Plot: What’s it about?
By the time that “Friends” entered its eighth season, I wasn’t that much of a regular viewer. The show had been on top for so long that I felt a bit disconnected with it. As it turns out, it contains some of the most memorable episodes that I can remember. The main focus of the season is, of course, on Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) pregnancy. It picks up just after Monica and Chandler tied the knot. Maybe this is why I tuned out. When the “Friends” actually started dating each other, I guess it just didn’t feel right. Sure we had Ross and Rachel from the very first episode, but the main mystery was “who is the father of Rachel’s child”? This is casually answered in “The One with the Red Sweater”. Several cameo appearances are made and one of the funniest is Alec Baldwin as the waaaaay too upbeat boyfriend of Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow). Another features real-life husband of Aniston, as her childhood nemesis.
After eight seasons, there was already talk of when the show would end, would it be back for a ninth (or tenth) season. Naturally we know the answer to that now, but at the time it was a big deal. The casts’ characters were growing up and though we don’t really know their actual ages, they were starting to settle down. Monica and Chandler’s marriage signified a major change in the show as Joey’s (Matt LeBlanc) new roommate was…Rachel! This led up to the season finale when it turns out that Joey had developed emotions for Rachel. And the real question was “would he or wouldn’t he” pop the question. Among all the accolades of the show, this would be the only year that it would win the Emmy for “Outstanding Comedy Series” and Aniston would walk away (or hobble if I remember correctly) with the Best Actress Emmy. Let’s face it, if you have every other season are you really going to stop now?
Video: How does it look?
Friends is shown in its full-frame aspect ratio, which makes perfect sense seeing as how it’s a television show. Just like the previous Volumes, these appear very clear and the level of detail is excellent. Though some episodes tend to vary in clarity, I did a comparison to the digital cable that I’m used to watching them on and the DVD is superior to even that. Some of the episodes tend to have a bit of halos to them, mainly in the panning city shots (that feature a lot of shots of the World Trade Centers), but that’s about all the fault I can find with the way these look. Fans of Friends will not be disappointed as it’s more of the same. And that’s a good thing.
Audio: How does it sound?
Again, just as in previous seasons, Friends is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.0 mix that does add a new layer of depth the audio portion of the show. While a dialog-driven comedy, the scenes do feature some fairly strong audio portions. What I notice most is the applause (filmed in front of a live studio audience) coming from the rear speakers and the guitar music for the “in between” shots does sound nice as well. I think I said the same thing about the previous version, but it’s essentially the same thing, just different episodes. While not the best audio presentation in the world, it certainly gets the job done.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This season’s assortment of supplements essentially mirrors the others. There are three audio commentaries: “The One with the Videotape”, “The One Where Rachel Tells Ross” and “The One Where Rachel Has a Baby”. Obviously these are three of the most important episodes this season and the commentaries are, as always, insightful and full of information. There is the obligatory “Friend of Friends” featurette, highlighting the show’s guest stars (headlined by Sean Penn, Brad Pitt and Alec Baldwin) as well as a trivia game (“Joey’s Game Show Challenge”) and a gag reel. Lastly, Gunther “Spills the Beans” about the next season which is actually a promo for the Ninth Season DVD set. All in all, more of what we’ve come to expect from Warner and “Friends”. Eight down – two to go. I almost forgot to mention, like all the previous seasons these episodes have some deleted scenes edited back into the episodes. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the scenes are (they’re all extended bits), but they are indeed there.