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TV Critic’s Corner

No benefits with ‘Friends From College’

Cobie Smulders, Keegan-Michael Key, Annie Parisse, Greg Germann, and Fred Savage in “Friends From College.”
Cobie Smulders, Keegan-Michael Key, Annie Parisse, Greg Germann, and Fred Savage in “Friends From College.”Barbara Nitke/Netflix

I was eagerly anticipating this new Netflix comedy. Called “Friends From College,” the cast includes Keegan-Michael Key, Fred Savage, Nat Faxon, Billy Eichner, and Cobie Smulders — all people I’ve enjoyed on other shows.

And the co-creator, Nicholas Stoller, has done some fine work on TV as the co-creator of “The Carmichael Show” and some light but smart work at the movies, as writer-director of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Get Him to the Greek.” Plus, the guy’s first writing credit is on an episode of one of my favorite sick comedies, “Strangers With Candy.”

But yeah, “Friends From College” is not very good, not very good at all. It wastes the great cast, and even makes them irritating with lame slapstick, lazily written gags, and awkward attempts at drama. After a few episodes, I began to find all of them unbearable. The show is meant to be a kind of “Big Chill,” “thirtysomething,” or “Friends” built around a group of Harvard grads as they approach their 40s. But I never got that bottom-line ensemble sense you get from better comedies that the characters know one another very well and like one another anyway.

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The worst and biggest plot line revolves around an affair. Key’s Ethan and Smulders’s Lisa, a married couple, move to New York in the premiere, where they reunite with their old pals. But Ethan is sleeping with one of those old pals, Annie Parisse’s Sam, who is married to a creep. Ethan and Sam have been secret sex buddies since college. The affair is so tepid, it’s hard to understand why they’re still sleeping together. Maybe you need to care more to figure it out.


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.