BINGE-R #61: Younger + Flaked
Streaming Service: Stan
Availability: New episode added each Tuesday (plus S1 + S2 + S3)
We get acquainted with new titles in all sorts of ways, so I’ve been watching Younger in that intermittent and slightly dubious way that occurs when your co-owner of the remote consumes a show and you take in half an episode or have your head turned by a quick-witted line. Now that this glossy comic-drama is launching its fourth season on Stan – which is also pushing the returning Power and Preacher pretty hard alongside the sui generis Twin Peaks – I’ve been paying some more attention to Younger, which is the latest credit for Darren Star, the creator of Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place, and Sex in the City.
Floored by divorce and desperate to get back in the workforce after 15 years raising her daughter, Liza (Sutton Foster) decides to close the age gap by posing as a 26-year-old. She gets a job at a Manhattan publishing house, a co-worker turned Millennial best friend in Kelsey (Hilary Duff), and an equally young boyfriend, tattoo artist Josh (Nico Tortorella). The show voraciously works through story archetypes – it gets a Devils Wears Prada phase done early on – and the jokes have a knack of lightly skewering topics the narrative is actually attached to, whether it’s the foibles of 20somethings or the vanity and excess of the publishing industry.
The fourth season is a juncture for the series, with Liza’s truth finally revealed to Nick and Kelsey after the season three finale, and I’d recommend Younger as an option for those who want a self-aware and playful break; the 21-minute long episodes are rarely taxing. At the same time it places genuine value in female friendship, not just between Liza and Kelsey, but also Liza and her fellow 40something confidante, Maggie (the divine Debi Mazar). I’m happy to go back to sampling the snappy exchanges – the new season has Kristen Chenoweth doing a bang-on Kellyanne Conway – but the appeal for fans and attraction for the curious is clear. It’s an easy pleasure.
>> Bonus Binge: If the comic implications of deception get you watching – and you dig a show-stopping musical numbers such as “Sexy Getting Ready Song” – then try Netflix’s outstanding Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, an original tour de force from co-creator and star Rachel Bloom [full review here].
Streaming Services: Netflix
Availability: All six episodes now streaming (plus S1)
One of the lowest profile shows on Netflix, Flaked quietly uploaded a second season a month ago, which makes this review something of a public service announcement: don’t bother with it. To be fair, the series – a dry comedy about a ne’er-do-well floating through everyday life and incipient pleasures in the beachside Los Angeles suburb of Venice – has addressed some of the first season’s failings, but the flawed fundamentals are baked in. Chip (Will Arnett) is an ageing hipster who manipulatively twists most things his way, including his AA stories and friend’s sympathy. “She had a sick body and a depth of presence,” he says of a female acquaintance, who like most of the women featured is barely established outside Chip’s gaze.
Arnett is one of the great voice actors – see Bojack Horseman and his Batman from The Lego Movie franchise – but his talent in live action work is derived from his remarkable connection to distilling insincerity. It memorably made him as Arrested Development’s Gob Bluth, but here his deadpan antics come as entitled and irritating. The first season would have been far more interesting if having established Chip’s suspect nature, it took him to task. Instead Arnett and fellow creator and writer Mark Chappell tried to redeem the character. That clearly didn’t work.
The new season puts Chip and the girlfriend he won over, despite a hard to fathom plot convenience, without a business, a home, or the local community’s respect after Chip’s support for a luxury hotel development in the laidback neighbourhood destroys the local ecosystem. The ravages of gentrification is a tangible angle for a show without narrative sustenance, but Chip’s expedient half-lies and prevarication doesn’t exert any emotional gravity beyond indifference. Given that Netflix squeezed the second season down to six episodes, it’s likely we’re done with Flaked. It’s no loss.
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