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Best of Friends - Fan 10 Favorites, The
WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
Allow me to get this out of the way right up front: Warner's decision to release Friends episodes in theme collections rather than in complete season sets is bone-headed. Even casual viewers of this show are interested in its character arcs and plot arcs. To do the equivalent of pressing the random-play button is to deny the show's audience a key component of the success of Friends, which is that we enjoy watching the day-to-day lives of these people. We enjoy watching them grow. Simple as that.
Deep breath. OK.
I don't watch TV anymore. I don't even have cable. The reason is that I was tired of paying a fortune for crap. The vast majority of TV's content is excrement. Friends is a happy exception. Don't get me wrong: I would never call Friends a masterpiece of the medium (a rare pedestal that would hold such shows as The Honeymooners, The Twilight Zone, and The Simpsons), but it's at least cleverly written and—at times—genuinely funny. Volumes 1 and 2 of this series provided 10 fan-favorite episodes, and this set of volumes 3 and 4 continues that theme. Below, you'll find a quick synopsis of each episode.
The One with the Blackout—New York suffers a blackout, giving Ross a chance to woo Rachel and Chandler a chance to woo supermodel Jill Goodacre within the confines of an ATM vestibule. This episode introduced the insanely irritating Paolo character.
The One with the Candy Hearts—Chandler agrees to a blind double-date with Joey and ends up with perpetually annoying ex-girlfriend Janice. Meanwhile, Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe perform a pagan fire ritual to cleanse their karma of past boyfriends.
The One Where Ross and Rachel...You Know—Ross and Rachel finally make the beast with two backs. This episode is notable for a hilarious premature-ejaculation joke that still makes me wonder how they got away with it.
The One with the Football—The first of several Thanksgiving episodes in this set, this one has Monica and Ross bickering endlessly as the friends play touch football. I was surprised to see this relatively humorless and mean-spirited episode in this set.
The One that Could Have Been—This two-part fantasy episode is a reimagining of the friends had they chosen different paths. Monica's fat, Chandler's a bitter writer, Phoebe's a stockbroker, Joey's still employed as Dr. Drake Ramoray, Rachel's still married to Barry the dentist, and Ross's still married to Carol the lesbian.
The One with Chandler in a Box—It's tough to enjoy this second Thanksgiving outing without seeing the plot developments that lead up to it. For what it's worth, Joey is furious with Chandler for stealing his girlfriend Kathy. Chandler agrees to a 6-hour confinement in a wooden crate to make amends.
The One Hundredth—Phoebe gives birth to his brother's triplets, and Joey gives birth to kidney stones. I never found this one very funny either.
The One with All the Resolutions—It's New Years Eve, and the friends make their resolutions, Ross to try something different every day, Chandler to stop cracking wise, Joey to learn the guitar, Monica to take more pictures of the friends, Phoebe to fly a plane, and Rachel to stop gossiping. Much hilarity ensues when Rachel finds out about a certain illicit romance.
The One Where Ross Got High—It's Thanksgiving again. Chandler wonders why the Gellar parents have never liked him, and he finally finds out why.
The One with the Proposal—This recent two-parter has Chandler finally proposing to Monica, but it looks like that old creep Richard is slithering back into the picture. Is it just me, or is Joey's subplot with the sailboat incredibly annoying?
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Warner presents The Best of Friends in its original full-frame aspect ratio. The image quality is exceptional, although the underlit scenes in The One with the Blackout seemed murky and soft rather than dark. Also, I noticed an infrequent digital jitter to some shots. Otherwise, these episodes look terrific.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The remastered Dolby Digital 5.0 adds music to the rear channels but does very little with directional effects. Envelopment is slight. The show is filmed before a live studio audience, and some of that ambiance makes its way to the rear surrounds. The stereo presentation across the front channels is very nice. The lively music sounds strong and clear. I noticed a few odd moments when the dialog seemed to jerk to the right or left—as if a channel-volume knob slipped out of the sound designer's hand for a split second.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
Both discs contain cast biographies and a fantastic 42-minute documentary called The One that Goes Behind the Scenes. This piece literally takes you behind the scenes for the production of an entire episode, covering writing, brainstorming, set-building, props, the interactive studio experience, filming, editing, scoring, sound effects, and so on. I was surprised by the creative spirit of all involved. This illuminating documentary gives you a firm idea why the show has become so popular.
Cast and crew biographies are also included.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
I have to say it one more time: Warner has made a bone-headed decision. I can't help but wonder how many more Friends DVDs the company might sell if it produced comprehensive season sets. Add this theme monstrosity to its snapper cases, and you have a company that's just begging for a can of Whup-Ass.
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