A show that became comfortable over the years, "Friends" hit several high-concept high notes over the course of its 10-year run (my favorite still remains "The One With The Football"), but started to wind down in its final seasons. The series finale, which capped off what seemed like months of promos and countdowns, seemed to disappoint many viewers around the net.
Personally, it seemed like a fitting way to end the show, tying up most (if not all) of the loose ends, delivered the expected turns and ended the characters rather fittingly. It wasn't an exceptional episode, it wasn't even a really terrific episode, but there were highlights and the writers didn't suddenly go dark in the final moments, a la "Seinfeld".
The finale has Chandler and Monica witnessing the births of their twins (they were only expecting one) via a surrogate mother ("Scary Movie"'s terrific Anna Faris). This subplot is the best of the episode, as it allows Matthew Perry to unleash a classic wave of the kind of neurotic dialogue the character's been known for, such as his debate over what's worse: "pregnancy" or "getting kicked in the nuts" and how "no one will ever know because no one can experience both." Perry's loud announcement of "Well, now we have one of each!" at finding out he has a boy and girl is also funny largely due to Perry's timing.
Rachel and Ross's relationship is also wrapped up, complete with the potential drama of her leaving to Paris (Rachel scrambling to find her ticket is an easy delay while Ross speeds to reach her to tell her his feelings, but as someone who realized they didn't remember where they put their ticket when they were being called to board a nearly 1,000 mile train trip, I sympathize). Unfortunately, given the focus on the show's two main plotlines here, there's not much room for anyone else: Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) and Joey (Matt Leblanc) are given less focus here, although Phoebe and boyfriend Mike (Paul Rudd) appear to continue their relationship. And, as most know, Joey will eventually move to Los Angeles for something of a spin-off. The Leblanc character's weird gift of little birds to Monica and Chandler doesn't result in much humor from the character, though. Overall, I found the finale to be a satisfactory send-off. No more, no less.
The DVD offers both the broadcast edition of the finale and an extended cut that runs a little less than three minutes longer.
VIDEO: The series finale episode is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.33:1 full-frame, as it was during broadcast. The picture quality is slightly improved upon the image quality for the episodes included in prior season sets. Sharpness and detail were very good, with a consistently high level of definition and clarity.
A little bit of noise/grain appeared in a few scenes, but, for the most part, the presentation looked quite crisp and clean. No edge enhancement or compression artifacts were noticed. Colors also looked bright and cleanly presented.
The pilot episode, on the other hand, did suffer from some minor shimmering and a couple brief instances of compression artifacts.
SOUND: The finale's Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack resembled that of the surround audio presented with prior episodes on DVD. Surrounds came in for some slight reinforcement of the music and crowd noise, while the focus was, for the majority, on the dialogue. Dialogue remained clean and well-recorded, while music was dynamic and clear.
EXTRAS: Although it's nice to have the pilot episode of the show here to be able to look back to when the series started, the supplemental section of this DVD is otherwise pretty lackluster. All there is besides the pilot episode are the "I'll Be There For You" music video from the Rembrandts and the 10 different opening credits sequences that played during the show's ten year run. No featurettes, no commentaries - no "behind-the-scenes moments".
Final Thoughts: Reasonably priced and nice to have for those who didn't get to tape the end of the series, this release seems like it had potential to be a lot more - the audio/video quality is fine, but the supplements are just okay. Still, recommended for fans.