I’d seen some stuff floating around about Friends from College, and it wasn’t really positive. Yet after seeing Keegan-Michael Key promote it on Stephen Colbert’s late night show, I decided to give it a go. After all, the show has some major faces. Key himself is well-known from Key and Peele, and the show also stars Colbie Smulders (who we all know as Robin) and features Billy Eichner (who plays the very special Craig on Parks and Rec). But ultimately, a good cast doesn’t save unlikeable characters. Spoiler-free account, as usual.
The show is quick to throw us into the mix. Ethan (Keegan Michael-Key) and Sam (Annie Parisse) are friends from college, and they’ve been having sex for the past twenty years. Meanwhile, Ethan is married to their mutual friend (also from college), Lisa (Colbie Smulders). Their affair has been going smoothly for two decades, until Ethan and Lisa decide to move back to New York, where Sam and their two other friends Max (Fred Savage) and Marianne (Jae Suh Park) live. The move makes it harder for Ethan to mask his affair, and complicates everyone’s lives immensely. The story tries to feature other narratives, like Ethan writing a YA-novel, but it’s centered around Ethan and Sam’s affair.
To start off, I don’t want to say the show is bad. In fact, I’d say it’s an honest perspective of relationships. When it comes to both friends and romance, in reality there’s no moral black and white. Our friends, even from way back, aren’t necessarily the best people. Our relationships to them aren’t necessarily healthy. But watching a show about people who bring out the absolute worst in each other is not that entertaining. I sometimes found myself hate-watching.
Because it’s not your run of the mill story of cheating either – we don’t get the one-sided, “they’re meant for each other but with the wrong people” sort of tale. Sure, there’s a bit of that, but we follow Lisa too and see a woman who’s in love with her husband, and just trying to figure out what’s wrong with her marriage. She goes through a lot in the course of eight episodes, but Ethan is barely there for her. Maybe the show is trying to give us the “strong, loving woman is cheated on by jerk, gets past it and gets out stronger”-type of narrative, but since so much of the show is focused on Ethan, it just feels sad. Not only does Ethan’s cheating lead to problems, but it seems that the mere phenomenon of these people spending time together effectively destroys all post-college relationships they might have. Cause that’s what nostalgia does, right?! …Right. The show is listed as a comedy but I can’t say I found it particularly amusing. A more accurate label, in my view, would be drama with a handful of funny scenes.
The show’s acting is fine, and it’s nice to see Colbie Smulders again. I don’t think any of the actors are at fault for their unlikeable characters, and sometimes bad writing. I think Keegan-Michael Key is a good actor, but Ethan’s actions (the immoral ones as well as his “nervous tick” of making annoying voices) aren’t redeemed by the fact that they’re well-acted.
If you’re desperate for something to watch, you can plow through the show quickly – the eight episodes are only 30 minutes each. But if you have spare time and Netflix, I’d opt for another show – Friends from College leaves you feeling kind of empty and sad for everyone involved in the ordeal. Most of all, you hope that your own friends don’t turn out to be destructive assholes in 20 years.
Friends from College is available on Netflix.
I know this is a quick review, but I honestly don’t have a lot to say about the show, except that it’s probably not worth your time.
Thanks for reading!