The Best of Friends: Volume 4 (DVD)

I think the whole concept of marriage is unnatural. I mean, look at pigs. Let’s take a second here and look at pigs. Okay, pigs don’t mate for life. I mean, a pig can have like a hundred sexual partners in a lifetime, and that’s just an ordinary pig, not even a pig that’s good at sports!

Ten or fifteen years from now, we’ll all be watching re-runs of Friends on Nick at Nite along with The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island. While that doesn’t indicate that it’s an important cultural milestone, it at least shows it’s place in the American zeitgeist. While the gang of six Friends will never have the kitschy appeal of the Bradys or Donna Reed, it likewise has the timeless appeal brought by genuine humor.

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 episodes from relatively recent seasons — one from the fourth, two from the fifth, and three from the sixth.

* “The One with Chandler in a Box!”
Chandler earns Joey’s ire when he kisses Joey’s girlfriend. As his retribution, he must spend several hours in a box (don’t ask why). Fortunately, that’s a real box, not a mime’s imaginary box. Meanwhile, Monica needs to see an eye doctor, but doesn’t want to see the on-call doctor, Richard’s son. (For the Friends-impaired, Richard was Monica’s older beau, played by Tom Selleck.) Also, no one wants Rachel for a Secret Santa present because she’s infamous for exchanging gift.

* “The One Hundredth”
The milestone episode is the opportunity for perhaps the show’s biggest gimmick: Phoebe gives birth to triplets she’s been carrying for her brother (played by Giovanni Ribisi) and his wife. I’m a sucker for the sentimental ending when she has to give up the babies she’s just given birth to.

* “The One with All the Resolutions”
Everyone makes New Year’s resolutions. Joey wants to learn guitar, and his teacher is the awful musician Phoebe. Ross wants to try new things, but his plan backfires when he tries out leather pants. Chandler won’t make fun of anyone…and that’s just sheer torture. The other resolutions don’t really matter much.

* “The One Where Ross Got High”
Let me share for a minute. I requested to review this set because my wife and I watch the show every night anyway, so it seemed natural. We watched all the episodes together. With this one, we were both laying on our couches in tears we were laughing so hard. Like I said in my review of Volume 3, in any TV episode collection, there’s one episode that makes the set worthwhile. For Volume 4, this is that episode. It’s yet another Thanksgiving episode, which are always special — Friends does for Thanksgiving what The Simpsons does for Halloween. In this one, Ross and Joey want to skip the get-together to hang out with Joey’s roommate’s dancer friends (this was during Elle MacPherson’s stint on the show as the roommate). Monica is fretting because her parents are coming over, and they don’t know she’s dating Chandler. They have a long-standing distaste for Chandler dating back to the gang’s college years. It seems Ross lied to them and told them Chandler was getting high and jumped out the window when they caught Ross with some pot in his bedroom. Meanwhile, the cooking-impaired Rachel tries to make dessert for the Thanksgiving dinner, but accidentally crosses her English trifle with a shepherd’s pie. I apologize if I haven’t made it sound funny, but I’m not joking when I say I do not think I’ve ever laughed that hard or that often at a 23-minute sitcom episode.

* “The One with the Proposal”
This two-part episode finds Chandler trying to surprise Monica with a wedding proposal. The only problem? He does such a grand job of convincing her he doesn’t want to get married that she considering leaving him when Richard makes a reappearance.

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. In my review of Volume 3, I noted that it wasn’t a strong enough collection to warrant a purchase. Not so with Volume 4. Every episode here is a winner. “The One with Chandler in a Box!” has a few too many plot threads, but each one is funny on its own and adds up to a fun, if lightweight, episode. “The One Hundredth” also has a lot going on, but two things set it apart. One is the gynecologist obsessed with Fonzie from Happy Days. It’s such a non sequitur that even after the joke has been milked for all its worth, you still can’t help but laugh. Two is the presence of Giovanni Ribisi, who is such an eclectic, charismatic actor. “The One with All the Resolutions” is worth watching just for the scene where Ross is locked in a bathroom trying to find a cure for the intolerable discomfort of his leather pants — pure physical, slapstick humor. I’ve already told you how funny I found “The One Where Ross Got High.” Keep tissues on hand. I don’t remember much of “The One with the Proposal”; it’s fun, but I prefer the pure humor episodes to the ones that advance the soap opera-ish relationship issues on the show.

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.


Not guilty!

Here are the top ten things we know: 1) She lives in Ohio 2) She is MWOC unless you count her two dogs 3) Believes Avatar was NOT the greatest movie ever made 4) Operates on a primarily nocturnal basis 5) Wants to write the screenplay for the movie adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle 6) Watches a variety of shows on television including, but not limited to: Castle, @midnight, Face Off, Sherlock and Whose Line is it Anyway? 7) Does not believe anyone will actually read this besides the editor (hello, Editor!) 8) Has attended more than one N*SYNC concert in her lifetime but only one NKOTB concert 9) Was in a car crash that would have killed her had she not been wearing her seat belt 10) Is in the process of catching up on Supernatural (incidentally would possibly leave her husband for either of the Winchester Brothers depending on the episode in question) and the bonus! 11) Enjoys reading, writing, laying on the beach (long walks tire her out) and assorted snack foods like frozen M&M's.
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