Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 19, 2004)
With the release of the sixth season of Friends, the series officially crosses the midway point. Assuming that the show really does go off the air following then conclusion of its tenth season, we now have more than half the programs on DVD. Aired during 1999-2000, I’ll offer brief discussions of all the episodes, listed in their broadcast order. The synopses mostly come straight from the package’s liner notes. As a helpful guide, an asterisk denotes shows that also appeared on any of the prior “best of” DVDs that Warner Bros. released before they came to their senses and started to package Friends in season sets.
In addition, apparently all of the episodes include footage cut for their broadcast appearances. This means the running times vary. I’ll include the length of each episode on the DVDs. (For reference, a standard broadcast program lasts about 22 minutes.)
The One After Vegas (23:37): “A hungover Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) are shocked to discover they are husband and wife. Joey (Matt Leblanc) and Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) have a cross-country adventure.”
As usual, the Ross/Rachel dynamic provides the show’s most entertaining moments. Ross’s pathetic attempts to avoid becoming “Divorce Guy” offer some fun bits and make the show more memorable. As usual, the Chandler/Monica parts come across as the worst. Those elements swerve into soap opera territory, and the attempts to have “signs” tell them to get married become lame. Overall, the episode is good but unexceptional.
The One Where Ross Hugs Rachel (22:57): “When Monica (Courtney Cox Arquette) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) tells Rachel that they are moving in together, she mistakenly believes all three will be roommates. Phoebe discovers that Ross hasn’t annulled his marriage to Rachel.”
”Hugs” offers a good program, though not one that stands out in a particularly compelling way. It furthers a couple of important character threads in a reasonably innocuous manner and offers some funny bits, mostly related to Ross’s issues connected to another failed marriage.
The One with Ross’s Denial (22:15): “Monica and Chandler argue about what to do with Rachel’s room after she moves out. Ross suggests that Rachel move in with him.”
Desperate Ross is pathetic Ross is funny Ross. This means “Denial” generates some good moments as sad-sack Ross tries to deal with his feelings. Although I don’t normally find much amusement from Chandler/Monica, their argument about the room brings us a few entertaining bits, as does Joey’s quest for a new – hot and female – roommate. Overall, “Denial” offers a pretty solid show.
The One Where Joey Loses His Insurance (22:18): “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 Porsche (22:53): “Joey finds keys to a Porsche and pretends the car is his to impress women. Rachel tries to have her marriage to Ross annulled on the basis of his mental instability.”
Though I generally feel disdain for soap opera elements, when they involve the Ross/Rachel dynamic, they usually work, and that occurs here. They bicker endlessly, much to the show’s success. Some lame cutesy bits with babies cause the program to drag at times, but it still works fairly well.
The One on the Last Night (22:30): “While boxing up Rachel’s belongings, the girls reminisce about their time spent as roommates. Joey’s pride forces Chandler to invent a creative way to lend him money.”
Conflict equals comedy, which makes “Night” very amusing. Rachel and Monica fight about each other’s flaws as roommates, and the show takes off into hilarious antagonism. Chandler’s desperate attempts to slip Joey money also seem fun, and these help make “Night” a good episode.
The One Where Phoebe Runs (22:35)): “Phoebe’s unorthodox, attention-getting jogging style embarrasses running mate Rachel. The guys get excited about Joey’s new roommate Janine (Elle Macpherson), a dancer from Australia.”
Though moderately amusing, the bits with Phoebe feel a little too much like they steal from the Seinfeld in which Elaine dances. Happily, the Joey moments make up for these, as he runs the gamut of emotions in regard to Janine; LeBlanc pulls these off with hilarious results. The scene in which Ross and Chandler realize all the ways they repel women also works nicely.
The One with Ross’s Teeth (22:15): “Rumor has it that Rachel’s boss Ralph Lauren made a romantic pass at Phoebe. Ross has a ‘bright’ idea to impress his date.”
The subplot about Ralph Lauren seems silly and doesn’t really go anywhere. However, we get to see pathetic Ross on a pathetic date, which always offers good material. In addition, although Elle Macpherson can’t act a lick, Joey’s parts provide some funny bits as he fears turning girlie.
*The One Where Ross Got High (25:28): “Monica hosts Thanksgiving and Chandler uses the occasion to try and win her parents over. Rachel tests her confused culinary skills on dessert.”
While the rest of the show had some good moments, that nasty concoction was what made “High” very entertaining. From the inception of the dessert through the consumption through the methods the folks use to dispose of it, this element of the program showed what Friends does best, and each performer got in on the act. Tops was Joey’s reaction, as he actually liked the disgusting compilation. “High” offered another consistently funny and enjoyable program.
The One with the Routine (23:35): “Joey, Ross and Monica attend a taping of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. Joey has special plans for his roommate Janine at the midnight hour.”
I’ll be happy when Janine gets the boot, as her presence turns Joey sappy. Nonetheless, “Routine” offers some good material, particularly connected to Ross and Monica. Their nerdy delight over appearing on the TV show and their behavior their makes the episode work.
The One with the Apothecary Table (22:50): “After double-dating, Joey learns of Janine’s dislike for Monica and Chandler. Rachel tries to convince Phoebe that her cute new apothecary table is a priceless antique.”
Happily, “Table” ends our time with Janine, though it seems illogical that she just now realizes she doesn’t like Monica and Chandler. Still, it gets rid of Macpherson’s dull presence from the show, so I won’t complain. The “B”-plot with Phoebe and Rachel seems amusing but predictable. “Table” manages to be a decent but unexceptional episode.
The One with the Joke (22:06): “When Ross gets a joke printed in Playboy, Chandler claims credit for it. Joey reluctantly takes a job as a waiter at Central Perk.”
Chalk up “Joke” as another pretty ordinary episode. Some good moments come from the conflicts between the girls when they argue about each others’ personalities. However, the issues about the joke seem surprisingly lackluster, and Joey’s acquisition of the new job doesn’t add much.
The One with Rachel’s Sister (23:49): “When her sister Jill (Reese Witherspoon) visits, Rachel worries about the sparks that seem to fly between her and Ross. Monica tries to seduce Chandler, despite having the flu.”
After the blandness of Macpherson, it’s good to get a guest star with a personality. Witherspoon does nicely as Jill, and she and Aniston interact with real chemistry that makes the new character work. In addition, we get a rare funny subplot with Chandler and Monica. Their elements usually go sappy, but it’s funny to watch Monica’s denial and need for control.
The One Where Chandler Can’t Cry (23:21): “Rachel forces Ross to cancel his date with her sister. Phoebe discovers she’s being mistaken for a porn star. Chandler admits he hasn’t been able to cry since he was a child.”
Though the Jill thread ends with some sappiness, it still seems pretty solid. The Phoebe subplot also adds some laughs, especially when she figures out how to fix the situation. Only the Chandler element falls a bit flat.
*The One That Could Have Been (45:30): “The gang ponders what might have been if: Ross had stayed with his lesbian wife; a married Rachel had fallen for Days of Our Lives star Joey; a portly Monica had been obsessed with losing her virginity; Chandler had been a struggling writer; and Phoebe had been a stockbroker.”
This kind of program has a high potential to flop, as it indulges in fantasy. “Make believe” programs can become silly, but “Could Have Been” walks the fine line and keeps from becoming too goofy. A few self-referential moments seemed somewhat inane, but as a whole, the show stayed entertaining and amusing as it took a walk through fantasyland.
The One with Unagi (21:44): “Ross tries to teach martial arts to Rachel and Phoebe. Joey hires a look-alike to pose as his twin brother for a medical experiment.”
Once again the Chandler and Monica parts seem pretty flat, as they go down a predictable path. The Ross parts aren’t all that hot either, and the Joey subplot fails to live up to expectations. The show musters some laughs but seems a bit subpar overall.
The One Where Ross Dates a Student (22:05): “Ross flirts with danger when he dates an attractive student (Alexandra Holden). After a fire damages their apartment, Rachel and Phoebe are forced to move in with their friends.”
The Ross subplot turns into an interesting one, especially as it offers the chance for a number of different possibilities. The fire also brings us some good comedy since the girls find themselves in competition over where to stay for different reasons. It’s a generally good episode.
The One with Joey’s Fridge (22:01): “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.
The One with Mac and CHEESE (21:54): “Joey gets an audition for the lead in a TV show, which sparks memorable and bizarre flashbacks for the gang.”
It doesn’t get much worse than clip shows, though “Mac” pulls it off acceptably well. The plot with Joey’s attempts to get the role creates some interesting moments. Nonetheless, it remains what it is: a cheap conglomeration of snippets from prior shows, so it’s the weakest episode of the season.
The One Where Ross Meets Elizabeth’s Dad (23:20): “Ross dreads meeting his college girlfriend’s disapproving father (Bruce Willis). When Joey insults his robot co-star, he jeopardizes his future on the show.”
“Dad” suffers from Big Guest Star-itis. Willis seems like a bad match for the series, as he comes across as a little distant and doesn’t fit well in the part, at least not so far. It’s funny to see Joey go through problems with the robot, but otherwise this is a pretty lackluster episode.
The One Where Paul’s the Man (22:55): “Despite Paul’s threats, Ross and Elizabeth secretly head off to her family’s mountain cabin. Paul and Rachel have exactly the same plan.”
Although I like Willis, I don’t care for him here, and I look forward to his departure. The whole shenanigans at the cabin feel like a lame episode of Three’s Company and don’t work very well. Joey’s attempts to get his picture back on the wall of his dry cleaner offer some humor, but this episode seems a little flat overall.
The One with the Ring (24:35): “Chandler asks Phoebe’s help in choosing a ring for Monica. Rachel regrets pushing Paul to express his feelings.”
Happily, “Ring” marks the end of Willis’s stay on the series, and he goes out with a plop. The rest of the show emphasizes soap opera elements, as Chandler struggles to get a ring. Other than Phoebe’s funny haggling at the jewelers, this one falls flat.
*The One with the Proposal (45:35): “The big evening arrives, but Chandler’s romantic plans are ruined when Monica’s ex-boyfriend appears. Things sail way off course when Rachel and Joey attend a charity auction.”
“Proposal” often felt more like a soap opera than an episode of Friends, though I thought it handled the Chandler/Monica/Richard triangle reasonably well. The show indulged in more pathos than we ever would have seen during Seinfeld, but it popped enough comedy into the emotional moments to keep it from becoming insufferable. The Joey bits were easily the funniest, though, and the scenes at the charity event made the episode good. It seemed too hung up on the relationship bits to be tremendously good, but it still appeared to be a fairly solid program.