Brow Beat

Netflix Made Will Arnett Narrate Office Tedium for Nearly an Hour, and It’s Fantastic

Will Arnett in Netflix Live Canceled.

Netflix

April Fools’ Day, traditionally celebrated in this country by politely chuckling at corporate japeries, got a little weird this year: Netflix did a good prank. Or, to be scrupulously accurate, this being April Fools’ Day and all, Netflix’s mediocre prank produced something genuinely good. The concept—Netflix Live, a 24/7 live feed broadcast from Netflix’s offices—is the typical Google April Fools’ Day template: We’re producing a brand new service no one could possibly want, ha ha ha! Netflix has tried this kind of gag before—remember Qwickster?—but this time it pulled it off. The secret was hiring a disheveled Will Arnett to ramble for nearly an hour about the soul-killing tedium we waste most of our lives on. The supposed sample video for Netflix Live, now streaming under the name Netflix Live Canceled, is 48 minutes and 50 seconds of relentless, excruciating footage of the various wildly inadequate ways we try to pass the time, with a particular focus on the ways offices grind us down. It’s also pretty funny.

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The very first line sets everything up: We join Arnett in media res providing color commentary for a static shot of an empty office copy room, apparently several hours or days into his broadcast. “There’s a Bizhub. This right here? This is the answer to a lot of your problems,” Arnett says, as though it were normal or desirable to have problems that could be solved by a multipurpose copier/scanner/printer. Before long—but since the footage is so dull, it seems like hours—he’s moved on to questioning the underlying premise behind bullshit jobs:

It’s almost like that blue recycle bin is right at the output of the printer, as if they know that everything that’s done in that office is just instantly trash. Just a bunch of meaningless nonsense that could just as easily go with the person who copied it or straight into the trash. Either way, it’s fine. It’s a wash.

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Things get a little touch-and-go with a couple of celebrity cameos halfway through—don’t wink in the middle of a joke!—but fortunately it’s a one-time thing. Mostly, Netflix Live Canceled sticks to its very relatable core concept: Everything is boring and horrible. Other topics discussed: income inequality (over footage of a depressing cubicle, Arnett asks, “Guess whose office doesn’t look like that? Reed Hastings.”); the vagaries of fortune (Arnett: “Life is really about getting lucky. That’s it. I watched some show about some people who were living in some shit place and I thought, “Man, I got lucky.’ ”); and, of course, the folly of watching streaming internet garbage all day. Arnett watches a live feed of the computer monitor of a Netflix employee who is spending their workday watching a film called Happy Doggy (2 Hours), and we’re spending our own workday watching him watch them watch the video. If that doesn’t sound nails-on-a-blackboard enough to make you ask big questions about how you’re spending the long, slow march to death, there’s also about five minutes of someone doing a horrible job of parallel parking.

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Arnett goes for the jugular in the finale, when most corporate April Fools’ Day pranks are bringing everything together in some kind of feel-good branding exercise. They’ve got him narrating a shot of a lush patch of grass, and you can see the original, dumb concept: Let’s make everyone watch grass grow. And then there’s what Arnett does with it:

This is probably the only grass over at the ol’ Netflix. Probably not much bigger than this frame we’re looking at, I’m gonna venture. The rest of it’s probably a parking lot and, like, a Starbucks, and, you know, some kind of a strip mall with, like, a Chipotle and the remnants of a Barnes & Noble that’s now like a Fun Store or some shit. Man. Cock the hammer and put the barrel in my mouth, right?

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So congratulations to Netflix, the first corporation ever to pull off an April Fools’ Day prank that suggests that the correct response to late capitalism is suicide. Better luck next year, Google!

As a special bonus, here’s the last time a company’s April Fools’ Day prank produced something worth watching—the BBC’s still-hilarious 1957 short about the spaghetti harvest:

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