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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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Best of Friends: Season 2 (1994)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 21, 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 new greatest hits salvo concentrates solely on Season Two. 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 Ross’ New Girlfriend (23:58) completes the cliffhanger from the end of Season One. When Ross (David Schwimmer) returned from a trip to China, he came back with his new girlfriend Julie (Lauren Tom). In the interim, Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) learned that Ross had a crush on her, and she decided to give it a go, so she went to meet him at the airport. Of course, she didn’t know that Julie would be there, so this episode follows the aftermath of this incident.

I often don’t care for the episodes that deal largely with the soap opera elements, but “Girlfriend” works pretty well. The show has Rachel deal with her angst in a nicely comic manner, and it keeps things from becoming too heavy. A couple of minor subplots also balance out the load – especially when Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) misunderstands the kind of haircut Monica (Courtney Cox) wants - and “Girlfriend” launches the second season on a positive note.

At the start of The One Where Heckles Dies(23:20), Chandler (Matthew Perry) breaks up with yet another woman for yet another superficial reason, so the gang accuses him of issues in this regard. As for the title, the girls’ downstairs neighbor (Larry Hankin) kicks off during a fight between the building-mates, and surprisingly, he leaves his possessions to Phoebe and Monica. Initially this sounds like a good thing, but when they find out how much crap Heckles owned, they interpret the event as their cantankerous neighbor’s final revenge on them. As they sort through the items, Chandler discovers many parallels between him and Heckles, and this spooks him badly and leads him to take radical steps. In the meantime, Phoebe and Ross argue about evolution and other scientific issues; she doesn’t accept them, which drives Ross nuts.

”Heckles” totally avoids the soap opera elements of the first couple of shows from this season, which puts it in good stead with me. While those first programs didn’t pump the soap opera bits too heavily, I still liked the break from them we found here. The show avoided the sentiment that usually comes with a death and provides a fairly entertaining program.

The One With Phoebe’s Husband (22:50) introduces Duncan (Steve Zahn), a gay Canadian who Phoebe says she married so he could get a green card. The revelation causes the gang to spill the beans and tell each other different secrets as retaliation. The most damaging revolves around Chandler’s third nipple. In the meantime, Rachel continues to fume over the Ross and Julie relationship, which causes her to give him some intentionally bad advice.

The latter part seemed kind of odd, since Julie and Rachel declared a truce two shows prior to this one during the original broadcast season. I know the series needed to maintain that tension for plot reasons, but it still felt weird. Nonetheless, it offered a gentle way to continue the soap opera elements, and the program worked fairly well as a whole. The introduction of Duncan seemed kind of lame and gimmicky, though.

The One With the List (23:00) focuses on the aftermath of the Ross and Rachel kiss in a prior episode not included here. Though drawn to Rachel, Ross still feels strongly about Julie, so he must decide which one to choose. Chandler suggests they create a list of pros and cons about each woman. Ross selects Rachel, but problems arise when she discovers the list in question.

Despite the focus on the soap opera elements, “List” has some good moments, partially thanks to a solid cameo from Michael McKean. As Monica seeks a new job, she gets the chance to come up with recipes that use “Mockolate”, a chocolate substitute. McKean’s very amusing as the Mockolate shill. Overall, however, the show includes too much romantic pathos, but it leavens that with enough laughs to work acceptably well.

Season Two’s sole double-length episode, The One After the Super Bowl (48:20) has absolutely nothing to do with football; it just ran after the big game in 1996. Joey (Matt LeBlanc) gets his first fan mail for his TV gig, and one of the viewers seems to be stalking him; that freaks him out until he meets her and discovers she’s a babe. Phoebe meets a cute guy at the coffee shop and he offers her a gig playing her songs for little kids. Ross heads to California to go to a conference, where he ventures to San Diego to visit his old pet monkey Marcel. The staff tells him Marcel died, but he learns the truth. He eventually meets up with the monkey on the New York set of a movie. More shenanigans happen there and afterward.

Gimmick alert! “Bowl” comes packed with big-name cameos. It includes bits from Julia Roberts, Brooke Shields, Chris Isaak and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Man, I do hate the gratuitous one-shot star gigs, so “Bowl” feels like nothing more than a big stunt to follow the big game. The terrible miscasting of Shields as a psycho doesn’t help.

Less obvious cameo notice: Fred Willard shows up as the head of the zoo, and Dan “Homer Simpson” Castellaneta appears as the zoo’s janitor. The latter offers easily the best parts of the program.

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 Two 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+

  Friends: The Complete Second Season appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; 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 the new 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, but neither seemed too bad, and they decreased from the prior set. Distinct evidence of edge enhancement cropped up periodically. One improvement over the prior discs related to print flaws. I still saw occasional examples of specks, but these shows seemed cleaner than those from Season One.

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. 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. This was a very modest mix, and appropriately so.

Audio quality appeared decent but unspectacular. Dialogue generally sounded distinct and natural, but a little 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.

In addition, the DVD includes a Cast and Crew listing for the six main actors plus the three executive producers. Unlike many prior Friends DVDs, these entries include no information about the folks; they simply list the names. Since the old biographies are already done, it seems weird WB omitted them from this new set.

If you like Friends but don’t enjoy it enough to spring for the full season boxed sets, something like Best of Friends: Season 2 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 Two 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 2 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 2 duplicates none of the episodes found on any earlier Best of Friends releases. It becomes redundant only for those who own the full Season Two package.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5238 Stars Number of Votes: 21
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