Film and drama

Screen Themes: Friends from College vs Preacher (Season Two)

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Check out some small screen action with entertainment editor John Turnbull, who reviews ensemble comedy Friends from College and the second season of comic book adaptation Preacher.

Friends from College

Created by Francesca Delbanco & Nicholas Stoller (2017) 

Starring Keegan-Michael Key (Key and Peele), Fred Savage (The Wonder Years) and Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother), new Netflix comedy Friends from College tells the story of a group of friends who met at Harvard as they face the realities of turning 40.

While this premise could be saccharine sweet and entirely predictable, series creators Francesca Delbanco (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets, Get Him to the Greek) take things in a different direction. Partly a scathing commentary on the entitled attitudes of middle aged one per centers, Friends from College balances pathos and jet black humour.

Ostensible lead Ethan (Keegan-Michael Key) is having an affair with his hookup from college Sam (Annie Parisse), who happens to be married to the clueless Jon (Greg Germann from Ally McBeal), also a member of their circle. Sarcastically single Marianne (Jae Suh Park) is aware of the affair and getting tired of keeping their secret, while gay friend Max (Savage) prefers to spend time with his friends than his hard working obstetrician partner Felix (Billy Eichner).

Rounded out by trust fund drinker Nick (Nat Faxon), none of the main characters are particularly likeable, but they’re certainly more realistic than most characters you see in sitcoms. Selfish, deceitful and deeply flawed, the Friends from College are no more noble than the cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, simply better dressed.

Not suitable for younger viewers (sex and drug humour abounds), Friends from College is worth a look for viewers who have grown bored of the toothless sitcoms that clutter the commercial TV landscape.

Preacher (Season Two)

Created by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg & Sam Catlin (2017, based on the comic by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon)

If Friends from College isn’t suitable for younger viewers, then it’s safe to say that Preacher is not suitable for the easily offended, devoutly religious or weak of stomach. Telling the story of Southern Preacher Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), former assassin Tulip (Ruth Negga) and alcoholic vampire Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), season 2 takes the trio on a road trip to New Orleans searching for God.

Backing up for a moment, I should point out that God is currently missing, a fact revealed in the explosive final episode of season one. Imbued with the power of Genesis (the offspring of an angel and demon), Jesse has the ability to make people do whatever he says, which leads him sending a character called Eugene to hell (among other shenanigans).

Taking a departure from the comic book source material, much of season two takes place in hell, a mundane prison where sinners worst experiences are played out on repeat in virtual reality. When the VR machine starts to break down, the inmates are allowed to mingle, which is where Eugene (Ian Colletti) encounters perhaps the most sympathetic character in the season, Adolf Hitler.

Played by Australian Noah Taylor, it is a stroke of twisted genius from creators Rogen, Goldberg and Catlin to make the world’s worst despot the least worst person in hell, a place where the smallest act of kindness is punished. Despite the fact that he doesn’t belong there, Eugene fits in immediately, bulking up and slowly turning into the villain he is destined to be: Arseface. Hitler offers Eugene the chance to escape, but there’s a catch…

Pursued by the relentless Saint of Killers (Graham McTavish) and opportunistic zealot Herr Starr (Pip Torrens), Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy face their own demons, from Tulip’s mobster ex-husband to Cassidy’s dying son. The latter storyline reveals hidden depths within Cassidy, as the 119 year old vampire watches his son die of old age and ill health, reluctant to pass on the curse that has turned his own life into an endless search for chemical oblivion.

The Verdict

Both Friends from College and Preacher push the envelope of good taste. To be fair, Preacher pushes it far further, but Friends from College has to get points for trying.

If you’re in a nostalgic mood, Friends from College will do the job. Not only will you be reminded of the person you used to be, you can compare yourself to the characters on screen and feel smugly superior. Unless, of course, you’re cheating on your wife with her best friend, in which case you might prefer…

Preacher. For those unafraid to question whether God likes jazz or if Hitler is the worst person in hell.

Friends from College: 8/10

Preacher: 9/10

The entire first season of Friends from College is available on Netflix, new episodes of Preacher stream weekly on Stan.

Books by John Turnbull are now available on Amazon and Kindle. There’s supernatural thriller, Damnation’s Flame; action/romance, Reaper; black comedy, City Boy; and travel guidebook, Bar Trek: EuropeDamnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in the IA store HERE. (Free postage!)

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