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The Best of Friends Volumes 3 & 4

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 300 mins . PG . NTSC

  Feature
Contract

Friends is the type of sitcom the Americans do so well. It's well-written, well-acted, tightly edited, and with characters the television audience grows to feel are more than just another television cast - these are the people who live next door. Unlike the arm's-length fascination with which we viewed Seinfeld, it's the warm identification with the characters which is the key to this type of sitcom.

But Friends as a television series left me - well, not quite cold, but not much more than lukewarm. I guess I've watched no more than two or three complete episodes in its run on Australian television. But there's been no active dislike; it's just that we all relate, for whatever reason, to some products of the American dream-machine more than we do to others. You can watch your Friends if I can have my Becker or Malcolm in the Middle...

But the skill and craft and the pretty constant high level of generally affectionate humour of Friends cannot be denied, and this box set, The Best of Friends Volumes Three and Four serves the show well.

Totally addicted fans may resent the fact that these DVDs are a grab-bag of 'fan-chosen' episodes, however they have the complete series box sets to snuggle up with, so get over it. For the more casually interested the choice of ten episodes over these two discs (four standard and one double-length episode per disc) is a generous serve, giving 150 minutes of material per disc. In all this is a very decent tribute to a very professional show.

  Video
Contract

This is one of Warner's NTSC releases for the local PAL-dominated market, but the inferior technical specifications of NTSC haven't markedly affected a pleasingly clear transfer.

The quality stems in the main from Friends being shot on film instead of video, but quite a deal of care seems to have been spent in optimising the transfer quality. The image is generally soft, but with no noticeable artefacts.

  Audio
Contract

The soundtrack is very basic two-track Dolby, optimised for clarity of dialogue and with no emphasis on bass or special effects. It is serviceable, without being outstanding in any respect.

  Extras
Contract

There are basic cast and crew text biographies, but the documentary The One That Goes Behind the Scenes is surprisingly good.

It's a 41-minute look at the creation of a typical episode, from the first script conference to the building of the sets, tracking continuity problems, tracing the five hours of filming that produces a 22-minute episode, and then outlining all the post-production processes that lead to the finished product.

Well, yes, there's lots of those documentaries... but this one is told on a reasonably intelligent level, without fakery and without condescension - it's genuinely interesting, and just a pity that the same documentary is repeated on both discs making up this set.

  Overall  
Contract

For what it is - a tribute to a basically middle-rank American sitcom - this is a good package with a generous running time and decent image and sound presentation. It's a good weekend rental proposition, though real fans will have to own it.


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      And I quote...
    "Friends is a well-crafted American sitcom of the 'these are our best friends' style, and this is a very decent tribute to the show's professionalism."
    - Anthony Clarke
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Panasonic A330
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          Loewe Profil Plus 3272 68cm
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