It’s been almost two years since Netflix unleashed Friends From College, and the arrival of the very unoriginal and unfunny comedy, was an unpleasant surprise when you consider the modest expectations, that it would at the very least try to be somewhat entertaining.
It turned out to be an uneven delivery of the worst characters ever created.
Okay, maybe not the “worst,” but they’re pretty darn excruciating to tolerate, and it’s not because they look great being boring as hell. It’s really about the disconnect of grown adults who have the resources necessary to cushion the blows of not taking anything seriously, and being seriously fucked up — at the same time.
It would also be unacceptable to ignore the glaring absence of women of color, specifically Black women.
First off, in this era of mandatory inclusion, and the urgency of ensuring that the industry produces offerings that reflect the real world, it’s beyond offensive to be a Black woman watching a whole season of a highly-touted show, streaming on Netflix, and not be able to identify anyone who resembles my template.
But that’s precisely why Friends From College lacks the charm and authenticity that it’s purposely missing, because after restlessly sitting through the newly-minted second season, it’s abundantly clear that the show’s writers are on a quest to prove how a very bad product, functions at its very best when its the baddest it can be.
This explains the round up of hideous personalities, encased in attractive coverings, who spend their time completely wrapped up in the silliness of mishaps, that they revel in with the level of energy that leaves mind-numbed viewers like me exhaustively confused and frustrated.
Season 2 reassures that your Friends haven’t changed at all. They’re still based in New York City, and the carryovers from the previous season only serve as the primers for what’s supposed to be feisty mayhem, but only ends up falling flatter than a squashed patty.
The big revelation of the weirdly long and reckless affair between Ethan (Keegan-Michael Key) and Sam (Annie Parisse) is now activated, and the awkwardness is awkward to watch, when you consider how unlikely it is that these two “friends” could manage the task of hiding how over-friendly they’ve been without any of their friends, including spouses — ever suspecting a thing.
The one friend whose job it is to collect and store the secrets and lies of this disjointed group is unsurprisingly Marianne, played with breathless endurance by Jae Suh Park, who deserves way better than being surrounded by bratty bats, who aren’t as invested in her wellbeing as she is in theirs.
It’s no shocker that the only character who isn’t satisfactorily executed in the same manner that matches her comrades, is the Asian woman, who is conveniently whimsical and under-serviced. Her main job duties is to serve the emotional needs of the vulnerable White women in her circle.
Aside from providing a shoulder to cry on for Sam and Lisa (Cobie Smulders), Marianne also hangs out with a team of risk takers, headed by her impressively adventurous hubby, who ends up in a foreshadowed mess that brings the Friends together.
But soon, other issues take centerstage, and it’s unsettling to notice how the life-altering challenge that Marianne is tasked with, suddenly evaporates for the sake of the two other women, who are each weathering the kind of crisis that can’t be in competition with an Asian woman, who is more than happy to be the sacrificial lamb.
The emergencies of frenemies — Sam and Lisa are expectedly driven by the men they are fucking or not fucking. Sam is estranged from the man she most certainly married for his money, and Lisa is separated from the guy that Sam has been sleeping with for decades without her knowledge.
The other Friends are faring slightly better, as Max (Fred Savage) is embedded in his upcoming wedding to Felix (Billy Eichner), and that big event is another instigator when it comes to bringing these mismatched players who have no business being friendly with each other — back into the same environment.
And that’s really the crux of the problem with Friends From College, that makes it incredibly hard to digest. These individuals woefully lack the chemistry that would bond them past the occasional Facebook shares and likes, which means that in order for the narrative to progress, there has to be staged events that warrant the attendance of college buddies, who are still in touch for reasons that remain a mystery.
For example, how does roving playboy Nick, (Nat Faxon) who embodies the characteristics of the White male who basks in the privilege of the “Peter Pan Syndrome,” with all the pompousness to boot — genuinely engage with someone like Marianne — who represents everything he would ordinarily dismiss?
He simply doesn’t, and this summation makes the scenes between Faxon and Park, cringe-worthy, as we witness the worst case scenario that ensues when White men shut down the relevance of non-White women, while instinctively reserving the respect and acknowledgment for the spotlighted White women.
The rest of the new season plays out without rhyme or reason, as the forty-somethings, alums of Harvard, are somehow able to maintain the messiness of volatile relations, stemming from uncontrollable pangs of horniness that leads to an explosive conclusion.
The nagging symptom that grips any well-intentioned viewer is the nonchalance regarding the fate of these dicy situations, involving grown adults, who don’t possess any of the survival skills that are presumably acquired through the vital phases of adulthood.
Literary agent, Max Adler is the only one who at least tries to evoke the semblance of maturity, even though his efforts are swiftly thwarted by his association with client and Friend — Ethan — as they collide in the brief nonsensical game of “Who’s The Better Writer.”
The shameless affairs play out with the headiness of how the guilty parties and the so-called innocents are knowingly torturing themselves for the fuck of it. The missing ingredient is the aura of genuineness, that should pressure you to root for any of the flighty characters, as they simmer in their allotted state of disarray.
The anger and pain that Lisa exudes after the blatant betrayal of Ethan and Sam, is re-focused on projects and suitors that promise to keep her right where she doesn’t want to be. And her duress coupled with Lisa’s cyclone of pending shit — only impacts the impatience and irritation of once again being forced into the habitual exercise of watching the emotional rollercoaster of White women characters, inhabiting a world that’s structured for their interchangeable desires.
The season closes with unfinished business, and the dramatic switcheroo that brings us back to where we started, with the emptiness of not giving a damn whether or not the re-alignments are for the betterment of this ill-conceived group of over-privileged vagrants — who thrive in the supreficiality of supreme chaos — that hurts so good.
The main question is why keep punishing yourself with the perfectly bad show that celebrates the freedom, and gives permission for mature characters to be blissfully immature without the weightiness of consequences, or the embarrassment of non-progression.
Why tolerate yet another comedic blunder, that insultingly omits Black women from the frame, and enhances the falseness of diversity with the mistreated Asian woman as the token, and the lone Black dude who is disturbingly too comfortable in elements that don’t quite fit.
The answer has to be coded in how Friends From College rubs off on you in all the ways that make you detest how much you love being tortured by what isn’t good for you.
You indulge because it’s unreasonable, and the current climate with all its manic tendencies encourages the senselessness of being brutalized by unlikable characters, who fulfill the requirements of perplexingly incomprehensible story arcs.
Let’s hope season 3 is even worse. Our sanity depends on it.