Friends Series 8 episodes 1-4 Review

The Show
For the last few years now I’ve got into the habit of reviewing one of the discs from the Friends collections. For seasons six and seven I looked at discs that featured episodes in the middle of the series, and this was generally a better place to visit than those at the beginning of those runs, as both got off to fairly weak starts. Here though, we have the first four episodes of season eight. The expectation would be that this would be worse still as long running shows inevitably start to run out of steam, especially with the large number of episodes that American sitcoms run to. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that these are some of the funniest season openers for many years.

The episodes themselves are:
(There may be some spoilers here, if you are only up as far as series 7 on Channel 4)

The One After “I Do”

Monica and Chandler’s wedding reception is upstaged by the fact that Rachel is pregnant. Ross’s plan to get himself seated next to a girl he’s trying to impress goes badly wrong, and the groom shows off his dancing skills – or lack of them.

The One With The Red Sweater

Rachel still hasn’t told anyone who the father of her baby is, but a certain red sweater may hold the answer. In the meantime Ross and Chandler have to come up with a crazy plan to cover the fact that they have the lost the wedding reception pictures.

The One Where Rachel Tells…

Rachel finally tells the father of her child the news. Meanwhile, Monica and Chandler head off on honeymoon, but find they are always just too late for the “free stuff”. Phoebe and Joey’s attempt to break into the Bings’ apartment causes more problems than they expected.

The One With The Videotape

Ross and Rachel try to explain how they ended up in bed together, and both have very different stories. It was her word against his, but Ross reveals that he videotaped the whole evening…

Although other recent seasons have got off to a slow start these episodes are all very funny. The running stories of Rachel’s pregnancy and that of the newlywed couple Monica and Chandler both work very successfully. Whereas the start of the last two seasons seemed to be carried by Joey, with the best bits for everyone else left for the latter parts of the season, here it is sharp and funny throughout. Some may argue that it’s not as good as it was – and it probably isn’t - but as long as they can keep up this standard then I see no reason why they can’t make it into a ninth season. But probably they’ll all be demanding about $2 million an episode by then…

A 4x3 picture derived from an NTSC television broadcast, so not the best picture quality, but much better if you compare it to the earliest seasons of Friends on DVD. With some other American shows you may get the benefit of a widescreen version that you didn’t see on television, but not here; to be fair it was probably recorded in this ratio in the first place.

Like the season seven discs, side A is in plain 2.0 stereo, whereas side B is in Dolby Digital 5.0. Obviously the Digital track is preferable, though mostly the audience and a few ambient effects show up on the rear channels. It is a fuller and warmer listening experience than the basic stereo, though.

Video Extras
As with the previous season, Warner continue with their four original versions on side A and four director’s cut versions on side B. You didn’t really think they’d go back to eight episodes a disc, did you? As per the previous season, these extended cuts vary from a few minutes more down to just a few seconds more. The first episode at the wedding reception is the only significantly longer version here, clocking in at about 26 minutes (instead of the usual 22). There is something here that is a little different though, in The One Where Rachel Tells.... The scenes that featured Monica and Chandler at the airport en route to their honeymoon had been completely re-written, and the original scenes appear at the end of the episode. Originally Chandler had made one of his usual sarcastic jokes about a sign regarding terrorism and the pair of them had been hauled off for interrogation. Now there was a lot of over-the-top paranoia after September 11th, but as this was due to be broadcast in the US just a few weeks after that, a story involving New Yorkers making jokes about aircraft terrorism was probably best withdrawn. Now though it can be seen for what it is – a more amusing sequence than the alternative they came up with, and it makes a joke they retained regarding Phoebe and Joey breaking into their apartment much funnier.

DVD-ROM Extras
The same extra here as on every other Friends disc; that is, some pointless weblinks.

Final Thoughts
Series eight gets off to a good start with these four decent episodes. As for the disc itself, if you’re still smarting after last year’s stealth price increase of Friends discs by halving the number of episodes per disc then you won’t be surprised to find that nothing’s changed. But this set in particular is worth catching for the reworked scene on The One Where Rachel Tells... episode.

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Last updated: 27/04/2018 12:10:20

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