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For a ten year period from 1994 to 2004, FRIENDS was one of the series that truly made NBC's Thursday night lineup Must See TV. During that time frame, I remember being in front of my television on Thursday nights and watching one of the best ensemble comedies to ever grace the airwaves. However, with the advent of syndication, and the whittling down of the episodes to allow for far too many time wasting commercials, I found myself turned off by the prospect of watching FRIENDS since it went off the air. Thank goodness for the Blu-ray release of FRIENDS, because I haven't spent any time watching this series since it finished its original run. Now with nearly a decade away from the show, I can honestly say that I had forgotten that FRIENDS was one of the truly great and iconic sitcoms that signified a generation.

For those who have never seen the show, or simply don't remember, FRIENDS centers on a tightly knit group of six twenty-somethings seeking love and success in Manhattan. As the series opens, we are given the setup for each of the character to blossom out of: Monica Geller (Courteney Cox) is an aspiring chef and the semi-obsessive compulsive mother hen of the group. Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) is a paleontologist by profession and Monica's brother, in addition to being recently divorced from a woman who has come out as a lesbian and announced she is carrying Ross' child. Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) is Monica's best friend from high school, who shows up on Monica's doorstep... after leaving her fiancé at the altar. Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow) is the most eccentric member of the group, a masseuse and sometime musician; Phoebe definitely lives life on a wavelength all her own. Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) is the wisecracking member of the group, who uses humor to overcome his dysfunctional childhood; Chandler was also Ross' college roommate, and occupies the apartment across the hall from Monica and Rachel. Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) is Chandler's slightly dim, but bighearted roommate; an aspiring actor, Joey has a tendency to be a womanizer, but only because his good looks make it easy... and he simply doesn't know any better. Over the course of ten seasons, FRIENDS complicates the lives of each of the characters, with romantic entanglements becoming part of the group dynamic, especially the on again/off again complexities of Ross and Rachel.

FRIENDS: THE COMPLETE SERIES ($280) comes to Blu-ray Disc in a twenty-one-disc set that features the following two-hundred-thirty-six original broadcast version episodes that were aired during its ten year run- Season one: The Pilot, The One With The Sonogram At The End, The One With The Thumb, The One With George Stephanopoulos, The One With The East German Laundry Detergent, The One With The Butt, The One With The Blackout, The One Where Nana Dies Twice, The One Where Underdog Gets Away, The One With The Monkey, The One With Mrs. Bing, The One With The Dozen Lasagnas, The One With The Boobies, The One With The Candy Hearts, The One With The Stoned Guy, The One With Two Parts Part 1, The One With Two Parts Part 2, The One With All The Poker, The One Where The Monkey Gets Away, The One With The Evil Orthodontist, The One With The Fake Monica, The One With The Ick Factor, The One With The Birth and The One Where Rachel Finds Out.

Season two: The One With Ross's New Girlfriend, The One With The Breast Milk, The One Where Heckles Dies, The One With Phoebe's Husband, The One With Five Steaks And An Eggplant, The One With The Baby On The Bus, The One Where Ross Finds Out, The One With The List, The One With Phoebe's Dad, The One With Russ, The One With The Lesbian Wedding, The One After The Super Bowl Part 1, The One After The Super Bowl Part 2, The One With The Prom Video, The One Where Ross And Rachel...You Know, The One Where Joey Moves Out, The One Where Eddie Moves In, The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies, The One Where Eddie Won't Go, The One Where Old Yeller Dies, The One With The Bullies, The One With The Two Parties, The One With The Chicken Pox and The One With Barry And Mindy's Wedding.

Season three: 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 Just Friends, The One With Phoebe's Ex-Partner, The One Where Ross And Rachel Take A Break, The One 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's Thing, The One With The Ultimate Fighting Champion and The One At The Beach.

Season four: The One With The Jellyfish, The One With The Cat, The One With The 'Cuffs, The One With The Ballroom Dancing, The One With Joey's New Girlfriend, The One With The Dirty Girl, The One Where Chandler Crosses The Line, The One With Chandler In A Box, The One Where They're Going To Party!, The One With The Girl From Poughkeepsie, The One With Phoebe's Uterus, The One With The Embryos, The One With Rachel's Crush, The One With Joey's Dirty Day, The One With All The Rugby, The One With The Fake Party, The One With The Free Porn, The One With Rachel's New Dress, The One With All The Haste, The One With The Wedding Dresses, The One With The Invitations, The One With The Worst Best Man Ever, The One With Ross's Wedding Part 1 and The One With Ross's Wedding Part 2.

Season five: The One After Ross Says Rachel, The One With All The Kissing, The One Hundredth, The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS, The One With The Kips, The One With The Yeti, The One Where Ross Moves In, The One With The Thanksgiving Flashbacks, The One With Ross's Sandwich, The One With The Inappropriate Sister, The One With All The Resolutions, The One With Chandler's Work Laugh, The One With Joey's Bag, The One Where Everybody Finds Out, The One With The Girl Who Hits Joey, The One With The Cop, The One With Rachel's Inadvertent Kiss, The One Where Rachel Smokes, The One Where Ross Can't Flirt, The One With The Ride Along, The One With The Ball, The One With Joey's Big Break, The One In Vegas Part 1 and The One In Vegas Part 2.

Season six: The One After Vegas, The One Where Ross Hugs Rachel, The One With Ross's Denial, The One Where Joey Loses His Insurance, The One With Joey's Porsche, The One On The Last Night, The One Where Phoebe Runs, The One With Ross's Teeth, The One Where Ross Got High, The One With The Routine, The One With The Apothecary Table, The One With The Joke, The One With Rachel's Sister, The One Where Chandler Can't Cry, The One That Could Have Been Part 1, The One That Could Have Been Part 2, The One With Unagi, The One Where Ross Dates A Student, The One With Joey's Fridge, The One With Mac And C.H.E.E.S.E., The One Where Ross Meets Elizabeth's Dad, The One Where Paul's The Man, The One With The Ring, The One With The Proposal Part 1 and The One With The Proposal Part 2.

Season seven: The One With Monica's Thunder, The One With Rachel's Book, The One With Phoebe's Cookies, The One With Rachel's Assistant, The One With The Engagement Picture, The One With The Nap Partners, The One With Ross's Library Book, The One Where Chandler Doesn't Like Dogs, The One With All The Candy, The One With The Holiday Armadillo, The One With All The Cheesecakes, The One Where They're Up All Night, The One Where Rosita Dies, The One Where They All Turn Thirty, The One With Joey's New Brain, The One With The Truth About London, The One With The Cheap Wedding Dress, The One With Joey's Award, The One With Ross And Monica's Cousin, The One With Rachel's Big Kiss, The One With The Vows, The One With Chandler's Dad, The One With Chandler And Monica's Wedding Part 1 and The One With Chandler And Monica's Wedding Part 2.

Season eight: The One After "I Do", The One With The Red Sweater, The One Where Rachel Tells..., The One With The Videotape, The One With Rachel's Date, The One With The Halloween Party, The One With The Stain, The One With The Stripper, The One With The Rumor, The One With Monica's Boots, The One With The Creepy Holiday Card, The One Where Joey Dates Rachel, The One Where Chandler Takes A Bath, The One With The Secret Closet, The One With The Birthing Video, The One Where Joey Tells Rachel, The One With The Tea Leaves, The One In Massapequa, The One With Joey's Interview, The One With The Baby Shower, The One With The Cooking Class, The One Where Rachel Is Late, The One Where Rachel Has A Baby Part 1 and The One Where Rachel Has A Baby Part 2.

Season nine: The One Where No One Proposes, The One Where Emma Cries, The One With The Pediatrician, The One With The Sharks, The One With Phoebe's Birthday Dinner, The One With The Male Nanny, The One With Ross's Inappropriate Song, The One With Rachel's Other Sister, The One With Rachel's Phone Number, The One With Christmas In Tulsa, The One Where Rachel Goes Back To Work, The One With Phoebe's Rats, The One Where Monica Sings, The One With The Blind Dates, The One With The Mugging, The One With The Boob Job, The One With The Memorial Service, The One With The Lottery, The One With Rachel's Dream, The One With The Soap Opera Party, The One With The Fertility Test, The One With The Donor, The One In Barbados Part 1 and The One In Barbados Part 2.

Season ten: The One After Joey And Rachel Kiss, The One Where Ross Is Fine, The One With Ross's Tan, The One With The Cake, The One Where Rachel's Sister Babysits, The One With Ross's Grant, The One With The Home Study, The One With The Late Thanksgiving, The One With The Birth Mother, The One Where Chandler Gets Caught, The One Where The Stripper Cries, The One With Phoebe's Wedding, The One Where Joey Speaks French, The One With Princess Consuela, The One Where Estelle Dies, The One With Rachel's Going Away Party, The Last One Part 1 and The Last One Part 2.

Warner Home Video has made all two-hundred-thirty-six episodes from FRIENDS: THE COMPLETE SERIES available on Blu-ray Disc in 1.78:1 wide screen presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. During its original run, FRIENDS was presented in a 1.37:1 or 4:3 television aspect ratio, so did re-mastering the series to 1.78:1 or 16:9 compromise the series visual component?. As far as I can tell, no. FRIENDS was shot on 35mm film, and apparently the cinematography was framed 1.78:1 safe, as a means of future proofing the series for an eventual high definition implementation. Image sharpness and fine detail appear very good, but there are some softer looking shots present, when optical fades were executed as part of each episodes original editing. Colors are nicely saturated, but not overly so. Flesh tones always look correct. Blacks are on the money, while whites are crisp. Contrast is smooth, and shadow detail is just fine for this type of shot on film television level production. The elements from which the episodes are transferred appear very clean and free from any distracting signs of age. Film grain is generally modest, when it becomes noticeable.

All of the episodes that constitute FRIENDS: THE COMPLETE SERIES are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel Dolby Digital 640kbps soundtracks. The episodes themselves feature very conventional sitcom sound designs, with much of the sound locked front and center. As FRIENDS was a dialogue driven show, there isn’t much information that extends beyond the center channel anyway, other than the sound of the audience reactions and the series musical component. Music does offer a nice stereo image and has a stronger sense of presence than one might suspect for a lossy Dolby Digital track. The rear channels are largely quiet, but do offer some reinforcements. Dialogue is crisp and easy to understand. French and Spanish language tracks are also provided for the episodes as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the supplements. Starting things off are running Audio Commentaries for thirty one of the episodes from the ten seasons. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Friends Around The World, On Location In London, The One That Goes Behind The Scenes, Behind The Style and Friends Final Thoughts. We also get Music Videos for Phoebe Battles The Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips, featuring Lisa Kudrow, plus Joey Joey featuring Matt LeBlanc... and finally The Rembrandts official music video for I’ll Be There For You. And for all you Smelly Cat fans, we also get a never-before-seen uncut version of the Phoebe Buffay classic. Newly produced Retrospective Documentaries include: Friends From The Start, When Friends Became Family and Legacy Of Friends. Also included are the Original Producer’s Cut and the Original Script for The One Where Rachel Tells Ross. We also get cast appearances from The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The One With More Friends features super-sized episodes from season seven. We have Gag Reels that have appeared on the past DVD sets, plus The One With The Never-Before-Seen Gags released for the first time in the Blu-ray collection. Additionally, there is the Friends Of Friends Video Guestbook. FRIENDS: THE COMPLETE SERIES comes in a very classy boxed set with a Lenticular Cover and magnetic catch, plus hardcover book packaging for the twenty one discs, and a thirty six page soft cover episode guide.

As I stated above, FRIENDS was one of the truly great and iconic sitcoms that signified a generation. The Blu-ray presentations are really great for those wanting to see the original broadcast versions of the episodes in high definition. Highly recommended.


Friends: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2012 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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