Friends - The Complete First Season
Warner Home Video, having succeeded far better than expected with its Best of Friends collection (which highlighted some of the best episodes from the sitcom's first six seasons), went ahead and released the entire first season in a four-disc collection. This was a bold move, and superficially, at least, one of dubious wisdom -- the series was all over local television and basic cable, stacked in both television realms on a daily basis, so there was no shortage of episodes on most peoples' viewing list. It pays off for the fans, however, thanks to the pristine transfers, which look gorgeous, and the extras, the best of which is the commentary track over the unedited pilot, featuring the series three creator/producers: Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane. They explain a lot about the development of the series and the changes that they were forced to make as the series went on -- most notably the reduction in the number of ancillary, non-story-driven jokes -- and even such matters as the color scheme of Monica's (Courteney Cox) apartment, which was deliberately made brighter than the norm for network sitcoms. Among the interesting information offered about the cast is the fact that David Schwimmer was the only actor for whom one of the characters was specifically written; that Lisa Kudrow's character, Phoebe, was adjusted to make her the twin sister of Kudrow's Ursula character on Mad About You (which was in the time slot immediately ahead of Friends), opening up a whole range of range of comic possibilities for the actress and the writers; and that Courteney Cox was originally approached about playing Rachel rather than Monica. The producers also discuss such matters as the way in which they resonate to the characters, the relationship between the series and their personal experience as twentysomethings, and the evolution of the title-theme and the back-and-forth with the Rembrandts over whether or not to release a commercial version of the theme. The only complaint about the discs is that each show is given a single chapter reference number, not that breaks are essential in what, except for the pilot (which was re-edited to include material that was shot for it but dropped from the original broadcast), are 24-minute episodes. The mastering on this disc is very careful, to the point that, when a song comes up in a scene, the volume boosts up slightly. The fourth disc also includes a trivia contest that incorporates clips from the show in its interactive functions, as well as a gallery of guest stars from the first season.