The first season of Netflix’s show “Friends From College” did not receive the reception it had been expecting. The show, which has an all-star cast including Keegan-Michael Key, Cobie Smulders and Fred Savage, pretty much tanked across the board with critics.
At the heart of the criticisms was the lack of blowback the characters faced for their horrible actions. It was hard for viewers to see the characters in a positive light. They just seemed like a load of privileged a–holes. Viewers were looking for a character to stand behind, but it was hard to find one in this crew. Everyone being awful proved only to make everything more annoying.
However, I really enjoyed the series, finding it quite funny even though the characters weren’t aspirational. The fact that all six characters sucked made the whole situation funnier to me, and it made it easier to accept their horrible way of treating each other.
The main characters Ethan (Key) and Sam (Annie Parisse) were getting away with a decade long affair, and though they had encountered a couple near misses, the first season ended without them facing any consequences. This plotline was the most criticized part of the series, and one that I found frustrating as well.
The second season of “Friends from College” picks up a year after the previous season’s finale. This time jump allowed the writers some space to hit the reset button and incorporate feedback from critics.
The season starts in the days leading up to Max and Felix’s engagement party. The party will be the first time that the group of friends will be all together since the trainwreck surprise party for Sam. Within this time we find out that Ethan and Sam have come clean about their long term affair.
Ethan has written his first young adult novel, “Boy Horse,” and he is working with Max to get it published. Lisa has been out of contact for a year but is invited to the engagement party. Sam and her husband Jon have been going to couples therapy, but they are still struggling to move past the affair. Nick is trying to mature a bit and maybe settle into a real relationship, and Marianne is pretty much exactly the same.
In season 2, all of the characters are a bit easier to watch. Their personalities aren’t so terribly grating, and most of them become somewhat likeable. Nick and Max get fleshed out a bit more, giving their flaws something to fall back on. Marianne gets even more simplified, becoming a jester like archetype used for comic relief and plot movement.
There is a heavy emphasis on nostalgia in this show. In the first season, it was painted in a very positive light, as the group was brought back together while on the trip to Harvard in episode 7. While Felix and Jon had pointed out how toxic the friend group was, this sentiment was never properly addressed or examined.
This season, the show seems to finally acknowledge that not everything about the past was great. Sometimes looking back at who you used to be makes you cringe, like Lisa and Ethan’s Y2K interview. While in the first season it felt like this group of forty-something friends were trapped in a young adult mentality, these refreshed characters seem matured and reflective.
The second season of “Friends from College” gives the show a good revamp that will likely pull in some viewers who were put off by last season. The extremely talented cast continues to give their all in their performances. It keeps its wit and humor and remains laugh-out-loud funny, but with less guilt association.