This “Complete Series” box set has a great amount of features and while it only has the standard Dolby Digital audio track, to me the picture is good enough to warrant a purchase especially if you don’t already own the DVDs.
Warner Bros. | NR – 5400 min. – $279.98 | November 13, 2012
Directed by: Various
Writer(s): David Crane & Marta Kauffman (created by)
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer
Features: Select Episode Commentaries, Featurettes, Gag Reels, More
Number of Discs: 21
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.78
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: NA
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE SERIES – 4.0/5
When it aired in September of 1994, “Friends” was a ratings success and eventually became the headline of NBC’s “Must See TV” airing after “Mad About You” (and later in its first season after “Seinfeld”). From Season 2 ‘till Season 10 it continued to be a top 10 rated series opening up “MST” leading the network to some of the highest ratings ever.
Beyond the series’ wild success in the ratings, it also was a cultural phenomenon with numerous catchphrases, led to new fashion designs and, for millions of women at beauty parlors, request the ‘Rachel’ haircut. Culturally “Friends” stood above the rest and even today still stands as one of the best sitcoms to air and one of the last in the classic format to succeed (today it’s an almost outdated concept left that only lives on CBS).
One of the reasons I enjoyed “Friends”, mainly through memory lane as I wasn’t an avid watcher in my teen years when it aired, is the characters are likeable and incredibly funny and the stories, throughout the 10 seasons, remained mostly hilarious. The biggest downside is the on again, off again Ross/Rachel (DAVID SCHWIMMER/JENNIFER ANISTON) relationship which got on the annoying side, although I do appreciate the writers didn’t drag out their initial romance hanging for several seasons (a la Niles/Daphne on “Frasier”), instead starting it in the middle of season two. That being said, as the creators mentioned in one of the featurettes, getting them together too soon wasn’t the best idea as it took away the sexual tension.
Beyond the Ross/Rachel relationship (which I recall everyone talking about in school), the others get their due: Monica (COURTNEY COX), after numerous failed romances finds a few suitors (including guest appearances by Tom Selleck); Phoebe (LISA KUDROW) has her holistic/free lifestyle; and Joey (MATT LEBLANC) and Chandler (MATTHEW PERRY) were in a bromance before it was a popular phrase…
Above the stories and the jokes that hit the mark 80% of the time – and even with some which tends to date the series – “Friends” succeeded for 10 seasons because of the chemistry the cast shared. Yes, the back and forth between Ross and Rachel went too far and there was the occasional repetition with the others, but through it all I was still able to laugh. There are shows on today that have attempted, and with some success, to replicate the sitcom’s dynamic (the closest is “The Big Bang Theory”), but nothing will come close to “Friends”, a cultural phenomenon before the Internet was huge, though I do acknowledge the latter years did benefit.
Note: These episodes are the original broadcast versions which means the “uncut” lines that are on the DVD releases were not ported over. While it does stink the studio did this I don’t consider it a deal breaker. Is it possible Warner will release the Blu-rays down the line? Sure, but given the limited sales on any catalogue titles (movie or television) NOT named Star Wars, I’d be surprised. What I will say they will likely release these in individual sets down the line, but with the same content and transfer.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 4.0/5
The set comes in a solid outer box which lifts up from the front (held down by a large magnet) and inside, on top, is an episode guide book and underneath another book containing the 21-discs. This opens from the right side, again held down with a magnet. Each disc sits in a glossy cardboard slot and the discs come out smoothly enough.
All the features from the DVDs have been ported over and there is a bonus disc with new features. All features are in standard definition unless otherwise noted.
Season 1 (1.5/5)
Episode Commentary by Executive Producers Kevin S. Bright, Maria Kauffman and David Crane on ‘The Pilot’ (or ‘The One Where Monica Gets a Roommate’)
Friends of Friends (8:33) cover the various guest stars that appeared throughout the first season from Hank Azaria to George Clooney to Fisher Stevens. Nothing particularly interesting as it’s just clips of the guest stars (in full frame mode).
The One with the Trailer of Season 2 (1:17) is just that, a preview for the second season DVD release. Much to fans schagrine, the announcer also mentions the “never before seen” footage which, well, isn’t included in this set.
Season 2 (1.0/5)
Friends of Friends (11:12) features more of the cameo appearances from season two.
What’s Up With Your Friends? (7:50) are a set of clips from the show with each of the main characters. So yeah, it’s pretty pointless.
Smelly Cat Video (1:49)
Season 3 (1.75/5)
Episode Commentaries by Bright, Kauffman and Crane on ‘The One Where No One’s Ready’, ‘The One with the Football’ and ‘The One the Morning After’
Friends of Friends (10:44) and What’s Up with Your Friends? (8:11) are the only other features for this season.
Season 4 (2.25/5)
Episode Commentaries from Bright, Kauffman and Crane on ‘The One with the Embryos’ and ‘The One with Ross’s Wedding’
“Friends” Around the World (7:36) explores the popularity of the show in different countries and for Japan, features those who do the dubbing for the episodes. It’s a short featurette but quite fascinating to watch.
And, a staple on any season, there’s more Friends of Friends (8:10) and What’s Up With Your Friends? (9:08).
Season 5 (3.5/5)
Episode Commentaries featuring Bright, Kauffman and Crane on ‘The One Hundredth’, ‘The One with All the Thanksgivings’ and ‘The One Where Everybody Finds Out’
Under Behind the Scenes are two featurettes: The One That Goes Behind the Scenes (42:29) and “Friends”: On Location in London (2:16), the former offers far more information on the series than previously available (in this set anyway), especially the BTS featurette which is well done.
Gunther Spills the Beans (1:31) has the actor giving a preview of what may happen in season six.
Season 6 (1.75/5)
Episode Commentaries once again features Bright, Kauffman and Crane on ‘The One Where Ross Got High’, ‘The One That Could Have Been’ and ‘The One with the Proposal’
Also included is more Friends of Friends (12:31) this time with some interview footage; a Gag Reel (9:37) with on stage antics and flubbed lines and Gunther Spills the Beans (1:26)… again.
Season 7 (2.25/5)
Episode Commentaries – Bright, Kauffman and Crane provide insights on ‘The One with the Holiday Armadillo’, ‘The One with Joey’s New Brain’ and ‘The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding’
The season also has another round of Friends of Friends (19:49), a Gag Reel (9:26) and Gunther Spills the Beans (2:11).
The Ones with More Friends: The Original Broadcast ‘Super-Sized’ Episodes has the extended episodes of ‘The One Where Rosita Dies’, ‘The One Where They Turn Thirty’, ‘The One with Joey’s New Brain’ and ‘The One with the Truth About London’. It’s nice to have them all here, though they are in SD and 1.33 full frame aspect ratio.
Season 8 (1.5/5)
Episode Commentaries – Bright, Kauffman and Crane commentate on ‘The One Where Rachel Tells Ross’, ‘The One with the Videotape’ and ‘The One Where Rachel Has a Baby’
Friends of Friends (19:40), a Gag Reel (8:37) and Gunther Spills the Beans (2:00) has also been included.
Season 9 (2.0/5)
Episode Commentaries – Bright, Kauffman and Crane chat about ‘The One with the Male Nanny’, ‘The One with Rachel’s Other Sister’ and ‘The One in Barbados’
Behind the Style: The Look of “Friends” (20:09) – The costume designer, hair stylist and makeup artist offer an inside look at the show’s fashion over the years.
The Gag Reel (6:40), Phoebe Battles the Pink Robots (2:08) Music Video and Gunther Spills the Beans (3:00) yet again.
Season 10 (2.5/5)
Episode Commentaries one final time with Bright, Kauffman and Crane on ‘The One with the Late Thanksgiving’, ‘The One Where the Stripper Cries’ and ‘The Last One’
Also included is the Friends of Friends (17:04), Joey Joey Music Video (2:37), “Friends” Final Thoughts (25:30) and Gag Reels for seasons 1, 2, 3, 4 and 10.
True Friends Documentaries includes the following: Friends from the Start (27:50; HD), When Friends Become Family (29:20; HD) and The Legacy of “Friends” (10:46; HD). Each one of these takes a look back at the series – from concept to casting – from the perspective of creators/executive producers Maria Kauffman, David Crane and Kevin Bright amongst others who worked on the show (including some of the minor characters). Basically, in between the reminiscing and chatting, there’s footage as well. You do learn a bit about the series though nothing outstanding or noteworthy. However, fans probably will get something out of them.
The Original Producers’ Cut for ‘The One Where Rachel Tells Ross’ (22:49; SD) includes an intro by Bright explaining this lost episode which was reworked due to 9/11 and involved a joke about a bomb.
The Original Script for ‘The One Where Rachel Tells Ross’ – If the episode wasn’t enough, you can read the script with side notes and provide insight into the process of filming an episode.
The rest of the disc includes the Music Video (3:09) for “I’ll Be There For You”, Friends Visit “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” (16:08), Friends on “The Tonight Show” (22:01) and a never-before seen Gag Reel (7:01).
VIDEO – 4.0/5
Originally aired on television in 4:3 full frame, the series received a spiff and nifty 1.78 widescreen remaster which has been airing on TBS for many years. Now “Friends” makes its debut on Blu-ray and it seems with each season the picture got progressively better. The first season looks decent (3.5/5) but a modest upgrade because at times it wasn’t quite pristine, although for a season that is pushing 30 years old in a few short years, I was impressed.
The second season looked even better with more clarity and the colors look more balanced compared with season one which at times look oversaturated (but I think that’s how it was shot). After the second season, each one after looks just as good and makes a case for why someone would want to upgrade from the old DVDs to Blu-ray.
AUDIO – 3.0/5
I’ve got good news and bad news, which do you want first? Alright, I’ll give the bad news: the episodes only get standard Dolby Digital 5.1 lossy tracks rather than DTS-HD MA. I assume the reason is the audio couldn’t get much better and as such, a DD5.1 track would be sufficient. And there’s the good news because it is sufficient. Earlier episodes aren’t exactly dynamic but since this is a comedy with absolutely no action, I’m not sure how beneficial a lossless track would have been.
OVERALL – 3.75/5
Overall, “Friends” was a cultural and iconic show which has yet to be outdone. Its success was thanks in most part due to the cast which worked so well together and shared amazing chemistry throughout the 10 year run. While some of the stories or jokes didn’t quite hit the mark (I wasn’t a fan of the clip shows) and the Ross/Rachel relationship went off and on numerous times, it still was very funny.
This “Complete Series” box set has a great amount of features and while it only has the standard Dolby Digital audio track, to me the picture is good enough to warrant a purchase especially if you don’t already own the DVDs. The biggest downside for some is the fact these are the original broadcast episodes and not the uncut ones that are on the DVD releases, but that didn’t really bother me so much…