Created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox Arquette, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer
- All twenty-three eighth season episodes uncut
- Running audio commentary from the executive producers on three episodes
- Friends of Friends video guest book
- Gag reel
- Trivia game
- “Gunther Spills the Beans”
Released by: Warner Home Video.
Anamorphic: N/A; episodes appear in their original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Only diehards should own.
In case you’ve been living under a rock in a remote rainforest or something and are unfamiliar with the premise of the show, Friends is an ensemble-cast sitcom based around the lives of six New Yorkers tied together by family, shared history, and the ability to bounce witty one-liners off each other. The eighth season (for which the show won an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series) centers largely around the pregnancy of Rachel (Aniston) and its ripple effect on the rest of the characters.
The eighth season is okay, but it was already showing the signs of everyone getting tired. The pregnancy plot makes good fodder for conflict and more emotional depth than some seasons that came before it, but it still does not compare to the first few years of the show. An interesting aspect from a writing standpoint (discussed in the commentary) is that when the season began, it was still a very real possibility it might be the final one. For the first half of the season, they had to write in such a way that left the door open either way. Once they found out that they were headed for a longer run, the writers decided to create a love triangle between Rachel (Aniston), Ross (Schwimmer), and Joey (LeBlanc), which resurrected the popular theme of a sweet guy pining after an oblivious girl.
This formula between Ross and Rachel was the driving force (and major source of high ratings) for the first few seasons, and its absence was one of the reasons some viewers became bored and began to look elsewhere for entertainment. One thing that anyone designing the plot of a television show should understand is that if you have one character chasing another, you’d better have something great to replace the chase once it stops, or just plan for viewers to fall off. See Moonlighting if you need more evidence of this.
The features of the DVD are passable. Three of the episodes include commentary from executive producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane. It’s interesting and entertaining, although I would have liked to hear at least a little from the actors’ point-of-view. One of the more interesting features is Joey’s Game Show Challenge, a Friends trivia game based on a game show that Joey auditions for in the season.
The Friends of Friends video guestbook is all right, but it seemed like they had to scrape the barrel a little to find people to put in it. As for “Gunther Spills the Beans,” it’s a preview of the ninth season, so there’s not much to that. The gag reel is…well, it’s a gag reel and not even a very good one. Nothing to write home about.
And that’s pretty much the overall problem. Sure, if you’re collecting the entire series, you should obviously buy this set just for the sake of being a completist. If you for some reason are renting and can only choose a set from the last half of the series, this one isn’t a bad choice. Otherwise, I’d say stick with the beginning seasons when everyone was at their best. Especially the writers.