There's a scene in the beginning of Flaked, the new dramedy on Netflix from Arrested Development star Will Arnett and Mark Chappell (the creators behind the cringeworthy yet funny Brit-com The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret) that immediately turned me off.
I kept watching the show, but only out of love for you, dear reader.
Arnett's Chip is in recovery, discussing his mantras and way of life with two beautiful women half his age. So far, the series has shown us that Chip isn't a great guy. He rides a bike because a drunken-driving accident left another person dead. He's constantly swooping in and stealing women from his lovelorn friend (including one beautiful young thing whom he continues to sleep with but doesn't actually seem to like).
He's a manipulative jerk whose only upside is that he is at least attempting to make his life better, even though he's not very good at that.
But these women, who aren't even in the same generation as Arnett, look at him, mouths agape, as though he is some Nobel Prize-winning sex god who will cure all their ills. (The other women in the series don't have much more to their inner lives than these slight beauties. They exist just to further the plot for the men of Flaked, and that's about it.)
It's the type of scene that proves how Arnett and Chappell view their hero. He's a screw-up who nevertheless lives this aspirational life of little responsibility other than sleeping with gorgeous coeds.
Series with traditionally unlikable leads are not new to television, especially of late. Arnett already heads one - the animated Bojack Horseman - for Netflix. But what separates Chip from these other characters is that he feels like he's constantly punching down, taking advantage of those beneath him, which seems to be everyone. He rules the few blocks of Venice, Calif., he traverses on his bike, and those around him still root for him, even though he doesn't ever seem to deserve it.
That makes it hard for a viewer to root for him. I don't want this guy to win. I don't want him to have a victory. He deserves what he gets. And I don't want to watch that.
Netflix's Love is another series with purposefully unlikable leads - but the show at least felt fresh and directed in the way it surgically examined the tropes of the romantic comedy. It was a character study that had a purpose, explaining through its run why we were watching these characters to begin with.
Flaked never answers that question.