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  • Music video - The Rembrandts, 'I'll Be There For You'

Friends Series 6 - Box Set

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 528 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

If American situation comedy in the nineties has taught us anything (come on, it must have taught us something) it is that being a single in New York is difficult. From the neurotic ranting of the Seinfeld crew or the predatory philosophies of Sex and the City, the Big Apple rarely seems to have romance at its core. Imagine then, meeting someone that you quite fancied and then being introduced to his or her friends only to find yourself constantly surrounded by some well-dressed, child-like clique. Hideous. The character circle portrayed in Friends seems like such a closed shop that, potential dates rarely progress beyond a handful of episodes until inevitably, they have no option but to date each other. This is no way to run a society. Not that this makes them any less likeable. Lord knows they are popular… it’s just that sometimes they are so damn cute you could just slap them. I know this because I’ve just spent five hundred and twenty eight minutes watching them.

Jumping the gun on their Region 1 counterparts, Warner have released the entire run of Friends (to date) in a series of box sets. Since each of the three discs in this set were released separately in June 2001, Warner have simply repackaged the discs into a new presentation in keeping with current style. Not only is the packaging quite slick, it works out cheaper (but not much) than buying each disc individually.

So what is Series 6 all about then? Well, if you are bothering to read this review at all, you are probably already aware that, as a series, Friends doesn’t actually have to hang it’s hat on any riveting plotlines or startling revelations in order to succeed. The premise is a simple one: six friends (the one that’s insecure, the one that’s thick, the one that’s a geek, the one that’s neurotic, the one that’s stylish and the one that’s a ditz) all share each other’s lives and hilarity ensues. Since the series inception the producers have rarely strayed from the formula and have achieved spectacular success. The question is: how do you keep the cast interested? Sure you can pay them a kabillion dollars each to get them into the studio every day but how do you keep them interested in playing the same character time and time again when there is no real character development?

Performances become pedestrian and many of the players seem to have become self-parodies or appear simply to be going through the motions. There is nothing about Monica and Chandler (Courtney Cox and Matthew Perry) that sets them apart from any other couple in any other sitcom save for the fact that they can be exceptionally annoying. Ross and Joey have become cartoon versions of themselves (although Matt LeBlanc still gets the lions share of the best material), while Jennifer Aniston seems a little distracted (if supermarket reading is any indication, she does lead a remarkably full life). Lisa Kudrow as the ditzy Phoebe on the other hand, is still completely on the money and, compared to her pals, possesses more timing than a quality control officer at a Rolex factory.

Still, you don’t watch an episode of Friends for its in-depth social commentary either and the scripts revolving around their inconsequential, yet charming misadventures are tight and contain some clever gags. The formula that so endeared this clingy little bunch to the masses in the earlier years is still intact (if not a little tired) and each episode is still a pretty painless way to kill twenty-two minutes. Also worthy of note in this series is the appearance of a few high profile guest stars (Elle McPhereson as Joey’s new room mate, Reese Witherspoon as Rachel’s sister and Bruce Willis and Elliot Gould as Elizabeth and Monica’s respective fathers). Interesting maybe, but not enough to carry the show.

With a show as long running as Friends, the series will inevitably have to stand up to more scrutiny (Does nobody think it odd that the six of them invariably manage to get the same seat in their favourite, crowded New York coffee house week after week?) as the show progresses. The trick is to not buckle under the weight of expectation and to forgive them when they occasionally fail. Overall, I guess it can be nice to have a visit from friends…as long as they don’t overstay their welcome.

Episode Listing:
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 Pt1
The One That Could Have Been Pt2
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 Pt 1
The One With The Proposal Pt 2

  Video
Contract

Each of the double sided, single layered discs in this set contain four episodes on each side. Better get your reading specs on though, as the only thing that differentiates one side from the other is a small letter next to the disc’s serial number. Unusual at first, but you people should be able to work it out okay.

Each of the episodes in series six is presented in full frame with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Although the depth of colour is quite acceptable, practically every episode lacks that clarity that should come with a presentation of this type. Although the quality of the picture is less than we have come to expect from the magic of DVD, the human mind is a wonderful thing and you can rely on yours to accustom your eyes to the light haze that seems to appear over each frame.

Besides, these characters aren’t getting any younger so maybe a little softness around the edges isn’t such a bad thing.

  Audio
Contract

Presented in Dolby Digital stereo, the audio track for this series shouldn’t earn too many complaints among fans. If you have only seen the show on television, you should be more than happy with the clarity of the dialogue while the background laughter projects mainly from the rear and should help you decide when to hold your sides and guffaw with abandon. Thankfully, with a show that is essentially script driven, the dialogue is clear, intelligible and hiss-free.

  Extras
Contract

All you get is a music video featuring The Rembrandts performing I’ll Be There For You. This is no way to make friends…

  Overall  
Contract

Got no friends? Now you can buy some. You should know better than anybody if you need to purchase this set or not. There are 24 consecutive episodes in this set which should satisfy even the most wanting of Friends fans. If you are just starting your collection however, you may wish to start with the earlier series' where the personalities are still fresh and the laughter doesn’t come in a can.


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      And I quote...
    "With friends like these…"
    - Peter O'Connor
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