If Season One of Friends hit the ground running, Season Two is when it launched into orbit. Six of the series' ten most-watched episodes aired during that year, pulling in well over 30 million viewers apiece. Not bad for a fledgling sitcom starring six relatively unknown actors. Unsurprisingly, the staying power of Friends was no fluke: thanks to sharp writing, strong cast chemistry and the creative team's decision to give all six characters equal billing, this contagious group effort became more than the sum of its parts.
Of course, almost everyone wanted in at this point, as evidenced by Season Two's influx of guest stars. The bulk of these appear during "The One After the Superbowl", a two-parter featuring the likes of Julia Robrts, Brooke Shields, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chris Isaak; other notable Season Two guest stars include Lea Thompson, Chrissie Hynde, Charlie Sheen, Steve Zahn and more. We also see new faces that would stick around for several episodes or return later in the series, including Tom Selleck (as Monica's much older love interest), Giovanni Ribisi (who portrays Phoebe's brother in later seasons) and Lauen Tom (as Ross' new girlfriend, Julie). Despite the presence of these additional supporting characters and the occasional round of stunt casting, Friends remained a prime example of a true ensemble production.
Of course, even the most unified ensemble cast will have characters that stick out more than others; for obvious reasons, the driving force behind Friends was the relationship status of Rachel and Ross. Season One didn't take long to establish a backstory between the two and it was there that the characters first connected and drifted apart again. This would be a recurring theme throughout the series' ten-year lifespan, though the first half of Season Two runs with their first hints of staying apart before...well, you know. Even so, the fleeting connection between Richard (Tom Selleck) and Monica established a strong counter-balance to "the usual": future romances, marriages and children would eventually dominate the Friends landscape...and while this was a natural extension of the characters' journey into their 30s, Season Two seems content with its lightweight, breezy charm. It's a fine year for Friends, and these 24 episodes (below) maintain a uniform level of quality that would continue for the next several years.
Warner Bros.' continued dissection of 2012's Complete Series Blu-ray Collection once again presents the broadcast versions of these episodes in a modified 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Remastered from the original filmed negative, they look substantially better than the original DVD release...but, as mentioned before, this two-disc collection doesn't offer much else for die-hard fans. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Disc One: "The One with Ross' New Girlfriend", "The One with the Breast Milk", "The One Where Heckles Dies", "The One with Phoebe's Husband", "The One with Five Steaks and an Eggplant", "The One with the Baby on the Bus", "The One Where Ross Finds Out", "The One with the List", "The One with Phoebe's Dad", "The One with Russ", "The One with the Lesbian Wedding", "The One After the Superbowl, Part 1".
Disc Two: "The One After the Superbowl, Part 2", "The One with the Prom Video", "The One Where Ross and Rachel... You Know", "The One Where Joey Moves Out", "The One Where Eddie Moves In", "The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies", "The One Where Eddie Won't Go", "The One Where Old Yeller Dies", "The One with the Bullies", "The One with the Two Parties", "The One with the Chicken Pox" and "The One with Barry and Mindy's Wedding".
Season Two Episode Summaries (via IMDb)
NOTE: The discs included in this release are the same as 2012's Complete Series Blu-ray collection, save for the disc art.
Video & Audio Quality
As previously reported, Friends on Blu-ray is presented in an expanded 1.78:1 aspect ratio and has been modified from its original 1.33:1 format. In most cases, the main difference is more empty space on the sides (just look at the screen caps), and I'd imagine that the reason for this decision is that, at the very least, fans would be getting something a little different. As for the image quality itself, Friends looks good but not great in high definition, with inconsistent colors and grain levels......but hey, at least it wasn't shot on video, right? For the most part, what we get represents a passable and relatively pleasing image (especially compared to the original DVD release), though not without a few color inconsistencies and other minor distractions. Overall: nothing to write home about, but also nothing to lose sleep over.
DISCLAIMER: This screen caps in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-Ray's native 1080p resolution.
More so-so news on the audio front: it's presented in lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 (a very modest upgrade from the DVD's 5.0); not surprising, as Warner Bros. typically avoids lossless audio on catalog TV collections. The dialogue is still clear and easy to understand, but the music cues still don't have much in the way of dynamic range. Though less space devoted to audio means better picture quality and more episodes per disc, it's hard to say if the sacrifice was really worth it. Optional 2.0 dubs have been provided in Spanish, French, German and Portuguese, as well as nearly a dozen subtitle options (including English SDH).
Packaging, Presentation & Menu Design
Seen above, this two-disc release is housed in a standard keepcase with a matching slipcover and an Ultraviolet Digital Copy redemption code. The menu is easy to navigate, much like the original DVDs...and hey, at least we get chapter breaks this time. Remember when those counted as "Bonus Features"?
Everything from the original DVD release, which isn't saying much. These recycled extras include another "Friends of Friends"
guest list (11 minutes), the uncut "Smelly Cat" Music Video
(2 minutes) and "What's Up With Your Friends?"
clips (8 minutes). For the record, the DVDs also included two audio commentaries (during "The One with the List" and "The One with the Prom Video"), but these weren't carried over since the episodes differ in length. Once again, those looking for new bonus features will have to shell out for the Complete Series
Blu-ray collection, which includes just over two hours' worth of stuff.
Like most sophomore seasons, this second year of Friends seems a bit more comfortable in its own skin. Among other modest improvements, the performances are more natural and the direction is stronger (but in all honesty, the first season set a solid template). Warners' Blu-ray collection continues its dissection of the Complete Series boxed set, which serves up superior image quality, a widened aspect ratio, the shorter broadcast versions of most episodes and...well, that's pretty much it. Recommended if you're going the season-by-season route, but there's nothing here that hasn't been made available already.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.