Friends1coverGrade:  A-
Entire family:  No

1994-95, 542 min. (24 episodes), Color
Unrated (would be PG-13 for sexual talk/situations)
Warner Bros.
Aspect ratio:  1.78:1
Featured audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Bonus features:  C

There’s no getting around it. Today’s kids are more sophisticated and worldly than they were even in the ‘90s, when this primetime sitcom first aired. It’s an odd place for kids to be, caught between childhood innocence and adulthood. But it’s the same place that the characters in Friends find themselves:  legally adult, yet still not feeling all grown up, still bantering and hanging out like high school or college students. They’re too old to be spending all their time with family, and too young, unlucky (or immature) to have found a permanent relationship and start a family of their own.

That “limbo” factor is one reason why Friends appeals to teens and ‘tweens as well as their parents. Plus, the writing is razor sharp and there are laugh-out-loud moments every five minutes or so.

Friends has extended life because the humor isn’t topical, it’s based on comedy of character. You get Monica (Courtney Cox), the obsessive compulsive who needs everything and everyone to be clean and in its place; Ross (David Schwimmer), her science-geek brother who’s more comfortable talking about dinosaur bones than he is the opposite sex; Chandler (Matthew Perry), who uses sarcasm to mask his own insecurities; Joey, the not-too-bright, wannabe actor ladies man (Matt LeBlanc); Rachel, a spoiled, not-so-bright rich girl who needs to prove she can make it on her own, like everyone else; and Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), the New Age faux-folk singer who’s as ditzy as a screwball comedy character.

Though the plots revolve around their various relationships, it’s the way that they relate to each other on a daily basis that anchors the series. And it’s not only the characters. This ensemble is as good as any ever assembled for a television comedy. Their delivery, their timing, their body language, their expressions, and the way they play off of each other are near-perfect. 

Friends1screenThis season Ross gets a monkey, Joey finds work as Al Pacino’s butt double, Rachel discovers that her Italian boyfriend Paolo has eyes for everyone else, Monica tries to find work as a chef and discovers she’s dating someone way too young, and Ross becomes a father . . . after his ex-wife left him for another woman. Yet, some of the funnier episodes involve situations that shed light on the different ways that men and women perceive things, as when they talk about kissing, or Joey tries to give Ross advice on how to talk dirty to women, or Chandler glimpses Rachel when she’s totally nude (viewers, of course, never see anything, as this show aired on NBC Thursday nights at 8:30 p.m.).

Our whole family (parents plus a 14 and 11 year old) enjoys watching a few episodes when we’re not in the mood for a long movie, but want something to unwind with after school and work or after playing a game. I’m sure there are things that go over our 11 year old’s head, but that’s fine by us.

It’s nice having the episodes on two Blu-ray discs, remastered from the original 35mm elements, rather than a bulky DVD package. But fans should know that the DVDs were “extended” editions with a few bonus lines edited in for each episode. The episodes on this Blu-ray are as originally broadcast. Frankly, the video presentation is uneven. At times you’re very aware you’re watching in HD, while other times the backgrounds have considerable grain or noise. Overall, though, I’d take Blu-ray over DVD, despite the missing lines and unevenness.

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