Plot: What’s it about?
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 6 years since “Friends” has been on the air. Originally airing in the days of “Seinfeld” and “Frasier”, Friends has never left it’s cozy little home on Thursday Night and has become one of the most popular shows in recent history. Casting six little-known actors (Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Courtney Cox-Arquette, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer) they have all gone on to successful movie careers as a result of this show. Friends, like Seinfeld, is almost a show about nothing. The action either takes place in Monica (Courtney Cox-Arquette) and Rachael’s (Jennifer Aniston) apartment or at their local hangout, Central Perk. Warner has elected to present these episodes as voted the ten best that have aired. And yes, I’m probably one of the few who has hardly seen an episode since it’s aired (I’m happy to say that as a result of this box set, I’m now a fan and have already caught some re-runs on TV…it is funny). We can’t forget that these actors have all done movies, some good and some not so good. Matt LeBlanc has done “Ed” and “Lost in Space”, while Matthew Perry has been in romatic comedies “Three to Tango” and “Fools Rush In”. David Scwimmer has had some parts in “Six Days, Seven Nights” and “Kissing a Fool”. This leads us to the women, who have achieved a bit more success and critical acclaim with their choices. Jennifer Aniston had a role in one of my favorites “Office Space”, while Lisa Kudrow (my favorite character of “Phoebe”) has had moderate success with “Lucky Numbers” and “The Opposite of Sex”. This leaves Courtney Cox-Arquette who has done the “Scream” movies as reporter Gail Weathers as well as a starring role in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” that predated her Friends years. The show has no signs of slowing down, other than an occasional pay dispute, but the Friends have stuck toghether and the ratings have persevered, so it’s likely that this show will be around for three to five more years (as of this writing). I can say, though, that the show has seemed to get more amusing as the actors grow more and more comfortable with their roles (Volume II is much more funnier than Volume I). Here’s what you’ll find in the Gift Set (which is essentially Volumes I and II together) with a quick summary of the plot of each…
Volume I (Disc One)
Pilot episode (9/22/94) – Essentially an introduction to all the characters. If you’ve never seen the show (which I had not), this is very helpful. Ross (David Schwimmer) has just been divorced from his wife Carol who has become a lesbian. Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) are roommates who live across the hall from Monica (Courtney Cox-Arquette) and Rachael (Jennifer Aniston) has just left her soon to be husband at the altar (she arrives in a wedding dress). A good intro to all the characters, as we meet Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) who plays a “flower child, guitar-playing, spiratual chic”.
The One With All The Poker (3/2/95) – Essentially, the episode starts out with a poker game. The guys are disussing last night’s game and the girls decide that they want to be a part of it. However, they don’t know how to play and it’s up to Monica’s aunt to whip them into shape before they lose bragging rights and all their money to the guys. Rachael searches for a job.
The One With The Two Parts (2/23/95) – Look out for gues stars George Clooney and Noah Wyle in this two part episode. Rachael has broken her ankle and in a panic, swaps insurance information with Monica that gets them into a pickle with the hospital. Joey starts to date Phoebe’s twin sister, Ursula and Ross’ pet Monkey eats some Scrabble letters that lands him in the hospital with Rachael. Kind of a bonus here, as this is a two part episode, so you actually get six episodes per disc.
The One Where Ross Finds Out (11/9/95) – Chandler and an out of work Monica start a rigorous workout plan to get Chandler to drop a few extra pounds, and Ross’ feelings for Rachael are finally realized by both in this more mellow, less comic episode.
The One With The Prom Video (2/1/96) – Joey, roomate of Chandler, has some extra money and reimburses Chandler for all his efforts in the past (pizza, help on the bills…) and also buys him a cheesy gold braclet with “To my best bud…” enscribed on it. In somewhat of a hilarious turn of events, the gang finds an old prom video with Rachael, Ross and Monica in their high school days. Monica looks quite different…
Volume II (Disc Two)
The One Where No One’s Ready (9/26/96) – Ross has a function at his place of employment and has 30 minutes to get the whole group in taxis to be there on time. One problem though…the only one dressed in their formal wear is him! During the whole ordeal, Joey and Chandler argue over who’s got the chair.
The One With the Embroys (1/15/96) – Phoebe is going to be a surrogate mother for her brother (a hilarious Giovanni Ribisi), though the chances are only 25% that she’ll become pregnant. Rachael and Monica take on Chandler and Joey (in game show form) on how much they really know about each other. Joey and Chandler’s rooster is the cause of the whole thing…
The One With Ross’ Wedding (5/7/98) – His relationship with Rachael now history, Ross is getting married in London to Emily, only they seem to have torn down the church where the ceremony was to take place. Phoebe, pregnant, doesn’t go and Rachael initally refuses due to jealousy. Another two-part episode, but one that was made to be a cliffhanger (as of now, I still don’t know what happens)! Joey meets Fergie…
The One With All the Thanksgivings (11/19/98) – Stuffed from Thanksgiving dinner, the group reminices about Thanksgivings past. We get to see “fat Monica” again, as well as the college versions of Ross and Chandler who sport some pretty odd looks. We find out how Chandler loses some of his toe as well…initially my favorite episode due to a hilaroius scene with Joey and a turkey (better seen that explained)!
The One Where Everybody Finds Out (2/11/99) – Monica and Chandler have been caught and thier secret is now exposed to everyone but Ross (Monica’s brother). Ross is also looking for a new apartment that is inhabited by a fat, naked man. The lengths he goes to get that apartment…My favorite episode to date, I was laughing so hard I had to pause the disc so I could breathe!
In conclusion, I can only hope that Warner will relelase more episodes on DVD. They are available in other regions, seasons at a time, though here only these two discs exist. Time will tell…
Video: How does it look?
Friends, being a television show, is shown in a full frame format. Originally, I thought these were about average, but as I was flipping through the channels on my TV, I came upon a re-run of “Friends”. I compared what I saw on cable and what the DVD looked like and I have to say that the difference is outstanding. The colors are darker and richer, the level of detail is amazing and I never really noticed how much “noise” is on a regular cable broadcast. While these disc wouldn’t really compare to anamorphic titles, they are certainly an improvement over what we see each week. Good job.
Audio: How does it sound?
All Friends episodes are presented in Dolby Digital 5.0 surround. While the television broadcasts are, obviously, in Dolby Surround. The dialogue is clean and clear and the surrounds are used mainly for the intermittent scenes that feature a guitar solo (though brief). The sound is overall good, however there are a few moments when the rear speakers just seem to act on their own. By this, I mean that during a standard audience “applause” they seem to shift the crowd from front to back. It’s a little confusing, but I only caught it at times. On the whole, it’s a good mix and Friends has never sounded better!
Supplements: What are the extras?
Not too many extras are included on the discs, though each episode has a few scenes that weren’t included in the original broadcast. I have no idea what they are, as this was the first time that I have seen these episodes. On each disc is a music video of The Rembrants “I’ll Be There For You” which is the theme song to Friends and achieved popular status when the show aired for the first time. The second disc features a couple of featurettes while the cast was in London shooting the Ross’ wedding episode, which is interesting. The first disc features some cast bios of all six cast members. It’s good to see Friends on DVD at last, they’ve gained a new fan with me, and I can’t wait for more. That’s for sure…