Netflix's hangout comedy Friends From College premiered Friday, introducing us to a group of old college friends (obviously) now pushing 40 but still living it up like they're barely of drinking age. Their misadventures are occasionally amusing, but for the most part, the series never lives up to its potential and early reviews have been harsh.
The cast is ridiculously talented and includes Keegan-Michael Key, Cobie Smolders, Fred Savage, Nat Faxon, Annie Parisse, Billy Eichner and others, but they're stuck inside their awful characters, who are insufferable and unredeemable, and not in that adorably pathetic It's Always Sunny way.
But it's so hard to resist a quick Netflix binge, and at eight 30-minute episodes, Friends From College is an easy afternoon bender to plow through. Fear not though, because there are four reasons to watch the series thanks to a handful of memorable guest appearances from Kate McKinnon, Ike Barinholtz, Chris Elliott and Seth Rogen, who leave their mark and make you wish the show was about them instead.
Here's where and when you can find them.
Ike Barinholtz - The fratty finance dude, multiple episodes starting with Episode 2
One of the funniest parts of Friends From College involves Lisa's (Smulders) workmates at the finance office she's legal counsel for, where the overwhelmingly male gang of money-hungry account managers run their own frat inside the office. The bros are despicable caricatures of the fund business, hollering profanities during a conference call with the SEC... with the mute button on. It's a dumb joke, but Barinholtz makes it work as their ringleader. His later appearances are just as good even if it's the same gag, because Barinholtz doesn't hold back on the douche factor. Barinholtz's character actually appears the most of all these guests, but it's still not enough to make the rest of the show palatable.
Kate McKinnon - Shaunna the YA author, Episode 3
McKinnon's character is an author who specializes in the Young Adult genre, and she's 10 kinds of crazy, partially there but mostly in her own world which is her lavish apartment full of shopping bags and her dimwitted but muscly boy-toy husband. She welcomes friends with the line, "Get in a basket and go back to space, you freak" and her work specializes in what she calls "bathtub moments," which are hunky-monster moments in her book that cause her 14-year-old female readers to lock themselves in the bathroom, draw a bath, and "explore." Masturbating. She gets off on making her fans masturbate, is what she's saying, Her appearance in Episode 3 is short, but it's another character to add to her ever-growing portfolio of lunatics. Maybe we give her a spin-off, Netflix?
Seth Rogen - Paul "PARTY DOG" Dobkin, Episode 6
Yet another friend from college, Party Dog had a reputation for — yep — partying. And when the gang meets him again at a mutual friends' wedding, Party Dog still parties, but maybe not as much, or as obnoxiously, as the stars of the show. Rogen is perfect in the role with his deadpan delivery and slyly incredulous looks at the others, who act like buffoons at the wedding in an effort to horde attention. And his appearance is refreshing because unlike the main cast of characters, he seems like a real human being and his "college was 20 years ago" behavior accentuates how ridiculous everyone else is acting. But when Party Dog has to party, dog, — as he sometimes does when howling or shaking his leg — he lights up the room.
Chris Elliott - Ken, the horny mentalist, Episode 8
The Get a Life star makes his appearance in the season finale as entertainment at a birthday party. He's overly touchy with his subjects — as long as they're female — and reads people with the vaguest of topics and racial stereotyping. But he does exhibit some psychic abilities, and naturally uses those to screw up everyone's relationships at the formal dinner party. Elliott is a comedy legend, that's a fact. I wouldn't watch a second season of Friends From College, but I'd definitely watch Elliott in Ken: Horny Mentalist if Netflix were to give it a go.
Friends From College is now streaming on Netflix.