Friday, 7 February 2014

TV Series Review: Friends

For Christmas the year before last Mr Click bought me the complete box set of Friends, The One With All Ten Seasons. We've had it on the bookcase ever since, just waiting for the chance to sit down and watch it.

It used to be a staple part of Thursday night viewing, so what with watching ER on an evening it only seemed right that we should start watching Friends as well. It started off being our before bed viewing, watching two or four episodes while we drank tea or hot chocolate in bed, until our Blu-ray player decided to be a bit temperamental about playing the double-sided ER discs, so we swapped and made it our tea time viewing instead.

Some might say that this is a sensible move as ER isn't always particularly good viewing when you're wanting to eat your tea! Then again, it's not always brilliant right-before-bed viewing either!

I'll start with the box. It's perfect. All ten series are housed inside it and if they're lined up they spell out the Friends logo. Each series has three discs to it, which are double-sided so you have to flip them over when you get to the end.

On thing I did feel it was slightly lacking in were special features. For the first few series each disc has the music video on it (which I'd occasionally watch while I was waiting for Mr Click to come out of the kitchen) and the London episodes have a special feature about making Friends in London. Other than that there's nothing until you get to the final episode. Then you get a (hilarious) gag reel looking back over all ten series, watching every cast member completely flubbing their lines or corpsing. There's also a featurette on how Friends is dubbed in other countries, a Behind the Scenes on the creation of an episode (this originally aired right before the start of, I think, the sixth series, because I remember watching it on TV at the time) and also some interviews with series regulars which we've not gotten to yet.

I would've liked to have seen more behind the scenes stuff, as well as maybe some more features on how the series was received at first, grew in popularity, and how the cast felt as it drew to a close. Or perhaps some commentaries on some of the key episodes in the series.

Watching the episodes the way we did, two to four a night, meant that towards the end we were watching a series a week. Even when I was younger and used to marathon the series I never got through them all that quickly. It was kind of funny to watch the cast and characters growing up so quickly before my very eyes and even weirder to think that when I'd originally watched some of those episodes I'd been twelve, and now I was the same age as, or older than, the characters I was watching.

I've watched most of the series multiple times, when I was younger I had up to series seven on video and whenever my cousin came to stay we'd sit up late watching as many episodes as I could. I probably know the entire first series completely off by heart.

There's a sort of magic to those earlier episodes which I don't always feel with the later ones. Perhaps because I don't know them quite so well; I think I've only seen series ten a handful of times. I'm not about to start listing all of my favourite episodes because I could easily just turn this into a massive list of all the greatest Friends episodes, and besides, I think any Friends fan will have their own list and probably won't include all of the same episodes as any other fan.

I love the flashback episodes, I don't mean the ones which consist of clips from older episodes - those do get a little bit tiresome when you're marathoning the series the way that we did, because you know those jokes, you watched them two weeks ago! - I mean the ones where we see the gang in their youth or before the start of the show.

Monica and Chandler will probably always be two of my favourite characters on the show. I know it's all about the Ross and Rachel relationship, but at times they seem so immature and petty about things, whereas Monica and Chandler seem more real. This time around I probably felt a greater attachment to them as well for other reasons too.

Of course I have to mention Phoebe as well. I love how zany and random she is. The episode where she and Rachel go running in the park sums it up perfectly. She is who she is and she doesn't care what other people think about her. I always secretly wanted to be like her when I was a teen but wasn't really brave enough. Now I'm a lot happier about just being who I want to be, but I wish I'd stopped trying to be who other people wanted me to be when I was younger.

I think that on the whole it's aged pretty well. Aside from the fashions and hairstyles (and the grainer picture/harsher lighting) of the earlier episodes, there's very little which ties it to a particular era. Little things like Joey having an audition tape, Chandler getting a brand new computer with a whole twelve megabytes of RAM, and references to the Mayor of New York, which you can kind of gloss over.

Watching ER alongside Friends has helped me to appreciate how timeless Friends is by comparison. The early series of ER feel more like they're going to become Period Pieces because there's a lot more talk of technology and you see the medical and computer equipment changing. Unless we all suddenly start driving flying cars or wearing all silver jumpsuits all the time, Friends doesn't feel like it's going to change a huge amount. It'll be interesting to see if I can watch it in the same way in another ten years' time.

Of course, I'm not going to be waiting ten years to marathon the whole series again. The next time I've got the house all to myself I'll probably be watching the whole thing from beginning to end again, purely because I can!

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Let me know what you think. :-)