HTF REVIEW: Friends - The Complete Fifth Season (RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Herb Kane, Nov 17, 2003.

  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
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    Friends – The Complete Fifth Season

    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1998-1999
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 563 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Standard
    Audio: DD 5.0
    Color/B&W: Color
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $44.98
    Package: 5 panel gatefold Digipak with slipcover case

    The Feature:
    As I have said in a few of my recent reviews, I really don’t watch a lot of television. When I do, rarely do I watch sitcoms. And when I do watch sitcoms, never is it Friends. I realize its popularity and fanbase, but it’s a show that, quite simply, never really caught my attention. My wife has been a fan since day one and I recall when it aired originally, I watched the occasional episode but it never really left much of an impression. Unfortunately, it just never grew on me. Ironically, we have all of the series sets due to my wife’s zeal for the show.

    Now this is where it gets interesting…

    What I have noticed is that after watching many of these TV shows via DVD sans commercials, it seems to (at least for me), have a greater impact on drawing you into the episode without the frequent interruptions and the weekly wait for the subsequent fix. For the review, we sat and watched a number of episodes and had a great time, and I quite enjoyed my time spent with the show. Hmmm, wonder if others have experienced similar feelings in terms of watching TV on DVD…?

    Admittedly, I haven’t followed the show very closely and as such, I’m certainly not an authority, so take what I say with a grain of salt. With fans in every country on the planet, obviously they’re doing something right. What I will do is focus my time on the presentation of the package, its quality and the extras.

    Similar to the existing sets, Season 5 is comprised of four discs in an attractive purple 5 panel gatefold Digipak set with a slipcover case and as is standard with most Warner Bros. sets, there is a play-all feature. One final note worth mentioning, when I received my recent screener set for The West Wing, the discs were in absolutely terrible condition (scratched, covered with fingerprints). Although they all played fine, the condition in which they arrived was rather disconcerting to say the least. While the Friends set was scratch-free, they did come, once again, covered with fingerprints. A big deal…? No. But I wouldn’t be overly impressed with plunkin’ $40 bucks down on a new set only to have it riddled with fingerprints.

    The episodes from Season 5 are located on the following discs:

    Disc One:

    Episode 1. The One After Ross Says Rachel
    Directed by Kevin S. Bright – Original Airdate: 9/24/98

    Episode 2. The One With All The Kissing
    Directed by Gary Halvorson – Original Airdate: 10/1/98

    Episode 3. The One Hundredth **With Commentary**
    Directed by Kevin S. Bright – Original Airdate: 10/8/98

    Episode 4. The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS
    Directed by Shelley Jensen – Original Airdate: 10/15/98

    Episode 5. The One With The Kips
    Directed by Dana de Vally – Original Airdate: 10/29/98

    Episode 6. The One With The Yeti
    Directed by Gary Halvorson – Original Airdate: 11/5/98

    Episode 7. The One Where Ross Moves In
    Directed by Gary Halvorson – Original Airdate: 11/12/98

    Disc Two:

    Episode 8. The One With All The Thanksgivings **With Commentary**
    Directed by Kevin S. Bright – Original Airdate: 11/19/98

    Episode 9. The One With Ross’s Sandwich
    Directed by Gary Halvorson – Original Airdate: 12/10/98

    Episode 10. The One With The Inappropriate Sister
    Directed by Dana de Vally – Original Airdate: 12/17/98

    Episode 11. The One With All The Resolutions
    Directed by Joe Regalbuto – Original Airdate: 1/7/99

    Episode 12. The One With Chandler’s Work Laugh
    Directed by Kevin S. Bright – Original Airdate: 1/21/99

    Episode 13. The One With Joey’s Bag
    Directed by Gail Mancuso – Original Airdate: 2/4/99

    Disc Three:

    Episode 14. The One Where Everybody Finds Out **With Commentary**
    Directed by Michael Lembeck – Original Airdate: 2/11/99

    Episode 15. The One With The Girl Who Hits Joey
    Directed by Kevin S. Bright – Original Airdate: 2/18/99

    Episode 16. The One With The Cop
    Directed by Andrew Tsao – Original Airdate: 2/25/99

    Episode 17. The One With Rachel’s Inadvertent Kiss
    Directed by Shelley Jensen – Original Airdate: 3/18/99

    Episode 18. The One Where Rachel Smokes
    Directed by Todd Holland – Original Airdate: 4/8/99

    Episode 19. The One Where Ross Can’t Flirt
    Directed by Gail Mancuso – Original Airdate: 4/22/99

    Episode 20. The One With The Ride-Along
    Directed by Gary Halvorson – Original Airdate: 4/29/99

    Disc Four:

    Episode 21. The One With The Ball
    Directed by Gary Halvorson – Original Airdate: 5/6/99

    Episode 22. The One With Joey’s Big Break
    Directed by Gary Halvorson – Original Airdate: 5/13/99

    Episode 23. The One In Vegas – Parts 1 & 2.
    Directed by Kevin S. Bright – Original Airdate: 5/20/99

    Shown in its native 4:3 television aspect ratio, I have many comments about the video presentation – some good, some not so good.

    The Good:

    First off, the colors. If you’re a fan of color (like I am), you’re sure to be impressed with this set. They are absolutely luscious… The word “vibrant” doesn’t do them justice. Many of the different apartment scenes, shots in the café and even ones featuring the New York backdrop are used to great extent to show off the gorgeous palette. With its retro interior and eclectic look, it’s enough to make any fan of Trading Spaces proud… Blacks are deep and never murky yet whites are stark and clean.

    The Bad:

    Rarely am I critical of grain, obviously an amount that is excessive can be bothersome. Such is the case with this set. I’m actually quite surprised with the amount of grain present for such a recent show. Equally disappointing was the detail of the image – or lack thereof. It was quite softer than I anticipated. Now to add insult to injury, I was also able to detect signs of compression artifacting. Not severe but certainly noticeable during many scenes. Thankfully, evidence of edge enhancement was all but non existent.

    The Ugly:

    OK, so really there is nothing ugly on this set (literally or figuratively). But I was hoping for a video presentation that would be more defined than what was offered. Slightly disappointing… but acceptable.

    Unlike the video portion, I have no complaints with regards to the 5.0 soundtrack that’s presented on the set.

    Very much dialogue driven, most (if not everything) is up front. Dialogue was always very clear, forward and intelligible. The accompanying music is also very forward and comes across nicely.

    As for the surrounds, they’re basically reserved for the live audience laughter and applause as the show is filmed in front of a live audience. There is also some occasional music filler in between scenes that is employed with the surrounds which adds to the ambience. Overall however, surround info is rather sparse. Although the track is 5.0, look (OK, listen) for some deep bass throughout many of the episodes.

    Hey, we know Joey and Chandler have a great ear for detail, they have a set of Martin Logans in their living room… Great job on the audio portion…!!

    Special Features:
    From what I understand a few of these special features already appear on previous sets. The special features included are:

    Disc One:
    [*] The first special feature for Disc One is a Commentary for “The One Hundredth episode which features Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane.
    [*] Cast & Crew is the only other special feature listed which is merely a text listing of the major players.

    Disc Two:
    [*] Is a Commentary for the episode “The One With All The Thanksgivings” which features Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane.

    Disc Three:
    [*] Is a Commentary for the episode “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” which features Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane.

    All three commentaries are relatively interesting as Bright, Kauffman and Crane do what they can to infuse a mediocre dose of enthusiasm. Unfortunately there is a fair amount of dead time. It seems as though (at times) the trio while reminiscing, become engrossed in the episode to a point where a lull falls across the feature.

    The identical Cast & Crew list is featured on all four discs.

    Disc Four:
    [*] Gunther Spills The Beans is a sneak peak at Season 6. Duration: 1:35 minutes.
    [*] The One That Goes Behind The Scenes - this essentially shows the making of, to the writing, to the rehearsals and the filming of the show as well as how the show has become a franchise and the inner workings with Warner Bros. Duration: 42:26 minutes.
    [*] Friends: On Location In London – After a few episodes were shot in London, this discusses the show’s popularity in Europe as well as its faithful North American following. Duration: 2:15 minutes.

    I managed to find 3 Easter Eggs on the Special Features menu of Disc Four. Each egg is five seconds in length featuring Gunther. Do me favor… if you ever get the chance, click on these and then tell me what it is that I’m missing…? Perhaps it’s something episodic…? I’m speechless! Please enlighten me…

    Final Thoughts:
    While I have an admiration and a healthy respect for what the show and its characters have accomplished, I never really felt the show was my cup of tea. I know the show is hugely popular and has a following like no other on TV today, and I can certainly appreciate why. Surprisingly however, I had a great time and enjoyed many laughs doing this review. As for the show’s content and the quality of its writing (and how it compares to previous seasons), that’s up to the fans to decide. What is clear is that I should pull out the previous seasons among my collection and give the show more of a chance than I was originally willing to.

    Warner Bros. have delivered another quality TV to DVD package with an audio presentation that is terrific and a video presentation that is acceptable. Had the video image been more impressive, my recommendation for the show would have been greater.


    Released: November 4th, 2003
  2. Casey Trowbridg

    Casey Trowbridg Lead Actor

    Apr 22, 2003
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    Herb, thanks for the review.
    I am one of those people that never really got in to the show until I saw it on DVD, same with M*A*S*H. The DVD format does make shows more appealing because unless a cliff hanger is divided between 2 seasons you don't have to wait to find out what happened.

    I've already got this set, and season 5 was a lot better than I thought, just based on the episode guides I had read.
  3. Jason Harbaugh

    Jason Harbaugh Cinematographer

    Jul 30, 2001
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    Season 5 quickly became one of my favorite seasons. The DVD set was top notch and it was really interesting to finally see a solid "behind the scenes" featurette.

    Nice review. [​IMG]
  4. Dane Marvin

    Dane Marvin Screenwriter

    Jul 21, 2003
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    I wonder if they're just not doing chapter stops now just so they stay consistent with the rest of the sets. I'm a big fan of consistency among season sets of the same series, but I really wouldn't mind chapter stops starting with season 6. Doubt we'll get it though.

    I didn't look for the easter eggs, Herb, so I guess that'll be something else to look for next time I pop the discs in. I'm sure I'd probably understand whatever it is Gunther is saying.

    I thought the featurette "The One That Goes Behind the Scenes" is the best special feature on any of the 5 sets released thus far. As Herb wrote, it spends nearly 45 minutes taking us all the way through the beginning of the writing process -- to the filming in front of a live studio audience (in which we actually see lines being replaced in between scene takes right in front of the audience) -- all the way to editing and sound effects mixing at the end.

    What I thought was very curious though, is that the above feature was included with season 5 and not 6, since the episode they are actually taking us through is the season 6 premiere. As such, if you wish to remain unspoiled, steer clear of this special feature until you have actually seen the season 6 premiere.

    Good review, Herb. Thanks!
  5. Christian Preischl

    Christian Preischl Screenwriter

    Oct 11, 2001
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    Real Name:
    Christian Preischl
    Here's a few quibbles I have with the set:

    As Dane already mentioned, the Making-of documentary should have been on the season 6 set. The same goes for the London featurette which should have been on the season 4 set since it's about the season 4 finale. Furthermore, why is there only this one featurette about London? The Best of Discs contained 2, and the second one being longer and better.

    My biggest complaint however, and that goes for all sets released so far, is the inconsistent picture quality. Am I the only one who noticed that for some weird reason the reinserted scenes have noticably better picture quality (the image being much sharper and more detailed) than the rest. It's so noticable that I can spot a scene extension coming up even before the new footage actually starts, since the quality difference usually starts with the beginning of a shot. And here's where it becomes even stranger. There are a few episodes that don't exhibit this problem and have generally better picture quality throughout. And those episodes happen to be the ones that already appeared on the 4 Best-of discs released 2 years ago!
    Now, I'm not saying that the "old" footage looks like crap compared to the new scenes. It is however big enough of a difference so that I can easily spot it even on a standard-size 4:3 television!

    Apart from that I'm quite happy with the sets, especially the fact that I can usually replace the Region 2 PAL sets and even make some money in the process since the R1 sets are so cheap that their PAL counterparts usually go for a couple of bucks more on ebay. [​IMG]

    So, keep 'em coming Warner, I need the money. [​IMG]

  6. Chad A Wright

    Chad A Wright Supporting Actor

    Jul 22, 2002
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    I've never liked the picture quality on these sets, but with this show, I'll put up with it. My wife and I will often pop in a random Friends disc and just watch for a couple of hours. It's like going back to see old friends ... so to speak. This has consistently been a great show. Can't wait to have the whole collection.
  7. DanC

    DanC Stunt Coordinator

    Dec 5, 2000
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  8. Chad A Wright

    Chad A Wright Supporting Actor

    Jul 22, 2002
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    While the PQ isn't always the best, I did seem to notice that it was improved on Season 5 over the previous ones.
  9. Chris_Morris

    Chris_Morris Screenwriter

    Jan 4, 2002
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    Great review Herb.

  10. Andrew Radke

    Andrew Radke Screenwriter

    May 8, 2003
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    Guelph, Ontario - Canada
    Real Name:
    Andrew Radke
    Thanks very much for the review. I've yet to pick up season 5, but am hoping to soon. I'm actually really looking forward to seeing the extensive "behind the scenes" documentary. Sounds like one of the best extras yet (for any season of the show).

    It looks as though they ditched the trivia idea this time around. Not a big deal, albeit it was fun, but after you do it once, there's no need for repetition.

    On a side note, I watched an EXCELLENT hour-long documentary on CNN which was run by People Magazine, which contained all kinds of behind the scenes footage, not to mention an extraordinary retrospective of the show, leading up to this, the final season. I seriously hope this special makes it on the season 10 set.
  11. John Simon

    John Simon Second Unit

    Feb 6, 2001
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