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 (published September 16th, 2002), Friends: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray) (published May 7th, 2013), 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.
The One Where…
I've never been a "Must See TV" kinda guy, so I really haven't been one to religiously watch any of the big NBC Thursday night shows, past or present. Of course, over time, I've had a chance to see a few here and there and also catch a few in the endless reruns. Friends is a really "cute" show, but it never completely pulled me in. I like the characters and the show in general, yet I never felt it to be more than a trifle of an idea, which is obviously not the majority opinion. As such, CBS gets my Nielsen numbers.
Facts of the Case
Our six friends—Monica (Courteney Cox), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Chandler (Matthew Perry), Joey (Matt LeBlanc), and Ross (David Schwimmer)—continue living a completely realistic lifestyle in New York City. It's nearly a picture perfect world except for the occasional stumblings due to plot complications.
You've just borne witness to a historic event: I got right to the point above. I used no extra words to ramble on and drag out those sections. Now, I'll get to the rambling.
Friends is a comfort show. All is well with the world and things go smoothly on. Oh, there are some bumps along the way, but those always lend themselves to delightful, positive situations. If only real life were as great and wonderful as presented here during the third year of this highly rated show, the world would be wonderful, pure, and probably boring. Now, don't get me wrong: even if I lend a critical eye to the general outline of the show, I'm not completely lambasting it. On the contrary, it's a charming show. It's akin to a little warm fuzzy: you watch it and just feel all safe and cozy. It's a happy show, and it fulfills its definition as being a comedy. In every episode I watched, I was amused and laughed. It serves its duty nicely. As it is a comedy, I was decidedly less impressed with the episodes that took a slightly more serious approach to some of its stories.
But it doesn't take a lot of chances, at least not during this year. The stories are all witty, pleasant, and yet simple. In watching them all relatively close together, there's a general feeling of uniformity that appears. Few risks are taken with the characters, and life proceeds and goes on in a very "vanilla" way—simple and without flash. While the episodes themselves cram in three to four stories each, each tale doesn't necessarily evolve our characters, for the most part. Of course, this year, there are tons of complications with relationships, but I get the feeling that's a general theme for the show.
What I truly enjoyed over the course of the year was the continuity. Excellently done, each episode somehow ties into the previous one, or one a few back. Things are not forgotten and often are not tied up in one 23-minute package. Ideas take some time to fully flesh out, and that is seen in Friends, where an idea sometimes lasts almost an entire season. That's something I really liked and appreciated.
Presented here are all 25 episodes from the third year of the series. They are:
"The One With the Princess Leia Fantasy"
"The One Where No One's Ready"
"The One With the Jam"
"The One With the Metaphorical Tunnel"
"The One With Frank Jr."
"The One With the Flashback"
"The One With the Race Car Bed"
"The One With the Giant Poking Device"
"The One With the Football"
"The One Where Rachel Quits"
"The One Where Chandler Can't Remember Which Sister"
"The One With All the Jealousy"
"The One Where Monica and Richard are Friends"
"The One With Phoebe's Ex-Partner"
"The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break"
"The One With the Morning After"
"The One Without the Ski Trip"
"The One With the Hypnosis Tape"
"The One With the Tiny T-Shirt"
"The One With the Dollhouse"
"The One With a Chick and a Duck"
"The One With the Screamer"
"The One With Ross' Thing"
"The One With the Ultimate Fighting Champion"
"The One At the Beach"
As seen in my scoring, there are very few episodes that seem to stand out in this year's group. Overall, they're good but not great. But, the funny thing is, now that I've seen a whole year's worth of episodes, I've been talking to my coworkers about this show, and it's amazing how much I know about the characters and the things that have happened. You start talking about the chick and the duck, and the conversation winds its way through ultimate fighting, to how many hot women Ross has had, to Joey's play, to Vegas weddings, and so on. The episodes, when looked at individually, are just simple stories. Yet, after so many years, these characters have been fleshed out, and their escapades stick with you longer than you'd think. It's a quaint show, but still enjoyable. It's quite possible that I'm going to play some late catch up with the show. Fortunately, it's never too late to start that, thanks to syndication.
Though the packaging states there are "irresistible special features," I would have to disagree with that assertion. There's very little of note in the bonus materials, and you'll probably never look at them more than once. The "big" bonus items are a couple of commentary tracks that can be found on "The One Where No One's Ready," "The One With the Football," and "The One With the Morning After." The key players are basically the same for each talk, but a few people do change. Overall, the tracks are exceptionally disappointing. I like to have tracks where the people talk about what went into making the show, how things come together, and what obstacles they may have had to overcome. These three tracks are easy to forget, and I've already done so. All I do recall, and I literally just watched them yesterday, is that it was more fun ignoring the commentary and reading the subtitles as I re-watched the episode. The next feature, which can be found on each of the four discs for some odd reason, is a "Cast & Crew" list. Yes, a list. That's all it is: a list. Not a huge list; just a list of about a dozen names. Wow, a list! The best special feature is the "Tour of Chandler and Joey's Bachelor Pad." Here you get a static picture of their apartment upon which, using your arrow keys, you can highlight some items within. Clicking on the item brings up a brief text description, and then you get the option to watch a one-minute video about said item. It goes into some minor background details on the object, but it's all too short. With such a grand history, longer videos would have been great. Actually, an entire segment with a thorough documentary on the sets, people, and/or locations would have been great. Moving on, there's "Friends of Friends," which highlights the dozen major guest stars from the year with a brief clip of their appearances. Then there's "What's Up With Your Friends," which is a brief video montage of each character's arc from the year. And, lastly, there is a quiz about Ross and Rachel's breakup, aptly titled "Ross and Rachel: On a Break?"
And last but certainly not least, it is time to discuss the transfers. As this is a TV show, don't expect too much because you're not going to get it. Presented in its original full screen ratio, the video has quite a few problems. Overall the image is soft with colors that aren't as full as you'd like, blacks are not as crisp as needed, and there's a bit too much grain throughout. In addition, almost every time a shot of New York City is shown, there's a tremendous amount of shimmering in the shot. It's not the worst stuff you'll see, but it certainly is one of the weakest transfers I've seen for television. On the audio side, the show has been remixed here to 5.0 Dolby Digital. All in all, I don't care for it too much. The sound just comes across wrong; it's missing an element in the harmonics that nags at the back of your mind. It sounds a touch hollow, lacking solid bass, though the music cues are better than the dialogue.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the lovely Jennifer Aniston. Oh my lord is she hot! I could watch her all day and be perfectly entertained. The outfits they put her in throughout this year were stellar, showing ample leg and wonderfully accenting her bosom. Heaven on Earth!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
A rather mundane year, the episodes of the third season are all pretty average. There may be a couple keepers here and there, but the majority of the ideas were dull. Further, am I truly supposed to believe that Ross, über-geek, is capable of landing not only Rachel, but also the hot copy girl and the bald chick? I think not! I'm supposed to believe he gets more women than Joey? But why not? The show's premise of six friends living in veritable luxury in New York City is already feeble, so it's not asking too much more to swallow that little pill about Ross too.
If someone were to walk in off the street and watch the first few episodes of this season, they would probably discern that the show is composed of nothing but neurotic individuals. Quality point is the second episode "The One Where No One's Ready." Monica is freaking out about the answering machine and Richard; Joey and Chandler are having a ridiculous fight about a chair; Rachel can't begin to figure out what to wear; Phoebe goes way overboard in trying to hide a hummus stain; and Ross is mere seconds away from going postal. At the end of the season, you can look back and see these little quirks as charming, but sometimes the brush strokes are a bit too broad.
In the end, I'm surprised with my reaction to the show. I didn't figure I'd find it quite so entertaining, giving me the urge to want to see more of the episodes. Friends is a fun show that is populated with interesting characters, who are wonderfully brought to life by six talented individuals. True, the episodes can be a bit light and fluffy, but is that actually a detriment in any way? We have dramas for those who need some meat in their shows. I've been a touch rough with some comments, trying to nitpick some faults here and there. I now like the fact that I know part of the arc of the characters. I enjoy knowing that I can enter a conversation about the show and have some inkling of what's going on. Hence, with my warm fuzzy intact, I recommend this set. The bonus features are wanting, the transfers aren't that stunning, and some plots are a bit weak; yet, in the grand scheme, you'll still enjoy the show because of the characters and their goofy antics. When it comes to TV shows, it's more important to find a show you like instead of trying to find a stellar DVD package. I'm sure fans of the show already own this set, but casual fans are heartily encouraged to consider adding it to their collections too.
Jennifer Aniston is found guilty of being extremely attractive. She is sentenced to life in short skirts and tight blouses.
Courteney Cox is found guilty of being obsessive compulsive. She is sentenced to twenty days in solitary confinement.
Lisa Kudrow is found guilty of being too much of an airhead. She is fined $10,000 and is requested to use any remaining funds to buy a clue.
Matt LeBlanc is found guilty of being an idiot. All charges are dropped, as you realize he is far smarter than you give him credit for.
Matthew Perry is found guilty of being a sarcastic jerk. He is sentenced to forty hours of community service in Amish country for each not funny remark.
David Schwimmer is found guilty of being a complete and utter fool for cheating on Rachel. He is sentenced to a life of bitter loneliness, as he is prohibited from ever dating women again.
Friends is found not guilty and is free to continue entertaining the world.
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• Audio Commentary on Three Episodes: "The One Where No One's Ready," "The One With the Football," and "The One With the Morning After."
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