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Warner Home Video presents

Friends: The Complete First Season (1994-1995)

"Look, Ross, you gotta understand, between us we haven't had a relationship that has lasted longer than a Mento. You, however, have had the love of a woman for four years. Four years of closeness and sharing, at the end of which she ripped your heart out, and that is why we don't do it! I don't think that was my point."- Chandler (Matthew Perry)

Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer
Other Stars: Elliot Gould, Christina Pickles, Jill Goodacre, Elinor Donahue, Max Wright, Hank Azaria, Morgan Fairchild, Fisher Stevens, Jon Lovitz, Helen Hunt, George Clooney, Noah Wyle, Beverly Garland, Jennifer Grey, Claudia Shear, Harry Shearer, Leah Remini, Jonathan Silverman, Jane Sibbett, Jessica Hecht, Maggie Wheeler
Director: Various

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sexual humor)
Run Time: Approx. 587 min.
Release Date: 2002-04-30
Genre: television

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DVD Review

What can I say about Friends that hasn't been said before? By the end of its first season in 1995, the show had already become one of the most popular sitcoms on television, and for the last eight years, it has more or less dominated the Nielson charts, the definition of "Must See TV." Heck, I have been watching it every Thursday since eighth grade; I've traveled with these characters through high school and most of college. The fanbase is certainly made up of all age groups, but Gen Y in particular seems to have latched on to the show. On Thursday at 7 pm, a quick walk around the large dorm I live in reveals enough, as the voices of Monica, Chandler, Joey, Rachel, Ross, and Phoebe can be heard coming from behind nearly every door.

Even with all the horrible, torturous sitcoms that are cancelled every year, it is still difficult to say why one show works and another doesn't. With Friends, it just seems like the stars aligned and everything fell into place. The right cast, the right creative team, the right concept. Though not everyone can be a beautiful, rich 20-something with apparently no concerns about paying rent on a large New York loft, everyone has gone through a period where their own friends became like an extended family; through breakups and heartache and unemployment, having someone there to ease the blow or make you laugh.

Much of the success, of course, is due to the cast, surely one of the best ensembles ever to appear on television. David Schwimmer and Courtney Cox play brother and sister Ross and Monica Gellar, their sibling chemistry matched only by that between Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston's Rachel (his secret love for her was a focus of the early seasons). Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) are the laugh-generators, with Chandler exhibiting dry sarcasm and Phoebe an endearing ditziness. Finally, there's loveable Joey (Matt LeBlanc), always the ladies' man, and LeBlanc deserves credit for turning a character that easily could have become one-note into one with heart.

Friends, now in its eighth and penultimate season, has been my favorite show for the better part of the last decade (although I'll admit, it has strong competition from Buffy and The Simpsons), so it is hard for me to be objective with this review (though likely, you already have seen the show and already know if you'll be buying it). I can say that season one is easily on par with anything that followed, and contains many classic moments that any true fan cannot afford to miss. If you caught on in later seasons, or don't like the edited versions run in syndication, here's your shot. And if you are one of the people who has never seen the show (I'm sure such people exist, not that I've met them), here's your chance to make six new Friends. As sad as that sounds, but then, who's to say living vicariously through TV is such a bad thing?

This set contains all 24 season one episodes on four DVDs. Each is presented in a slightly extended form, which adds about a minute of footage cut from the original airings.

Disc One:

Episode 1: The Pilot

"You know what the scariest part is? What if there's only one woman for everybody, you know? I mean, what if you get one woman, and that's it? Unfortunately, in my case, there was only one woman for her." - Ross

The pilot episode of the series introduces all the characters. Monica's old friend Rachel has just run out on her wedding (heck, she still has the dress on), Ross has just broken up with his newly-"outed" wife, Joey is out of work, Phoebe introduces her signature quirkiness, and Chandler hates his job. This sets the stage for the next eight seasons surprisingly well, introducing the coffee place and the general tone of the series, but it's also a little slow going. This version runs eight minutes longer than it did when it originally aired, which may explain the plodding pace.

You know the problem with the pilot? Not enough monkeys. So it only earns 2.5 Marcels out of 5.



Episode 2: The One with the Sonogram at the End

"Oh, I think this is the episode of Three's Company where there's some sort of misunderstanding." - Chandler

After the rather rough pilot, episode two brings everything together, and even at this early stage, the cast is working together wonderfully and the writers have really nailed the characters. Rachel is freaking out because she has to give back her engagement ring, and Monica is freaking out because her hypercritical parents are coming over for dinner (they hate her, but love Ross; if she could have any parents in the world, she'd have his). Ross, meanwhile, discovers his ex-wife is pregnant and has to come to terms with the baby and both of its mommies.

Monica's parents don't approve of her spaghetti, but they do enjoy Ross' 4.5 Marcels.



Episode 3: The One with the Thumb

"Hey, you know, I have had it with you guys and your 'cancer' and your 'emphysema' and your 'heart disease.' The bottom line is smoking is cool and you know it." - Chandler

Monica is nervous about introducing her new boyfriend Allan to the gang, because they always hate her boyfriends. But when she does, everyone likes him a little bit too much (Chandler could have "a gallon of Allan"). Meanwhile, Joey has an audition that requires him to smoke, and a training session re-ignites Chandler's addiction. Phoebe first is troubled to discover an extra $500 in her bank account, then disgusted to discover a severed thumb floating in her can of soda. A pretty funny episode all the way around, with Matthew Perry's gyrations as a nicotine addict especially amusing.

3.5 severed Marcels.



Episode 4: The One with George Stephanopoulos

Ross: You know what? I'd better pass on the game. I think I'm just gonna go home and think about my ex-wife and her lesbian lover.
Joey: To hell with hockey, let's all do that!

The A-story here involves Rachel dealing with her old friends, back from when she was still part of the rich social circle, and it is great fun to watch Jennifer Aniston freaking out ("C'mon... let's play... Twister!"). Less amusing is the subplot with everything reminding Ross of the first night he and his ex-wife consummated their relationship, though there is a great payoff when Joey and Chandler try to distract him by taking him to a hockey game, a trip that results in a visit to the emergency room with a dented face. And then there's the non-cameo cameo from George "Snuffleupagus" Stephanopoulos.

The first night Carol and Ross... you know... there were 3 Marcels there.



Episode 5: The One with the East German Laundry Detergent

"Why do you have to break up with her? Just be a man. Stop calling." - Joey

A great example of the show firing on all cylinders, with each cast member performing equally in one of three subplots, all of which are classic. There's Chandler trying to break up with the annoying Janice (in her first of several appearances... Oh... my... gawd."), but totally screwing up until he gets help from Phoebe, who can make any breakup go smoothly ("It's a gift," she says). There's Monica and Joey, trying to break up a dating couple and claim the pieces for themselves. And, best of all, a spotlight on the Ross/Rachel relationship that became the focus of the first season, as Ross helps his secret crush lose her "laundry virginity." Keep an eye out in the background for the first appearance of Central Perk waiter Gunther.

Pull your 4.5 Marcels out of the dryer before they wrinkle.



Episode 6: The One with the Butt

"The exclamation point in the title scares me. It isn't just 'Freud,' it's 'FREUD!'" - Phoebe

After a performance in the psychoanalytic musical Freud!, Joey lands an agent and a role as the stunt butt in Al Pacino's new movie. But will he be able to perform? Meanwhile, Monica tries to get a grip on her neat-freak neuroticism and Chandler has what he thinks is the perfect relationship—the woman only wants him for the sex. The Joey and Chandler stories may fall a little flat, but the emergence of Monica's psychotic side makes this one worth watching.

3 Marcels and not a hair out of place.



Disc Two:

Episode 7: The One with the Blackout

Joey: You waited too long to make your move and now you're in the "friend zone."
Ross: I'm not in the zone.
Joey: No, Ross, you're mayor of the zone.

Part of a "Must See TV" sweeps stunt in which all the Thursday night shows featured stories revolving around a blackout in New York, this episode actually manages to make good use of a gimmick. With all the characters stuck in the dark, they can do little more than sit around and talk. Joey convinces Ross to ask Rachel out, but the suave foreign guy down the hall (Paolo) is mucking things up. Phoebe reveals the weirdest place she has ever had sex ("Milwaukee"), and Chandler is trapped in an ATM vestibule (or is it an atrium?) with supermodel Jill Goodacre.

Will Ross ever tell Rachel... about the 4 Marcels?



Episode 8: The One Where Nana Dies Twice

Chandler: Just tell me what it is. Is it my hair?
Rachel: Yes, Chandler, it's your hair.
Phoebe: Yes, you have homosexual hair.

Monica and Ross have to deal with their parents again after their grandmother dies (several times). The sentimentalism of this storyline (Ross being covered in a shower of Sweet n' Low packets) feels rather forced, especially since Nana has never been featured on the show before, but a lot of humor comes out of Monica's interactions with her mother during and after the funeral. Meanwhile, Joey sneaks a TV into the somber proceedings to catch the end of the football game and manages to gather a crowd of guys (when the Giants lose, Monica's father is heard to blurt out, "Oh, now I'm depressed!"). The episode is totally redeemed, however, by the glorious Chandler subplot, where everyone at his office thinks he's gay (he has a "quality."), which bothers Chandler, and that Brian from accounting is "way out of his league," which bothers him more ("I could GET a Brian!" he says).

Maybe 3.5 Marcels will cheer you up?



Episode 9: The One Where Underdog Gets Away

Monica: Ok, right about now the turkey should be crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside... why are we standing here?
Rachel: We're waiting for you to open the door. You've got the keys.
Monica: No I don't.
Rachel: Yes, you do. When we left, you said, "Got the keys."
Monica: No I didn't. I ASKED, "Got the keys?"
Rachel: No, you SAID, "Got the KEYS."
Chandler: Do either of you *have* the keys?

The episode that begins the tradition of bad Thanksgivings for the gang (of course, Chandler already hates the holiday, as that was the day his parents decided to tell him they were divorcing). Everyone makes plans to get out of town for the day, but things go wrong and everyone winds up disgruntled at Monica's, where she is nervously preparing her first "solo" Thanksgiving dinner. This is easily one of the best episodes of the first season, at least in terms of laughs per minute, and has some great examples of the piddling arguments the group often has (like everyone insisting on a different kind of potato at dinner). Plus, in a brilliant subplot, Joey can't get a date because of his new acting job as the poster boy for VD.

Be thankful for 5 Marcels.



Episode 10: The One with the Monkey

Ross: This is Marcel. My friend Bethel rescued him from some lab.
Phoebe: That is so cruel. Why, WHY would a parent name their child Bethel?

The closest the show ever came to falling into the standard "wacky" sitcom formula came in this episode with the introduction of Ross's plot-device pet monkey Marcel. And though the requisite poop-flinging jokes do come up, the stunt also results in some good comedy, with co-dependent Ross feeling that his relationship with Marcel isn't fulfilling enough ("We had our first fight," he says). Meanwhile, it's New Year's Eve and the gang's pact to all go dateless for the night is beginning to break down. Chandler asks his annoying ex, Janice; Rachel has plans to pick up Paolo from the airport; Monica invites party animal Fun Bobby, and Phoebe meets a sweet scientist (Hank Azaria) and quickly begins a passionate affair. There's a lot of comedy in the Rachel and Chandler subplots, and the scenes with Phoebe have unexpected emotional weight. Plus Phoebe sings at the coffee house: "I made a man with eyes of coal and a smile so bewitchin'. But how was I supposed to know that my mom was dead in the kitchen?"

Even an appearance from Marcel can't raise the score beyond 4 Marcels.



Episode 11: The One with Mrs. Bing

"See? This is what happens when you break the code." - Joey

Chandler's mom, a successful romance novelist, is in town, and everyone is excited save Chandler. Phoebe and Monica inadvertently cause a cute guy to get hit by a car and then pamper him in the hospital, even though he's in a coma. Ross is distraught about Rachel's continuous smooching with Paolo, but that doesn't stop him from kissing Mrs. Bing (played by Morgan Fairchild). Neither of the main plots generates a lot of laughter (though Chandler's troubled childhood is expanded on nicely), and the idea of Phoebe and Monica fighting over Coma Guy is just stupid, but Rachel's misspelled attempts at writing a romance novel make it worth sticking around for the credits ("Throbbing pens? Watch out, you don't want to be around when he writes with those!" says Ross).

At least Ross didn't kiss the monkey. 2 Marcels.



Episode 12: The One with the Dozen Lasagnas

Ross: Hey, when did you and Susan meet Huey Lewis?
Carol: Uh, that's our friend Tanya.

Ross can't decide if he wants to know the sex of his unborn baby or not, and the fact that Carol has told everyone else is making things difficult. Monica is stuck with 12 lasagnas (hence the title) after her aunt claims she asked for vegetarian. Chandler and Joey need a new table, and decide on one of the foosball variety (which brings out Monica's competitive instincts). Rachel's relationship with Paolo is in jeopardy after he makes a pass at Phoebe during a massage session. A somewhat scattered, overplotted episode, but a charming one nonetheless. Love the opening, where the whole gangs hums a rendition of the Odd Couple theme.

12 lasagnas and 3.5 Marcels.



Disc Three:

Episode 13: The One with the Boobies

''If I turn into my parents, I'll either be an alcoholic blond chasing after 20-year-old boys or... I'll end up like my mom.'' - Chandler

Phoebe dates a psychologist who has a habit of analyzing everyone around him (to Chandler: "You're very funny. But I wouldn't want to be there when the laughter stops."), much to the annoyance of the rest of the group. Joey discovers his dad has been cheating on his mom for six years. Rachel tries to get revenge on Chandler after he accidentally sees her "boobies." The parent/child role reversal in the Joey story feels tired, but the "tit for tat" play between Rachel and Chandler is funny and Alan's assessments of the gang's emotional problems ("...sitting around in your coffeehouse with your giant cups, which I'm sorry, might as well have nipples on them!" he says) are a scream.

You have a Freudian obsession with 3 Marcels.



Episode 14: The One with the Candy Hearts

"Come on Ross, you gotta get back in the game here. The Rachel thing isn't happening, your ex-wife's a lesbian, you... I don't think we need a third." - Chandler

Valentine's Day sees everyone dealing with disastrous dating problems. Ross is out with someone other than his wife for the first time in nine years when who should he run into but Carol and her girlfriend. Chandler goes on a blind date that turns out to be with Janice, which puts him in the uncomfortable position of breaking up with her a third time in five months ("Oh... my... gawd." is first uttered in this episode). Meanwhile, the girls have an anti-boyfriend bonfire, proving the easiest way to attract men is to call the fire department. A funny one all the way around, and who doesn't love the bristling anti-chemistry between Chandler and Janice?

Cuddle up with the one you love and 3.5 Marcels.



Episode 15: The One with the Stoned Guy

"You like this woman, right? You want to see her again, right? Well if you can't talk dirty to me, how you gonna talk dirty to her? Now tell me you wanna caress my butt!" - Joey

Friends is always funny, but this has to be the funniest of the season. Chandler quits his job in data processing to visit a career counselor and subsequently finds he is ideally suited for a career in... data processing (leading to the memorable introduction of the WENUS concept—weekly estimated net use of systems). Jon Lovitz guest stars as the pot-smoking owner of a restaurant who is interviewing Monica for a chef's position, but is really only interested in combating the munchies. Ross is seeing someone new, but she likes dirty talk, and Joey offers to give him a few lessons. Sure, the Lovitz character is just a sweeps stunt, but the dirty talk scene is a classic.

4.5 Marcels and a WENUS.



Episode 16 & 17: The One with Two Parts

So, twins. That's like... two births. Ouch." - Ross

Rachel (as Monica): "I use my breasts to get attention"
Monica (as Rachel): "Hey, we BOTH do that!"

This two-parter is presented in its original form as one continuous episode. The first half features Ross going to Lamaze classes with Carol AND Susan, Chandler forced to fire a beautiful woman at work—one that he happens to be involved with—and Joey dating Phoebe's twin sister Ursula (explaining how Lisa Kudrow was concurrently appearing on Mad About You). There are some decent lines, but the broad physical comedy involved in a subplot about Rachel forgetting to take down the Christmas lights falls flat. Watch for a guest appearance from Helen Hunt and enjoy the running gag about Marcel getting Monica's TV stuck on "Spanish" ("Wanna watch 'Laverne y Shirley?'").

In the latter half, Rachel visits the hospital after twisting her ankle with the lights. She has no insurance, so she pretends to be Monica, which becomes a problem after the two get dates with cute doctors, played by George Clooney and Noah Wyle. This results in a classic scene where the two of them have a fight while playing each other. Ross continues to worry about his impending fatherhood, and Joey continues dating Ursula. Marcel swallows a Scrabble tile (the letter K), necessitating another trip to the E.R. The little critter is fast wearing out his welcome, but it's worth it for a great line from Chandler ("We think he was trying to spell out 'monkey.'").

Two parts and 4 Marcels.



Episode 18: The One with All the Poker

Rachel: Guess what?
Chandler: Uh, okay...The fifth dentist caved and now they're all recommending Trident?

A wonderful episode that forgoes almost all plot and focuses just on the characters playing poker and sitting around talking. The rivalry between the guys and gals is very funny (especially Monica's violent reactions to losing at anything), but even better is the Ross/Rachel relationship, which continues to gain prominence. A subplot involving Rachel's search for a new job allows for some wonderful acting from Jennifer Aniston, but antics from Marcel are, as always, somewhat out of place.

Call and raise you 5 Marcels.



Disc Four:

Episode 19: The One Where the Monkey Gets Away

''What happened to, 'Forget relationships! I'm done with men!'—the whole, uh, penis embargo?'' - Ross

Just when Ross is about to confess his feelings to Rachel, she accidentally lets Marcel out of the apartment, spoiling his plans and his mood (the situation gets worse when her ex-fiancé, Barry, reappears and says he wants her back). The Ross/Rachel stuff is again a highpoint, but the rest of the episode is just a lot of pointless monkeying around as everyone looks for Marcel. There's even a dumb slo-mo gag where Phoebe gets shot with a tranquilizer dart, to non-comedic non-effect. Forcing actors this good to play off a monkey is just criminal.

For Ross, Rachel, and love, I'll grant a generous 2.5 Marcels.



Episode 20: The One with the Evil Orthodontist

Phoebe: Stop being so testosterone-y!
Chandler: Which, by the way, is the REAL San Francisco treat.

Rachel is seriously considering getting back with Barry after the two have a rendezvous in his dentist chair. Chandler freaks out when, after "one of the best first dates in history", the girl doesn't call him back. Chandler's scenes are, as always, a riot, and Rachel milks her guilt over sleeping with Barry for all its comedy worth, but really, with Ross out there, who actually thought the two would get back together? Also features a great throwaway debate about who's the tougher snack mascot, Mr. Salty or Mr. Peanut (of course, Phoebe says, Mr. Peanut is gay).

Don't feel guilty about those 3.5 Marcels.



Episode 21: The One with the Fake Monica

''Let's just say my Curious George doll is no longer curious.'' -Rachel

The gang begins to get annoyed with Marcel (catching up with the audience) when he starts humping everything in sight, which prompts Ross to consider giving him up to a zoo. Monica's credit card gets stolen, and she decides that the "fake Monica" is living a more interesting life ("She has everything I want, and she doesn't have my mother," she says). In a hilarious subplot, Joey tries to decide on a stage name, and in the end, picks "Joseph Stalin," much to Chandler's delight. A funny episode anyway, but Lisa Kudrow's delivery of the line "It's madness I tell you, MADNESS!" just makes it all the better. Harry Shearer plays a creepy animal collector.

Joseph Stalin in Fiddler on the Roof earns 4 Marcels.



Episode 22: The One with the Ick Factor

''Oh God, I just had sex with someone who wasn't alive during the Bicentennial!'' - Monica

Brilliant, brilliant. Ross gets a pager so he'll know when Carol goes into labor, but it becomes an aggravation when he keeps getting wrong numbers from people (his is 555-JIMBO, they want 555-JUMBO, which means just what you think it does, sicko). Monica likes her new boyfriend, even if he is younger, but is shocked when it turns out that he is indeed a senior, only not in college. Phoebe subs for Chandler's secretary, and reveals that not only do his co-workers not like him, they "do" him ("Could that report BE any later?"). All four subplots are hilarious and memorable, a rare event.

Could I GIVE this episode any more Marcels? No, 5 is the most.



Episode 23: The One with the Birth

''I love them—each one's like a little party in my uterus!'' - Carol

The perennial sweeps event, the birth of a baby, but done by this show, it doesn't feel like a ratings stunt. Friends has always been great at taking sitcom conventions and delivering them with restraint. Even the traditional gag of two characters getting locked in a room together (a plot that has been done on every sitcom EVER as a way to get two adverse personalities together so they can clash and then learn to love—gag) is done well—in this case, it's Ross and Susan (duh). Meanwhile, Rachel flirts with a cute obstetrician played by Jonathan Silverman. Even the schmaltzy ending with everyone cooing over the baby is surprisingly sweet.

4.5 cooing Marcels.



Episode 24: The One Where Rachel Finds Out

"Wow, you're going to be making money hand over fist!" - Phoebe

Yes, it's the moment everyone has been waiting for: Rachel finally finds out Ross is in love with her. Of course, she hears it from Chandler, and Ross is in China at the time. Rachel spends the rest of the episode agonizing over whether or not she has feelings for him as well. And in a hilarious subplot, Joey is dating a beautiful woman, but due to his participation in a fertility study that requires celibacy, he can't "seal the deal." Yeah, yeah, Joey + masturbation jokes = funny, but who could forget the nail biting season ender, with Rachel going to meet Ross at the airport?

A climactic 4 Marcels.



Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Every episode has been remastered and looks better than ever; much improved over even the best broadcast airings. Friends features a lot of color in the costumes and backgrounds, and on DVD, colors look rich and saturated, with natural fleshtones and no color bleeding. Black level is good, and contrast in darker scenes is a bit lacking but still not bad. Episodes are sharp, but without any apparent edge enhancement. And with only six episodes per disc, compression artifacts aren't a problem, though complex patterns (like clothing) occasionally show some aliasing.

Image Transfer Grade: B+
 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.0
Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Audio has likewise been remastered, in DD 5.0, and the results vary based on what type of system you have. With regular TV speakers, several episodes tend to sound a bit muffled, and occasionally lines of dialogue are drowned out by the laugh track (this problem could have been avoided were a 2.0 mix included, but it is only a minor problem in a few episodes). However, with a surround setup, things are much improved. Most of the surround action involves a slight expansion of the score and musical cues. The front soundstage is where most of the action occurs (after all, this is a primarily dialogue driven series), and the mix expands nicely across the front mains, with dialogue anchored in the center channel and always clear and natural. The laugh track usually is well integrated into the mains, but occasionally laughs come from the surrounds as well. A very nice presentation, again, better than what you'd get in the original TV airing.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Korean with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring The One with the Trailer for Season Two
1 Feature/Episode commentary by executive producers Marta Kauffman, David Crane, and Kevin S. Bright for the pilot episode
Packaging: Book Gatefold
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. A Peek at Central Perk: Interactive Map
  2. Friends of Friends: Memorable Guest Star Moments
  3. How Well Do You Know Your Friends? Trivia Quiz
  4. Episode Previews
Extras Review: Extras aren't as extensive as what you'll find these days on some other TV releases, but what's here is interesting. Disc one contains a commentary and cast bios, the rest of the extras are on disc four.

The best is undoubtedly the commentary on the pilot episode from series executive producers Marta Kauffman, David Crane, and Kevin S. Bright. The three were recorded separately, and each offers a lot of interesting information on the genesis of the series, from the casting, to the filming of the pilot, to the overall philosophy of the show. There are a lot of little pieces of trivia sprinkled throughout, which should delight true Friends fanatics, even if some of it is probably old news (as are the stories about the recording of the theme song). Too bad they only talk for just the one episode, though.

Over on disc four, there's Friends of Friends: Memorable Guest Star Moments, which offers brief video clips highlighting all the guest stars that appeared during the first season, which I'm sure would be a more useful feature if I hadn't just watched all 24 episodes in the last two days. The How Well Do You Know Your Friends? trivia quiz is a neat little game that incorporates video clips, but at only eight questions, it doesn't have a lot of replay value. A cool inclusion is the virtual tour of the coffehouse, A Peek at Central Perk: Interactive Map, which lets you click different objects scattered about the friends' favorite hangout. Selecting, say, the big orange couch or Phoebe's guitar will bring up information about the item, along with series trivia and, occasionally, additional commentary from the creative team.

On the presentation side, the four discs come packaged in a nice-ooking but rather flimsy gatefold case that is the exact replica of the design used for Warner's release of Absolutely Fabulous, with a foldout package held within a thin paper slipcover. Sadly, episodes are not chaptered, but they do have optional subtitles in English, French, Spanish, or Korean. You can either select the episodes one at a time (get a quick preview by highlighting the coffee cup next to the episode title on the selection menu), or use the "play all" function.

One final note: some have expressed concern that these episodes might be edited, post-Sept. 11th, to delete images of the Twin Towers used frequently in establishing shots. I'm happy to report that shots of the buildings remain in place, just as they should.

Extras Grade: C+
 

Final Comments

Usually, even the best shows begin with a rather uneven premiere season. Friends was strong from the start. One of the most successful sitcoms of the 1990s has finally come to DVD in a proper full season set, and the only way I could be happier is if I had season two right now. Could this set BE any more recommended?

Joel Cunningham 2002-04-28