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Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer
Writing Credits:

Everyone needs friends!
Not Rated.

Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.0
English, French, Spanish

Runtime: 122 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 4/1/2003

• Added Footage
• Cast and Crew


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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


Best of Friends: Season 1 (1994)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 19, 2003)

When Warner Bros. finally released the complete first season of Friends on DVD in April 2002, I thought they’d ended their string of “greatest hits” packages. Nope! Though WB continues to put out the full season sets, they’ve decided to repackage more “best of” groupings for those who don’t like the show enough to splurge for the bigger packages.

Frankly, this doesn’t bother me one bit. As long as the full seasons exist, they can reassemble all the other shows however they’d like. The whole thing seems a little cynical, but it remains no skin off of my nose.

Prior Best of Friends releases accumulated episodes from throughout the series’ run. This first greatest hits salvo of 2003 concentrates solely on Season One. We get five shows chosen by the series’ creators. Because each episode includes a little extra footage not included during the original broadcasts, the running times vary. I’ve included the length of each program in parentheses next to the title.

The One With the East German Laundry Detergent (23:35) develops the Ross (David Schwimmer)/Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) relationship a little more. They do laundry together, and a moment of glee leads her to impulsively kiss him. While that happens, Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) break up with their significant others. Phoebe’s split goes hilariously easily, but Chandler has a very tough time dumping whiny Janice (Maggie Wheeler). In the meantime, Joey (Matt LeBlanc) wants to get back with Angela (Kim Gillingham), a former girlfriend who he ditched, but she’s dating Bob (Jack Armstrong). Joey decides to use Monica (Courtney Cox) to help split them up, and she does this without adequate foreknowledge.

A lot of this year’s episodes went for themes, and obviously this one emphasized the various stages of relationships. This topic became a little heavy-handed at times, but it still seemed like a fairly good program. It’s our first glimpse of Janice, who became a fun running character, and it’s amusing to watch Chandler’s struggles with her. Not a great episode, “Laundry” still manages some good laughs.

The One Where Underdog Gets Away (23:35) gave us the series’ first Thanksgiving episode. Those would offer highlights of future seasons, but this one seemed average at best. Actually, it features more plot complications than usual, all of which relate to the different friends’ holiday plans. Ultimately, these conspire to keep them all in town with each other for the big day.

Much of this felt forced, since the story had to work so hard to keep the friends together. However, some good gags still emerged, mainly through a photo gig landed by Joey. He does this for a public health campaign and finds himself shunned when it turns out to be about VD. They’re cheap laughs, to be sure, but they’re laughs nonetheless.

The One With the Stoned Guy (24:00) provided a decent but somewhat flat episode. Chandler experiences a career crisis. His boss offers him a big promotion, but he doesn’t want to remain in such a mundane career. A massage client of Phoebe’s named Steve (Jon Lovitz) plans to open a new restaurant, and Monica auditions to be head chef. Unfortunately, he arrives baked on pot. Lastly, Ross’ new girlfriend Celia (Melora Hardin) wants some dirty talk, but he needs some help to master this art.

“Stoned” went for too many broad laughs. Some of these worked – like the cheap but funny scene in which Joey tries to teach dirty talk to Ross – but the whole Lovitz part seemed lame. All in all, the show had its moments but didn’t rise above the pack.

The One With the Birth (23:15) offered another “event” episode, though it managed to hold things back from becoming excessively lame. Carol goes into labor so everyone heads for the hospital. Ross competes with Susan for Carol’s favor while Rachel flirts with the doctor (Jonathan Silverman). The first two get stuck in a closet with Phoebe and almost miss the delivery. Joey runs into a pregnant single mother named Lydia (Leah Remini) and helps her through the process.

Inevitably, the show became pretty cutesy at times. In addition, Joey’s “special moments” when he sees Lydia’s baby nearly made me gag. However, the show remained reasonably irreverent much of the time, which seemed like a success for this kind of program. It’s tough to create a good show with this theme, but “Birth” appeared acceptably winning.

The One Where Rachel Finds Out (25:55) finished the first season with a cliffhanger. It’s Rachel’s birthday, but Ross has to leave unexpectedly for a week in China due to work. He drops off his present, and when Rachel opens it, Chandler accidentally lets it fly that Ross pines for her. She debates what she should do but eventually decides to go after him. Unfortunately, she just misses him at the airport. After more thought, Rachel wants to date Ross, but when she meets him at his plane, she finds he met Julie (Lauren Tom) in China.

While this occurs, Joey takes part in a fertility study to make some bucks. He makes “deposits” every other day but isn’t allowed any extracurricular activity. This causes potential problems with his new girlfriend Melanie (Corinne Bohrer), who clearly wants some Joey lovin’. However, he turns his attention away from his own desires for once and satisfies her via other means.

Despite the heavy soap opera elements, “Rachel” still seemed like a pretty good episode. The Joey parts kept the melodrama minimal, and the show handled the Ross/Rachel stuff fairly well. Of course, the ending lacked the drama inherent in its original appearance, but it worked acceptably well.

With prior “Best Of” compilations, I commented on the fact that the soap opera aspects of Friends made the compilations nonsensical. Some sets spanned more than a hundred episodes, so characters and relationships came and went without any rhyme or reason. Those without a solid understanding of the series’ development would feel confused. That might also occur here, but given the shorter time span involved, it seems less likely. It seems easier to tie together the loose ends and figure out the gaps even if you don’t know the show’s history well.

While I don’t know if I’d totally agree that these five shows represent the best Season One of Friends had to offer, they seem pretty good as a whole. I’m not wild about the “greatest hits” presentation, but I enjoyed the experience nonetheless.  

The DVD Grades: Picture C- / Audio C+ / Bonus D+

  The Best of Friends: Season 1 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. If you’ve seen the prior DVDs – or read my other reviews – you’ll know what to expect from these discs. Although the shows always seemed watchable, the episodes looked surprisingly muddy and weren’t as clear as I would have liked.  

Sharpness was a definite concern. At best, the picture presented a reasonably accurate image, but only occasionally did I think it appeared especially crisp or detailed. Instead, the shows usually seemed mildly hazy and dull, without much clarity. Some shimmering and jagged edges appeared as well; the moiré effects could become especially noticeable at times. Distinct evidence of edge enhancement cropped up periodically. Ala Star Trek: The Next Generation, apparently Friends is shot on film and mastered on video, which means the problems that come with both formats appear on the DVD. Some source flaws emerged. I saw mild grain throughout some of the shows, and I also detected occasional speckles, marks and a few streaks.

Colors often looked bland and drab. The hues maintained a muddled, brownish appearance much of the time, and while all colors showed problems, skin tones suffered the most. They alternated between excessive pinkness and a flat brownish look; both of them seemed unnatural. Black levels were a bit gray and blah, and shadow detail showed similar characteristics.

At times, Friends could seem frustrating because some of the episodes actually looked quite good. The quality level varied to a fairly significant degree throughout the package. One show might present a very solid picture, while the next would demonstrate all of the problems I discussed above and appear very messy. All in all, though, Friends remained watchable, and the issues I encountered seemed to stem from the source material.  

While the remastered Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack of Friends definitely outdid the picture, it presented a fairly restricted presence. However, I won’t complain about this, since it’s not like Friends provides a slew of opportunities for stellar sonics; it’s a quiet, dialogue-driven show, and the audio emphasizes that fact. Music spread adequately to the side forward speakers, and it also emanated gently from the rears.

Otherwise the track often seemed to be essentially monaural. The laugh track presented a moderately involving presence from all five channels - though mainly from the front - and some mild ambiance also came from the sides and the rears. Nonetheless, this was a very modest mix, and appropriately so.

Audio quality appeared decent but unspectacular. Dialogue generally sounded distinct and natural, but some edginess interfered at times. However, I never noted any problems related to intelligibility. Effects varied mildly but they usually came across as reasonably accurate and realistic, and they showed no signs of distortion, although the laugh track occasionally seemed rough. Music was the strongest component of the mix, as the rock score sounded fairly crisp and demonstrated pretty solid bass response. The high end periodically seemed a little flat, but for the most part, the music was clear and tight. Ultimately, Friends offered too modest an auditory experience to merit anything above a “C+”, but it nonetheless sounded fairly satisfying.

We don’t find a slew of extras of Friends, but a few supplements appear. Of course, as already noted, the episodes themselves include bonus footage. The amount of new material varies from show to show, but as far as I can tell, each one tosses in clips that didn’t appear during any TV broadcasts. I don’t know Friends well enough to recognize the new shots, but I think it’s cool that we get the uncut programs.

Otherwise, the only additional piece offers Cast and Crew listings. We get a screen that mentions the six main performers plus executive producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane. Oddly, though many Friends DVD included biographies of these nine, this one simply lists their names.

If you like Friends but don’t enjoy it enough to spring for the full season boxed sets, something like Best of Friends: Season 1 might be for you. The five episodes gathered here seemed pretty good as a whole, though none stood out as excellent. The DVD showed the same decent but unspectacular picture and sound quality evident on prior releases.

For those who already own the Season One boxed set, there’s absolutely no reason to buy this Best of Friends release. However, if you don’t possess that package and don’t plan to get it, this disc becomes more appealing. Obviously meant for the casual fan, Best of Friends: Season 1 comes with a low list price, so it might merit a look from folks who just want a smattering of Friends on DVD.

Note: Best of Friends: Season 1 duplicates none of the episodes found on any earlier Best of Friends releases. It becomes redundant only for those who own the full Season One package.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5357 Stars Number of Votes: 28
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