A sort of The Big Chill for the 21st century, Friends From College follows in the new tradition of television shows featuring major characters that behave badly, selfishly and are generally disagreeable (and very funny.) This crazy new Netflix series focuses on a group of 40-ish friends who all met at Harvard and are drawn back together when two married members, novelist Ethan, played by the delicious Keegan-Michael Key, and Lisa (Cobie Smulders) move back to NYC where the rest of their gang lives.
Their lives are intertwined in various complicated ways: Ethan and Lisa are sleeping on Marianne’s (Jae Suh Park) couch in Brooklyn until they find a place; Nick (Nat Faxon) and Lisa used to date, so did Ethan and Sam (Annie Parisse). Ethan and Sam are still involved in a decades-long affair. There is a great gay angle: Max, played by cutie-pie Fred Savage is Ethan’s literary agent and Felix, played by openly gay Billy Eichner, is Max’s boyfriend, and also Ethan and Lisa’s fertility doctor.
The same-sex couple are especially intriguing, with Savage and Eichner playing against type. It seems impossible that it has been three decades since Savage played Kevin Arnold on The Wonder Years (1988-1993). He has spent most of his grown-up career producing and directing comedy series like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Modern Family and 2 Broke Girls. On Friends From College, Savage is given a chance here to prove he is a multi-faceted comic actor. His Max is sweet and charming, as well as persuasive and self-centered (like the rest of the group). Savage gives a stand-out performance in his first gay role and he is matched by an uncharacteristically toned-down Eichner.
In a recent guest column in Variety, the showbiz daily, Eichner wrote about how much more work there is still to be done when it comes to LGBTQ characters on television. He should know, he also stars in the delightfully demented Difficult People for Hulu, created by his friend Julie Klausner and produced by Amy Poehler. Klausner and Eichner play two struggling and jaded comedians living in NYC, who, like the characters in Friends From College, are delightfully obnoxious and selfish. One of the things Eichner loves about his character on Difficult People, is that he’s shown to be a “fully formed man”. Eichner:
“I’m not neutered in any way, and I’m not just the wacky neighbor or some angel-martyr figure that’s giving everyone else advice. But at the same time, I’m not some cartoonishly horny friend of a friend that pops in every once in a while, you know, because gay men love sex so much. I’m all of those things and I’m also sad, and I’m also struggling with my family, struggling with my career, struggling with a lack of self-awareness and narcissism, while also trying to be funny and enjoy life at the same time.”
There’s also Eichner’s frenetic, zany game show Billy On The Street, where on each episode, he goes out to the streets of NYC and asks pedestrians questions about pop culture. it is currently filming a sixth season. It is seen on TruTV with past seasons now streaming on Hulu.
On the new season of the delicious Difficult People, which begins on August 8, Julie (Klausner) and Billy (Eichner) are still each other’s best friends while still their own worst enemies. Julie embarks on a quest for happiness after she learns that if she tries to up her anti-depressants anymore, her blood will turn to mush. She ends up trying anything and everything from meditation to Ayahuasca. Billy falls hard for his first real boyfriend (hottie John Cho). Julie’s mother Marilyn, played by the great Andrea Martin, lands a book deal, and Arthur (James Urbaniak) starts commuting to the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre in Jupiter, Florida, where his job at PBS has moved all of its production.
Check them out for fun summer viewing!