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Friends - Complete Season 1

Warner Bros. // Unrated // April 30, 2002
List Price: $59.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted April 20, 2002 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

It's interesting to see how much the television landscape has changed since "Friends" first debuted in 1995. The combination of "Friends" and "Seinfeld" made for a wealth of copy-cats boasting attractive young, single people who discussed nothing and everything at once. Yet, those shows never really got it right - whether it was an issue with cast or a show that really put crafting jokes before crafting characters, "Friends" remains the only one of these shows left on the air - not only that, it's even more successful now than it ever was.

Since then, network television has had to compete with a legion of new aspects in the entertainment universe - most notably, the internet and the rise of cable programming, such as HBO's "Sex and the City" and "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm". "Friends" has been a lock for NBC and remains so - the cast heads into their final season with a $1m per episode contract for each of the main cast. "Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer has been locked in for another season as well, but its "Friends" that gets the key demographic that the network is looking for.

One might begin to ponder the collective failures of the feature films of the "Friends" cast, but it really doesn't matter much anymore, as they all could retire after the last audience clap echos throughout the studio, anyhow. Yet, there's something unfortunate about that, as at least most of the cast members have shown noticable improvement since the begining; Perry's sarcastic humor and impressive timing still continues to go strong and Aniston's warmth and ability to show emotion has matured and grown over the years. While "Friends" looks to be on its way out after this season, one wonders what NBC will groom to replace it in its Thursday night slot. Personally, I'm hoping for the often supremely funny and inspired "Scrubs" (in my opinion, the funniest show on network TV right now). Certainly, the network has also had its share of comedic failures (maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but I think Julia Louis-Dreyfuss' new "Watching Ellie" is an absolutely unfunny disaster), but NBC's really the only network who has been the most consistent in delivering successful sitcoms over the years (although I think "Ed" has suddenly become a drama - when did that happen?).

Warner Brothers has gotten heavy criticism in the past for only providing "best ofs" or "themed" releases of their television product, but this is the first full-season release they've delievered - and it's a very nice effort. Hopefully, future releases will include more in the way of supplements, given that the commentary included on the pilot episode here is nothing short of wonderful.

Episodes include: "The Pilot," "Sonogram at the End," "The Thumb," "George Stephanopoulos," "East German Laundry Detergent," "The Butt," "The Blackout," "Nan Dies Twice," "Underdog Gets Away," "The Monkey," "Mrs. Bing," "Dozen Lasangas," "The Boobies," "The Candy Hearts," "The Stoned Guy," "Two Parts," "All the Poker," "Monkey Gets Away," "Evil Orthodontist," "The Ick Factor," "The Birth," and "Rachel Finds Out."


VIDEO: The shows are presented in their original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. As with the previous releases, these episodes generally look very good and provide a somewhat improved viewing experience over broadcast. Sharpness and detail remain consistently quite good, while flaws are minimal. No edge enhancement was noticed, but I did see a couple of very slight traces of pixelation. Colors remained bright and well-saturated throughout, with no smearing or other flaws. Overall, another very nice presentation of the show.

SOUND: As with the "Best Of"'s of "Friends" that have been released in the past, all of the episodes here have been remastered quite well in Dolby Digital 5.0. Certainly, these episodes are not surround-heavy, but the music is nicely offered by the rear speakers, which also infrequently provide some sound effects. The real surprise is the music, which sounds strong and really crisp. Dialogue also remains clear and easily understood. This is really a more enjoyable and involving audio experience than simply watching these episodes on TV.

MENUS: Warner Brothers has provided somewhat more animated menus than the "best of" season editions, with an nice, short intro leading to the main menu.


Commentary: This is a commentary from executive producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, which is included on the pilot episode only. The three have been recorded separately for this track and do not provide that much of a screen-specific discussion, thankfully keeping their chat geared towards providing very informative, very insightful thoughts about the development of the show, the casting and the general process of recording the show each week. I really, really wanted to hear more from these three after this track was over - hopefully they will provide more tracks for shows on the next season box.

A Peek At Central Perk: This is another excellent supplement that can be found on disc 4. The viewer can click on different items from the Central Perk set and find out more about their history. Some items also give the option of hearing additional comments about it.

Friends of Friends: On disc 4: a guide to the cameo appearances on the show.

Also: Trailer for season 2, epsiode previews, trivia quiz. The episodes here are also presented uncut - which I believe means around another 30-60 seconds of footage per show.

Final Thoughts: "Friends" has always been a very funny sitcom, but there are some real gems included in this first season. It's also terrific that Warner Brothers has also finally started to produce full-season sets. Hopefully, the eventual season 2 set will also provide more supplements. Recommended.

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Highly Recommended

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