Fans of the television show Friends know that the series creators have adopted a colloquial vernacular in naming the individual episodes of the show by calling them, "The One With...", such as "The One with Ross's Library Book". The different seasons of the show can be identified in a similar fashion, for example, "The Season where Ross & Rachel Break Up", or "The Season Where Monica & Chandler Hook Up". When I sat down to watch Season 7 of Friends, I couldn't remember which particular season that it was. I quickly remembered that Season 7 is "The Season Where Monica & Chandler Plan Their Wedding", or "The Season Where Chandler Looks Weird."
(SPOILER WARNING!: In order to describe Friends Season 7, I must divulge some of the plot-lines for the shows, as well as discuss events from Season 6. So, if you haven't seen Season 6 and want to be surprised by Season 7, read with caution.) Season 6 of Friends ended with Chandler (Matthew Perry) proposing to Monica (Courteney Cox), after they had dated for over a year. So, most of the episodes on Season 7 deal with the planning of Monica & Chandler's wedding in one way or another. And I'm not giving anything away by mentioning that the shows all lead up to the wedding episode. Meanwhile, Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) has taken on a new assistant a work, a handsome young man named Tag (Eddie Cahill), and Rachel soon realizes that she is very attracted to him. Joey (Matt LeBlanc), ever the struggling actor, gets another shot at working on Days of Our Lives. As for Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) and Ross (David Schwimmer), nothing all that interesting happens to them in Season 7.
By 2000, when Season 7 premiered, Friends had grown from being a popular comedy to being a TV staple. Therefore, the focus on the show was presumably no longer on building an audience, but on keeping the show's loyal viewers. Therefore, Season 7 can be seen as a season which was made for the fans. There are no overwhelming story arcs, such as the multiple "Ross & Rachel" storylines, and the only real twist comes during the season finale. This observation isn't mean to imply that Season 7 is bad. Instead, I'm merely pointing out that this is one for the true fans of the show...except for those who didn't buy Monica and Chandler becoming a couple. Season 7 is made up of neatly-wrapped individual episodes in which the Friends cast of characters are allowed to do what they do best -- make us laugh. While watching this season again, I never said, "Hey, this one is a classic!", but would often nod and think, "This was a good episode." -- with the exception being "The One with the Holiday Armadillo", that one is a classic and can still make me laugh out loud. These episodes dispense with any attempts at high-drama or serious themes and simply go for the laughs. Also, Season 7 is chock full of cameos by the likes of Winona Ryder, Hank Azaria, Denise Richards, Kristin Davis, and Susan Sarandon. Season 7 is fun, but it can't be considered a great season for it fails the "Friends Litmus Test" -- the Thanksgiving episode isn't very good. Longtime fans of Friends will love this season, as will casual admirers of the show, but Season 7 is no place for newcomers to Friends, as the lack of any true storylines will make you want to end the relationship.
Friends: The Complete Seventh Season comes to DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. This 4-disc set contain all 23 episodes (that's counting the season finale 2-parter) from Season 7. The shows are all presented in their original 4:3 aspect ratio. The video presentation found on this DVD set is an improvement over the Season 6 DVDs and a world away from the ugly transfers from Season 5. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors are excellent, as the bright pastels of the show look great and the blacks are rich and true. There are some notable artifacting elements, but these won't be overly distracting to most viewers. Gone are the video noise problems and pixellation issues from the past DVDs. While these transfers don't look quite as good as current digital broadcasts of Friends, the video is still above average.
The episodes in this DVD set all sport a Dolby Digital 5.0 audio mix. These tracks provide clear dialogue with no indication of hissing or distortion. As with previous episodes, the audio separation is good, but predictable. The bulk of the dialogue comes from the center channel with various (well-placed) sound effects emitting from the front channels. The rear channels are reserved for studio audience laughter and musical cues. This mix serves the show quite well, but doesn't make for a demo disc. It should be noted that the problems from the Season 6 DVDs, in which the episodes with commentary played in stereo-only sound, has been corrected for Season 7.
The special features on the Friends DVDs have become so blasé, that I fear the last few seasons may not even include them. Series executive producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane provide audio commentaries for three episodes -- "The One with the Holiday Armadillo", where they are joined by costume designer Debra McGuire (Disc 2), "The One with Joey's New Brain" (Disc 3), and "The One with Monica and Chandler's Wedding" (Disc 4). As in the past, this trio provides some interesting tidbits about the show's production, but even they are beginning to sound bored. The "Holiday Armadillo" chat is livened up by the presence of McGuire, as they talk about the hilarious outfits worn in that episode. "Friends of Friends, Part II" (20 minutes) features brief interviews with various actors who have guest-starred on the show; Morgan Fairchild (Nora Bing), Alexandra Holden (Elizabeth Stevens), Eddie Cahill (Tag Jones), Cole Sprouse (Ben) (Where's Dylan?), and Paget Brewster (Kathy). Some of the comments from these actors are entertaining, but the segments are simply too short to be informative. The 9-minute "Gag Reel" is funny and offers more "poop" jokes from Matthew Perry. "Gunther Spills the Beans" (2 minutes) once again allows actor James Michael Tyler to offer a preview of the next DVD in the series. And finally, there is a set-top trivia game entitled, "Monica's Wedding Book Challenge" in which I only missed one question BEFORE watching Season 7 again.
Friends: The Complete Seventh Season is a no-brainer for fans of the show, as it will fit in perfectly with their collections. The season offers some good, solid episodes, and one classic show in which Ross is dressed as an armadillo. Yet, the uninitiated need not apply, as this isn't Friends at its best.