Friends From College is a show with a simple premise; you follow the shenanigans of a group of 6 close friends that have known each other since college and the people around them that interact with this friendship.
The second season of the show came out early this year to little/no fanfare (none that I saw anyways). This may be due to critics being quite unkind to the show when reviewing season 1 which I found a bit disheartening as I adored the first season of the show. This critical dislike may be due to the fact that the show isn’t particularly provocative/complex, dark, or mean, or bloody, which seems to be a weird norm these days . It is light easy fair compared to many of the shows that are currently being released with no underlying twist. Everything is very much on the surface of the show, but that doesn’t make it bad.
There are some cliche things in there like someone’s married to someone, someone’s cheating, someone’s secretly in love, parts of the relationships are toxic. But it is how they interact that sells the show. You believe these people are friends. Not frenemies (well kinda because of stuff in the show), not acquaintances, not friends out of convenience but legitimate friends. They like each other, they have had experiences together, they laugh together, and they eat together. They are also not a weird clique with an alpha that everyone just follows or are carbon copies of one another, they are whole, interesting individuals that have lives and ambition. Because of this you invest in their relationships; you like them and you want them to succeed.
This would not have worked if it wasn’t for the spot on acting by the exceptional cast. The main friend group is Keegan-Michael Key, Cobie Smulders, Fred Savage, Nat Faxon, Jae Suh Park, and Annie Parisse. The secondary characters include Billy Eichner, Sarah Chalke, Greg Germann, and Zack Robidas. These are all people you would either recognize by name or at least by face that have a track record of being part of good shows and they do not disappoint.
The second season begins a year after the catastrophe that was Sam’s (Parisse) 40th birthday party. You see how this has affected all their lives due to the consequences and realities of their actions. It has been difficult but, as we all know, life goes on. This has caused the dynamics and general interactions of the friendships to change. It is not as comfortable as it used to be but the desire to stay friends is still there. Also, since there are events already scheduled/in motion that will bring them together it is hard to keep them apart.
I like the awkwardness of their new status’ with one another and how they try to avoid, accept, or awkwardly navigate the situations. They have known each other long enough (20+ years) that they know how to push or evade buttons. But because of their history, though it takes time and it is not the same, they ease back into a familiarity that they know and can work with.
The show never gets very dark or heavy though, which is one of the selling points for me. They do touch some hard issues like IVF, infidelity, death, just adulthood (its HARD people!) but they never dwell or let it get oppressive. The show just makes me laugh and that is something that is just needed right now, not just because it is the start of the apocalypse (!) but because there is already so much dark and broody out there. I mean look at the big “comedies” on Netflix – Bojack Horseman, Glow, Dear White People, Orange is the New Black – they do make you laugh but they have dark undertones that, though interesting, can be simply tiring.
Despite the show being light, it is not at the level of a network, 22 minute sitcom so don’t expect laugh tracks and excessively exaggerated expressions. It is very much in the style of the “new” comedy where it is a slice of life that despite the drama happens to be funny; because everybody’s life is a little funny if you step back from it.
One of my favourite moments in the show comes in the last episode of the season and it fully encompasses the style of the overall show. It is finally Max (Savage) and Felix’s (Eichner) Big Day (this is not a spoiler cuz you have known this was coming since the first episode of the show).
Side Note: One of the people I am most impressed with is Billy Eichner who has built his career on being loud, pushy, and generally outlandish. In this however he is quite toned down but not stoic or bland. It made me realize he can actually act while still adding a touch of his patented brand of sass to his characters subdued nature. He plays exceptionally well opposite Fred Savage
They are standing at the alter, in their perfectly tailored suits, immaculately groomed, illuminated by romantic spotlighting, and Felix is singing “Lovin’ You” by Minnie Riperton to Max, he even hits the high notes. It is very restrained but clearly practiced and something he wanted to do for the man he loves. Max stands there staring at him in pure adoration, amazement, and discomfort. It is awkward, sweet, and hilarious.
And that is what Friends From College is – awkward, sweet, and hilarious. It is too bad we won’t be getting more of this show as shortly after I finished watching the second season I found out that NetFlix has cancelled it. But the show ended at a good point. No, not all the story lines were wrapped up but there was a bit of closure.