Friends from College is Netflix’s latest endeavour and it’s a great premise… unfortunately it’s poorly executed.
The series focuses on six friends from college – Keegan Michael Key’s Ethan and his wife Lisa (Cobie Smulders) moving from Chicago back to New York and reuniting with their college friends including Ethan’s first love Sam (Annie Parisse) who he’s been having an on-and-off affair with for 20 years. The cast is rounded out with Nat Faxon, Fred Savage, Jae Suh Park and the always hilarious Billy Eichner. The first season follows Ethan and Lisa’s journey to try and have a baby, Ethan and Sam trying to end their affair, Ethan and Max (Savage) trying to get a book published – Faxon’s Nick and Park’s Marianne are sprinkled in there somewhere but get very little to no story arc.
Nicholas Stoller – who I’m a big big fan of; Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Five Year Engagement, Bad Neighbours and he wrote The Muppets reboot which was one of my favourite movies of that year – created the series, wrote and directed every episode. Stoller’s involvement meant that I was 100% on board with this series and because of my love for the guy I think I’m more of a fan of the show than a lot of people. The show rings very reminiscent of an R-Rated Happy Endings (a criminally underrated show that was cancelled far too soon). I think stoller did a good job story wise for the most part, unfortunately the show took a lot of turns that I wasn’t fully sold on these story arcs and some jokes fall flat. Directing wise, Stoller just… directed? There wasn’t much for him to do; the story flows well with a big heart that is blocked out by the unlikeability of some of the characters. Which is where I think the big issues with the show lie – the majority of the time is spent with Ethan and unfortunately he’s the most unlikable character, if you spread this out – you’d get a much more well rounded show.
The cast are stellar and they do the best with what they’ve got, Keegan Michael Key shines and provides some of the funniest moments of the show, however the story arcs I really disliked mainly revolved around him which made his character somewhat unlikeable. Cobie Smulders is great and proves that she deserves a lot more credit than what she gets. Billy Eichner and Fred Savage riff off of each other really well and their relationship is possibly the highlight of the show for me. As mentioned Faxon and Park rarely get much to do; when given something Faxon is hilarious as the laid back stoner. Being a Stoller production, I was expecting a Jason Segel role – I got a Seth Rogen cameo which I was insanely happy about, Rogen gets to be the highlight of his episode which he deserves along with Rogen we get his Bad Neigbours co-star Ike Barinholtz who plays the worlds biggest douche bag (and not in a good way).
As mentioned, I probably like the show a lot more than everybody else will – however there are 4 or so episodes of this show that really shine and prove that this show has the possibility of becoming something amazing given it gets a second season (unlikely).
Ultimately the show is about being stuck in the past and not being able to let go of college flames, dick jokes and not being able to handle the real world. If you’re a fan of Stoller’s previous works or you enjoy a member of the cast you’ll more than likely enjoy some aspect of the show. Give it a chance!
My issues with the show aside – I am a massive fan of the show’s opening titles.