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Case Number 06820

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Friends: The Complete Ninth Season

Warner Bros. // 2002 // 620 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // May 18th, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Bromley thinks a lifetime's not too long to live as friends.

Editor's Note

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 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 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 Charge

Ross: "I didn't give her that ring."
Phoebe: "You didn't?"
Ross: "No!"
Phoebe: "So…whose ring is it?"
Ross: "It's mine!"
Phoebe: "Is it an engagement ring?"
Ross: "Yes."
Phoebe: "But you didn't give it to her?"
Ross: "No!"
Phoebe: "But you were going to propose?"
Ross: "No!"
Phoebe: "Huh. I might be losing interest in this."

Opening Statement

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Facts of the Case

All 23 episodes of the penultimate season of Friends are included in the Friends: The Complete Ninth Season boxed set. Titles and synopses follow:

• "The One Where No One Proposes"
Season Nine kicks off exactly where the previous season's cliff-hanger ending left off, as new mother Rachel (Jennifer Aniston, The Good Girl) mistakenly accepts a marriage proposal from Joey (Matt LeBlanc, Lost in Space).

• "The One Where Emma Cries"
Exhaustion sets in as Rachel is unable to stop her newborn daughter from crying incessantly; Joey begs forgiveness from Ross (David Schwimmer, Kissing a Fool) with disastrous results.

• "The One With the Pediatrician"
Fearful that she'll discover his secret shame, Ross tries to stop Rachel from taking their daughter to his pediatrician; Chandler (Matthew Perry, The Whole Ten Yards) learns that he has to relocate to Tulsa for work; Joey and Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow, The Opposite of Sex) find each other dates. The episode marks the first appearance of Paul Rudd (Runaway Daughters, Wet Hot American Summer), as Phoebe's boyfriend Mike.

• "The One With the Sharks"
As Chandler and Monica (Courtney Cox Arquette, Scream) deal with their unusual living circumstances, Phoebe frets over losing her new boyfriend when Ross informs him that she's never been in a serious relationship.

• "The One With Phoebe's Birthday Dinner"
Conflicts and commitments keep Phoebe and Joey waiting and hungry when the gang arranges to meet for dinner to celebrate Phoebe's birthday.

• "The One With the Male Nanny"
The show's 200th episode finds Ross and Rachel hiring a sensitive new nanny (Freddie Prinze, Jr., Scooby-Doo); Phoebe's ex-boyfriend David (Hank Azaria, Eulogy) returns to throw a wrench in her new romance.

• "The One With Ross's Inappropriate Song"
Chandler and Joey find what might be a homemade sex tape starring Monica and her ex; Ross discovers that the only way to make Emma laugh is by singing Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back."

• "The One With Rachel's Other Sister"
Rachel's long-lost sister (Christina Applegate, The Sweetest Thing) turns up on Thanksgiving and stirs things up among everyone; Monica gets obsessive about protecting her wedding china.

• "The One With Rachel's Phone Number"
Chandler desperately tries to keep a visit home from Tulsa a secret from Joey; Rachel and Phoebe spend a girls' night out, where Rachel finds herself being hit on for the first time since giving birth; Ross and Mike (Paul Rudd) hang out and find they have nothing to talk about.

• "The One With the Christmas in Tulsa"
Clip show! Clip show! When Chandler is hit on by a co-worker in Tulsa (Selma Blair, Storytelling), he reflects back on his relationship with Monica.

• "The One Where Rachel Goes Back to Work"
Rachel returns from pregnancy leave to learn that she has been temporarily replaced by a handsome guy (Dermot Mulroney, Undertow) with whom she instantly clashes; Joey gets Phoebe a gig as an extra on his soap.

• "The One With Phoebe's Rats"
Phoebe's boyfriend Mike learns that she is keeping the rats that have infested her apartment as pets; Ross fights to keep Joey away from his hot new nanny (Melissa George, Dark City, The Amityville Horror (2005)); Monica invites Rachel's competition (Mulroney) to her birthday party.

• "The One Where Monica Sings"
Phoebe brings Monica to sing at Mike's piano bar, but the stage lights have an unexpected sartorial effect; Joey enlists Chandler to help wax his eyebrows; Ross tries to make Rachel jealous by bringing a girl home.

• "The One With the Blind Dates"
Joey and Phoebe scheme to set Ross and Rachel up on terrible blind dates in an effort to reunite them; Monica and Chandler try to get busy while babysitting for Emma. Jon Lovitz (Trapped in Paradise) guest stars as Rachel's date.

• "The One With the Mugging"
Chandler gets a position at an advertising agency, but is surprised to find he's the oldest intern there; Ross discovers that Phoebe mugged him as a child; Joey auditions for a famous actor (played by Jeff Goldblum, The Great White Hype).

• "The One With the Boob Job"
When both Chandler and Monica approach Joey individually about borrowing money, Joey makes up a story about what the money is for; Phoebe and Mike decide to move in together, but learn that they have very different views when it comes to marriage; Rachel attempts to "baby-proof" the apartment.

• "The One With the Memorial Service"
Ross and Chandler get into an Internet war posting false information about one another on a high school alumni site; Phoebe asks Monica to help her keep away from Mike after their recent split.

• "The One With the Lottery"
When an out-of-state lottery reaches a huge jackpot, the friends pool their money to buy tickets, but it's not long the promise of money soon turns them against one another.

• "The One With Rachel's Dream"
To make use of a non-refundable reservation in the Hamptons, Chandler brings Ross on a weekend getaway and learns of Ross's predilection for stealing from hotel rooms; Monica struggles to find a way of telling Phoebe not to play her music outside of the restaurant; Rachel has a romantic dream about Joey and realizes she has feelings for him.

• "The One With the Soap Opera Party"
Joey has his secret annual soap opera party on the roof, only this year the rest of the group finds out about it and insists on attending; Ross meets Charlie (Aisha Tyler, 24), a new paleontology professor who might be his soul mate, but winds up intimidated by her past dating résumé.

• "The One With the Fertility Test"
While still struggling to conceive, Chandler and Monica go to a fertility clinic and run into Chandler's ex, Janice (Maggie Wheeler, The Parent Trap (1998)); Ross is dismayed when Charlie begins dating Joey.

• "The One With the Donor"
Chandler and Monica explore their options by interviewing a coworker of Chandler's (John Stamos, Full House, Party Monster) as a potential sperm donor; Rachel confesses to Phoebe that she has feelings for Joey, but is overheard by Joey's girlfriend, Charlie.

• "The One in Barbados"
In the one-hour season finale, the group heads to Barbados to hear Ross deliver the keynote speech at a paleontologists' convention. While there, Joey, Charlie, Ross, and Rachel undergo a kind of romantic revolving door; Phoebe is forced to choose between her two ex-boyfriends, who both show up to win her heart; Monica experiences a bad hair day.

The Evidence

I'd love to say that Friends was on its last legs—that it had, for lack of a better phrase, jumped the shark—in its second-to-last season. That the show had exhausted all of its narrative and character possibilities after eight long years on the air, and that by its ninth season it was essentially just running on fumes. That it was impossible to care by this point. That the series, once the most popular sitcom on television, had simply run its course.

I might even be right too—there's a reason I included the above quote from the ninth season's premiere episode—if I really felt that this season of Friends was such a far cry from the show's previous years. It isn't. Does anyone else remember an extended storyline involving a monkey? Multiple childbirths, including the one that concluded the previous season? Ross and Rachel's secret marriage? Kathleen Turner as Chandler's father? The doctor that loved "Fonzie"? Did I mention the monkey? The show has a long history of missteps and unfunny ideas that continue on long after they've worn out their welcome. It's never been a perfect show. Friends: The Complete Ninth Season isn't really any different in that regard.

That's not to say that I'm condemning Friends or its ninth year. The show is what it always is: a comfortably predictable, sometimes smarmy, well-acted and (occasionally) well-written ensemble comedy that, if it didn't exactly redefine the traditional sitcom format, certainly set the standard for a time. Yes, Season Nine can be maddeningly uneven, but that's the show—and I say that as someone who's been a fan (or at least a viewer) from the very beginning. Yes, there are just as many lame and contrived moments as there are funny ones. Yes, Season Nine is guilty of stretching what little credibility many of the characters already had. And yes, Season Nine is guilty of introducing a baby into the mix (previous babies on the show—and there have been several—lived in some off-camera universe), typically the death rattle of any sitcom—though one could argue that within a few episodes, the baby is all but forgotten (which actually calls into question the parenting of a couple of characters, but let's not lose sleep over it).

What's best about the show (and it hasn't always been the case; the later seasons are better than the early ones) is the easy chemistry among the ensemble and the almost ridiculous comfort level they have playing their characters. By this point in the series, the six leads have so fully inhabited their respective parts that they're often able to pull laughs from the most unexpected places; watching them work at this stage of the game is like watching any seasoned pro—it's a blast. Courtney Cox and Matt LeBlanc in particular have used the run of the show to develop two especially inspired comic creations—they don't really resemble human beings any longer, but damned if they don't squeak out at least a couple of laughs per episode (Cox's evolution has been especially interesting / impressive, considering she began the series as nothing more than the straight gal). David Schwimmer, who was possibly the most promising in earlier years, has gone the other direction by Season Nine; his Ross has become a whiny cartoon character, overacted to the point of being out in the stratosphere. Kudrow, Aniston (who's also grown to be quite a nimble comedienne), and Perry, rounding out the ensemble, are as consistent and dependable as always; Kudrow, probably the most instinctively funny person on the show, has always been let down by a character that's difficult to write and next to impossible to play. That she's made it work for so long is a kind of small miracle.

If nothing else, Friends has always made for good romantic comedy—something television is lacking in the age of reality shows and police procedurals. I'll admit to being something of a sucker for the genre, which may color my opinion of the series but shouldn't detract from the strength of the show's deft combination of romantic possibility and humor. The Complete Ninth Season runs low on this commodity, most likely because the writers have exhausted all of the Ross-and-Rachel and Chandler-and-Monica storylines (the latter couple's secret romance story a few years back might have been the series at its most inspired). The Rachel and Joey story, which begins and ends the season but is forgotten for most of the middle, is a poor substitute—Aniston and LeBlanc have the wrong kind of chemistry, both as actors and as characters, and the whole thing feels forced at best.

Friends: The Complete Ninth Season comes to DVD as a four-disc set courtesy of Warner Bros. For anyone who's been collecting the season-length sets as they've been released, there should be no surprises with this one. The episodes, which run roughly 23 minutes apiece, are presented in their original full-frame television aspect ratio. The picture quality on the shows is about what it is on TV—it could be better, but it's still acceptable. The same goes for the 5.0 audio track; it's an improvement over the two-channel stereo tracks that most TV-shows-on-DVD feature, delivering the dialogue strongly without going overboard on the laugh track, but it doesn't hold up against some of the better tracks out there (to be fair, those typically belong to movies). The episodes on the set also run slightly longer than they do on television; a few jokes, originally cut from the broadcast versions for time purposes, have been reinserted—that's why the box art refers to them as "uncut," but don't expect anything subversive or racy.

There are no surprises in the extras department, either. The same three people—producers Marta Kaufman, Kevin Bright, and David Crane—assemble to deliver commentary tracks over three episodes. Their talks are quite listenable and contain a reasonable amount of behind-the-scenes information, but after eight previous boxed sets it's hard for the group to avoid repeating themselves. Also included is a lame trivia game complete with creep bobble-head cast likenesses, an even lamer "preview" for the show's final season (which contains no actual information, so what's really the point?), a short Flaming Lips video that plays more like a Lisa Kudrow retrospective, and a gag reel that contains some legitimate laughs—the relationships the cast have formed over the years come through in the way they try and crack each other up.

Closing Statement

Friends isn't a show for everyone, in that it actually is for everyone—some people are put off by that. It doesn't break any new ground or challenge the viewer the way a great series does, but does what it intends to do with skill and energy. The Complete Ninth Season is far from being the series' best (and does suggest that it was just about quittin' time), so I wouldn't recommend a newcomer getting started here, but, then, why would you? That's a bit like wandering into a movie during the last ten minutes and deciding whether or not you like it. Pick it up only if you've been buying the damn things all along—and if you are, in the words of one insightful reader, a "completist whore" (like I am), you will.

The Verdict

Look, we only have to put up with them for one more season and we'll never have to hear that damn theme song again. Let's leave them to sit in the corner and drink coffee all day. They're not hurting anyone, right?

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Scales of Justice

Video: 87
Audio: 86
Extras: 45
Acting: 88
Story: 78
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 620 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Comedy
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Audio Commentary with Executive Producer Marta Kaufman, Executive Producer Kevin S. Bright, and Executive Producer David Crane on "The One With the Male Nanny," "The One With Rachel's Other Sister," and "The One in Barbados" (Parts I and II)
• Featurette: "Behind the Style: The Look of Friends"
• Gag Reel
• Flaming Lips Music Video
• "Who's Your Best Friend?" Trivia Challenge
• Featurette: "Gunther Spills the Beans"








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