Friends From College Netflix Review Comedy Season 1

Friends From College Review: A Cast Like This Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

I honestly can’t remember a show that squanders a talented cast as thoroughly as Netflix’s new comedy Friends From College does. It’s borderline criminal.

There’s no question the show (releasing Friday, July 14) is blessed with an all-star team of comedy actors: Keegan-Michael Key! Cobie Smulders! Fred Savage! Billy Eichner! Nat Faxon! Heck, you could just put these guys in a room together and film them joking around without a script, and it’d be worth watching. But here, they’re saddled with unlikable characters, a distasteful infidelity plot and an erratic tone that never quite finds itself. I’m even tempted to put the word “comedy” in quotes, because I didn’t laugh very much while slogging through the first few episodes. (Maybe “non-comedy” is more accurate?)

Friends From College Netflix PremiereCollege centers on married couple Ethan (Key) and Lisa (Smulders), who move back to New York and reunite with their old college buddies from the ’90s, including ultra-successful designer Sam (Annie Parisse), literary agent Max (Savage), perpetual slacker Nick (Faxon) and New Age-y actress Marianne (Jae Suh Park). But they’re not exactly as tight as they were back in their Harvard days: As Lisa puts it, they’re now carrying around “twenty years of grievances, built up and ready to explode.”

And there is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, actually: Ethan and Sam have been sleeping together since college, and still are, despite being married to other people. Their illicit affair dominates College‘s plot, as they deal with suddenly living in the same city, questioning their tryst before inevitably falling back into it… and it’s kind of revolting. The writers seem to be going for a bittersweet, antihero vibe with this — hey, Carrie did it on Sex and the City! — but the cheating storyline doesn’t say anything profound about love or relationships, and it just makes us hate the two main characters from the get-go. It’s a fatal miscalculation that sucks all the fun out of the show.

Friends From College Netflix Annie Parisse SamI do want to single out Parisse as a bright spot here, because she’s quite good as the neurotic, conflicted Sam. She’s amusingly awkward as Sam tries to compensate for her sins by being extra-nice to Lisa — she buys her a bed out of guilt — and she really gives us a sense of Sam’s churning inner turmoil. (Parisse seems to have a good idea of what the show’s tone should be, even if the writers don’t.) Ethan really should be conflicted, especially since he and Lisa are trying to have a baby. But he’s not, really, and that makes it impossible to connect with Key here, despite his inherent charm. (Sam’s husband, played by Greg Germann, is a one-dimensional douche created solely to make us sympathize with Sam’s infidelity.)

Beyond the cheating plot, which is off-putting enough to sink the show on its own, College is just a hodgepodge of strained jokes, immature antics and clashing tones. The pilot starts out with low-key, observational humor, but then it swings into frantic, over-the-top physical comedy in later episodes, with lots of unfunny yelling. They even recycle the dusty old sitcom plot of replacing a friend’s deceased pet — in the second episode! It’s as if the writers are fumbling around for the right tone, counting on the fact that assembling these great actors will be enough to carry the show while they figure it out. It’s not.

Friends From College Netflix Nat Faxon Cobie SmuldersThe waste of talent here is truly galling. Savage gets one memorable scene where Max sniffs cocaine and tap-dances — it’s prominently displayed in the trailer — but he’s mostly sidelined, along with Faxon and Park, while the show focuses on Lisa and Sam’s tiresome affair. Eichner, one of the funniest people on the planet, is reduced to sulking as Max’s grumpy boyfriend Felix. Guest stints from Kate McKinnon and Ike Barinholtz — also very funny people! — fail to liven things up. Just through the sheer power of their comedic brilliance, the actors do manage to sell a joke or two, but those are few and far between. (At least hearing old ’90s songs on the soundtrack is fun.)

You know how sometimes you reunite with old friends, and you realize you don’t really like them all that much anymore? That’s how it feels to watch Friends From College: These are pretty terrible people, and not even in an interesting way. Even spending a half-hour with them seems too long. The character I ended up relating to the most was Felix… who just wants all of these people to shut up and leave him alone.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: Don’t let the cast fool you: Friends From College is a dismal non-comedy, with insufferable characters and few laughs.

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29 Comments
  1. Kristina says:

    Wow. I was iffy on this to begin with. Thanks for saving me the time. Does not at all sound like something I’d enjoy.

  2. Dannie C says:

    Bummer.. :/

  3. Syl says:

    Seems like Netflix is making a habit of single season flameouts.

  4. Jimmy says:

    This seems to be the pattern with Netflix these days. If they’re not making shows that squander talented casts, they’re buying network castoffs that couldn’t make on the CW, of all places. Do better Netflix.

    • Haz says:

      I feel Netflix has relied on its own hype a little too much. What made Netflix great in the first place was the mix of content from other studios along with a few of their own shows. Slowly they’ve let contracts with other studios expire and losing shows like BtVS, Psych, Chuck, The X Files, early seasons of shows like Bones and Futureama, and so on in favor of original content that is very hit or miss. They really underestimate the fan bases of those shows. I rarely watch Netflix anymore, my go to streaming service is now Hulu followed by Amazon.

    • Rob Shue says:

      What is wrong with the CW.

      • Jamie says:

        Nothing. Ignorant people like to crap on it because they make content for a younger viewership than the other big networks. Bad shows on the CW aren’t any worse than bad shows on CBS or Fox.

  5. diya says:

    I knew that infidelity plot was going to make this unwatchable, i just knew it!! And really Netflix between GirlBoss and this, you could have given Sense8 at least another season instead

    • Jessa says:

      I think Sense8 (while amazing) is way too expensive to justify given (apparently) how many people watched it. It’s not really a tradeoff with a much-cheaper-to-make ensemble comedy.

      • rinaex says:

        I think that Netflix would much rather use the money used to fund one season of Sense8 to fund four or five more shows with the potential for at least one to be a hit.

  6. Paul says:

    I thought I would hate this after the average trailer, but I actually thought it was funny.

  7. jason says:

    “unlikable protagonist” The same issue with Girlboss, what is it with high end comedies that keep making these unlikable people they want us to root for? I even had the same reaction while watching “love”. These people are terrible characters

    • Will says:

      That was exactly why I gave up on “Love”, I just hated everyone. Nothing about the protagonists made me want to root for them at all.

      • canadian ninja says:

        Ugh, Gus on Love is the worst. Mickey is a self destructive trainwreck but she’s interesting and trying to grow and change. Gus is just the WORST.

    • I couldn’t get past Gus’ nose. Seriously, it was a distraction beyond belief (and yes, he was also an asshole).

  8. A Fan of TV says:

    If Netflix is not producing content, then their competitors will produce content. Like network TV, you have to fill the space if you want the market share, even if their “spaces” are defined in different ways. If this project doesn’t work, you move on to the next one, but you have to be sure you can afford it. If this show doesn’t find an audience or bring fans of these stars to the service that may not already be there, it’ll go to make room for the next great idea. Streaming services have thus far only revolutionized the way content is delivered, not produced.

  9. Paul8148 says:

    This makes me sad that The Grinder was not pick up for another season.

    • anton4177 says:

      Agreed. Savage and Lowe were great together. Deserved better.

    • Charlie Haverford says:

      Would imagine Lowe’s salary would be a hurdle for another Network or streaming service to pick up a niche show like that.

    • Belle says:

      The Grinder was awesome! Had decent ratings! if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times…”Seinfeld” would have died in the current market, and that would have been catastrophic for tv viewers because 20 years later I still watch it regularly. The show about nothing is timeless, will always be relevant in any decade or generation. IMP

    • Jamie says:

      Ugh, I thought I was finally over that cancellation. Thanks for re-opening old wounds!

  10. Belle says:

    Surely some studio or tv exec will jump on this cast to create a show that is worthy of this awesome ensemble!!!! Hello Amazon, get to it! FX or AMC lets go get this done ASAP :)

  11. pranamamma says:

    I really enjoyed this show. I appreciated how it did not get so involved in the characters. Netflix is making do may one-season-wonders anyway that this one serves that just fine. I laughed out loud several times which is very uncommon. Take its light-hearted, comedic intentions and RELAX and enjoy. The main reviews a really bad but look at the reviews for some of the BEST. If the language offended, go back to cable and welcome to 21st century.
    I’m tired of good shows receiving only 1 season but oftentimes, if watched as a movie, these single season shows are perfect.

  12. Christine Klein says:

    100% agree with everything you said. I want so badly to laugh, but it’s not comedic. The affair plot line just makes me sad and I keep hoping (after 4 episodes ) it will get funny. Maybe I’ll just quit now on your “recommendation”. Waste of a talented cast for sure! Too bad

  13. Dave says:

    Take this for what it is… A fun tv show. You need to get out and get laid.

  14. Courtni says:

    I really enjoyed the season of Friends From College.! It had some corny parts. But realistic enough to capture my attention. I love the people who were chosen to be characters. I have seen numerous movies and shows with them in them, so watching this made it nice to see that they are still acting! No it’s not like How I met Your Mother, but there’s something about it that makes me excited to watch season 2…that is if there is going to be one! I would give it a chance everyone! Try and relate to a character. That’s always fun. And if after episode three, it still doesnt have your interest, then I apologize for pressuring you Hehe. But overall i would give this show an 8.5/10. :) Sometimes first seasons arent always as strong as the upcoming seasons!💜

  15. Sarah says:

    Loved your review! Just finished watching the season hoping it would get better and felt like I was missing the bigger picture here. Your review says it all. Hopefully no season 2. I was just sad and let down after watching. I even tried googling what kind of genre and I was shocked to see comedy. Was I just not getting the jokes?