Warner Bros. // 1995 // 587 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // June 11th, 2002
They'll be there for you!
Ross. Rachel. Joey. Phoebe. Chandler. Monica. For some of us these names and faces are as familiar as our own brothers and sisters. Since 1994 these Friends have made us laugh, made us cry, and sometimes made us angry with all their saturating marketing ploys (oh that theme song...get it out of my head!). What started as just another NBC sitcom soon rocketed to the top of the ratings, staying there year after year as we watched each character go though new challenges and struggles amongst the backdrop of New York City. In the process, the show turned six generally unknown actors into TV mega-stars, each one commanding millions in salaries and destined to make one crappy movie after another (but, that's another review for another time...). Finally fans have been placated with the release of the entire first season in the new Friends The Complete First Season four-disc box set!
Come along with us as we find love, happiness, and Ross' monkey at Central Perk, the latte shop of your favorite friends! Each of these episodes will introduce you to the anal-retentive Monica (Courtney Cox), the sarcastic Chandler (Matthew Perry), the dim-witted Joey (Matthew LaBlanc), the lovable but nerdy Ross (David Schwimmer), the bubble headed Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), and the adorably naïve Rachel (Jennifer Aniston). This four-disc set contains the following episodes:
* The Pilot
* Sonogram at the End
* The Thumb
* George Stephanopoulos
* East German Laundry Detergent
* The Butt
* The Blackout
* Nan Dies Twice
* Underdog Gets Away
* The Monkey
* Mrs. Bing
* Dozen Lasagnas
* The Boobies
* The Candy Hearts
* The Stoned Guy
* Two Parts
* All the Poker
* Monkey Gets Away
* Evil Orthodontist
* The Ick Factor
* The Birth
* Rachel Finds Out
Has it already been eight years since the inception of the TV show Friends? I can remember sitting in my old Iowa college dorm room as I thrilled to the antics of these sitcom twenty-somethings. Boy, does that seem like a billion years ago. While I can't really count myself as a diehard super-duper Friends fan, I did enjoy watching the show in its early years. Maybe it was Matthew Perry's devilry. Or maybe Matt LaBlanc's dippy take on life. Or maybe it was because Courtney Cox was a hottie (and still is). Whatever the reason, I enjoyed the show and was pleasantly excited when I had the chance to revisit the show's first season on this Friends: The Complete First Season DVD set.
I was a little surprised at how funny many of these episodes were. Some sitcoms tend to age with all the grace of Dick Van Dyke on a pair of roller skates. Friends has aged a bit more pleasantly; while some of the jokes are a bit dated and stale, still others made me laugh out loud. Friends seemed to be blessed with a multitude of funny writers and directors who knew where the jokes were. Sure, some of the hairdos and fashions are a bit dated (I still can't believe this was around the same time I graduated high school!), but it's still a darn funny show. There are some great episodes on this disc (the one where Chandler sees Rachel's "boobies" is especially memorable), and while they aren't all winners, each has at least a few hearty laughs tucked inside the episode. In later seasons, things would get a little gimmicky (Look who's pregnant! Look who's getting married! Look who's maybe leaving the show!), but in this first season everything clicks, and for Hollywood that meant TV history.
It's a good thing Warner decided to release this show season by season. A while back there were a few discs released titled "Best Of Friends," and with each consecutive disc the fans cried foul (and rightly so). Each of these DVDs just slapped together different episodes in random order, making the discs a very unsatisfying purchase. Let's face the facts: You're either going to love or hate this set. If you've thrilled to the adventures of your favorite Friends in the past, you're going to want to suck this set up like a milkshake. However, if you're one of the multitudes of people who loathe Friends (don't try and hide...you know who you are), then you'll want to stay as far away from this set as possible. But for those who love the series (and aren't anxious about its final upcoming season), this set is worth the dough. As Joey might say, "How you doin?" With this Friends: The Complete First Season set, fans will certainly respond with a resounding "alright!"
Each of these 22 episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 full-frame version. Each of these episodes has been remastered, meaning they look better than ever. The colors and black levels on each disc are deep and very vivid with only the slightest amount of pixelation showing up once in a while. Some softness penetrates the image; otherwise, these are all impressive looking transfers that should please fans of the show.
The audio is presented in a newly remixed Dolby 5.0 Surround soundtrack in English. While it's nice to have these shows in Dolby 5.0, I can't really say that I feel they warranted such mixes. There is a small amounts of surround used in the rear speakers during music cues and with background noises, but otherwise these soundtracks are filtered mainly though the front and the center speakers. While these mixes certainly aren't reference quality, overall they work well with the series they support. Also included on these discs are English, French, Spanish, and Korean subtitles.
Brew the coffee and pull out the lattes, it's time for a few extra features! While this set isn't quite as supplement-heavy as other movie/TV series box sets, fans will be mildly pleased with Warner's efforts on this set. To start off with you should know that these episodes contain footage that's never been seen up until now. To be completely honest, I have no idea what that footage is, but since each episode is a little longer than normal I am assuming you gonzo Friends fanatics will be able to find it right quick.
Next up is a commentary with producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane, each recorded on separate viewings and spliced together. This commentary is only available on the 25-minute pilot episode, so it's a pretty quick listen. Overall this is an interesting track with all kinds of tidbits about how the show came to be, how the casting choices were made, what NBC thought about some of the topics (taboo!), and other historical facts about the show.
Flipping over to the last disc on the set viewers will find "A Peek At Central Perk" interactive map. Clicking on different icons will take the viewer to some trivia facts, snippets of the show, and interviews with the producers. "Friends of Friends" is a fairly short clip index where viewers can watch 30 second spots with different Friends guest stars. Finally, there is the "How Well Do You Know Your Friends?" trivia game that is fun for a few laughs, and a promotional spot for the second season of Friends DVD set.
This four-disc set gets a little pricey at around forty bucks and up; however, fans of the series will gladly throw down their money for the chance to watch their favorite Friends over and over again. The set isn't perfect ("brimming with special features?" I think not), but what it lacks in some areas it makes up for in others -- mainly laughs.
Bing! Friends The Complete First Season is free to go! Case dismissed!
Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 587 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary with Producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane
* A Peek At Central Perk: Interactive Map
* "Friends Of Friends: Memorable Guest Star Moments"
* "How Well Do You Know Your Friends?" Trivia Game
* Friends: The Complete Second Season Trailer