Our reviews of Friends: The Complete First Season (published June 11th, 2002), Friends: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray) (published May 7th, 2013), Friends: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray) (published May 7th, 2013), Friends: The Complete Third Season (published June 18th, 2003), Friends: The Complete Fourth Season (published August 8th, 2003), Friends: The Complete Eighth Season (published February 2nd, 2005), Friends: The Complete Ninth Season (published May 18th, 2005), Friends: The Complete Tenth Season (published November 28th, 2005), Friends: The Complete Series (Blu-ray) (published November 26th, 2012), Friends: The Complete Series Collection (published January 24th, 2007), Friends: The One With All The Babies (published April 26th, 2006), Friends: The One With All The Birthdays (published May 31st, 2006), and Friends: The One With All The Weddings (published May 10th, 2006) are also available.
Now with footage you've never seen
"Oh, my God!" Welcome to the second season of the gang from Central Perk. Who ordered the 23 fun filled episodes with a side of extras?
Facts of the Case
When we last left our heroes, Rachel had just found out that Ross has long had a thing for her. Duh! She rushes to the airport to greet him, dressed to the nines with flowers in hand, only to find him arm and arm with his new girlfriend Julie, whom he met while in China. Oh, the agony! Buckle up campers, you're in for quite a ride: Monica loses her job, the boys drink breast milk, an annoying neighbor kicks the bucket, Joey and Chandler lose Ben, Phoebe tracks down her birth father, Susan and Carol get married, Joey gets a role on Days of Our Lives, Phoebe makes a music video, Monica really was fat, Joey moves out, Psycho Eddie moves in, Monica starts dating Richard, Ross and Rachel get jiggy with it, and guest stars invade the series—Marlo Thomas, Brooke Shields, Charlie Sheen, Tom Selleck, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg, Lea Thompson, Chrissie Hynde, Michael McKean, Chris Isaak, Jean Claude Van Damme, and Julia Roberts. It's ten ounces of espresso in a five ounce cup—just don't try to drink it all at one time.
For the second straight year we are allowed to observe the lives of Monica (Courteney Cox—pre David Arquette), Rachel (Jennifer Aniston—pre Brad Pitt), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow—pre motherhood), Ross (David Schwimmer—pre The Pallbearer), Chandler (Matthew Perry—pre drug rehab), and Joey (Matt LeBlanc—pre Lost In Space). Interestingly enough, the more things change with these people, the more things stay the same. Phoebe is forever the flower child, Chandler continues to use humor as a defense mechanism, Monica is as anal retentive as ever, Ross cannot maintain a relationship to save his life, Rachel always seems to be caught offguard by everything, and Joey is the smartest dumb guy on the planet. Let's take a look and see what they've been up to this year…
The One with Ross' New Girlfriend—Ross returns from China with new girlfriend, Julie (Lauren Tom, Batman Beyond). Rachel, having fallen for Ross both figuratively and literally, has a difficult time accepting this new member of the inner circle.
The One with the Breast Milk—Ross and Chandler freak out when Phoebe tastes Carol's bottled breast milk. Joey, working as a perfume sniper, does battle with a new arch nemesis—the Hombre guy. Emily Proctor (West Wing) guest stars as Joey's new girlfriend.
The One where Heckles Dies—When cranky, crazy downstairs neighbor Mr. Heckles dies unexpectedly, Monica and Rachel—the two noisy girls upstairs—are bequeathed all his earthly belongings. Chandler gets a frightening glimpse of his future when striking similarities emerge between his life and Heckles.
The One with Phoebe's Husband—Did you know Phoebe was married to a gay (but not really) Canadian figure skater, played by guest star Steve Zahn? Neither did anyone else.
The One with Five Steaks and an Eggplant—Ever go out to dinner with a group of people and order a salad while everyone else orders drinks, appetizers, lobster, and dessert? It's a group divided as Joey, Rachel, and Phoebe take a stand against the blatantly oblivious Ross, Monica, and Chandler. Monica loses her job for taking meat gifts from a vendor. [Editor's Note: No, that's not an innuendo.]
The One with the Baby on the Bus—Joey and Chandler are taking care of Ross' son Ben for the day. Everything is going great until they fall for a couple of hotties on the cross-town bus and follow them home—without the baby! Phoebe gets fired from Central Perk and replaced by guest star Chrissie Hynde. The first appearance of the song "Smelly Cat."
The One where Ross Finds Out—"You're over me? When were you ever under me?" Rachel gets drunk on a blind date and leaves a rambling "Dear John" message on Ross' answering machine. Ooops! Unemployed Monica finds purpose in helping Chandler lose weight.
The One with the List—Trying to decide between Rachel and Julie, Ross listens to Chandler and Joey—mistake #1—and creates a list of pros and cons for each girl—mistake #2—never imagining that Rachel would actually read it—mistake #3. No nookie for you! Monica gets a job working for sleazy guest star Michael McKean, as he attempts to make Mockolate the official food substitute of Thanksgiving. Ewww!
The One with Phoebe's Dad—On Christmas Eve, Joey and Chandler help Phoebe track down her birth father. Meanwhile, back at the apartment, the heat gets intense as a broken radiator turns the gang's Christmas party into Santa's sweatshop.
The One with Russ—Rachel has written off Ross completely, right? Then how come she is dating his Twilight Zone doppelganger, Russ? Meanwhile, Joey's big break lands him a leading role on TV.
The One with the Lesbian Wedding—Carol and Susan tie the knot, so to speak, courtesy of Newt Gingrich's sister. Ross' difficulties with the idea pale in comparison to the bombshell Rachel's mom (Marlo Thomas) drops and Monica's totalitarian treatment of her kitchen help. Phoebe becomes host to the spirit of an elderly deceased massage client.
The One after the Super Bowl—It's guest stars galore in the two-part episode featuring the return of Marcel the monkey. Joey gets a stalker (Brooke Shields). Chandler falls for a childhood friend (Julia Roberts) and is caught with his pants down. Rachel and Monica fight over who gets to date Jean Claude Van Damme. Phoebe hooks up with Chris Isaak and provides too much truth to her young music fans.
The One with the Prom Video—"Somebody ate Monica!" An old video is uncovered, providing the series' first flashback to the gang as youngsters—Ross with a mustache, Rachel before her nose job, and much more of Monica than we have ever seen. What could have been a disaster winds up reconciling the combative Ross and Rachel.
The One where Ross and Rachel…You know—You've waited for it since the first episode, but it's the cavemen who get the full show…as well as a wide-eyed group of school kids. Meanwhile, Monica gets a new boyfriend (Tom Selleck)—who happens to be her father's best friend. D'oh!
The One where Joey Moves Out—Joey's gig on Days of Our Lives gives him the chance to live on his own. But life in the penthouse is not all it's cracked up to be, even when you're surrounded by horribly tasteless art. Monica is subjected to her parents' amorous rendezvous while hiding out in the bathroom.
The One where Eddie Moves In—Hurt by Joey's departure, Chandler takes in a new roommate (Adam Goldberg) in this version of Single White Psycho Male. Phoebe hits it big with a recording contract and video for "Smelly Cat." Monica and Ross regress into childhood sibling rivalry.
The One where Dr. Ramoray Dies—Poor naïve Joey tells Soap Opera Digest how he writes most of his own lines on the show. The writers get their revenge by sending Dr. Drake Ramoray to his untimely death. Meanwhile, Chandler's new roommate, Eddie, begins to show signs of emotional instability.
The One where Eddie Won't Go—While the girls bond over a best selling book on female empowerment, Chandler literally wakes up to the fact that he's stuck with the thing that wouldn't leave. A creative solution moves Joey back in and puts Eddie on the street.
The One Where Old Yeller Dies—Phoebe's mom sheltered her kids from the horror and sadness contained in any movie shown on TV. She's in for quite a shock when she walks in on the end of Old Yeller and it's all downhill from there. Meanwhile, Chandler grows a mustache and Joey starts smoking cigars as the boys start bonding with their new best friend, Richard.
The One with the Bullies—Chandler and Ross are forced off the couch and out of Central Perk by two thirtysomething bullies. Joey and Rachel support Phoebe in a second attempt to connect with her birth father, only to run over his dog. Monica gets a new job and the benefits include flame retardant boobs.
The One with the Two Parties—It's Rachel's birthday and Monica is throwing a not-so-surprise party. When both of her soon-to-be-divorced parents show up (Ron Leibman and Marlo Thomas) it becomes two parties for the price of one.
The One with the Chicken Pox—Phoebe and an old boyfriend (Charlie Sheen) come down with the chicken pox and invent new forms of physical intimacy never written about in the Kama Sutra.
The One with Barry and Mindy's Wedding—Rachel endures one humiliating event after another when she agrees to be Maid of Honor in the marriage of her ex-fiancée. Monica comes to the realization that her relationship with Richard is not going to work. Chandler romances a strangely familiar woman on the Internet.
For as overexposed as the series has become in syndication, when you sit back and actually watch some of these episodes all the way through, one has to marvel at the comedic timing and ensemble these six actors have created in such a short amount of time. Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc share a comedic bond that rivals Hope and Crosby or Martin and Lewis. Jennifer Aniston has grown into an actress of impressive emotional range, especially for a sitcom. Courteney Cox has established a character that is almost unconsciously funny. Lisa Kudrow deftly delivers some of the shows best one-liners—"If we were in prison, you two would be my bitches!" David Schwimmer showcases more problems and anxieties than any three characters combined. However, these actors are only as good as their writers and directors, and this staff has done an incredible job. Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman, David Crane, Tommy Schlamme, Michael Lembeck, James Burrows, Gail Mancuso, Adam Chase, Ira Ungerleider, Jeffrey Astrof, Mike Sikowitz, Alexa Junge, Michael Curtis, Gregory Malins, Brown Mandell, and many more are to be commended for keeping this show fresh and inventive.
As for the physical evidence, Warner has done an exceptional job with the disc. Extra footage has been added, but only true aficionados will be able to point out exactly where. The 1.33:1 full frame transfers are fantastic with vibrant colors, solid blacks, and no real evidence of digital tampering. The 5.0 audio is wonderful and captures all of the little nuances of a live studio recording. If you've ever attended a taping, you'll know what I mean. The musical menus will drive you nuts and you'll quickly grow to despise the theme song, if you leave them up too long. The nicest feature on the discs is the preview function, which provides a short clip of the episode's main plot, so as to jog your memory on what this episode was about. As for the extras, I highly recommend the two audio commentaries for "The One with the List" and "The One with the Prom Video." Both feature nice insights and stories by show creators Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane. In addition, the Open House virtual walkthrough of Monica and Rachel's apartment provides short interviews with the production staff on some of the behind the scenes happenings of the show. The remaining features, such as the Friends Guestbook, Trivia Game, and "What's Up with your Friends" video montages are all passable. Although, if you pass the quiz, you will be rewarded with the full-length video of "Smelly Cat."
Tell me again why we as a society spend so much time watching other people's lives instead of living our own? Social commentary aside, the writing, directing, and acting on this series is par excellence. It may have lost some steam in later years, but this set shows off some of the best moments of the series. While I cannot recommend spending the $59.95 to buy it, I most certainly recommend renting or borrowing it. It is arguably one of the best situation comedies to grace American television screens.
Friends: The Complete Second Season is absolved of any criminal activity—except for Joey and Chandler leaving the baby on the bus, but that's another story. Rent, watch, laugh, but don't forget to live. This court now stands in recess.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Two Audio Commentaries by Creators Bright, Kauffman, Crane
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