Is everybody else seeing a troll doll nailed to a two by four?
Hey, can you keep a secret? You can. Good. I love Friends. It’s not on my list of “must see TV” (Ha! Take that, NBC!), but I would say I’ve seen a majority of the episodes either during their first run or in syndication. As sitcoms go, the writing is above average and the cast has undeniable chemistry, and that’s why it’s been the number one show on television very nearly every year it’s been on the air.
This is Warner Brothers’ second foray into releasing Friends on DVD. Each time they have released two volumes containing six episodes apiece. Like many of their other shows, they have chosen to release “best of” discs rather than season-by-season sets. This particular disc contains two episodes from Season One, two from Season Three, and a two-parter from Season Six.
* “The One with the Blackout”
A blackout in New York City traps five of the friends in Monica’s apartment, while Chandler is stranded in a locked ATM vestibule with a Victoria’s Secret model. This episode from Season One tries hard to be funny, but only scratches at the surface of what the show could accomplish later. It was at the point where the characters’ neuroses were story points rather than part of their characters, so much of the story seems forced, especially Chandler’s bumbling attempts to impress or otherwise interact with the lovely lady he’s stranded with.
* “The One with the Candy Hearts”
This episode came about halfway into the first season. By that point, it had been established that Ross was recently divorced from a woman who it turned out was a lesbian, and that Chandler had an on-again, off-again relationship with a woman he really despised (and for good reason too!). This episode, set on Valentine’s Day, brings the couples back together with comically disastrous results. An average episode from the first season; again, the show hadn’t quite found its legs yet.
* “The One Where Ross and Rachel…You Know?”
It only took three seasons, but the writers finally capitalized on the hinted-at relationship between Ross and Rachel. However, they have their friendship to overcome to be a romantic couple, and a paleontological emergency interrupts their second date. It leads to a great scene of nakedness and Catholic schoolkids. Oh, and Joey and Chandler get the recliners that would mark their apartment for years to come.
* “The One with the Football”
In any collection of TV show episodes, invariably there’s one that makes the whole set worthwhile. This is that episode. On Thanksgiving, the gang gets out of the apartment to play football. That would be fine and dandy, except it reignites a decades-old feud between Ross and Monica. Definitely the funniest on this disc.
* “The One That could Have Been”
Think It’s A Wonderful Life multiplied by six. The gang ponders what might have happened if Monica hadn’t lost weight, if Ross’s wife hadn’t realized she was a lesbian, if Chandler had become a writer, if Rachel hadn’t left her fiancé at the altar, if Joey’s character on General Hospital hadn’t been killed off, and if Phoebe had become a stock broker.
In my opinion, owning Friends on any home video format seems unnecessary considering its ubiquity in syndication. Where I live, you can catch it five nights a week if you don’t have cable, and twice every night if you do. However, the nice thing about the DVDs — and I probably wouldn’t say this about any other show — is that Warner didn’t opt for the season-based sets and only gives you the best episodes. So, if you’re jonesin’ for a Friends fix and don’t want to wait for it on the tube, hey, you have a few great episodes to watch.
The Friends volumes are available as single volumes or bundled in two-volume sets. Volume 3 isn’t one that I would recommend as a solitary purchase. Sure “The One with the Football” is a great episode — one of my favorites — but the other five aren’t quite the best. I guess they have to save other episodes for other collections.
I wish I could say that the DVD presentation was a marked improvement on watching these on television. Unfortunately, other than the lack of commercials and poor reception I didn’t notice any difference in the video quality. Audio has been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.0. Audio quality varies wildly from episode to episode, but overall it is tied to the front, even for things like audience reactions. At times it sounded rather hollow.
The only extra is a behind-the-scenes documentary entitled “The One That Goes Behind the Scenes.” It is a thorough 42-minute look at the making of an average episode. You get to see production every step of the way, from story sessions to pre-production to filming to the post-production. It spends quite a bit of time on the writing process, something that is quite important to the producers, and the attention to it is evident in the series. The problem? The same documentary is on both Volume 3 and Volume 4, so if you purchased the two-disc set you don’t see any different features on either disc.
The Best of Friends: Volume 3 isn’t a must-buy except for the die-hard fans, but if you opt for the two-disc set with Volume 4 you won’t be disappointed (and you’ll save yourself a few bucks over buying them separately).