The most important thing to know about Friends from College — aside from it being almost completely composed of a cast that will make you think to yourself, “Oh hey, that guy!” — is that it’s a major bummer.
The eight-episode Netflix series centers around the affair of Ethan (Keegan-Michael Key) and Sam (Annie Parisse), two members of a friend group of 40-something Harvard grads who, despite an almost 20-year buffer, can’t seem to shake the fact that they aren’t undergrads anymore. Through successful careers and marriages, the group is more concerned with drunken hookups and being the most fun people at the party.
Friends from College is a self-described comedy/drama hybrid that plays like a full-on tragedy. It’s supposed to be a cautionary tale of what happens when you hold onto the past.
It just so happens that it’s cautionary to the point it’s not actually enjoyable to watch.
It would be one thing if a group of likable underdogs were trying their best while sleeping on each other’s pullout couches and getting drunk McDonald’s in the middle of the day at age 40. It’s a different story when they do all that while generally being horrible human beings to each other.
At first glance, the concept has a silver lining: The likability of friendships once forged by proximity are now being held together by choice. But the more episodes that go by, the more blatantly apparent it becomes these people should grow up and forgo their immature, competitive relationships.
The most redeeming of this grab-bag of trash humans is Ethan, but that’s more of a testament to Key’s acting skills and general charisma: He could play a serial killer, and we’d probably still find his character endearing. Short-lived cameos by Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live), Seth Rogen (Superbad, Sausage Party) and Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project, Suicide Squad) provide some much needed actual comedic moments, but the rest of the cast is a poorly made concoction of both mean and unfunny.
Stories about terrible people aren’t inherently terrible. We don’t hate Homer Simpson even though he’s a less-than-admirable father, husband and co-worker. Walter White was a criminal drug dealer, but we still rooted for him for five seasons.
But the mostly looming absence of a voice of reason makes it difficult to emerge from the weird funk of a bunch of fully-grown adults who take their wedding vows as light suggestions, yet mope when people don’t text them back.
The one dose of normalcy is short-lived. A particularly terrible escapade in which the group drunkenly accidentally leaves Max’s (Fred Savage) boyfriend, Felix (Billy Eichner), behind from their party bus is the catalyst for the couple’s eventual breakup.
“You guys are stuck in some 20-year time warp,” Felix yells afterward, voicing what the rest of us had been thinking for the past five episodes. “It’s fucking pathetic.”
I’m still at the point in my life where my “friends from college” are just my friends, so I’m not entirely sure how accurate or relatable this show is. I can only hope the answer is “not at all.”