The Bingeworthy™ Breakdown is an occasional look at new TV shows. An estimated 500 scripted seasons of TV will air in 2017, and to help you sort the wheat from the chaff, we’re going to look at the first episodes of the most notable of these to help you work out whether it’s worth tuning every week for them, waiting to binge later, or using the time to finally catch up on “The OA” or whatever else you’ve been waiting for. Today we look at Netflix’s just-debuted new show “Friends From College.”
So. Your first Bingeworthy Breakdown. How’re you feeling about it?
We’re not here to talk about my relative comfort with this delightfully quirky format. We’re here to talk about the critically beloved cultural phenomenon that is Netflix’s “Friends From College.”
Ah, cool, the new show with Keegan-Michael Key and Cobie Smulders. Been looking forward to that one! What’s it about?
“Friends From College” is about a group of — you guessed it — friends from college in their thirties living in New York, and, y’know, their relationships, their jobs, etc.
An innocuous enough premise.
The show was created by “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Neighbors” director Nicholas Stoller, so you know you’re, at the very least, in competent hands.
Unfortunately, the show is sitting at a fairly pathetic 31% on the vaunted Tomatometer as we speak. I can barely even find a critic here on Rotten Tomatoes who has anything positive to say about it… wait.
I found one.
Well, it’s you.
Ah, that’s right. I did write that.
Defend your contrarian position on this matter of utmost importance!
Okay, okay, I will. Look, no one’s saying that this show is a masterpiece. I’m not here to tell you that you gotta carve out four hours this weekend to binge this show so as to participate in the larger cultural discussion surrounding “Friends From College.” You’re correct when you say that this show, which came out a week ago, now barely exists.
What I will tell you is that if you start watching the first episode, you’ll likely run through the subsequent seven in one sitting, and you won’t hate yourself for doing so (at least not any more than usual). It won’t change your life, by dinner time you’ll have forgotten that the show was ever a thing, but so what? Not every TV show has to be “Game of Thrones.”
Fine, fine. Tell me about these friends from college. Who are they?
We have: Keegan-Michael Key as Ethan, a critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful novelist. Ethan is married to Lisa (Cobie Smulders). She’s a lawyer who hates her job defending some corporation or something, and also she really wants to get pregnant but is having fertility issues.
Gotcha. That’s not an overplayed storyline at all.
There’s also Max, played by the always great Fred Savage, who is living with his boyfriend Felix, played by a fractionally (but still jarringly) muted Billy Eichner. But, and it’s imperative that you keep this straight, Felix is not one of the titular friends from college. He’s just one of the friends from college’s significant other. You with me?
Yup. Keegan, Cobie, Savage, not Eichner. With you.
Great. Savage’s Max, by the way, is a literary agent repping Ethan. There’s a subplot about Max and Ethan developing a supernatural romance young adult novel together, so as to increase Ethan’s commercial appeal. This particular storyline pays off spectacularly well in the finale. There’s also Sam, played by Annie Parisse.
Should I know who that is?
Probably not. I didn’t. Still don’t, really.