Friends from College (3 stars)

Friends from College

Netflix series about a group of Harvard graduates who are about to turn 40 provides a decent mix of comedy and drama

Creative couple, Nicholas Stoller and Francesca Delbanco (their courtship inspired The Five-Year Engagement), have teamed up as director and writer respectively to deliver a comedy series about the growing pains of a group of attractive Harvard graduates who are about to turn 40. Their sex lives, flailing careers and capacity to act like selfish children provides a decent mix of comedy and drama.

The eight-part series follows Ethan (Keegan Michael-Key) and Lisa (Cobie Smulders) as they move from Chicago back to New York. Their daily life is a whirlwind of compromise, job dissatisfaction and getting drunk off their faces with their friends, Sam (Annie Parisse), Nick (Nat Faxon), Max (Fred Savage) and Marianne (Jae Suh Park).

Awkward dinners, adultery and one-upmanship between the friends and their spouses is obvious ground for mining comedy but as the series continues the endearing friendship and working relationship between Ethan and Max, author and agent respectively, keeps you watching. Savage is hilarious as an agent who can't keep his mind on work and as the two stay up all night to meet a deadline his coked-up behaviour including a tap dancing session is laugh out loud funny. The relationship between agent and client is much more convincingly written here than the materialistic and masculine toxicity of Entourage. Kate McKinnon pops up as a YA novelist guru, who aids Ethan in his move from literary fiction to her specialised genre and she steals every scene she's in.

The emotional and financial stakes involved in trying to get pregnant via IVF are touched upon with Ethan and Lisa acting out in desperate and irrational ways in episode four. Episode five, which sees the group head out on a wine tour is a compelling and brutal highpoint in the way it cracks open the way this group of friends refuse to grow up. The entire show, in fact juxtaposes their so-called adult outer-lives with an inner life nostalgic for the heady thrills of youth which is complemented wonderfully with a soundtrack predominantly made up of 90s songs designed to whisk the viewer back in time.

However, an adulterous plot that runs through the entire series is flimsily scripted and the season finale is hampered by the appearance of an improbable party guest who pushes the characters to confess to all sorts of things. It results in the show going out on a whimper rather than the rousing bang it was aiming for.

All eight episodes of Friends from College are available on Netflix, Fri 14 Jul.

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