TV REVIEW: ‘Friends From College’ Season 1 – Cracking Lifeless Jokes in Familiar Breathing Space

Boasting a likable cast at first glance, this new Netflix series is a college reunion you should probably pass on

| July 24, 2017

Image Courtesy of Netflix

As the streaming service known as Netflix continues to soar high with the majority of their original programming — from ‘Orange Is the New Black’ and ‘Narcos’ to more recent hits in ’13 Reasons Why’ and the numerous Marvel series — retaining popular acclaim, I wasn’t as hesitant as I probably should’ve been hopping into ‘Friends From College.’ The latest 8-episode series to hit the Netflix original line-up, ‘Friends From College’ managed to boast an attractive and comedic cast in the likes of stars Keegan-Michael Key and Cobie Smulders, all in favor of shaping the appeal of its familiar premise. Whether its cast was beneficial or detrimental to the show or not was one of the many questions that held me on the fence when it came to this middling dark comedy series.

If you know anything about the series, you probably know it contains a pretty straightforward premise — Six friends from college all reunite in New York City. Soon torn apart by sudden dramatic occurrences — involving everything from affairs between friends, novel publishing and failed pregnancies — the group of quirky, often clumsy, former classmates delve into the lives of one another as they reconnect. As I mentioned before, this is easily a premise we’ve seen played out countless times on both the big and small screen. Going into a series like the aptly-titled ‘Friends From College,’ I guess I didn’t expect it to subvert the genre too much, as many films and television series have explored similar storylines as this series did. What I did expect from the series, however, was that its likable cast would deliver performances beyond the mundane and uninspired.

That was a wish half-granted, I would say. While its premise wasn’t much to gripe about, and its plot eventually dissolving into simple misadventures through party buses and crashed weddings, the cast was surely the glue of the show. Employing its star couple in two favorable comedy actors, ‘Key & Peele’s’ Keegan-Michael Key and ‘How I Met Your Mother’s’ Cobie Smulders, the duo managed to bring their genuine zany charisma to the series, all while juggling the more-complex and serious moments of the drama-comedy. While Key might have quickly evolved into a cartoon of himself, spitting out odd voices and jumping off the walls whenever he wasn’t struggling as a successful author, Smulders’ headstrong lawyer and wife to Key’s character was far more believable when it came to portraying someone who actually showed traits of a real-life human being .

One of my most troubling issues with the series had to be its lack of true involvement with each of its leading characters. While the show did aim to toss you bits of drama through the central conflict of the series — an on-going affair between Key’s Ethan and Annie Parisse’s Sam — the show simply used that as a convenience, something to fall back on when the show’s many sporadic misadventures turned dull. Through those misadventures, it was difficult to see each of the central characters as anything more than simple stereotypes that we’ve seen more than a few times now. With Parisse grappling the white-collar Manhattan housewife with a secret, the rest of the cast in ‘Married’s’ Nat Faxon, child-star Fred Savage and Jae Suh Park all molded their characters into unsurprising caricatures that left little to be desired beyond the minor punchlines they got to drop.

Ultimately, as the show stumbled from one episode to the next, I did enjoy myself a lot watching it. While its likable cast gave way to dispassionate and unsavory characters that worked simply to relish in the melancholy misery of becoming an adult after college, the series kept me drumming along in the hope that it might elevate to something a bit more clever and lasting. When it finally ended with even more unanswered questions than it began with, I knew that ‘Friends From College’ might not be for everyone. If you’re a fan of the show’s cast, or even some of the work they’ve been involved in, however, you might find a brief solace in watching a group of grown-ups misbehave and break a more than a few jokes over your slightly-suspecting head.

From the writer/director of ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall and ‘Neighbors,’ ‘Friends From College’ is now streaming on Netflix.

Tags:, , , , ,

Category:Arts and Entertainment, Television

Tyler Trudeau is a sophomore Architecture major from Raleigh, NC, who spends most of his time writing about movies, running in 90 degree heat, and bingeing Netflix shows. You can find more of his film criticism and editorials at his personal website below.

Twitter Author's Website

Comments are closed.

Tyler Trudeau is a sophomore Architecture major from Raleigh, NC, who spends most of his time writing about movies, running in 90 degree heat, and bingeing Netflix shows. You can find more of his film criticism and editorials at his personal website below.

Twitter Author's Website