From the moment that we first heard The Rembrandts’ jangling, Byrds-y intro to "I’ll Be There for You,"
Friends has kept us totally engaged -- and not just with the eternal question of how six semi-employed twentysomethings could afford such palatial Manhattan digs. Developed by NBC as a Thursday-night companion to the then-growing Seinfeld, Friends is that rare breed of situation comedy that is much more than the sum of its considerable and carefully assembled parts. Early in this first season, Friends establishes itself as the time-capsule collection for unfocused Generation X’ers, swimming in Seinfeld's creative wake, shining brilliantly with threadbare plotlines. Consider "The One with the Boobies," in which Chandler ( Matthew Perry) catches an accidental glimpse of Rachel’s breasts, which sets her off on a fairness crusade to see his ‘thing.’ And who doesn't crack up throughout "The One With the Butt," wherein aspiring thespian Joey ( Matt LeBlanc) is called upon to play the enviable role of Al Pacino’s "butt double." The nostalgia factor is high in this 24-episode collection, and revisiting such gems as "The One With Two Parts" -- during which Monica ( Courteney Cox) and Rachel ( Jennifer Aniston) double-date ER docs George Clooney and Noah Wyle -- will no doubt bring the early ‘90s back like a shot from the defibrillator. The DVD editon of this box set is chock-full of extra features, including an interactive tour of the set and the "How Well Do You Know Your Friends" trivia challenge. After a few sleepless nights spent devouring the entire first season, the quiz should be a breeze. Episodes are as follows:
"The One Where It All Began" -- Monica¹s old high school friend, Rachel, decides to move in with her after leaving her fiancé at the altar. Meanwhile, Ross takes an apartment in Monica¹s building to be closer to his friends, Chandler and Joey.
"The One With The Sonogram At The End" -- Ross¹ ex-wife Carol tells him that she and her lover, Susan, plan to raise their baby together, but that he is invited to the sonogram. Meanwhile Monica prepares for dinner with her parents.
"The One With The Thumb" -- Phoebe¹s bank mistakenly credits her account, but her attempts to fix the situation only bring her more money, as well as a soda with a thumb floating in it. Meanwhile, Chandler teaches Joey how to smoke.
"The One With George Stephanopoulos" -- Joey and Chandler invite Ross to a hockey game for his birthday, but his nose gets broken by a flying puck and the guys spend the night in the hospital. Meanwhile, the girls discuss life and guys.
"The One With The East German Laundry Detergent" -- Monica and Joey try to break up Joey¹s ex-girlfriend Angela¹s current relationship, Chandler and Phoebe try to break up with their dates and Ross teaches Rachel how do to laundry.
"The One With The Butt" -- Chandler starts dating a beautiful woman, who is not only married, but also has another boyfriend, a situation which isn¹t as fun as he expects it to be. Meanwhile, Joey is cast in a movie, as Al Pacino¹s "butt double."
"The One With The Blackout" -- During a blackout in New York City, Chandler is locked in an ATM with beautiful supermodel Jill Goodacre. Meanwhile, the gang converges on Monica's apartment to tell scary stories and talk about sex.
"The One Where Nana Dies Twice" -- Ross and Monica help their parents (Elliott Gould and Christina Pickles) with their grandmother¹s funeral arrangements. Meanwhile, a co-worker makes Chandler question his sexual orientation.
"The One Where Underdog Gets Away" -- Everyone¹s plans for Thanksgiving fall through one-by-one, culminated by the Underdog balloon escaping from the Macy¹s Parade. Meanwhile, Ross petitions Carol for "belly time" so he can bond.
"The One With The Monkey" -- Ross gets a pet monkey with which he experiences the typical struggles of a new relationship. Meanwhile, the gang throws a "dateless" New Year¹s Eve party, but end up bringing dates anyway.
"The One With Mrs. Bing" -- Monica and Phoebe cause a guy to have an accident and begin a "relationship" with him while he¹s in a coma. Meanwhile, Chandler¹s famous trash-novelist mom (Morgan Fairchild) comes for a visit.
"The One With The Dozen Lasagnas" -- Rachel¹s boyfriend Paolo comes on to Phoebe while she is giving him a massage, prompting Rachel to swear off all men, including Ross. Meanwhile, Monica has made all these lasagnas...
"The One With The Boobies" -- Chandler accidentally sees Rachel¹s "boobies" and she decides to get even by seeing his "thing." Meanwhile, Joey finds out his dad has been having an affair and Phoebe¹s shrink boyfriend drives everyone nuts.
"The One With The Candy Hearts" --Joey and Chandler go on a double date, but to Chandler's horror, his date is his ex-girlfriend Janice. Meanwhile, Monica, Rachel and Phoebe have a "bad boyfriend cleansing ritual" which gets out of hand.
"The One With The Stoned Guy" -- One of Phoebe¹s clients (Jon Lovitz) auditions Monica for the new restaurant he wants to open, but shows up at her home stoned and is more interested in munchies than her gourmet appetizers.
"The One With Two Parts, Part 1" -- Chandler and Joey meet Phoebe¹s twin sister, Ursula. Meanwhile Ross, Carol and Susan begin Lamaze classes and Rachel falls off the roof. Helen Hunt and Leila Kenzle make guest appearances.
"The One With Two Parts, Part 2" --After her accident, Monica takes Rachel to the hospital where they make a double date with two cute doctors (George Clooney and Noah Wyle). Meanwhile, Phoebe has a confrontation with Ursula.
"The One With All The Poker" -- The girls convince the guys to teach them poker, but wind up losing big-time. They demand a re-match, but lose that as well. Meanwhile, Rachel is interviewed for her "dream job" as a buyer at Saks.
"The One Where The Monkey Gets Away" -- Rachel loses Ross¹ pet monkey and the gang go on an all-out search, but a run in with a woman she snubbed in high school, now working for Animal Control, turns the search into a fiasco.
"The One With The Evil Orthodontist" -- Rachel¹s visit to her ex-fiancé Barry leads to sex, and winds up breaking up his impending wedding with her ex-maid-of-honor, Mindy. Meanwhile, Chandler has problems after a great first date.
"The One With Fake Monica" -- Monica finds the woman who has stolen her credit card number and winds up befriending her, because she loves her zest for life. Meanwhile Ross has monkey problems and Joey searches for a stage name.
"The One With The Ick Factor" -- Monica gets involved with a guy she thinks is a college senior, only to find out he¹s a senior in high school. Meanwhile, Phoebe fills in as Chandler¹s assistant and finds out that none of his co-workers like him.
"The One With The Birth" -- Carol is in labor, but the childish competition between Ross and Susan forces her to throw them out. When they get locked in a janitor¹s closet with Phoebe, they fear they may miss the birth of their child.
"The One Where Rachel Finds Out" -- While Ross is away in China, Joey lets it slip that he is in love with Rachel, prompting her to re-evaluate how she feels, but when she goes to the airport to tell him, she is greeted with a surprise.
Barnes & Noble - Jeffrey Iorio
In the second season,
Friends became family. It was a year of funky bachelor pads and lesbian weddings; inappropriate tailors and soap-opera doctors; smelly cats and movie star monkeys. The sophomore season captured our imagination, established the affairs that aroused our subconscious desires, and cemented our relationship with the gang of Friends.
The sexual tension between Ross and Rachel is the season’s centerpiece, as they clumsily volley the onus of love and commitment. From Rachel’s delight in "The One With Phoebe's Husband," wherein she discovers that Ross has yet to consummate an already lengthy relationship with his girlfriend, to "The One With The List," when Ross’ hysterical list of Rachel’s pros and cons falls into the wrong hands, we’re carried through the polar highs and lows of an atypical courtship. Just as it seems their love will remain forever unrequited, Ross and Rachel are united in perhaps the greatest Friends episode, "The One With The Prom Video." Flashbacks from home video horrors resurface as we watch a portly Monica and hook-nosed Rachel prepare for the Prom, while Ross, a poster boy for '80s fads, looks on.
The DVD version of Friends: The Complete Season Two is loaded with special features, including commentary from the show’s producers, an interactive tour of Monica and Rachel’s "to-die-for" apartment, a video guide to season two’s special guest appearances, a "How Well Do You Know Your Friends?" video trivia challenge, and more. Episodes are as follows:
"The One with Ross's New Girlfriend" -- Ross comes back from China with a new girlfriend and Rachel has a hard time dealing with it. Meanwhile, Phoebe gives Monica a really bad haircut and Joey makes a discovery about his family tailor.
"The One with the Breast Milk" -- A heated discussion ensues after Phoebe tastes Carol's breast milk while preparing a bottle for Ben. Meanwhile everyone but Rachel has become friends with Ross's new girlfriend, Julie -- and Monica feels guilty about it.
"The One Where Mr. Heckles Dies" -- Upstairs neighbor Mr. Heckles dies, leaving his estate to Monica and Rachel, which leads to a discussion over who actually owns the girls' apartment. Meanwhile Chandler fears he is living Mr. Heckles life.
"The One with the Five Steaks and An Eggplant" -- Monica gets promoted and invites the gang to an expensive restaurant to celebrate -- causing Rachel, Phoebe, and Joey to feel the disparity between their incomes and those of Monica, Ross, and Chandler.
"The One with Phoebe's Husband" -- Phoebe's unknown husband -- a gay, Canadian figure skater whom she married years ago so he could apply for a green card -- returns to ask for a divorce. Meanwhile, Ross confides in Rachel that he and Julie haven't had sex yet.
"The One with the Baby On The Bus" -- Ross has an allergic reaction to one of Monica's pies, so she rushes him to the hospital, leaving Ben with Chandler and Joey -- who try to use him to pick up women and wind up leaving him on the bus.
"The One Where Ross Finds Out" -- After Ross and Julie decide to get a cat together, Rachel gets drunk and calls his answering machine to tell him how "over him" she is. Meanwhile, Chandler works out with Monica, and Phoebe has boyfriend troubles.
"The One with the List" -- Ross has difficulty choosing between Rachel and Julie, so Chandler talks him into making up a list of pros and cons. Unfortunately, Rachel finds the list and refuses to talk to him, even after he's broken things off with Julie.
"The One with Phoebe's Dad" -- It's almost Christmas and Phoebe has found out that her father is living in upstate New York, so she borrows her grandmother's cab and forces Chandler and Joey to accompany her on a road trip to see him.
"The One with the Prom Video" -- Rachel had decided not to take Ross back, until a long-forgotten video surfaces, documenting his attempt to rescue her the night her prom date didn't show up. Meanwhile, Joey gives Chandler a hideous bracelet.
"The One with Russ" -- Rachel convinces the gang that she's over Ross, until they meet her new boyfriend, Russ, who is virtually a clone of Ross. Meanwhile, Joey gets an audition for a role in Days Of Our Lives.
"The One with the Lesbian Wedding" -- Susan and Carol announce that they are getting married and Ross refuses to go, until Carol reveals a secret that changes his mind. Meanwhile, one of Phoebe's patients dies, and her spirit enters Phoebe's body.
"The One After the Super Bowl - Part 1" -- Joey begins dating a woman who believes that he really is Dr. Drake Ramoray, his character on Days Of Our Lives. Meanwhile, Ross discovers that Marcel has a new career in movies and infiltrates a set to visit him.
"The One After the Super Bowl - Part II" -- Ross and Marcel have trouble reuniting, but Chandler reunites with a girl from his 4th-grade class who is now a make-up artist on Marcel's movie. Meanwhile, Rachel and Monica vie for Jean-Claude Van Damme's affections.
"The One Where Ross and Rachel...You Know" -- Ross and Rachel can't seem to make it past the first kiss, until he is unexpectedly called to the museum late at night and she surprises him in the Planetarium. Meanwhile, Monica hits it off with Dr. Burke.
"The One Where Joey Moves Out" -- Now that Joey is making good money as an actor, he decides to move out, prompting a game of foosball between him and Chandler to see who gets the table. Meanwhile, Monica's fling with Richard is discovered at a party.
"The One Where Eddie Moves In" -- Ross and Rachel convince Chandler to get a new roommate, Eddie -- only to discover that Joey misses him and wants to move back. Meanwhile Phoebe records "Smelly Cat" for a record producer.
"The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies" -- Joey angers the writers of Days Of Our Lives, so they write him out of the show by dropping him down an elevator shaft. Meanwhile, Chandler discovers that Eddie is a psycho.
"The One Where Eddie Won't Go" -- Chandler tries in vain to get Eddie to move out, so he and Joey devise a plan to have Joey move back in and pretend that Eddie doesn't exist. Meanwhile, the girls read a new "female power" book.
"The One Where Old Yeller Dies" -- Phoebe, whose mother never let her see the end of sad movies, sees the ending of Old Yeller and is distraught. Meanwhile, Joey and Chandler start hanging out with Richard, and Ross is tired of missing Ben's "firsts."
"The One with the Bullies" -- Two guys come into Central Perk and tell Ross and Chandler never to come back in again, so they avoid their favorite hangout until they can't take it anymore. Meanwhile, Phoebe meets her half-brother.
"The One with the Two Parties" -- It's Rachel's birthday and Monica decides to throw her a big party. Trouble is, Rachel's parents are divorcing, so she only invites her mom. When dad shows up, the gang sets up an impromptu party at Joey and Chandler's.
"The One with Barry And Mindy's Wedding" -- Rachel lives up to her end of the agreement to be Mindy's maid of honor -- only to be dissed by the best man and guests. Meanwhile, Joey has to practice kissing men for a role.
"The One with the Chicken Pox" -- Phoebe's "submarine guy" boyfriend resurfaces for two weeks, but she has contracted chicken pox from Ben. Meanwhile, Chandler talks Joey into using his acting skills to get a job at his company, with disastrous results.
Barnes & Noble - Andy Sullivan
Once upon a time, the big question wasn't whether or not NBC could lure the stars of
Friends back for another season, but rather how the program would stay vaguely interesting. With Ross ( David Schwimmer) and Rachel ( Jennifer Aniston) finally together, would the magic that made Season 2 sizzle, just fizzle? Season 3 found the answer -- and the twist -- around which at least six more years would ultimately revolve. Yes, the third time around is chock-full of great episodes, including "The One with the Flashback," which backtracks to a year before the pilot, when Central Perk is a bar, Chandler ( Matthew Perry) meets Joey ( Matt LeBlanc), Joey hits on Monica ( Courtney Cox), Chandler makes a move on Rachel, and Ross and Phoebe ( Lisa Kudrow) make out. There are a gaggle of memorable guest stints, including one by Courtney Cox's future hubby, David Arquette (as Phoebe's stalker/stalkee in "The One with the Jam") and a hilarious Ben Stiller (as Rachel's violence-prone date in "The One with the Screamer"). But the jewel is the two-episode tandem of "The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break," wherein Ross hooks up with the girl from the photocopy shop, and "The One the Morning After," when Rachel finds out and they break up. The finale, "The One at the Beach," may be less intriguing for its cliff-hanger (will Ross sleep with his new girlfriend or Rachel?) than for its foreshadowing of events to come in Season 7: Monica says Chandler's not "boyfriend material"? Maybe not. But how about husband material?
Barnes & Noble - Peter Marchand
From the moment Chandler christened the opening episode by peeing on Monica's jellyfish sting,
Friends hit the ground running in its fourth -- and quite possibly best season. With its six young Manhattanites firmly established in America's living rooms, the show's creators were free to improvise variations on the extended-family theme, with often hilarious (and occasionally poignant) results. Not only does Phoebe channel her dead mother through a stray cat, she serves as a surrogate mom, mood-swinging her way through the second half of the season while pregnant with triplets. Both Chandler and Joey get caught with their pants down -- the latter by guest star Charlton Heston, who barks "put some pants on kid, so I can kick your butt" when he catches Joey in his dressing room shower. The show's trademark physical comedy shines in episodes like "The One with Chandler in the Box" and "The One with All the Rugby," in which Ross pratfalls his way across the field to impress his British girlfriend, Emily. A labyrinthine series of mating dances produces numerous strange bedfellows, as per Friends tradition. This season also finds star-crossed ex-spouses Ross and Rachel at the zenith of their will-they-won't-they dynamic -- capped by the classic final episode, in which he seals his wedding vows with Emily by calling her "Rachel." Oops!
Barnes & Noble - Cree McCree
"The One After Ross Says 'Rachel' " launched Season 5 of NBC's perennial Thursday night ratings giant,
Friends, referencing in the title the shocking final moment from Season 4's cliff-hanger ending. To refresh memories, Ross (David Schwimmer) -- in London, at the altar, marrying Emily (Helen Baxendale) -- had blurted out his true love's name at precisely the wrong moment, setting the scene for some serious explaining down the road. The episode's September 24th premiere ranks among the show's all-time ratings peaks and launched a season with strikingly few low points, as this 24-episode collection demonstrates. Highlights along the way include: "The One with All the Thanksgivings," featuring hilarious recollections of turkey days past; "The One with Chandler's Work Laugh"; "The One Where Everyone Finds Out," wherein Monica and Chandler's secret affair is revealed; and the season-closing two-parter, "The One in Vegas 1 & 2," which culminates with Monica and Chandler encountering Rachel and Ross at a Sin City wedding chapel.
The 2001-2 season picks up exactly where the previous one left off: at the wedding of Monica (
Courteney Cox-Arquette) and Chandler ( Matthew Perry), where the Friends are engaging in their usual hilarious antics. But the euphoria surrounding this year's opener, "The One After 'I Do,' " quickly gives way to a plot twist that dominates Season 8 -- Rachel’s ( Jennifer Aniston) unexpected pregnancy. The father, of course, is Ross ( David Schwimmer), and there's a great deal of hoopla generated before the blessed event occurs in a two-part, season-ending extravaganza, "The One Where Rachel Has a Baby." In between, there are some memorable episodes and the predictable cameo appearances. Alec Baldwin turns up in "The One with the Tea Leaves," which turns the spotlight on Phoebe ( Lisa Kudrow); Sean Penn guests as a brokenhearted boyfriend in "The One with the Stain"; and Trudie Styler ( Sting's wife) plays herself in "The One with Monica's Boots." Aniston's real-life husband, big-screen heartthrob Brad Pitt, makes an uncredited appearance in "The One with the Rumor," playing a former classmate (and, with Chandler, a co-founder of the high school's "I Hate Rachel" club) who turns up for Monica's Thanksgiving dinner. These 22 episodes are quite remarkable, in that they reveal almost none of the weariness or dearth of ideas that usually encumber series having run this long. There are, to be sure, a few clinkers in the group, but by and large Season 8 is an exceptionally strong one -- and a must for devotees of this much-beloved sitcom.
Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse