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Despite a slew of recent cancellations, Netflix has begun releasing even more original content. And the latest series from the streaming service is Friends From College, a dramedy with an all-star cast of actors, who portray a less than charming group of former collegiate confidantes. Picking up on the titular friends in their thirties, the series shows that age doesn't always come with wisdom, and how your "friends forever" sometimes need to be just the opposite.
The new series was created by British-American filmmaker Nicholas Stoller (Neighbors, The Muppets) and writer/actress Francesca Delbanco, who both serve as the main writers as well. Friends From College revolves around a group of friends in New York City. Falling on some hard times, married couple Ethan and Lisa Turner (Keegan-Michael Key and Cobie Smulders, respectively), crash on a friend's couch and attempt to reintegrate themselves into their group of friends from college. And while the group clearly loves and supports each other, they often revert back to their childish selves around each other, and end up screwing up whatever situation they're in.
And while the concept for the series may seem exclusively light and frothy, there are some high stakes involved that help move the show's narrative forward. Ethan has actually been having an affair with another member of the group, Sam (The Following's Annie Parisse), and now that the Turners are back in New York, their years long tryst is even more complicated. Additionally, Ethan and Lisa are also attempting to get pregnant and land new jobs, adding more pressures and very real stakes to the equation.
Perhaps the show's strongest suit is its fantastic ensemble cast, chock full of names and actors that you'll likely be familiar with. Keegan-Michael Key has continued his transition from Comedy Central comedian to a bonafide actor, brings an almost manic energy to his portrayal Ethan. And just a few years after the finale of How I Met Your Mother, it's a joy to see Cobie Smulders return to the small screen, and able to finally curse. Rounding out the cast is Fred Savage as Max, who has made his official acting comeback following the cancellation of Fox's The Grinder. Additionally, Difficult People and Billy on the Street actor Billy Eichner plays Savage's boyfriend Felix in the series, because his schedule just wasn't packed enough as it is.
While the actors all give strong performances, it's going to be easy for audiences to grow tired of Friends From College. Every episodes sees various characters starting off with the best intentions, before the inevitably mess things up for themselves. For instance, one episode sees Ethan and Lisa going through the process of IVF, only to nearly ruin it all on the night before surgery. What results in an episode where the couple runs around New York to get the medicine and supplies they need, all while screaming at each other mercilessly. And when they realize that the entire group has forgotten Fred Savage character Max's birthday, they don't seem to actually care or feel bad about it. And Fred is all to happy being a doormat for them in that moment.
In order to properly enjoy Friends From College, you're going to have to embrace the suck. These characters are going to continue to disappoint you and mess up, so expecting them to do anything else will just drive you bonkers. But if you can trust that the show, actors, writers, and the like are self-aware about how flawed the group of friends are, then you might be able to relax and enjoy the ride. The dialogue feels almost improvisational for how live and real it is, which makes for some really great moments by the cast. They're each able to sell their characters' flaws, and the overall chemistry with the main ensemble is pretty unbelievable.
But I suspect that most critics will take umbrage with how unlikable the friends from college are, a criticism that I'm sure some audiences will agree with. Much like the feedback for HBO's Girls, there are plenty of people out there who simply do not long to watch a group of selfish and flawed characters make mistake after mistake for 30 minutes at a time. The previously mentioned episode revolving around IVF certainly gave me a fair amount of anxiety, but as a diehard fan of shows like Girls, this isn't a situation that is new to me. And the performances and cast were so impressive that I was eager to start a new episode after each one ended. That isn't to say that the show is perfect, but that being cognizant of the characters' flaws will make it an overall much more enjoyable ride.
I'm eager to see how the overall reception for Friends From College is. While it previously seemed like Netflix shows were almost always renewed, the streaming service has been all to eager to give some of its shows the axe. And aside from its expensive cancellations like The Get Down and Sense8, it also ended up trimming the fat with quirky comedy Girlboss. But perhaps the star power associated with Friends From College will save it from this fate, allowing the showrunners to craft stories that are a bit more likable for Season 2.
The first season of Friends With College is currently streaming on Netflix.
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