“The Next Great American Novel is now the massive international young adult series,” declares hot shot literary agent Max (Fred Savage) to his client Ethan Turner (Keegan Michael-Key) in the pilot of Netflix’s newest drop Friends from College.
Record scratch, freeze frame. Here’s what you need to know about Ethan: he’s your quintessential man child/god’s gift to literature, depending on who you’re asking. He’s a Harvard grad who isn’t sure he wants to have children with his wife and is in a long-term affair with his college best friend, and who, after winning some admirable praise and literary prizes for his first three books, wants to continue to publish incomprehensible work that “feeds [his] soul.” But he also wants to make a shit ton of money for a change.
He doesn’t take Max’s solution of writing Young Adult fiction particularly well. “YA is destructive do you understand?” insists the man who, by his own admission, already writes books about teenage protagonists. “It’s all about adults who are refusing to grow up and instead they read books for kids. It prevents you from moving forward and living your life and it is destroying our culture.”
At this moment, seventeen minutes into the show, I cringed, but I took a deep breath. Maybe, MAYBE, I considered, this is all part of the conceit, the show’s main lesson – after all, it’s about a whole bunch of adults stuck in a cycle of bad behaviour, who haven’t really matured since their years as young adults in college.
But what could have been a really meaty eye-opener for Ethan quickly becomes a directionless punchline that drags throughout the whole season.