Plot: What’s it about?
Ah yes…the Friends. It took me a while to catch on (actually it was with the release of the previous "Best of…" selections), but I'm now a big fan of the show. Warner, caving into public demand (and it's nice to see a studio that actually listens to the demands of its customers) has now compiled the first season of one of the most popular television shows of all time. Maybe it's that coveted Thursday night time slot that NBC has owned for some 15 years now, or maybe the show really is that good. In any case, names like David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox-Arquette and Matt LeBlanc are now common place in our homes. While they have all made their share of movies, though, few are as successful as the show that made them stars.
I do remember commenting that it seemed like the show's stars haven't aged that much, after all it has been 8 years since the first season. But I have to admit that after catching a recent episode the other night, they do show signs of aging. Compared to the baby-faced cast of the first season, these "current" Friends do, in fact, show their age. But enough about all that. Fans of Friends rejoice, as the current trend is for complete seasons of our favorite television shows (both past and present) is to be put on DVD, Friends is but the latest in what we're assuming will be the first of the seasons on disc. Clocking in at 587 minutes, the episodes are presented "uncut" which means they have some extra footage in them. This was the case with the "Best of…" episodes as well, but I don't know the episodes well enough to know what was cut and what wasn't. About the only way to compare them is to watch an episode and then get lucky enough to catch that same show on cable and see what was left out. I've managed to do that a few times, and these episodes are indeed "uncut".
As the show opens, we meet the cast for the first time. And though a number of them already know one another, here's how they're related. Ross (David Schwimmer) has just been divorced from his wife who has become a lesbian, but also learns that she is pregnant with his child. Ross is made out to be kind of a whiner who pines away for either his former married life or asking out an old infatuation from High School…Rachel (Jennifer Aniston). Speaking of Rachel, we first meet her after she has just left her own wedding and is now running around lower Manhattan. Bumping into old friend, Monica (Courntey Cox-Arquette), she moves in and starts her life over without the financial aid of her wealthy parents. This brings us to Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) who is the most spiritual of the bunch (and my personal favorite). Phoebe works as a massage therapist and plays guitar in her spare time. We also learn that she has an identical twin sister with whom she does not get along with. Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) are roomates, Joey is an aspiring actor and Chandler is a processor at a company. Between Chandler's constant sarcastic remarks and Joey's constant attempt to sleep with every woman in New York, these two make a great pair. So that's the Friends in a nutshell. Enjoy!
Video: How does it look?
As with most television shows of the time, Friends is presented in a full-frame transfer that does show a lot more detail and color than that of a regular broadcast. I managed to compare the two side by side and the DVD is a better picture overall. Though the transfer isn't perfect, the colors are very warm and inviting. But let's face it, if you're watching Friends for the image quality, then you're probably watching it for all the wrong reasons! Still, a good transfer here and nothing that should distract you from what's happening on screen.
Audio: How does it sound?
The soundtrack has been re-mastered for Dolby Digital 5.0 (no subwoofer) on each episode. Several of these episodes were on the "Best of…" episodes and the mixes are identical to those. For the most part, the audio is limited to the front three channels, but the transition between scenes allows for the guitar and other assorted noises to really show it's stuff. I can't really remember how much the surrounds were used, but the dialogue is very strong and you'll get plenty of chances to hear everyone on the show say their "Hel-lo…"
Supplements: What are the extras?
While there is a few extras here, the main draw is the show itself. The pilot episode features a very good commentary track by the Producers Marta Kauffman, David Crane and Kevin S. Bright. A fairly decent track, a lot of information is learned here including why each member was cast and some notes about the production design and so on. Tracks for future episodes are highly recommended. "A Peek at Central Perk " (the gang's home away from home) is next with an interactive map. Click on a spot and get a little pop up information about it. A nice little feature. Some memorable guest appearances from the first season are included in the "Friend of Friends" section. We see some information about some of the stars who made some guest appearances during the show's first season run. Look for George Clooney, Noah Wyle, and Elliot Gould to name just a few. A trivia quiz entitled "How well do you know your Friends" is also included, but I found the questions to be a bit too easy. Still, a nice feature and one that can pass some time. Also, each of these episodes have a "preview" feature. By selecting the cup of coffee, you get about a 30 second scene from the episode. I don't know if I would call this a trailer or not, but they're trying! Lastly, there is a trailer for the impending Season Two of Friends. Stay tuned…