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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Various
Cast:
Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer
Writing Credits:
Various

Synopsis:
The ultimate collector set features over 110 hours of content (90 hours of features and 20 hours of bonus content). All 236 original broadcast episodes. Highly Collectible Premium Packaging Lenticular Box Cover Hard-cover book that holds 21 discs 32-page episode guide with content from the Warner Bros. archives.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital Stereo
German Dolby Digital Stereo
Castillian Spanish Dolby Digital Stereo
Portuguese Dolby Digital Stereo (Seasons One, Three and Ten Only)
Subtitles:
English
Castillian Spanish
French
German
Dutch
Chinese
Latin Spanish
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French
German
Castillian Spanish
Dutch
Chinese
Latin Spanish
Portuguese

Runtime: 5192 min.
Price: $279.98
Release Date: 11/13/2012

Bonus:
• Audio Commentaries for “The Pilot”, “The One Where No One’s Ready”, “The One With the Football”, “The One With the Morning After”, “The One With Chandler in a Box”, “The One With the Embryos”, “The One With Ross’s Wedding”, “The One Hundredth”, “The One With All the Thanksgivings”, “The One Where Everybody Finds Out”, “The One Where Ross Got High”, “The One That Could Have Been”, “The One With the Proposal”, “The One with the Holiday Armadillo”, “The One with Joey’s New Brain”, “The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding”, “The One Where Rachel Tells Ross”, “The One with the Videotape”, “The One Where Rachel Has a Baby”, “The One With Rachel’s Other Sister”, “The One With the Male Nanny”, “The One In Barbados”, “The One With the Late Thanksgiving”, “The One Where the Stripper Cries” and “The Last One”
• “Friends of Friends” Featurettes
• “What’s Up With Your Friends?” Featurettes
• “Smelly Cat” Video
• “Friends Around the World” Featurette
• “The One That Goes Behind the Scenes” Documentary
• “Friends: On Location in London” Featurette
• “Gunther Spills the Beans” Featurettes
• Gag Reels
• “The One With More Friends: The Original ‘Super-Sized’ Episodes”
• “Behind the Style: The Look of Friends” Featurette
• “Phoebe Battles the Pink Robots” Music Video
• “Joey Joey” Music Video
• “Final Thoughts” Featurette
• “True Friends” Documentaries
• Original Producer’s Cut for “The One Where Rachel Tells Ross”
• Original Script for “The One Where Rachel Tells Ross”
• “I’ll Be There For You” Music Video
• “Friends Visit The Ellen DeGeneres Show” Featurette
• “Friends on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” Featurette


COMPARE DVD PRICES

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Friends: The Complete Series [Blu-Ray] (2012)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 23, 2012)

True to its name, “Friends: The Complete Series” includes all 236 episodes across the series’ 10 seasons on the air. And speaking of truth, I’ll be honest: I didn’t watch each of those 236 shows to prepare this review. I did view them when I examined the individual season DVDs, but if I tried it here, I wouldn’t be able to post this review for another three months.

Instead, I viewed one episode per disc to attempt a representative sample of the set. Here are the programs I chose along with links to the full reviews for each season:

SEASON ONE:

During The Pilot, we see how the gang came together. Actually, we don’t learn the whole genesis of their friendship, as five of the six characters already hung out together, but we do learn how Rachel Green came to reunite with high-school buddy Monica Geller and then became part of the crew.

On her wedding day, Rachel chickens out and leaves hubby-to-be Barry at the altar. She tracks down former friend Monica because she doesn’t know anyone else in Manhattan. Monica’s brother Ross also deals with the collapse of his marriage; his wife Carol realized she’s a lesbian, and Ross moves into a new place. Monica goes out with “Paul the Wine Guy”, who lies to her to get her into bed.

The “Pilot” isn’t a bad episode, but it seems rough and awkward compared to later shows. It also stands out negatively in regard to its continuity. Later in the series - as demonstrated in “The One Where Ross Finds Out” from Season Two - it becomes an important plot point that Rachel never knew that Ross had the hots for her. However, at the end of the pilot, he tells her that he used to have a crush on her and then inquires if he could later ask her out on a date. At the end of Season One, the show does try to pooh-pooh this original statement, but I don’t buy it.

The One With All the Poker works nicely, mainly because it demonstrates the evolution of the characters. Rachel tires of her waitressing job and shoots for something at Saks. However, the main plot revolves around the boys’ poker game. The women want in, even though none of them know how to play. This leads to a series of amusing games.

I like the lack of plot and the emphasis on characters. Monica’s intense competitive streak starts to creep into the show, and we learn more about Ross’ love for Rachel. It also includes some good comic moments as the female characters horn in on the guys’ poker game. Sure, it’s a bit sexist, but those elements aren’t excessive, and ultimately it seems like one of the first season’s better episodes.

SEASON TWO:

The One With Russ finds Joey depressed because his acting career seems to be going nowhere. Monica reunites with former boyfriend “Fun Bobby”; all the gang loves him until they start to suspect he’s an alcoholic. Bobby promises to quit and becomes not so fun. Joey gets a new lease on life when he tries out for a role on Days of Our Lives, but he’ll need to sleep with the casting agent to get it. Rachel surprises the gang when she declares she doesn’t feel any romantic urges for Ross, but they suspect otherwise when they meet her date Russ, who happens to bear a significant resemblance to Ross.

The whole Russ thing probably should seem lame, especially when it veers into split-screen Patty Duke territory. However, it’s actually fairly funny to see Schwimmer interact with a mildly different version of himself. The show keeps the soap opera to a reasonable minimum, so it’s hard to dislike “Russ”.

The One With the Bullies sees Chandler and Ross pushed around by some obnoxious yuppies at the coffee shop. Phoebe decides to try again to visit her father and gets Joey and Rachel to go with her but runs into some problems. In addition, Monica discovers a stock with her initials and invests in it.

Something has to go awry when Phoebe goes to her dad’s house, and this show offers some hilarious moments. A wired little dog terrorizes the trio and provides a bunch of great bits. The bully motif also seems pretty good, and the show as a whole works nicely. It also expands on Phoebe’s family history as she meets her half-brother Frank Jr.

SEASON THREE:

The One Where No One’s Ready: Ross gets riled when his friends fail to be ready on time for a museum fundraiser where’s he’s giving a speech.

Although I’ve seen this one a number of times, it remains absolutely hilarious, and I laughed much more than usual during it. The multiple storylines blend together cleanly and the result is a terrific episode that seems funny from start to finish. In addition, “Ready” introduces the phrase “going commando” to the mass public. This remains one of the better Friends programs ever made.

The One Without the Ski Trip: Rachel asks everyone to go on a ski trip… except Ross. Chandler is particularly traumatized by the Ross/Rachel breakup, which reminds him of his own parents’ divorce.

Despite all the potential for this show to pour on more emotional malarkey, “Trip” manages to stick almost entirely with the comedic potential. The gang all deal with the social implications of the rift, and this creates a number of amusing situations. In particular, Chandler’s excessive bitterness adds some fun moments. “Trip” provides a pretty solid episode.

SEASON FOUR:

The One Where Chandler Crosses the Line: Chandler kisses Kathy after thinking Joey has lost interest in her. Encouraged by an awed Phoebe, Ross debuts his keyboard “sound” in public.

It’s always fun to get a glimpse into Ross’ nerdy past, so the bits with his “sound” are very amusing. When we actually hear “the sound”, it’s hilarious. Along with Rachel’s revelation that she doesn’t need friends to have fun, these elements balance out the soap opera sappiness of the Joey/Chandler/Kathy parts.

The One With the Worst Best Man Ever: Joey loses Ross’s wedding ring at a bachelor party. Phoebe experiences massive mood swings that frighten Rachel and Monica.

Our last show before a major soap opera episode, “Worst” provides some good stuff. The bachelor party develops fun moments, and Phoebe’s mood swings allow Kudrow to shine, especially when she gets nasty. It’s an amusing program that seems above average.

SEASON FIVE:

The One With Ross’s Sandwich: Ross is enraged when someone at work steals his Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich. Joey threatens to crack under the strain of knowing about Monica and Chandler’s affair.

Herein we watch Ross’s continued disintegration. It’s an amusing sight to see the wussiest man on the planet get enraged, and Schwimmer plays it well. However, the show’s best moments come from Joey’s attempts to cover for Chandler and Monica; LeBlanc makes his anger and humiliation hilarious.

The One Where Ross Can’t Flirt: Joey’s Italian-speaking grandma joins the gang to watch his Law and Order debut. Ross decides to order lots and lots of pizza so he can flirt with the delivery girl.

It’s good to see the whole gang in the same room for most of an episode, and “Flirt” helps mine that situation for some nice material. I can’t call it one of the best programs of the sort, but it works well for the most part. The worst element? Seeing Ross make a fool of himself over a woman with the least complimentary haircut ever – as described, she really does look like an eight-year-old boy!

SEASON SIX:

The One Where Joey Loses His Insurance: “Joey gets a hernia just as he learns his health insurance has lapsed. When a psychic predicts she’ll die within a week, Phoebe plans to make the most of her final days.”

After a bunch of episodes with soap opera elements, “Insurance” largely steers clear of those. This helps make it a light and lively show with some very entertaining moments. Ross’s fake accent is fun, and Joey’s painful hernia creates more than a few amusing bits. (Yeah, that sentence sounds weird – take my word for it.)

The One with Joey’s Fridge: “When Rachel needs a date for a charity event, Monica and Phoebe compete to find her the best escort. Ross obsesses about his girlfriend spending spring break in Florida. Joey’s refrigerator breaks.”

Competitions on Friends usually work well, so the parts in which Phoebe battles Monica and Chandler for date supremacy are fun. Joey’s pathetic attempts to score $400 for the fridge also provide amusing bits in this fairly solid program.

SEASON SEVEN:

The One with All the Candy: “Monica whips up some holiday candy for the neighbors. Rachel and Tag set the ground rules for their new romance. Moved by Phoebe’s bikeless childhood story, Ross buys her a new two-wheeler.”

Not surprisingly, the plot about Rachel and Tag proves the least interesting, largely because Tag displays the personality of a damp sponge. However, Phoebe’s line seems pretty amusing, and the candy theme offers some warped laughs. The mania inspired by Monica’s candy provides lots of fun and helps make this a solid show.

The One with Joey’s New Brain: “Joey accidentally lets slip to a Days of Our Lives castmate that she is being written out of the script. Rachel and Phoebe try to sabotage each other’s changes to date a guy who left his cell phone at Central Perk.”

Friends guest stars tend to be hit or miss, and the bigger the celebrity, the iffier the cameo. Tom Selleck? Pretty good. Bruce Willis? Pretty terrible. But Susan Sarandon overcomes those constraints and offers a fun turn as a serious soap opera diva. The other stories also fare well, but Sarandon makes this a particularly strong show.

SEASON EIGHT:

The One Where Rachel Tells Ross: “Everyone seems to know who the father of Rachel’s unborn baby is except for the man himself: Ross. When he finds out, he is more concerned with other matters than his relationship with Rachel. Meanwhile, Phoebe and Joey fib about a gas leak to gain entry to Monica and Chandler’s apartment.”

Another show that undercuts treacle with humor, “Tells” fares well. It packs nice comedy into two potentially sappy moments, as it deals with the Ross/Rachel bits neatly. Add to that pretty amusing subplots and the show’s a winner.

The One with the Tea Leaves: “Feeling awkward after revealing his romantic feelings to Rachel, Joey avoids contact with her. Rachel hopes to restore their friendship by telling Joey a big lie about her unborn child. Meanwhile, after studying tea leaves, Phoebe believes she will encounter the man of her dreams - and she soon meets a very handsome guy, Parker. Ross tries to recover his favorite pink shirt from the apartment of his former girlfriend Mona.”

Anytime the show presses Phoebe’s mystical beliefs, it gets good, and her belief that the universe wants her to be with a wildly crude guy makes this show amusing. I like the bits where we learn more about Chandler’s CD collection, and the “baby-buying” element of the Joey/Rachel piece creates an absurd aspect to the sappy bits. Add to that Ross’s pink shirt and this show’s a good one.

SEASON NINE:

The One Where No One Proposes: “Due to a misunderstanding, Rachel finds herself engaged to Joey instead of Ross. Things get more confused when Phoebe mistakenly assumes that Ross is the one who proposed.”

A show almost totally predicated on misunderstandings seems like a show ripe with the potential to suck. However, even with all sorts of “Who’s On First” machinations, “Proposes” manages to provide a lot of laughs. It takes a bit of a soap opera turn at the end but remains likeable and amusing most of the time.

The One with the Lottery: “Hoping to win a huge jackpot, the friends pool their cash and buy dozens of lottery tickets. But bickering over how to spend potential winnings and other disagreements cause a lotto tension.”

For the first time in a while, we get all six main cast members together for virtually the entire show. For the first time in a while, we get a really good episode. It’s always fun to pack the sextet together, and they make the most of it in this very amusing show.

SEASON TEN:

The One After Joey and Rachel Kiss: “Romantic hookups continue to go astray in Barbados as Monica, Phoebe and Chandler overhear Ross kissing Charlie, while through the room’s other wall they can eavesdrop on Joey and Rachel.”

A girlfriend of mine once returned once returned from a cruise with cornrows. That means I can identify with Chandler’s horror when Monica abuses her hair in that manner. That’s just one of the many amusing aspects of “Kiss”. An episode that easily could have gotten bogged down in soap opera elements manages to stay light and funny. It opens Season Ten well.

The One Where Estelle Dies: “Phoebe tries to protect Joey from the news that his agent Estelle has died. Monica and Chandler check out the house next door to theirs – and discover that Chandler’s ex Janice is interested in buying it.”

Time for one last fling with the ever-annoying Janice. Frankly, she wore out her welcome a while ago, but it’s good to wrap up that side of things. The funniest moments come from Kudrow’s hilarious impression of Estelle, a gag that works best when Joey thinks she calls from beyond the grave.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-

Friends appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on these Blu-Ray Discs. That’s a change from the original broadcast episodes, which went with 1.33:1.

Is this a big deal? Yes and no. On one hand, the wider ratio simply opens up the original footage to spread out to the side, so no cropping occurs. However, I’m a pretty strict OAR guy, so I’m not happy when a release changes the dimensions.

Leaving aside issues related to aspect ratio, I can say that Friends has never looked better than it does on Blu-ray. Not that this means it looked perfect, as a mix of moderate concerns arose across the various episodes. Sharpness tended to be up and down. Much of the time, the shows seemed pretty concise and accurate, but some instances of mild softness materialized, and rare shots appeared a bit blocky.

At least I saw no issues with jaggies or shimmering, and I noticed no edge haloes. I did get the impression the transfers used some digital noise reduction, though – especially in the earlier seasons. Grain was inconsistent but tended to be more prominent in later years, which seemed counterintuitive, as one would expect superior production values in the more recent seasons. I’d surmise that the Blu-ray’s producers used up most of their DNR budget trying to de-grain the earlier programs. I still saw grain for those episodes, but it appeared lighter than in later years.

No source flaws caused distractions, and colors usually looked quite good. The series opted for a natural palette, and the tones were mostly peppy and rich. Occasionally I thought flesh tones were bit too brown, and colors could be slightly dense, but they mostly came across as vivid. Blacks were acceptable; they could veer inky at times, but they tended to be fairly dark, and shadows showed reasonable clarity.

Make no mistake: the episodes lacked consistency and could run into problems. That said, given the standards of the source and the methods used to film these shows, I thought Friends looked great. I gave the Blu-ray a “B” as a compromise between how the shows look objectively and how they’ve looked in the past. You’ll never use these programs as demo material, but I still think they’re radically more attractive than they’ve ever appeared in the past.

One controversy: while the DVD season sets presented extended versions of many episodes, none of them appear here, at least not in HD; we get a few “Super-Sized” programs as a bonus, but they’re not up to the visual quality of the HD shows. This leaves the DVDs as the main place to find the longer Friends episodes.

Why did the Blu-ray go with the shorter broadcast versions of the shows? I’m not sure, but I’d think this occurred due to the editing methods used for the programs. I suspect that the extended episodes exist only in the video realm, while the broadcast shows were probably edited on film and could be more easily transferred to HD. This may not be correct, but it’s my guess that it would’ve required much more work to make the extended shows “Blu-ray ready”.

While the visuals were up and down, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Friends remained consistent through the series’ entire run. Overall, the audio was fine but without much ambition. Given the talky nature of the series, though, this was no surprise. Dialogue dominated the episodes and remained oriented toward the front center. As always, music presented solid stereo presence over the front speakers, and the surrounds echoed the tunes moderately.

Surround usage was modest and rarely made itself known. The back speakers essentially echoed the forward channels and did little else. This was general reinforcement that gave us a little dimensionality but not much more than that.

Audio quality was fine but not spectacular. The lines seemed concise and fairly natural, and I noticed none of the light edginess that occasionally popped up in the past. Effects seemed acceptably accurate, but they never taxed the track at all. At least no problems occurred with those elements, and the music came across as pretty bright and bouncy. The rock-oriented score sounded clean and distinct, and bass response was tight and fairly rich. Don’t expect much from the series’ audio, but the tracks worked fine.

How did picture and audio of the Blu-rays compare to the prior DVD sets? Audio was a little peppier solely because the BDs included an LFE channel; the DVDs were 5.0, not 5.1. Overall, they’re awful comparable, though, so don’t expect much extra punch.

On the other hand, the Blu-rays’ visuals bordered on revelatory. The shows now looked much more distinctive and dynamic than they ever appeared on DVD. While I’m not wild about the aspect ratio alterations – and some fans are upset we don’t get extended episodes – I still think the Blu-rays provide strong picture quality.

Across all 21 discs, we get a mix of extras. 25 episodes include audio commentaries. All of these come from the prior DVDs – here’s what we find:

Season One: The Pilot: executive producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane. All three were recorded separately for this track, and the results were edited together. Some of the remarks related directly to on-screen activities, but most dealt with general issues.

Overall I really like this commentary. The three cover many topics that related to the series. We find out the program’s genesis and how the various main actors were cast. The participants also go over a mix of other interesting subjects in this brisk and engaging track.

Season Three: The One Where No One’s Ready, The One With the Football and The One With the Morning After: executive producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane. In addition, art director John Shaffner shows up for “The One With All the Football”. The commentaries move briskly, and though they include a bit too much happy talk and praise, they still add some nice information about the series.

Season Four: The One With Chandler in a Box, The One With the Embryos, and The One With Ross’s Wedding: executive producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane. “Wedding” provides the best of the three tracks, mainly because the participants discuss all of the challenges that came with shooting in England. Overall, the commentaries seem informative and well constructed.

Season Five: The One Hundredth, The One With All the Thanksgivings, and The One Where Everybody Finds Out: executive producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane. They discuss the development of the Monica and Chandler relationship as well as their thoughts behind various areas. The tracks suffer from a little too much dead time, and we also get too much basic praise, but they help elaborate on the show fairly nicely.

Season Six: The One Where Ross Got High, The One That Could Have Been and The One With the Proposal: executive producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane. “Proposal” provides the best of the three tracks, mainly because it delves heavily into the challenges of developing the Chandler/Monica relationship and that subject’s issues. Although I’ve generally enjoyed prior Friends commentaries, these seem spottier than usual. They presentemore dead air than I recall, and they also offer an awful lot of general praise. They still give us some decent insight into the series, but they appear somewhat flat much of the time.

Season Seven: The One with the Holiday Armadillo, The One with Joey’s New Brain and The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding: executive producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane. In addition, costume designer Debra McGuire appears for “Armadillo”

“Armadillo” provides some nice notes about the episode’s inspiration from real-life, as we learn of the challenges Jewish parents have when it comes to dealing with Christmas and their kids. McGuire’s presence also adds good comments about the evolution of the characters’ wardrobes and the specific costumes for this episode. The best moments in “Wedding” delve into challenges of the scenario as well as other casting concepts for Chandler’s dad.

Otherwise, we get material that seems similar to prior tracks. The information occasionally seems useful and enlightening, but the participants go silent too often and don’t always offer interesting remarks. As in the past, the comments seem sporadically compelling but not consistently. Still, they include enough to merit a screening.

Season Eight: The One Where Rachel Tells Ross, The One With the Videotape, and The One Where Rachel Has a Baby: executive producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane. There’s a little information about the impact of 9/11, and during “Baby”, Kauffman offers good notes about how her own pregnancy influenced the story.

Overall, we get material that seems similar to prior tracks. The information occasionally becomes useful and enlightening, but the participants go silent too often. That becomes a particular problem during “Baby”, which suffers from the most substantial gaps. The producers also tend to simply tell us how wonderful cast and crew were; Kauffman remains guilty of the most cheerleading. As in the past, the comments seem sporadically compelling but not consistently useful. Still, they include enough good material to warrant a screening.

Season Nine: The One With the Male Nanny, The One With Rachel’s Other Sister, and The One in Barbados: executive producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane. We hear about the inclusion of guest stars like Aisha Tyler, Hank Azaria and Paul Rudd, various storylines, technical aspects of the fake Barbados shoot, and how the decision to do a tenth year altered Season Nine.

Overall, we get material that seems fairly similar to prior tracks. The first two tracks move pretty well, but “Barbados” sags at times due to too much dead air. We also find lots of laughing, particular from Kauffman. Nonetheless, these commentaries are reasonably informative. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but they’re a little better than usual.

Season Ten: The One With the Late Thanksgiving, The One Where the Stripper Cries, and The Last One: executive producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane. We learn about production challenges, guest casting, script issues and story changes, logistical and technical topics, and finishing the series. As always, we get a fair amount of laughing and praise, usually from Kauffman, who also gets pretty weepy. There’s also a bit too much dead air during “The Last One”. Nonetheless, these commentaries remain generally informative and likable.

Footnote: I don’t know why none of Season Two’s commentaries appear here. The original DVDs included chats for two episodes; I can’t explain why those don’t pop up on the Blu-ray.

On Disc Two, Friends of Friends provides a guide to Season One’s many guest stars. We get a list of the 16 prominent actors, and we can also see short clips from their appearances; these run a total of eight minutes, 33 seconds. They’re a fun little way to spotlight the growing list of Friends notables.

The One with the Trailer of Season Two offers… a trailer for Season Two. It runs one minute, 17 seconds and appears in this set for reasons unknown. Future teasers at least manage to include some exclusive footage with a cast member, but this one simply gives us episode shots and an anonymous narrator. It’s useless, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to have it here.

Disc Four delivers another Friends of Friends. It covers 12 guests and fills a total of 11 minutes, 12 seconds. It functions just the same as the one for Season One.

Disc Four also offers a fairly pointless feature called What’s Up With Your Friends?. After a 23-second intro from James Michael Tyler as Gunther, we then get the chance to access six different sets of montages that fill a total of seven minutes, 50 seconds. With one per character, we watch some of their “greatest hits”. Maybe someone will like this, but it does nothing for me.

Disc Four finishes with a one-minute, 49-second Music Video for “Smelly Cat”. It’s a dance version sung by… I don’t know, but it’s clearly not Lisa Kudrow. It’s over the top in a late 80s way and mildly amusing.

Expect another Friends of Friends on Disc Six. It goes over Season Three’s guests and lasts a total of 10 minutes, 44 seconds. Lather, rinse, you know.

Disc Six also tosses in another What’s Up With Your Friends?. Running time eight minutes, 11 seconds, same format, still forgettable.

Disc Eight tosses in Friends Around the World. Hosted by James Michael Tyler, it looks at the series’ reception outside of the US. In this seven-minute and 36-second featurette, we meet fans in Sweden plus the voice actors for the Japanese and German translations of the show. It’s vaguely fun to watch some dubbed snippets, but otherwise this piece seems slight and fairly dull.

Shocker: Disc Eight throws in more Friends of Friends (8:10) and What’s Up With Your Friends? (9:08). Same stuff, different season!

Over on Disc 10, we find a good documentary called The One That Goes Behind the Scenes. This 42-minute and 29-second program follows the creation of “The One After Vegas”, the first episode from the sixth season. It mixes some brief interview segments with a variety of personnel as well as many excellent shots from the set and other “behind the scenes” places such as the room in which the writers collaborate.

It’s a genuinely inclusive show, as it covers the writing, the filming, and post-production, and it does so in a clear and compelling manner. The best aspects came from the set itself, especially when we’d see how the writing process continued even during the shoot; when gags didn’t get the desired response, the crew - including the actors - would work out something new right on the spot. Overall, this was a very interesting and informative program that I really enjoyed.

Also on Disc 10, On Location In London runs a mere two minutes, 16 seconds. We get some shots from around London plus soundbites from the actors – both regular and guest – as they tell us how much fun the show is. This provides a piece of promotion and nothing more.

Speaking of which, Gunther Spills the Beans offers a preview of Season Six. This one-minute, 31-second clip acts as nothing more than an ad for the once-upcoming DVD set. It made sense on the Season Five DVD set but seems less logical here, though I guess fans will like it since it includes exclusive footage of James Michael Tyler.

After a brief absence, Friends of Friends returns for Season Six. It runs 12 minutes, 31 seconds and improves on its predecessors – a little, at least. It still mostly consists of show clips, but it also includes comments from the actors involved; we hear from Elliott Gould, Christina Pickles, Maggie Wheeler and Jane Sibbett. They discuss their roles, working on the series, and fitting in with the main cast. Much of this seems fairly bland and generic, though Wheeler offers nice notes about how she developed the character of Janice. Nonetheless, this remains a pretty lackluster program.

Expect the usual material from the Gag Reel. This nine-minute and 37-second compilation shows the standard goofs and giggles shot during Season Six. It becomes pretty tedious and doesn’t offer much of interest.

Hosted by actor James Michael Tyler, Gunther Spills the Beans offers a preview of Season Seven. This 86-second clip is literally nothing more than a teaser.

Season Seven delivers another Friends of Friends, and it provides some information from a few guest actors. The 19-minute and 49-second featurette intersperses show clips and interviews with Morgan Fairchild, Alexandra Holden, Eddie Cahill, Cole Sprouse and Paget Brewster. They discuss their roles, working on the series, and attributes of the main cast. Much of this seems fairly bland and generic, and this becomes a pretty lackluster program.

Expect the usual material from the Gag Reel. This nine-minute and 26-second compilation shows the standard goofs and giggles shot during Season Seven. It becomes pretty tedious and doesn’t offer much of interest.

Hosted by James Michael Tyler, the Gunther Spills the Beans offers a preview of Season Eight. This two-minute, 11-second clip is just another teaser ad. Does that surprise you?

The Season Seven extras end with The Ones With More Friends: The Original Broadcast “Super-Sized” Episodes. As a ratings ploy, four of this year’s shows aired in longer versions: “The One Where Rosita Dies” (27:57), “The One Where They All Turn Thirty” (24:53), “The One With Joey’s New Brain” (28:27) and “The One With the Truth About London” (29:18).

The presentation of the “Super-Sized” episodes as an extra creates a question: what should be considered the original broadcast versions of these shows? If I recall correctly, these “Super-Sized” programs offered the respective episodes’ debuts, so shouldn’t they be considered the “original versions”? Perhaps the shorter cuts offered on the disc are regarded as the “real thing” and these are just supposed to be seen as alternates, but since the “alternates” aired first, that makes me consider them to be the “originals”.

Normally I wouldn’t care about the distinction – hey, they’re both available, right? Yes, they are, but not in the same quality. The “Super-Sized” versions have received no apparent remastering, so they’re substantially uglier than the shorter editions. I suspect fans will be torn but will opt for the more attractive episodes, even if they’re much shorter.

Disc 16 tosses out yet another Friends of Friends for Season Eight. In the 19-minute and 40-second piece, we hear from June Gable, Lauren Tom, David Arquette, Teri Garr, Bonnie Somerville and Debra Jo Rupp. They discuss their roles, working on the series, reactions to their characters, and attributes of the main cast. Much of this seems fairly bland and generic, and this becomes a pretty lackluster program.

Expect the usual material from the Gag Reel. This eight-minute and 37-second compilation shows the standard goofs and giggles shot during Season Eight. It becomes pretty tedious and doesn’t offer much of interest.

Hosted by James Michael Tyler, Gunther Spills the Beans offers a preview of Season Nine. This two-minute clip is another teaser. But you knew that.

Moving to Disc 18, Behind the Style: The Look of Friends presents a featurette focused on those subjects. In the 20-minute, eight-second piece, we hear from Debra McGuire, makeup artist Robin Siegel and hair stylists Jonathan Hanousek and Chris McMillan. McGuire talks about the “palette” and fashion sense chosen for the various lead actors, changes that developed over the years, the show’s tight schedule, and some specifics connected to particular episodes and outfits.

Siegel gets into each character’s makeup design and the interaction of makeup and clothes. Finally, McMillan and Hanousek get into the many different ‘dos found through the series’ run. All four cover the topics in a concise manner that helps make this a tight and enjoyable program.

Expect the usual material from the Gag Reel. This six-minute and 40-second compilation shows the standard goofs and giggles shot during Season Nine. We get a few retakes that are interesting since they let us take a minor glimpse at the way they shoot the series, but mostly this compilation just drags with the same old, same old.

Next come a music video that recasts the Flaming Lips’ song as “Phoebe Battles the Pink Robots”. This includes a few Wayne Coyne lip-synch shots with a lot of show clips. I don’t think the song’s lyrics change other than to substitute “Phoebe” for “Yoshimi”. It’s a cute idea but not very interesting in the end; it would’ve been much more intriguing if it did more to alter the original lyrics.

With only one season remaining, could this be our last Gunther Spills the Beans? Thankfully, it is. The three-minute clip sets up Season Ten. Adios, Gunther!

On Disc 20, one more Friends of Friends runs 17 minutes and four seconds. It concentrates on the guest contributions of actors Aisha Tyler, Paul Rudd and Christina Applegate. They talk about their casting, their characters, and working on the show. As usual, there’s a lot of praise, but we get more than enough insight to make this a worthwhile featurette.

Next comes a music video for “Joey Joey”. This layers that pop tune on top of Joey-centered show clips. It stinks.

Final Thoughts presents a reflective featurette. In the 25-minute and 30-second piece, we hear from the three producers as well as actors David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox-Arquette, and Jennifer Aniston. They talk about the series’ roots, casting and the early days, the characters and their interactions, and the end of the show. As one might expect, we get a lot of praise and happy talk here. Nonetheless, it includes a reasonable amount of decent information and acts as a nice send-off for the series.

Disc 20 finishes with Gag Reels for Seasons One, Two, Three, Four and Ten. Taken together, these run 41 minutes and 33 seconds, though about half of that comes from Season Ten alone. I rarely find these amusing. A few funny bits pop up here, and I like the occasional glimpses into the working processes on the show, but mostly these offer the standard goofiness and gags.

While everything discussed so far came from the full-season DVD sets, Disc 21 provides new, exclusive bonus materials. Under True Friends, we find three separate documentaries: “Friends from the Start” (27:50), “When Friends Become Family” (29:20) and “The Legacy of Friends” (10:46). Across these, we hear from Crane, Kauffman, Bright, Shaffner, McGuire, Gould, Pickles, Somerville, Wheeler, Holden, former NBC president Warren Littlefield, former Warner TV president/CEO Leslie Moonves, director Jams Burrows, co-executive producer Todd Stevens, Syracuse University Professor of Television and Popular Culture Robert Thompson, executive producer/writer Greg Malins, audience warm-up artist Jim Bentley, Friends ‘Til the End author David Wild, and actors Melora Hardin and James Michael Tyler. We learn about the series’ creation and development, characters and casting, shooting the pilot, various sets and costumes, the opening titles, the show’s success and growth over the seasons, guest stars and the program’s impact on pop culture, finishing the series and its enduring appeal.

Though split into three parts, these pieces essentially form one long documentary – but not one consistent documentary. Without question, “Start” fares best, as it gives us a nice overview of the series’ early days. “Family” and “Legacy” offer some good notes as well, but they tend to be fluffier and more oriented toward telling us how great/successful the show was.

Another alternate version of an episode arrives next. The Original Producer’s Cut for “The One Where Rachel Tells Ross” runs 22 minutes, five seconds; it opens with a 44-second intro that lets us know what changes were made to the program. The differences come from the scenes with Monica and Chandler at the airport; the original cut featured a bomb-related theme that was deemed inappropriate to air right after 9/11, so reshoots went with a more benign topic.

In addition to the “Producer’s Cut”, we find the Original Script for “The One Where Rachel Tells Ross”. This gives us a reproduction of the version used by the series’ script supervisor, so it comes with a variety of handwritten notations. It also includes some material excised from the final show. It’s a cool addition.

Next comes a music video for the Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There For You”. This is a pretty simple lip-synch performance clip, but it gets a little extra charge because the Friends cast members romp around the set. While it never threatens to become a great video, it offers more fun than most of its genre.

Some vintage clips come next. We get Friends Visit The Ellen DeGeneres Show (16:08) and Friends on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (22:01). For the Ellen elements, we see David Schwimmer on the show right after the finale aired in 2004; Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and Jennifer Aniston appear individually in 2005. Schwimmer chats about the series’ finish, while the other three play a game in which they’re supposed to remember their lines from the show. The first two are pretty bad at it, but Aniston does well. As an interview subject, Schwimmer seems awkward and not very interesting.

The Leno segment aired in June 2004 and reunites all the cast members. The three men chat with Leno first, and then the women follow suit, and we wrap up with all six together. They throw out some fluffy thoughts about the series and how wonderful everyone/everything was. It’s decent to have as an archival piece, but it’s not especially fascinating.

Finally, the set ends with another Gag Reel. “The One with the Never-Before-Seen Gags” goes for seven minutes, one second and shows the standard mix of goofs and giggles. Actually, it throws out a lot of (bleeped) profanity, which sets it apart from most blooper reels, but it’s still pretty typical stuff.

It’s still too early to know how TV history will regard Friends, but as I revisited the series for the first time in years, I must admit I found it to continue to offer good entertainment. Of course, some episodes work better than others, but the overall quality remains positive. The Blu-rays boast pretty solid picture quality along with adequate audio and a fairly informative complement of supplements. This “Complete Series” Blu-ray package becomes the best way to watch Friends.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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