Warner Home Video presents
Friends: The Complete Tenth Season (2003-2004)
Monica: I can't believe you tried to cut me out. Why, Phoebe, why?
Phoebe: It was right after we were living together, and you were driving me crazy, ok? You were really controlling, and compulsive, and shrill.
Monica: I'm still all those things!- Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow
Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer
Other Stars: Christina Applegate, Selma Blair, Jennifer Coolidge, Danny DeVito, Dakota Fanning, Anna Faris, Greg Kinnear, Paul Rudd, Aisha Tyler
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sexuality, language)
Run Time: Approx. 467 min.
Release Date: 2005-11-15
DVD ReviewRoss and Rachel. A monkey named Marcel. The chick and the duck. Monica and Chandler. Foosball. Joey and sandwiches. Smelly cats. Phoebe "Regina Phalange" Buffay. "We were on a break!" After ten seasons, I have a lot of memories of my Friends. Happily, most of them are good ones—the show stayed remarkably consistent over the years, and though Season 10 (shortened to 18 episodes rather than the typical 24) doesn't hit quite as many high notes as its forebears, it's tough to notice while watching them on DVD.
I generally have no patience for the traditional, three-camera, loud laugh-track, catch phrase and wacky neighbor sit-com, but there are few things I find as comforting as a Friends re-run (heck, I've watched these characters far longer than I've known most of my actual friends). When the show ended, NBC scrambled to find a like-minded replacement (turning Joey into Joey didn't work out so well), but they needn't have bothered. With the passing of Seinfeld, Frasier, and Friends, TV has likely witnessed the last gasp of the typical sit-com, at least for a while.
What is it about the neuroses of New Yorkers Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Joey (Matt LeBlanc), Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Ross (David Schwimmer), Monica (Courtney Cox), and Chandler (Matthew Perry) that kept so many people entertained for ten years? Who knows? Obviously not the TV networks that have tried to clone it since it became a smash hit in 1995. But even in this, its final year, Friends is one-of-a-kind, still very funny and, surprisingly, fairly fresh, even as familiar plots are trotted out once again (the Ross and Rachel romance). The soap opera plotting makes it worth catching every episode, and even after 233 of them, I'm still happy to see the gang together.
Going into the season, producers knew the tenth would be the last. Things had almost ended with Year Nine, but some last-minute juggling allowed for an abbreviated last hurrah to do the thing properly. You can feel it, the sense that these characters are finally growing up (er, maybe not Joey), and getting ready to move on. Monica and Chandler, married since Season Seven, start planning to adopt a child—in order to avoid yet another pregnancy storyline, the writers had the idea of involving the Bings in a thread with a ditzy surrogate mother (Anna Faris). Flakey Phoebe finally commits to a guy, and Mike (Paul Rudd) slides smoothly into the series as the "seventh friend." Ross and Rachel struggle to raise their baby daughter Emma (Ross's son Ben? Who's that?), and string the audience along a little more. That leaves Joey the odd man out—he's still everyone's favorite dim bulb, but his character doesn't get much closure (perhaps because the producers knew he was heading to Hollywood the next fall). His flirtation with Rachel, which constituted the cliffhanger that ended Season Nine, is abruptly resolved (albeit in a very funny scene, in which Joey's skills with bra clasps are trumped by his guilt at dating a friend's ex).
There are the usual guest stars. Aisha Tyler returns as the only black person in New York (or so it would seem) for a few episodes as Ross's nerdy love interest. Christina Applegate plays Rachel's sister, who happens to make Joey look like a genius. Danny DeVito plays the stripper (yes, ew was my response as well) at Phoebe's bachelorette party. Jennifer Coolidge (who later popped up on Joey) plays a former friend of Phoebe's who moved to England and affected a British accent. Creepy child actress Dakota Fanning plays a creepy child.
Highlights: Joey's appearance on a TV game show in The One Where the Stripper Cries. Ross's problems with spray-on tans in The One with Ross's Tan ("Did you count Mississippily?"). The usual antics during The One with the Late Thanksgiving. Phoebe's fancy wedding in The One with Phoebe's Wedding (no, really?). Joey's attempts to speak French. Phoebe's decision to change her name (Princess Consuela Bananahammock, meet Mike, aka Crap Bag, first name Crap, last name Bag).
It all wraps up in the appropriately titled The Last One. The friends all share a tearful goodbye, but not before the faithful fans get everything they could possibly ask for in terms of closure. Many series stumble at the finish line (Seinfeld, to name a blatant offender), but Friends sprints all the way. There are no big guest stars, no big stunts, just all the friends, together, one last time. They were there for each other for ten years, and for the viewers, too.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The full-frame transfer is on par with other Friends releases: bright colors, good detail, and a sharp image that looks great on a smaller TV. Blow it up too much and it tends to look a bit grainy, but other than that, this is a nice image.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: As usual, the episodes are remixed in DD 5.0, and the track sounds a lot like stereo, to be honest, with dialogue coming from the center but bleeding into the front mains a bit. The surrounds are pretty subdued, carrying only the music or, at times, the laugh track. Still, the dialogue comes across loud and clear, and that's what matters.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 108 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kaufman, and David Crane on The One with the Late Thanksgiving, The One Where the Stripper Cries, and The Last One
Packaging: Book Gatefold
- Gag reels
- Music video, Joey Joey
But first, producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kaufman, and David Crane again provide commentary for a handful of episodes: The One with the Late Thanksgiving, The One Where the Stripper Cries, and The Last One. If you've heard the tracks on previous releases, you know what to expect. All three share anecdotes about the production of each episode and the season as a whole. The commentaries were recorded around six months after the finale was filmed, so there are some fond remembrances of the series in general. Fans should enjoy these.
You'll find more of the same on Disc 4, as the producers are joined by the principle cast for Friends Final Thoughts (25m:25s), a documentary recorded during the filming of The Last One. It sums up the series with a look back at the its genesis, each of the main characters, and the chief couples (Monica and Chandler, Ross and Rachel, Phoebe and Mike). The doc is mostly made up of talking head interviews and well-chosen episode clips, but it's a good piece and a nice look back.
There's another Friends of Friends featurette (16m:59s), featuring interviews with Aisha Tyler, Paul Rudd, and Christina Applegate. Next are "flashback" gag reels for seasons one through four (those DVD sets are the only ones that didn't include them in the first place), and new gags for year 10. Altogether, there are more than 40 minutes of bloopers. Usually I'd consider it overkill, but for some reason I find Friends bloopers are actually pretty funny.
Closing out the set is the short, goofy Joey Joey music video. Episodes finally include chapter stops (better late than never, I guess), so you can easily skip the theme song. And speaking of, though it was included on a handful of "best of" discs, no season set has included the Friends-centric music video for the Rembrandts theme I'll Be There for You. Not a huge deal, but an omission worth noting nonetheless, as is the absence of the two-part clip show that preceded the finale (though it wasn't anything more that a bunch of punchlines strung together, with no new content).
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsOne of the most popular sit-coms of all time, Friends lasted ten years and still managed to go out on top with a final season that does justice to a great group of characters. When the show ended, some critics sounded the death knell of the traditional sit-com. And while the Scrubs and the Arrested Developments have been lauded for their innovation, there hasn't been another Friends since, well, Friends. I'm sure someday there will be, but until then, they'll be there for you on DVD, all 233 episodes.
Joel Cunningham 2005-11-13