Pop Culture

Netflix Flunks Out With Friends From College

Keegan Michael-Key (left) does his best to save Netflix's "Friends from College."
Keegan Michael-Key (left) does his best to save Netflix's "Friends from College." Photo courtesy of the Peabody Awards via Flickr Commons
Friends from College seemed like can’t-miss television. It assembled comedic talents like Keegan Michael-Key, Cobie Smulders, Fred Savage and Nat Faxon, and gave them a simple premise of six reunited college friends in New York. It gave them a limited-run first season of eight episodes in an effort to avoid audience fatigue. And it put them all on Netflix, which not only allows raunchy, foul-mouthed humor, but has absolutely changed original programming as we know it.

And, make no mistake, Friends from College has its moments. With talent like this, it’s impossible not to have at least a few laughs. But having watched all eight episodes of the show’s first (potentially only?) season, one can’t help but think that somewhere in there was a good show which, sadly, never truly came to fruition.

The premise behind Friends from College is simple enough. Married couple Ethan and Lisa (Michael-Key and Smulders, respectively) move back to New York City, reuniting some 20 years later with their friends from back in the day at Harvard. These friends are trust fund playboy Nick (Faxon), literary agent Max (Savage), aspiring actress Marianne (Jae Suh Park) and interior designer Sam (Annie Parisse), who also happens to be the lone member of the group with children.

Seems simple enough, almost an older Friends, right? Yeah, not so much. Whereas Friends’ characters were at least somewhat likable, it’s hard to find much to like in Friends from College’s gang of late thirtysomethings.

So thrilled is Max by the reuniting of his college friends that he neglects live-in partner/doctor Felix. Nick is at the age where dating women half his age is mostly just sad. Lisa is depressed by her soul-sucking hedge fund job, along with the fact that she and Ethan can’t seem to conceive a child. And, oh yeah, Ethan and Sam – who are married to other people, mind you – have been having an off-and-on affair for years. Not only that (mild spoiler alert), but two other cast members will sleep with one another by the time the season comes to a close.

Now, these things don’t necessarily make for bad people, but it doesn’t exactly make for good television. After viewing eight episodes, one can’t help but wonder how these six are friends anyway. And the Ethan-Sam affair, the sort of focal point of the series, takes up too much time, not only because it’s not particularly interesting, but because it takes screen time away from magnetic performers like Savage and Smulders, all the while marginalizing their story lines as well.

Whether Friends from College gets a second season is still to be determined, though I’m guessing there will be if the cast is game for a sequel. There’s a good show in there somewhere. If the creators can dive in a bit more on topics besides infidelity and juvenile hijinks, perhaps Friends from College will, like shows such as Parks and Recreation and Seinfeld, rally from a lame first season and really shine as a comedy.

In the meantime, these aren’t really friends you want to spend much, if any, time with.
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Clint Hale enjoys music and writing, so that kinda works out. He likes small dogs and the Dallas Cowboys, as you can probably tell. Clint has been writing for the Houston Press since April 2016.
Contact: Clint Hale