This article previously appeared on Crossfader.
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
They say you can’t choose your family, so usually people are more selective when it comes to choosing their friends. FRIENDS FROM COLLEGE, of course, demonstrates what it’s like when your long-term friends develop into pseudo-family members. They’re that certain group of people you can’t get rid of after pouring an overwhelming amount of time and energy into, the friendships you’re in for the long haul, for better or for worse. Even the show’s central character, Ethan Turner (played by Keegan Michael-Key), uses this analogy when he asserts that his friends have become more like family. But this analogy doesn’t stand true for long, as Ethan is having with an affair with Samantha that has developed since their days in college. Not to mention he is also content with his wife, Lisa, who was also apart of their college friend group. Although the show is full of clever jokes and is able to capture the nuances of maintaining a close group of friends over an elongated period of time, the show fails to create any kind of empathetic characters that make the show worth watching.
Because nothing says “College Reunion” like hooking up with your former flames, feet away from your significant other
The show centers around the Turner couple’s decision to move to New York, which is also home to all of their friends from college. The eccentric group includes Nick, an aging partier with a trust fund; Max, who is Ethan’s literary agent; and Marianne, a yoga instructor. When Ethan tells Samantha that he and Lisa are planning to permanently move to New York, Samantha comes to the decision that their affair must end due to the complications that can come from having both their spouses in the same city. Nevertheless, Samantha and her husband John greet Ethan and Lisa with open arms. Samantha, with a bit too big of open arms, as she spontaneously tells Lisa that she’ll buy her and Ethan an unnecessary bed as a housewarming gift. The pilot explores this new dynamic between the two couples as they gather with all of their friends at Samantha’s vacation house upstate. The trip is awkward for everyone as secrets are revealed while Ethan and Samantha’s spark continues to burn.
If Lisa (Colbie Smulders) thinks that fertility issues may ruin her relationship, he has no idea what else is coming
What FRIENDS FROM COLLEGE succeeds at best is providing a wide variety of moments that anyone can relate to with similar friendships. It explores the whole mentality of one feeling the need to pin those with similar backgrounds against each other, as if constantly playing a game where one is trying to one-up the other. It does so in a way that is both subtle and hilarious. Not to mention how awkward it is for the people who are on the outside of these friendships, as it is for John and Max’s partner Felix. John is able to successfully point out the flaws of the friend group, while Felix pokes fun at all of the group’s strange mannerisms that he’ll never be able to be a part of. We’ve all been on the outside or the inside in each of these groups, and the writers of FRIENDS FROM COLLEGE do an excellent job of tapping into both.
Billy Eichner watching these men grabbing each other’s testicles is a perfect metaphor for the experience of watching this show
Yet, these moments of comedy come too rarely to maintain the show by myself, and it still suffers from several weak elements. FRIENDS FROM COLLEGE advertises itself as an ensemble comedy, although the only characters we ever really come to understand from the pilot are Ethan, Samantha, and to a much lesser extent, Lisa. Not to mention how difficult it can be to empathize with Ethan and Samantha as the protagonists, considering the fact they have been involved in their affair for over 20 years without any sign of guilt. The show continues to focus too much on these characters who lack a moral moral compass, leaving the other characters in the dust and the show with a lack of anything that can make one want to continue watching.
FRIENDS FROM COLLEGE is available to watch in its entirety on Netflix