When you watch television, it’s usually to be captivated by some other universe in which it is probably easier for you to satisfy your emotional and/or social needs without putting yourself out there, or getting hurt. You can dip into a different style of life for a while, but you don’t need to commit and technically no one except your other Netflix leeches know what you’re watching. You watch Game of Thrones for the drama and the interwoven characters, you watch House of Cards because of its intrigue, but you watch Flaked because you’re an asshole.
Flaked stars Will Arnett. Will Arnett is an easy to look at dude. He’s not astonishingly attractive but he looks the kind of guy that doesn’t waste hours or countless dollars on perfecting his appearance. What I mean is, he’s like you, and when you watch Flaked, this is the key ingredient.
Arnett plays Chip, an alcoholic, and a pathological liar. He takes advantage of his friends, and he does it all behind a smiling face that’s unassuming and unwilling to take responsibility. If any of this sounds familiar at all it’s because that’s the human condition.
You may not be an alcoholic, you may not consider yourself a pathological liar, but you do take advantage of your friends, you do neglect to take responsibility for things you’ve done, and you often don’t want to think about how you do all this. But this is where Flaked finds its strength. It hooks you with its attractive looking people, its paradise location of Venice Beach, and the laid-back, beach-vibe lifestyle it purports. It looks like a comedy and plays out like a drama, but the real power is in how it lays out how easy it is to look good and sound good but underneath it all actually be a selfish, lying jerk. Bojack Horseman does the exact same thing but doesn’t hide it the same way Flaked does.
Set in Hollywood and the surrounding villages, Bojack follows the downward trend of the life of Bojack, a once famous cartoon horse that starred in Full Hou … er … Horsin’ Around back in the ‘90s. Will Arnett voices him too, and he’s nearly the same character as our friend Chip. Instead of utilizing beautiful beach bungalows and babes on bikes, Bojack Horseman gets past your guard with its colourful, animated, humanoid animal characters and by reminding you of all your other favourite animated adult TV series. It’s humourous, crude, self deprecating just like the rest, but like Flaked, it uses alcoholism and addiction to reel you into its web of really real shit that you don’t want to deal with while you’re vegging out on the couch.
With each of these shows, you intend to start them because they look appealing, and remind you of other things you like. But when you get into them and the underlying themes start to present themselves, you realize there’s a dark side that you didn’t anticipate but you go along with anyways because you’ve already started and you can still see the good of it all. Re-reading that, I guess that’s exactly the same way a lot of relationships pan out; that’s the big secret, isn’t it? That’s why these shows work so well?
At the end of the day, everyone has their own intimate struggles and challenges that they don’t want anyone else to know about. The real beauty is how each of these shows relays the darkness in their own way. Flaked slowly relays, as the show winds on, the true nature of the actions of each of the characters, while Bojack utilizes animation as a way to present situations that would be far too uncomfortable and graphic to attempt to show on TV with real actors. (If you’re that curious: work your way towards S2E11.)
In Flaked, the source of most of Chip’s subdued depression and misery is his own inability to allow himself to enjoy anything or feel like he deserves anything — he doesn’t, but instead of sort things out he turns to constant lying to avoid facing the reality that he hates himself. For Bojack, his demon is that he holds himself to an ideal of his former fame, striving to prove that he was worth something by his own right and not because of the help of others. Basically, he just wants to feel like he’s worth something.
If you have not yet realized your own fears and subdued lines of questioning in this past paragraph, then keep moving on, watch another show, return to Amazing Race, Friends, or whatever it is that makes you feel good and happy or caters to your ideals. But if you want to change your Netflix-and-chill into a personal-reflection-on-the-human-condition session (you sad, existential nihilist, you), check out Bojack Horseman’s third season and watch Flaked in anticipation of its second season. Will Arnett is what ties these two shows together at face value, but it’s your self-analysis and the company of some other people willing to look at their own piles of shit alongside you that can really make these shows great.