In my year of freelancing, I spent most mornings eating breakfast while watching Live with Kelly. For months, she brought in a rotating cast of temporary co-hosts, and none of them filled that seat better than Keegan-Michael Key. Now, I know that in no universe would it be strategic for this comedian to become the co-host of a 9 a.m. variety show aimed at moms. I mean, he’s done bits with Obama, and Dave Chappelle has compared Key & Peele to his own legendary show. But Keegan could basically do whatever the fuck he wants, and do it better than most other people—even if it’s tasting diet-friendly foods with Kelly Ripa. He’s just that charming.
Netflix is counting on Key’s star power to make their new comedy, Friends from College, their next well-respected hit. They’ve also roped in Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother), Fred Savage and comedian Billy Eichner to create an ensemble of pals, Friends-style. Key brings plenty of hilarity to his character of Ethan, a struggling but acclaimed writer who can’t stop sleeping with his college friend Sam (Annie Parisse). That would be fine, if she wasn’t married and he wasn’t trying to get his wife Lisa (Smulders) pregnant.
We’re supposed to develop sympathy for these messy characters, and at times I really did. But in the end, the premise of the show just isn’t as strong as its actors. Maybe this group of “friends from college” should all go their separate ways after all.
This sounds really predictable, but this show actually reminded me a lot of How I Met Your Mother. It’s not just because Cobie Smulders is around either. Like HIMYM, Friends from College brings together six pals who just can’t quite grow up and move past spreading their boozy antics all over New York City. The main difference here is that there is more diversity in the cast, and everyone’s insanely rich somehow. Sam and her husband, Greg (John Delmonico of Ally McBeal), literally live in a glass house and drive an SUV with bulletproof glass. Marianne (Jae Suh Park), is a yoga teacher/aspiring actress who somehow has her own beautiful New York City apartment. How? Hasn’t Broad City shown us that New York characters are a lot more fun when they aren’t implausibly rich?
If Friends with Benefits is lucky enough to have a run as lucrative and long as that of HIMYM, this could be quite the cushy gig for these actors. That seems to be what they’re going for rather than creating a more groundbreaking comedy show.
Why You Should Watch It
You have Netflix and are bored. Even though it’s not revolutionary, it’s still worth watching.
I loved Lisa and Ethan’s plot line about fertility problems and IVF treatments. Those topics can be somewhat uncomfortable, so it’s liberating and cathartic to have them handled with such bare honesty.
Also, the best scene is when the gang shows up somewhat drunk for Marianne’s play, in which she’s playing a man. I laughed out loud a lot.
For whatever reason, they forgot to give Marianne almost any dimension as a character. Unlike the other five friends, she doesn’t even get her own plotline till the very end of the season. Instead, she usually just shows up to say non sequitur things and then leaves. While she does get some funny lines, it’s a bummer that the actress of color is relegated to the sidelines.
I also thought Ethan’s character was half-baked. Sometimes, he’s an underappreciated genius writer of literary fiction. Other times, he can’t stop doing voices and being the life of the party, like he is just the comedian KMK himself. Commit to one, because they don’t really mesh well IMHO.
OH and I got really sick of YA lit being the butt of so many jokes. If the jokes had actually been original or funny, I could have dealt with it, but they all just felt like such low-hanging fruit. Making fun of Twilight? No one has ever thought of that!
ALSO: The scene in the pic above is terrible.
A roundabout ad for why aspiring comedians should go to Harvard.
6/10. Funny, but the chemistry between the characters just isn’t there.