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HTF REVIEW: Friends: The Complete First Season (with screenshots)

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#1 of 37 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted April 16 2002 - 02:48 PM

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Friends: The Complete First Season







One of the things I stopped doing over the

past 10 years is watching sitcoms. I suppose

that getting involved in Home Theater left me

less time to concentrate on prime time television.

Therefor, for over a decade, I have been virtually

blind to what goes on in network television.



Posted Image



So I wake up from this near 10-year sleep and

find that Friends is approaching its ninth

and final season. And while the shows boasts

more than 36 million viewers, I don't think I can

tell you one thing about any of the friends.



First thing I had to learned is who the Friends

actually are: Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Monica

(Courtney Cox-Arquette), Rachel (Jennifer Aniston),

Ross (David Schwimmer), Chandler (Matthew Perry)

and Joey (Matt LeBlanc).



I am somewhat aware that Warner Brothers had

previously been doing a shoddy job of releasing

this series on DVD (as they do with most all their

TV product), offering a "best of" series. Even

a person like me who isn't a fan of the show can

tell you that this is not the way to handle the

release of television product.



I suppose Warner heard the complaints of fans.

Today I received a box containing the entire

first season of Friends. Since Warner

was so kind to send this to me, I felt it was

my duty to take a look at one of television's

most successful series -- a series I had totally

ignored up to this point.



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Friends arrives in a rather lightweight

cardboard slipcover. Reach inside and you pull

out a bulky cardboard insert that opens up into

a five section gatefold that houses 4 discs

placed in plastic housing. Essentially, there

are 24 episodes spread across 4 discs.



Most all of you will get 4 discs. My sealed

copy only had 3 discs inside, so I can't do a

full review on the supplements until Warner

decides to send me the 4th disc (if they decide

to do that).



Posted ImagePosted Image







The outer gatefold panes contain full listings

of each episode including Director, Writers,

Guest Star Alerts -- and oh yes -- original

air date. Intertwined with the episode listings

are pictures of the cast as well as photos from

a few memorable episodes.



Overall, I would rate the packaging to be

rather weak than durable, but keeping the series

affordable was certainly a concern at Warner

Brothers and they have produced this set as

cheaply as possible.



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The DVD begins with a quick animated sequence

that takes the FRIENDS logo set against the

New York skyline and interfaces it with strips

of cast photos in a finalized menu structure.



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Having trouble as to exactly which episode you

wish to watch? Click on over to the Episodes

selection. An icon of a coffee cup beside each

episode title lets you preview about a minute of

that episode's best moment. This is great for fans

who are looking for a favorite episode, yet don't

remember the exact title.



So, here I am, a Friends virgin about to

watch my very first episode. In order to properly

review this DVD, I chose to watch three episodes.



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The One Where it all began is the show's

original pilot episode that aired on 9/22/94.

This is the episode that introduces to all the

show's major characters, most notably Monica's old

high school friend, Rachel who decides to move in

after leaving her fiance' at the alter. There's

also an issue of Ross's wife leaving him for a

lesbian.



Posted Image



The One with the Sonogram at the End involves

Ross's ex-wife Carol telling him that she is

pregnant with his child and that she and her lesbian

lover, Susan, plan to raise the baby together.

There's also an issue with Monica's parents (with

a guest appearance by Elliot Gould) coming to town.



Posted Image



The One with George Stephanopoulos never

really introduces us to the politician, but it

gives the girls the opportunity to discuss life

and guys. Meanwhile, Ross gets invited to go to

a hockey game with the guys, but ends up having

his nose broken by a flying puck.



After watching only three episodes, I fell for

the series. At its most beginning stages, the

series showed promise of being cleverly hip and

funny thanks to its talented cast of actors. I

really had a lot of laughs with the George

Stephanopoulos episode. The scenes in the

hospital emergency room are hilarious.





How is the transfer?





Presented Full Frame, the show looks pretty

damn incredible. While the title and location

establishing shots have hints of video noise in

them, the rest of the show looks terrific.



Monica's apartment has just about every color

in it imaginable. The pristine transfer brings

out all the vivid aquas, greens and purples that

make up the walls and fixtures inside the apartment.



The stereo surround track is rather uneven.



The pilot episode is interesting, as it starts

with a forcible amount of audience laughter that

emanates from the rear speakers. As the episode

continues, the laughter leaves the rear channel

and moves to the front. In episodes that followed,

the audience laughter remained in the rear channel,

but its presence was much lesser defined.



Otherwise, sound is very robust with dialogue

remaining in front speakers while title music

and musical interludes spread themselves to the

rears.







Special Features





On the pilot episode you can listen to

running commentary by Excecutive Producers Kevin

S. Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane.



I mentioned that I received a *sealed* final

product copy of this set that when opened did

not have the 4th disc. I do hope this is not

going to be a common problem amongst consumers

who buy this set.



For the reason of not having disc 4, I am

unable to completely review the supplemental

material. If and when I get the replacement DVD

I will update this review.



I can tell you from the Press Release I received

with this set that the supplements on Disc 4

include:



A peek At Central Park, which takes

viewers on an interactive tour of the set to

discover inside secrets from the crew.



Friends of Friends is a video guide to

season one's special guest appearances.



How Well Do You Know Your Friends? is

a video trivia challenge.



Also includes is The One With The Trailer

of Season 2
as well as cast profiles.





Final Thoughts





I can't say that this release of Friends

makes up for the botched way Warner Brothers has

handled their studio product -- especially their

South Park series. But perhaps finally

releasing an entire season set can be considered

a step in the right direction.



Without being an initial fan of the series (I am

now), it looks like Warner Brothers has given

very special consideration to the fans by providing

pristine transfers of these episodes combined with

some interesting extras bundled into this boxed set.



Looks like a must purchase for fans, and a

consideration for anyone like me who wants to

wet their appetite with top-shelf comedy.



Release Date: April 30, 2002

 

Ronald J Epstein
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#2 of 37 OFFLINE   DanC

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Posted April 16 2002 - 03:42 PM

Thanks for the review Ron...can't wait for it to get here! Maybe this means Seinfeld season sets aren't too far away...one can hope Posted Image
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#3 of 37 OFFLINE   Kyle McKnight

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Posted April 16 2002 - 04:44 PM

I said once they box up a season, it will be mine. 14 days and counting.
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#4 of 37 OFFLINE   Randy B A

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Posted April 16 2002 - 04:54 PM

Ron you are so lucky to be seeing this for the first time on DVD. the set will definately be mine on the 30th.

#5 of 37 OFFLINE   Craig_T

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Posted April 16 2002 - 05:52 PM

Down with the "Best-Of" crap! Now release South Park by season too!

#6 of 37 OFFLINE   Joel C

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Posted April 16 2002 - 07:34 PM

So... when does season 2 come out???
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#7 of 37 OFFLINE   Larry Gardner

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Posted April 16 2002 - 09:49 PM

Ron: Could you verify that the episodes are in stereo. All the Best of episodes were 5.0. SOme sites advertieise them as 5.0 others 2.0. Thanks!

#8 of 37 OFFLINE   Sam Davatchi

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Posted April 17 2002 - 12:19 AM

Ah, I’m a sucker for Friends! Although that I have already the entire episodes on DVD, I’m going to get this! ...I'm wondering, they showed a lot the twin towers for the transition shots. Anyone knows if they are untouched or removed?

#9 of 37 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted April 17 2002 - 01:08 AM

Larry, Dolby Digital 5.0

 

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#10 of 37 OFFLINE   Jeremiah

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Posted April 17 2002 - 06:47 AM

Thanks for the review Ron. Friends is a great show and I will be getting mine as soon as they come out. The Pilot episode is one of the funnier Pilots I have seen from any show.
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#11 of 37 OFFLINE   Larry Geller

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Posted April 17 2002 - 06:57 AM

Ron, you have NO idea how much better this series will get over the next couple of seasons. If you think the 1st 3 episodes are funny, JUST WAIT!! BTW, this is BY FAR the best looking TV series transfer out there. Does the packaging let on in any way as to what the new additions to each episode are?
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#12 of 37 OFFLINE   Bjorn Olav Nyberg

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Posted April 17 2002 - 08:29 AM

I also already own the first seven seasons on R2 DVD... but the first season looks very bad, with blurry pictures with some kind of blue discoloration around edges etc... I was already tempted to get the R1 for the extras, now the improved video quality will be another reason.
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#13 of 37 OFFLINE   John Berggren

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Posted April 17 2002 - 08:36 AM

I'm nearly decided on picking this up. Originally it was just to encourage WB to release TV product properly. Now watching the current season of Friends, I remember the show how it was when they had their groove on, and want this anyway.



A couple of questions:



[quote]

In episodes that followed,

the audience laughter remained in the rear channel,

but its presence was much lesser defined.


[quote]


Can I assume from this that if I remove my rear speakers from the equation that all I will be losing is the laugh track? I really wished they had released a version of Friends sans-laugh track, but isolating it might have the same effect. Will anything else be lost?



Also, in one of your screen shots it looks like the menu has a "play" option... is this a play all option as has been requested on nearly every other TV-on-DVD release product? If so, 2 points in favor of WB Posted Image.
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#14 of 37 OFFLINE   LarryDavenport

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Posted April 17 2002 - 02:13 PM

DanC-Warners doesn't own Seinfeld. I beleive it's Columbia.

#15 of 37 OFFLINE   DanC

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Posted April 17 2002 - 07:58 PM

Larry, I'm aware of that but it's just an encouraging sign to see other studios giving their t.v. shows the proper treatment, regardless of the studio. That's all I was referring to.
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#16 of 37 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted April 18 2002 - 01:09 AM

You can either click on the coffee cup to preview about a minute of the show, or, click on the show's title to play each individual episode. To my knowledge, there is no PLAY ALL button. The laugh track seems to fall in both the front and rear speakers -- just at different levels.

 

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#17 of 37 OFFLINE   Richard Ruffner

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Posted April 18 2002 - 09:02 AM

Most of the time, Friends is filmed before a live audience. Usually, when this is the case, there is no seperate laugh track. MASH was filmed on a set, so they added the laugh track later.
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#18 of 37 OFFLINE   Daniel Kikin

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Posted April 18 2002 - 10:42 AM

Great review Ron, I'm really looking forward to this set. The only minor nit I have for this set is not including the Rembrandt's(sp?) "I'll Be There For You" music video that included the cast as well. I know it's on the first two "Best of" sets but since a lot of people didn't buy those, why not include it on this one as well?

#19 of 37 OFFLINE   Trace Downing

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Posted April 18 2002 - 11:15 AM

Larry & Dan, Seinfeld is a Castle Rock production, which is a AOL/Time/Warner company. Columbia has domestic syndication distribution rights. As to who owns the home video rights, your guess is as good as mine. Regarding Friends, my TiVo records about 2 a night for me. I'm just wondering if the picture quality would be worth the purchase.

#20 of 37 OFFLINE   Sam Davatchi

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Posted April 18 2002 - 12:15 PM

It’s not just the quality. I’m not that geek to get things twice. This release has never-before-seen footage. They are not the broadcast cut but extended cuts.





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