimless and lacking in any real substance, the fact is that it does an exemplary job of reminding everyone last one of us that humanity is, at best, a messily-flawed pursuit.
We might aim to be selfless, altruistic, the possessors of an exquisitely well-executed life but the reality is that more often than we’d like we come up wanting, disappointing ourselves and others, all our best laid plans looking a little worse for wear.
Chip is the poster boy for life’s disappointed people.
Separated from his ridiculously successful actress wife Tilly (Heather Graham) whose father owns, and is about to sell the shop is which Chip’s less than stellar successful wood furniture store barely sustains some sort of half-life existence, Chip is a man who on the surface is making inroads into his Oprah-esque best life.
He is self-employed (after a fashion), has no trouble attracting bed mates – including tough-as-nails Kara (Lina Esco), with whom he has an on/off/what the hell is this relationship, and London (Ruth Kearney) who is also being pursued by Chip’s best friend and housemate of sorts Dennis (David Sullivan) – and is on the surface a model member of the Alcoholics Anonymous community.
Boxes ticked, life happening, existential disaster on its way to being averted. Or is it?
Thing is that much of what Chip displays to the world is a mirage – his sobriety is undercut daily as he drinks wine disguised in a bottle labelled Kombucha, a tea favoured by the alcohol-averse – a house of cards of lies that is barely kept upright.
He is a man endlessly self-victimised by a propensity to promise big and deliver little; he wants the accolades, the love but constantly puts his own temporary self-interest against the his longer-term good and that of people like Kara who wise up pretty quickly that the spin doctor of wise words and platitudes is all shadows and no substance.
It would be all too easy to consign people like Chip and many of the hopers and dreamers who form his idiosyncratic community of misfits and wannabes, none of whom quite get a passing grade or gold star in life, to the dustbin, censuring them for not making it to the finish line of a successful life.
The reality though is that Flaked, and Chip in particular, who is played to nuanced perfection by Arnett, gives voice to the flawed human beings among us which when you think about it is pretty much all of us.
We don’t want to admit to the fact that we’re not quite measuring up to the lofty expectations we and those around us have of us, and granted Chip et al are overblown characters who fall into a quiet, benign melodrama as things progress (which quickly becomes less benign as the season progresses), but the fact remains that in their on the surface at least chilled beachside lives, they aren’t what the packaging of life sold.
That’s raised some criticism that Flaked doesn’t leave you feeling too good about life.
But in its own quiet, gentle way, punctuated by finely-judged, often-witty dialogue and some glaringly insightful home truths and fine performances across the board, the show does what any drama worth its salt should do and shines a light on the human condition.
It’s not attractive, not always appealing, and possibly not always executed as well as it could be – things do get a tad sudsy towards the end to be fair – but it is real, and that’s reassuring to those of us who feel like we’re destined to never quite reach the goals we’ve set for ourselves.
And in a weird kind of way that’s actually comforting, a pat on the hand, and a knowing nod that life can be a confounding beast at times and that we often slip up far more than is good for us or those around us.
But it’s all part of being human, and Flaked, for its lapses into melodrama and overwrought plots, nicely shines a light on our collective fallibility, taking some of the pressure off and maybe, just maybe, helping us to better appreciate what we do have rather than what we think should be ours.