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The Complete Seventh Season
Running Time: 576 minutes
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox Arquette, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer
Studio: Warner Bros.
Retail Price: $44.98
Features: Never Before Seen Footage, Cast and Crew, Audio Commentary with Executive Producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane and Costume Designer Debra McGuire for "The One with the Holiday Armadillo, Audio Commentaries with Executive Producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane for "The One With Joey's New Brain" and "The One With Monica and Chandler's Wedding", Friends Of Friends, Gag Reel, Gunther Spills The Beans, Monica's Wedding Book Challenge. DVD-ROM
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Digital 5.0, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Four-Disc Set
Released: April 6th, 2004
Way back in 1994, a little show on NBC debuted called "Friends." I must admit when I saw promos and advertisments for the show, I had no idea what to think. Given similar sitcoms with similar backdrops that failed miserably in the past (and now rip-offs of "Friends" itself that are just as bad), I didn't know what to think exactly. Either way, "Friends" was the type of show NBC needed for its Thursday night staple "Must See" lineup. The show was pretty much an instant smash and success, and instant household names were born in Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry. It lifted up NBC Thursdays even more, and was pretty much the type of show people wanted: a likable cast, solid writing that was funny and things that people could relate to: bizarre situations that come out while interlocking key relationships. The last thing is probably what has made the show so strong and evolve, especially as things grew in later seasons. NBC was successful in many ways in the 1990s, and "Friends" was truly a big mark for them. It's amazing that 1994 was ten years ago... it seems so much longer, and it seems that "Friends" has been on longer than that. "Friends" has truly made its way and mark on popular culture... the show is really big in a variety of different countries. It's been a phenom the whole way through, basically.
I must admit I never really became hooked into the show. I do enjoy the show and I was a casual watcher on Thursdays and through the magic of syndication, but now it was time for me to go back and see where it all began. I've seen the show evolve now properly thanks to the DVD sets (which seem to get released quicker and quicker). There have been many series that are so beloved by the public, yet when they first started out, no one really got into them, let alone they weren't great to begin with. Thankfully though, this hasn't really been the case with "Friends."
I suppose the seventh season of the show was where a lot of talk about the series' future started brewing. Rumors of "Will the show end next season?" began to swirl (and NBC got them on one or two more seasons than planned), but the cast's salary took a major leap with the seventh season (and would end up progressing to a cool million per episode later on). This was also the season where Jennifer Aniston had been married the previous summer to Brad Pitt, so with all this, there was a lot of attention on the cast. But the show itself had it's fair share of memorable moments too, it was namely the season leading up to Monica and Chandler's wedding (which was an excuse for craziness and big name guest stars). There was also some attention to be had when it came to Gabrielle Union guest starring as a possible love interest but I personally think the season's best episode (and one of my favorite from the series overall) dealt with a very important issue: holiday armadillos (okay, so it's an issue the show invented). It's an above-average season I suppose, but doesn't exactly achieve greatness. There are more good stories here than bad ones which is fine, but the bad brings down the good somewhat. It seemed this season tried to do too much emotionally, and while it did succeed with it with certain characters (namely Monica and Chandler), I think it mainly fell flat otherwise.
But like past seasons, you have the dead-on writing, great directing but the cast really makes the show shine and always has. Essentially, this is great casting. Everyone here has a genuine chemistry that is by no means fake, and we can see that through their acting and sense of respect toward one another. Like I said, the group of actors are quite likable. And yes, there's been stuff outside the show how they're all great "friends" (HAHAHAHAHA PUNNY) in real life, but as the episodes grow and the seasons have packed on, we really do see that Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc, Courtney Cox Arquette and Matthew Perry are talented actors with great comedic timing, solid lines deliveries and have plenty of charm to spare. This really is a good group of actors (who ended up making a ton of money come the last few seasons), who really do have good relationships off screen, and I'm sure their chemistry there has translated on screen, especially as each season has passed. Chemistry in a show like this are key, and it's all played down flawlessly.
Here's the rundown of all the season's twenty-three episodes: "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" and finally, the two-parter season finale "The One with Monica and Chandler's Wedding."
Presented in their original 1.33:1 full screen aspect ratios (this is a TV sitcom after all), the episodes look pretty nice. The transfers still come across as a little soft at times and given that the shows are filmed, I did notice some grain. Detail is good, fleshtones are also fine and color saturation is pretty bold and while not earth-shattering, gets the job done. If anything, the episodes have quite a bit of noise on them which I found distracting as if the contrast was tuned up too much. While there probably could be a little more effort into the overall image quality, there's nothing truly terrible about the transfers.
All the episodes are in English Dolby Digital 5.0 and they're quite passable. There still isn't too much with surround sounds, but when they're used they do sound pretty discrete and give things an extra boost. Dialogue is very clear and comes through the center channel fine, while the musical components (and theme song still) are mixed appropriately through all the channels. The laugh track doesn't feel forced and still comes together the way you'd expect. The tracks have high fidelity to them as well, and still bring a straightforward ambiance that isn't totally amazing, but is much better and overpowering than a standard Dolby Surround track. English subtitles, French subtitles, Spanish subtitles and English closed captions are also included for all the episodes.
We're still treated to a pointless Cast and Crew listing on each disc, plus each episode has Never Before Seen Footage. Everything is seamless though, and since I'm not a die hard "Friends" fan, I really couldn't really tell what was new and what was old. I'm sure if you've seen these episodes dozens of times you'll know right away, but Warner still has not put indicators on the new footage (or chapter marks for episode) and I doubt they still have plans to.
Once again the highlight of yet another "Friends" set is the Audio Commentaries with Executive Producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane. The three comment on three episodes in this season, and are joined by costume designer Debra McGuire for "The One with The Holiday Armadillo" (McGuire offers some pretty interesting comments on her work and how things played out in general). The other two commentaries are for the two-parter "The One with Monica and Chandler's Wedding" and "The One with Joey's New Brain." The tracks, chatty as ever, talk about the direction the show was going in during this season, ideas they wanted to put forth and the like. Crane admits on the season finale that Monica and Chandler coming together was originally just for fun, while Bright talks about some of the pressures in making their wedding fresh. There's some great production stories too and they're very honest about their original concerns as well as how they'd approach things. The trio still remain an intelligent group who really care for their work.
Like usual, the other extras are on the fourth (and last) disc. Friends Of Friends highlights the show's guest stars with a bunch of clips featuring them, as well as interviews of them on the show. We hear from Morgan Fairchild, Alexendra Holden, Eddie Cahill, Cole Sprouse and Paget Brewster (I really miss "Andy Richter Controls The Universe") about their experiences working with the cast, on the show overall and their characters. Fluffy and too padded out with show clips, but still enjoyable. It lasts about twenty minutes.
The Gag Reel is about nine minutes of screw-ups with the cast from this season, and there is pretty funny goofs here. Gunther Spills The Beans is just a disguised ad for the eighth season of the show on DVD (but hey, you get new footage of Gunther) and Monica's Wedding Book Challenge is your standard interactive trivia quiz focusing on Monica's wedding and features clips from the show. Finally, for you DVD-ROM users there's some very basic stuff... namely weblinks.
The seventh season of "Friends" is decent I suppose, but there's been better. Still, I can say all I want but people want to complete their collections anyway. It's nice Warner began lowering the prices on the sets - I remember when the first season came out and retailed for 70 bucks (this one is at a fair 45 - which means you can get it for cheater). If you're a fan of the show, I'd say it's worth it: good transfers as always, fine sound mixes in Dolby Digital 5.0 and a decent but not staggering collection of supplements. It's hard to believe around this time next year (that being 2005), I'll probably be writing my review for the show.