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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

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

Tagline:
Everyone needs friends!
MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.0
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 566 min.
Price: $44.98
Release Date: 7/15/2003

Bonus:
• Commentary on Three Episodes
• “Friends of Friends” Video Guestbook
• “What’s Up With Your Friends?” Video Character Bios
• “Who Knows Whom Best?” Trivia Quiz
• “Friends Around the World” Featurette
• 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.

RELATED REVIEWS


Friends: The Complete Fourth Season (1997)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 24, 2003)

Only about three months after the arrival of Season Three of Friends, we get the whole package with Season Four. This covers the 1997-98 term and finds the show as it consolidated its position as one of the top sitcoms.

From here, I’ll offer brief discussions of all the episodes, listed in their broadcast order. The synopses mostly come straight from the package’s liner notes. As a helpful guide, an asterisk denotes shows that also appeared on any of the prior “best of” DVDs that Warner Bros. released before they came to their senses and started to package Friends in season sets.

In addition, apparently all of the episodes include footage cut for their broadcast appearances. This means the running times vary. I’ll include the length of each episode on the DVDs. (For reference, a standard broadcast program lasts about 22 minutes.)

Disc One:

The One With the Jellyfish (23:31): Ross (David Schwimmer) falls asleep while reading Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) 18-page letter. When confronted by her, he pretends to agree with what she wrote. Monica (Courtney Cox Arquette) gets stung by a jellyfish and must resort to drastic measures.

“Jellyfish” offers a continuation of a story that ended Season Three. It focuses mostly on the series’ soap opera elements, as we get more about Ross/Rachel and Phoebe’s discovery about her mother. This bogs down the show somewhat and makes it less than terrific.

The One With the Cat (24:00): Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) believes her adoptive mother’s spirit inhabits a stray cat. Joey (Matt Le Blanc) finds the experience of selling his entertainment center not entertaining at all. Monica finally gets to date the big man on her high school campus.

As much as I gripe about soap opera dominated shows, I must admit an affection for those in which Ross and Rachel are on the outs with each other. The venom they aim at each other makes for some very entertaining moments, and a few of those crop up here. The best parts occur when Rachel tells Ross he always has to be right; her taunts are hilarious. The Phoebe bits seem somewhat self-consciously goofy, but the conflicts over Monica’s relationship with the former classmate offer some funny bits.

The One With the Cuffs (22:20): Monica “pulls a Monica” when she caters her mother’s (Christina Pickles) party. Chandler (Matthew Perry) gets himself locked into a compromising position with Rachel’s boss (Alison LaPlaca).

The best parts of this episode don’t appear in the synopsis above and they also fill the least amount of time. Joey gets peddled some encyclopedias, and the depths of his dumbness prove amusing. The Monica subplot actually works better than expected, but the bit with Chandler feels too I Love Lucy for my liking.

The One With the Ballroom Dancing (22:45): The girls get an eviction notice and Joey comes to their rescue by agreeing to give the building superintendent (Michael G. Hagerty) dancing lessons.

That main plot seems a little lame. It starts off well due to Joey’s goofiness, but the bit with the dancing lessons seems dopey. A portion in which Chandler attempts to quit his gym works better, especially since it rings true in a humorous way.

The One With Joey’s New Girlfriend (23:40): Ross and Rachel continue their power games to make each other jealous. Chandler falls hard for Joey’s new girlfriend Kathy (Paget Brewster).

Soap opera alert! This episode launches the Chandler/Joey/Kathy love triangle, and it’s gonna get sappy. I guess it’s necessary, but it seems less than endearing so far. The better parts of the show focus on Phoebe’s cold, which leaves her with a sexy singing voice.

The One With the Dirty Girl (23:12): Ross’ beautiful new girlfriend (Rebecca Romijn) has a disgusting secret. Chandler gets closer to Kathy and buys her a pricey birthday gift. Rachel proudly completes a crossword puzzle without help.

Yes, we get more Joey/Chandler/Kathy goopiness, but the other subplots leaven the drabness. Ross’ section provides the best elements; the poor guy can’t catch a break in the romantic realm, and it’s amusing to see how he gets slapped around in that domain. Overall, it’s a decent episode.

Disc Two:

The One Where Chandler Crosses the Line (25:00): Chandler kisses Kathy after thinking Joey has lost interest in her. Encouraged by an awed Phoebe, Ross debuts his keyboard “sound” in public.

It’s always fun to get a glimpse into Ross’ nerdy past, so the bits with his “sound” are very amusing. When we actually hear “the sound”, it’s absolutely hilarious. Along with Rachel’s revelation that she doesn’t need friends to have fun, these elements balance out the soap opera sappiness of the Joey/Chandler/Kathy parts.

*The One With Chandler In a Box (25:15): Set on Thanksgiving, Joey remains mad at Chandler for “stealing” his girlfriend Kathy. This creates a serious rift in the relationship, as Joey won’t entertain any of Chandler’s attempts to reconcile …at least until Chandler agrees to spend the day in a wooden box, a task that recreates a boneheaded move once made by Joey.

While this occurs, Monica gets ice in her eye and has to go to the doctor …who just happens to be the son of her now-ex-boyfriend Richard. Inevitably, she finds Tim (Michael Vartan) attractive, and the two engage in a brief and creepy attempt at love. Additionally, Ross discovers that Rachel invariably returns all the presents she receives, which creates some comic tension.

All in all, “Box” was a very entertaining program. The absurdity of Chandler’s task coupled well with the other plotlines; it seemed strangely real yet still wonderfully silly and funny. Despite the fact that with her odd haircut, poofy clothes and eyepatch, Cox bears a spooky resemblance to “Rebel Rebel” era Bowie, “Box” was a solidly fun and compelling program.

The One Where They’re Going to Party (22:10): When the guys try to be wild and crazy, they reluctantly realize they’d rather act like adults. Monica writes a scathing restaurant review – and gets a job offer as a result.

Wow – an episode with no soap opera elements! “Party” offers a good opportunity to just have some fun, and it does so nicely. It’s amusing to see Chandler and Ross try to act like party animals, and Rachel’s attempts to move ahead at work are also entertaining. “Party” isn’t a great episode, but it’s generally pretty solid.

The One With the Girl From Poughkeepsie (22:33): Ross debates whether to date a faraway beauty or a less desirable woman who lives nearby. Chandler tries to set up a date for Rachel with some co-workers.

Ross’ bits aren’t as amusing as I expected, partly because when never really meet either of the women involved. However, when Joey goes to work for Monica just so she can fire him, we get some good moments, and Chandler’s fumbling of the Rachel situation also seems fun. Chalk this one up as another good program.

The One With Phoebe’s Uterus (24:15): Phoebe’s half-brother Frank Jr. (Giovanni Ribisi) returns with exciting news – and asks a huge favor of Phoebe. Ross gets Joey a job as a museum tour guide.

After a nice holiday from the soap opera, those elements return with a vengeance here. I never could stand Ribisi’s portrayal of Frank, so that mars this program. Since those bits dominate the show, it’s not a terribly good one. Some of the museum pieces redeem it slightly, but it remains blah.

*The One With All the Embryos (23:15): Here we learn that Phoebe has agreed to have her sister-in-laws embryos implanted so she can have their baby. That aspect of the show seemed a little cutesy, and it didn’t help that we got stuck with the ever-annoying Ribisi for another episode.

However, the other storyline featured a debate that pitted Monica and Rachel versus Joey and Chandler. Each side thinks they know the others better, so Ross concocts a quiz to decide the matter. That part of the show provides some terrific laughs, mainly through the questions, but also due to the actors’ reactions; by this time, they all clearly felt very comfortable in the roles, and that let the material succeed.

Disc Three:

The One With Rachel’s Crush (22:34): Rachel schemes to get a handsome client (Tate Donovan) to ask her on a date. Chandler’s jealousy causes problems with his girlfriend.

After two straight episodes, at least we don’t get saddled with the obnoxious Ribisi here. Some soap opera elements appear via the Chandler/Kathy dynamic. Still, those parts aren’t all that major, and the rest of the show works pretty well, especially as Monica attempts to regain her status as the building hostess. Also, it might mark the first appearance of Joey’s “how you doin’?” schtick.

The One With Joey’s Dirty Day (22:27): On Joey’s first day on a major movie, one of Hollywood’s legendary stars finds him in a compromising position in his trailer. Rachel regrets asking Ross for a favor when it sparks a new romance.

One soap opera ends between Chandler and Kathy, and another begins, as the Ross/Rachel/Emily dynamic launches. Those elements aren’t bad, but “Day” sounds better on paper than in reality. The sight of Chandler at a strip joint with the show’s females should be great, but it’s pretty bland. Nothing about “Day” seems bad, but it lacks much zing.

The One With All the Rugby (22:20): Chandler’s abrasive ex-girlfriend Janice (Maggie Wheeler) reappears. Monica finds a mysterious switch in Joey and Chandler’s old apartment. Ross tries to impress Emily (Helen Baxendale) by playing rugby.

“Rugby” tells a tale of extremes, as we see the levels to which various characters will go to satisfy various needs. Though she’s my least favorite character, Monica gets the funniest moments here via her obsessiveness. It’s also amusing to watch how pathetic Chandler becomes as he attempts to ditch Janice. “Rugby” presents a generally solid show.

The One With the Fake Party (24:27): To become better acquainted with her crush Joshua, Rachel inadvertently thwarts Ross’ plans. Phoebe’s pregnancy cravings evoke a sympathetic response from Joey.

The Joshua plot got old a few episodes ago, and it hasn’t improved in the meantime. Or maybe it’s just depressing to see a babe like Rachel throw herself at a schlub like Joshua. Still, the show musters some decent laughs and manages to overcome its less compelling parts, especially during an amusing game of Spin the Bottle.

The One With the Free Porn (24:00): Chandler and Joey are glued to their TV after discovering an unscrambled adult cable channel. Monica helps Ross tell his girlfriend he loves her. Phoebe gets some surprising pregnancy news.

Any episode that features Frank Jr. loses some points right off the bat. The rest of the episode seems decent but doesn’t do a lot for me. It’s got some good moments, most of which connect to the free porn, but not much else stands out here.

The One With Rachel’s New Dress (22:27): Rachel takes a provocative pose to get Joshua into a romantic mood – but her plans go awry. Chandler and Joey are at odds to persuade Phoebe to name one of her triplets after them.

“Dress” provides another good but unexceptional episode. The issues between Joey and Chandler offer the most amusement, though Ross’ fears that he’ll lose another lover to lesbianism also works pretty well. “Dress” doesn’t seem remarkable, but it’s pretty solid.

Disc Four:

The One With All the Haste (22:00): Drastic developments blight Ross’s relationship with Emily. Monica and Rachel try to win back their old apartment, much to Joey and Chandler’s delight.

That last statement’s kind of odd, for the guys actively oppose the girls’ attempts to regain their old place. Still, those parts of the show provide some good bits and seem satisfying. The Ross/Emily parts are less compelling, though, as they come across like attempts to intensify the soap opera elements without much connection to the characters’ usual behavior.

The One With All the Wedding Dresses (22:30): Distraught over Ross’s engagement, Rachel takes Joshua aside and suggests they also get married. Chandler forces Joey to go to a sleep clinic to stop his loud snoring.

Though “Dresses” inexorably – and lamely – advances the Ross/Rachel showdown coming at the season’s end, it manages to leaven that story with some nice moments. The Joey subplot is fun, as is the girls’ obsession with dresses. And we apparently have seen the last of the insipid Joshua, which makes “Dresses” a-okay in my book.

The One With the Invitation (22:30): Rachel and Ross each reminisce about when they used to date each other. Everyone’s disappointed when Rachel decides not to attend the wedding in England.

So it’s come to this: a clip show. Unless you’re not familiar with the Ross/Rachel backstory, you can skip the first 11 minutes of this program. Actually, you can bypass most of the rest of it as well, as snippets from earlier episodes dominate the whole thing. A few plot points emerge, but the synopsis above pretty much sums up the show, and that makes “Invitation” almost totally superfluous.

The One With the Worst Best Man Ever (23:05): Joey loses Ross’s wedding ring at a bachelor party. Phoebe experiences massive mood swings that frighten Rachel and Monica.

Our last show before a major soap opera episode, “Worst” provides some good stuff. The bachelor party develops fun moments, and Phoebe’s mood swings allow Kudrow to shine, especially when she gets nasty. It’s an amusing program that seems above average.

*The One With Ross’s Wedding (49:42) offers a two-part episode that finishes Season Four with something of a cliffhanger. Here we move to his impending nuptials with British chick Emily. Frankly, I think they made Emily English just so they’d have an excuse to move the show to the UK for an episode; it’s no coincidence that this “special” show appeared during a sweeps period. This one features more than its fair share of soap opera elements, as Rachel has to confront her continued affection for Ross, and Monica and Chandler hook up for the first time. It provides some amusing bits as well, but it focuses too much on soap opera for my liking.

Season Three of Friends seemed like the one that gained a high level of consistency and self-assurance, and the series maintained those attributes through Season Four. The year presented only a few genuinely excellent episodes, but it suffered from very few weak ones. In fact, other than the weak clip show toward the end of the year, I can’t think of a truly bad program from Season Four. Sure, some of the shows seem somewhat flat, but none of them become crummy. Chalk up Season Four as a nicely consistent and entertaining year of Friends.


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

Friends: The Complete Fourth 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. Despite the series’ continued success, the picture quality remained virtually the same here as seen in prior years and no discernible improvements appeared.

Sharpness remained somewhat iffy. Much of the time, the shows looked acceptably well defined and concise. However, more than a few soft spots popped up along the way; more than occasionally, the programs were moderately fuzzy. Periodic examples of jagged edges and moiré effects occurred, and I also noticed some edge enhancement. Source flaws appeared largely absent, though, as the occasional specks that appeared during Season Three seemed essentially gone here.

The shows generally presented fairly lackluster colors. The tones tended to come across as somewhat drab and listless much of the time. Some shots appeared more vivid than others, and I never felt the hues were terribly incorrect, but they simply lacked much life. In addition, blacks seemed a bit flat, and shadows usually looked a bit too dense and thick. Ultimately, Friends presented a pretty average image, so I gave it a “C” for picture.

Along similar lines, the remastered Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack of Friends came across as listenable but not very dynamic. However, I must note that I didn’t expect a lot of auditory excitement from this series. It’s a chatty little show, so we don’t get many chances for fireworks. Dialogue dominated the episodes and remained oriented toward the front center. As always, music presented solid stereo presence over the front speakers, and the surrounds echoed the tunes moderately. Otherwise, the mix mostly remained monaural, as effects gently provided ambience and virtually nothing else.

Audio quality continued to seem acceptable but not much more than that. Occasional examples of edginess moderately affected speech. However, most of the lines remained intelligible and reasonably natural. Effects played such a minor role in the shows that I found it hard to judge their quality. They seemed acceptably accurate, but they never taxed the track at all. At least no problems occurred with those elements, and the music came across as pretty bright and bouncy. The rock-oriented score sounded clean and distinct, and bass response was tight and fairly rich. As with past seasons, not much about Year Four’s audio stood out, but not much fell flat either.

The supplements found on these DVDs seem similar to those on prior sets. Most show up on DVD Four, but we get a few bits on the others as well. 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.

Three audio commentaries appear. Two show up on Disc Two via “The One With Chandler In a Box” and “The One With the Embryos”. The final commentary goes alongside DVD Four’s “The One With Ross’s Wedding”. We hear from executive producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane. All three were recorded separately for these tracks, and the results were edited together. Some of the remarks related directly to on-screen activities, but most dealt with general issues.

Folks who heard the prior commentaries will know what to expect here. The participants cover a mix of topics related to the series. We get some notes about the specific episodes themselves, and we also hear about general issues that deal with the show. “Wedding” provides the best of the three tracks, mainly because the participants discuss all of the challenges that came with shooting in England. Overall, the commentaries seem informative and well constructed.

In addition, all four DVDs include Cast and Crew listings for the six main actors plus the three executive producers. Unlike some 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 and other sets.

When we move to DVD Four, we find a few additional pieces. Hosted by actor James Michael Tyler, Friends Around the World looks at the series’ reception outside of the US. In this seven-minute and 30-second featurette, we meet fans in Sweden plus the voice actors for the Japanese and German translations of the show. It’s vaguely fun to watch some dubbed snippets, but otherwise this piece seems slight and fairly dull.

The Friends of Friends Guestbook provides a guide to Season Four’s many guest stars. We get a list of the 11 prominent actors and we can also see short clips from their appearances. It’s a fun little way to spotlight the growing list of Friends notables.

Next up is a quick quiz. Designed for two players, Who Knows Whom Best? requires you to answer questions about the various characters. Unusually, they don’t restrict themselves items from Season Four, which makes them a little tougher than usual.

Lastly, we get a fairly pointless feature called What’s Up With Your Friends?. We get the chance to access six different sets of short montages. With one per character, we watch some of their “greatest hits” from Season Four. Maybe someone will like this, but it does nothing for me.

Friends got into a groove during its third year, and Season Four continued that run of good shows. The occasional moderate dud appears, but most of this year’s episodes seem good, and a few manage to become great. As with prior DVD sets, this one presents watchable but bland picture and sound along with a somewhat lackluster roster of supplements. While nothing about the DVD package itself stands out as exceptional, there’s still a lot of entertainment to be had here, and with a list price of only about $45, Friends Season Four definitely earns my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.4444 Stars Number of Votes: 18
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