Last month Netflix premiered Flaked, an original new show created by Amy Poehler’s ex, Will Arnett, who stars in the show as “Chip”—a cheesy 40-something guy who bikes around Venice Beach, sleeping with very young beautiful women and pretending to be sober while secretly still drinking.
The show has received mostly harsh reviews for its tired depiction of Californication-like rich middle-aged white guy malaise, plus a general lack of the humor we’ve come to expect from Arnett since his roles on Arrested Development and 30 Rock.
But how does Flaked‘s depiction of AA culture stack up? We asked some AA members for their thoughts.
“I watched one episode and thought it was pure sexist garbage!” says “Maria,” who has been sober for several years. “I hated it so much as a woman that I didn’t even pay attention to the AA stuff—but I remember thinking it was super-unrealistic as far as his ‘secret drinking.'” (Chip is seen drinking “kombucha” out of a jar a few times in the first episode; we later find out he’s been secretly filling the jar with wine.)
“In the first episode Chip uses AA-speak [“Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backwards”] when he interacts with the coffee shop kid,” says Matthew, another AA-er. “I’ve been sober six years and I’ve never seen a sponsor or someone with time interact with a newcomer like that. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but that I just haven’t seen it.”
As far as meetings go, he says: “What’s with the lighting? Every AA meeting has horrible blaring lighting, not soft atmospheric ambient lighting. And coffee in AA meetings is supposed to be awful, so I call BS on the guys complaining about the coffee not being good in the first episode.”
These criticisms are ironic, given that Arnett has described this project as the most honest one he’s ever done. He got sober through AA 15 years ago…and recently rejoined after relapsing while filming the show.
While working on Flaked, he started “getting confused about where I was at,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. He started drinking again—”It happened as easily as it had [the first time]: It was right there.” He returned to AA meetings, and recently reported that he has been sober for months and is doing well.
He says he wishes that Flaked had a better critical reception. But maybe he’s learned that, like some AA slogans, the maxim “write what you know” needs to be taken with a grain of salt.