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JONATHAN STORM

 
 
 
 
 
With This Cast, 'Friends From College' Should Be Much Better – or at Least Good
January 11, 2019  | By David Hinckley
 

You really wish that Netflix’s Friends From College, which has a strong cast and a workable premise, would become a good show.

But its second season, whose eight episodes become available Friday on the streaming service, feels as disappointing as the first.

We don’t like the characters any more than we did, as they are dropped into situations that swing between melodrama straight out of Melrose Place and routine sitcom vignettes.

It’s frustrating. It must be frustrating for the characters, too, since they’re all Harvard graduates and should know better.

Season 2 begins with Max (Fred Savage, top), a literary agent, planning a big wedding with his fiancé, Felix (Billy Eichner).

Beyond predictable wedding jokes involving icebox cakes and nerves, this event serves primarily to bring our six main characters back together. That would not have happened organically, since most of them are angry at some or all of the others for reasons that, frankly, don’t seem all that unique or interesting.

But Max, whether out of optimism or masochism, is throwing an engagement party to which he has invited Ethan (Keegan-Michael Key, top), Lisa (Cobie Smulders), Marianne (Jae Suh Park), Nick (Nat Faxon) and Sam (Annie Parisse).

To give just a simple reminder of how awkward this reconvening might be, Ethan and Lisa are separated, and Lisa won’t return Ethan’s phone calls or texts to talk about a divorce. Marianne previously outed Ethan’s affair with Sam, which didn’t help either of their marriages. Nick still carries his teenage torch for Lisa.

Even Max and Ethan, an author who is Max’s star literary client, have issues – specifically, that Max has nudged Ethan into writing a series of silly young adult novels in which Ethan has no interest, but which Max would love to write himself.

There might be dramatic or comedic nourishment somewhere here, but Friends From College seems to have very little idea how to prepare and serve it.

It spends a very long time in the first episode on a scene where all five of the guests traveling to Max’s party find themselves in the same car on the same train. Their attempts to pretend they don’t see each other might be amusing for 30 seconds among 6-year-olds. It’s not a good look for Harvard graduates.

The party itself doesn’t devolve into the chaos Max feared, though we do get a scene with a skunk (symbolism! symbolism!) that takes some dramatic license with real-life skunk behavior.

Friends From College naturally retains some of its Big Chill vibe, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if these characters were a little more, well, credible.

It’s one thing when the parameters of a sitcom require them to behave like the cheerleaders in a horror flick who keep opening the closet door in the dark room and being surprised when an ax murderer jumps out.

But after two seasons of episodes, we still have no convincing evidence they’re friends – or, more to the point, that they ever were. Whatever they majored in at Harvard, none of them did well in chemistry.

 
 
 
 
 
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