The SmarK DVD Rant for Friends Season 8
So this was pretty much the last hurrah for a generation’s favorite sitcom, as the fairly disastrous seventh season, trounced in the ratings by reality TV, coupled with the rising salaries of the six stars, seemed to spell the end for Friends and it was looking like the 8th season would be the last.
And then true reality TV struck, as the events of 9/11 left everyone searching for their comfort zone, and suddenly for millions of people, that was Friends again. Suddenly the lighthearted mishaps of unrealistic perfect people in New York didn’t seem so silly, and Friends reclaimed the ratings crown. And with sympathies for the possible finale of the show in the air, it also captured its first Best Comedy Emmy, even though really the best seasons were far behind it. And really, it SHOULD have been the last season rather than stretching it for another two, but hindsight is 20/20 and all that.
– The One After “I Do”. It’s the fallout after the wedding of Mondler, with no gay people, no saying other people’s names, and no one drunk. However, Rachel is pregnant and Phoebe announces her own pregnancy to cover it up. Mondler have their first dance, but Chandler’s shoes slips on the floor. Ross meets Mona and finds a dorky soulmate, but has to sit at the kids’ table as a result of some botched scheming, although his dances with the girls are pretty charming. Rachel cracks under the pressure of Monica’s questions and admits her condition, thus shattering the illusion of Phoebe’s tryst with James Brolin. Pity. Apparently he’s already married to some singer anyway. Joey auditions for Nora Bing’s Broadway director boyfriend, and that works out about as well as you’d expect. Maybe it was his tiny feet, who knows. And from bad acting to good, as Jennifer Aniston wins her Best Actress Emmy in one show, as she confirms her pregnancy once and for all. Kind of all over the place, but in the good way.
– The One with the Red Sweater. More wedding fallout, as Chandler needs the disposable cameras from the tables for Monica’s instant photo gratification, but Ross doesn’t have them. We do, however, learn of Ross’ obsessive need to steal from his hotel room, which would be fully paid off in season 9. Monica goes crazy and opens all the presents herself. Rachel debates telling the father, who we don’t know the identity of yet, but gets freaked out and decides not to, which results in some of the most grammatically awkward conversations this side of time traveling. Joey, however, has vital evidence, like the world’s dumbest CSI: A red sweater. Phoebe connects it with Tag “Sweet Cheeks” Jones (who is actually gaining my respect on CSI: NY, oddly enough) but the sweater doesn’t fit, so you know. However, it fits ROSS. Great running joke with Joey proposing to Phoebe & Rachel. Not so great jokes with Chandler & Ross faking the wedding pictures. Joey steals the show with a delayed double take here.
– The One Where Rachel Tells Ross. Mondler prepare for the honeymoon, locking Joey and Phoebe out of the apartment in the process, and Joey has important food in the fridge! So naturally they tell Treeger (returning for one episode after disappearing for a few seasons) that there’s a gas leak, and he breaks down the door. Mondler compete with another couple for honeymoon honors, in a hastily re-shot and unfunny series of gags to replace Chandler joking about a bomb on the plane. Although the payoff joke, with Chandler’s declaration that “We need the stuff”, redeems it quite a lot. And the A-story sees Rachel telling Ross, and he takes it in usual Ross fashion (“THEY SHOULD PUT THAT ON THE BOX!” “They do.” “Well, they should put it in HUGE LETTERS!”) and his 30-second freeze take is awesome stuff. As is “I’m indignant”¦as a CONSUMER!” Joey’s version is hilarious as well, especially the giant string of condoms. And then another Emmy-winning moment for Rachel, as she and Ross get the sonogram and she can’t see the baby. Great R&R moment as they fight over who eats faster. B-plots are losers, but the condom jokes make this one commentary-worthy.
– The One With the Videotape. Mondler return from their honeymoon (without presents for Joey!), but get blown off by a couple they met there. Ross & Rachel tell the story of the knocking-up, but they have different versions. What a shock, I know. Ross, however, has a solution — a videotape of the night in question. So we flash back to Ross asking Joey about sex-getting, and Joey gives him The Story. He of course completely botches the telling, so Joey lends him his camera (a very outdated VHS camcorder that was necessary to have a VHS tape as a plot point) and he leaves it running through the whole thing. The others’ reaction is priceless (“Yeah, we’re gonna need to see that tape”). So Rachel agrees to show the tape (after the others nearly have a heart attack when it appears she’ll smash it. Commentary reveals that they only had one take without everyone cracking up, and even then it was close — watch Phoebe closely), mainly because she thinks it’ll make Ross look desperate and needy. That of course proves to be quite untrue, as the plot with The Story is paid off nicely. And that was pretty much that with Ross & Rachel for another season. Or was it”¦?
– The One With Rachel’s Date. Chandler has a co-worker who thinks his name is Toby, but we learn that his middle name IS Muriel. Phoebe dates Monica’s sous-chef, and Rachel makes a move on one of Joey’s sous-doctors. Rachel’s soap opera geekdom shows itself again. Mon wants to fire her chef and Phoebe wants to dump him, so they compete to see who gets first crack. Ross gets typically overprotective of Rachel and freaks out. Ross? Freak out? You don’t say. The stuff with Chandler switching names to avoid confronting Bob is typical sitcom silliness, but Ross & Joey share a nice moment. Why Matt LeBlanc didn’t get the Emmy mystifies me. Ross shares a moment with Rachel, and then bumps into Mona again to kick off his story arc for the next few months. This one left me sous-whelmed, though.
– The One With the Halloween Party. Monica throws a costume party, which is another excuse to get all six in a room and do inside jokes. Monica is Catwoman, Phoebe is Supergirl, Chandler is a bunny, Joey is Chandler (“Wagh wagh wagh!”) and Ross is”¦um”¦Spudnik. A-Story sees Phoebe accidentally hitting on Ursula’s fiancee (Sean Penn, playing a remarkably non-psychotic character). Minor note: One of the guests is dressed as a wrestling referee. Joey’s Chandler impression is of course awesome. Another callback to the Velveteen Rabbit for Chandler. Joey’s opinion that Catwoman could beat Supergirl is highly suspect, especially for someone who reads comic books exclusively like him. Further note on the betting here: Rachel and Monica have fought several times, and it’s been a draw each time, so he’s way off on that one too. This leads to a discussion of Ross v. Chandler, and the inevitable doody v. bunny showdown in arm-wrestling. “I’ll prove it like a theorem!” Joey’s right — the trash talking is BRUTAL. Running joke sees Rachel giving money to kids when the candy runs out. The escalation of Ursula’s lies is weird and yet funny, especially totally random stuff like a detailed bank vault plan in her purse. This one was a total season highlight.
– The One With the Stain. Chandler, clearly not understanding the woman he married, hires a maid. However, the dream goes awry when the maid has apparently stolen Monica’s jeans. Meanwhile, Ross & Rachel go apartment hunting, but the supposedly dead Dutch woman who rents it isn’t quite dead yet. And Ross isn’t quite as Dutch as he claims to be. Phoebe starts dating Eric, who has anger issues over Ursula. Joey is crushed by Rachel wanting to move out, so he goes about trying to convince her to stay. Monica gets increasingly nuts, believing her bra to be stolen in addition to her pants, and Chandler pays the price. And speaking of crazy, Eric accidentally f*cks Ursula. Now THERE’S a social faux pas for the ages. Funny bit with Hugsy actually sets up a whole show later in the series.
– The One With the Stripper. Chandler discovers that Monica had a bachelorette party, and he wants one too. Well, minus the -ette, I’d guess. Phoebe & Rachel go to dinner with Dr. Greene to tell him about the pregnancy, and he’s his usual charming self, demanding a wedding. Monica, meanwhile, confuses “hooker” with “stripper”, which has Joey and Chandler a bit confused. Ross gets caught in the middle of two arguments with Mona and Dr. Greene, leaving him at his flustered best. Joey and Chandler stop to have a guy moment, which is nice, and another moment of self-reference sees Phoebe wanting to see the Ross-Rachel fight and getting disappointed by them. Yeah, you and me both, babe. Fun stuff all around.
– The One With the Rumor. For some reason, this one didn’t warrant commentary, despite inclusion in the top 6 episodes last year. Anyway, it’s Thanksgiving time again, and no one but Joey wants turkey. Least of all Monica’s former fat friend, Will, who is played by some guy I don’t know because he’s not credited. And he HATES Rachel Greene. In fact, back in high school, he had a club: The I Hate Rachel Greene Club. Joey’s “Let me explain to you how the human body works” and other lines steal the show. In fact, let’s run down the all-time great Joey lines from this one: “You are my Everest!”, “I’m gonna need proof of that” and “Here come the meat sweats”. Honorable mention goes to Mr. Aniston as the insanely vengeful Will, who started a rumor about Rachel’s “teeny weenie”. Things then turn on Ross, as he is revealed to have trysted with a senior citizen. Things build and build with the six of them annoying the crap out of each other, but sadly the show lacks a true payoff to the Will storyline. The rest is GOLD, baby. Gold.
– The One With Monica’s Boots. Monica buys expensive boots, but they don’t fit. Truly the show had the pulse of my generation. ANYWAY, Phoebe discovers that Ben goes to school with Sting’s son, and she wants concert tickets. Did I mention how out of touch with the audience this show was getting? Anyway, Ben and Sting Jr. don’t get along, so Phoebe sings a few bars of “Ross Can” to motivate him to meet Sting. Joey brings his youngest sister to meet Rachel for fashion advice, but she really wants knocked up advice. Phoebe pretends to be Susan to get in with the Stings, and that goes about as well as you’d imagine. Joey freaks out over Dina’s pregnancy and gets all Big Brother on her and the dumbass boyfriend. Pretty weak.
– The One With Ross’s Step Forward. Ross & Mona take a BIG step forward, sending out Christmas cards together. Rachel is overly hormonal, so Phoebe tries to fix her up with some man-meat. Doug invites Mondler to dinner, but Chandler lies about Monica divorcing him in order to get out of it. Instead, he’s talked into a night on the town to forget her. Ross DESPERATELY tries to avoid “the relationship conversation” with Mona, and for good reason, because he makes an idiot of himself and gives her the key to his apartment. And then changes the locks. But the big story for the season starts, as Rachel confides in Joey”¦and they have a very awkward moment.
– The One Where Joey & Rachel Date. Joey, feeling sorry for Rachel, decides to take her out on a real date, and he one’s charming son-of-a-gun. And so is she. So much so that he realizes that there’s more there than the usual friendship or lust. Meanwhile, Ross finds himself teaching an extra class across town and can’t get there fast enough. HILARITY ENSUES. Or no. And Mondler get a Ms. Pac Man game from Phoebe as a wedding gift, but Chandler fills up the top 10 list with bad words. Admittedly tough to pull off with 3 letters at a time. However, when Ben comes to visit, it’s not the dirty words he has to fear, but Aunt Phoebe unleashing the cursing of a lifetime at the machine. The Joey and Rachel stuff is great, and Phoebe’s muted blast of profanity is great, but the rest doesn’t work.
– The One Where Chandler Takes a Bath. Monica sells Chandler on the benefits of bathing over showering, and soon he’s a huge girly man. Joey agonizes over Rachel, but can’t bring himself to confide in Chandler. Ross & Rachel brainstorm names for the baby, which of course triggers a fight. We see the bathroom from the camera side for the first time to see Chandler in the bath, by the way. Mondler deduce that Phoebe is the object of Joey’s affections. Ross & Rachel try to avoid discovering the sex of the baby, which of course leads to another fight, because it’s them. Minor callbacks to The One With the List and light mayo (although Joey feels less strongly about the subject than Alternate Monica did). Everyone ends up meeting in the bathroom to discuss things while Chandler bathes, and that’s when they all find out about Joey’s true feelings. Well, except Rachel. And Ross. So really not everyone at all.
– The One With the Secret Door. Phoebe gets offended when she walks in on Monica”¦GETTING A MASSAGE! Switch to season 8 credits here, by the way. Joey has weird dreams about Rachel and freaky baby Ross. Chandler starts obsessing about the mysterious green door in the apartment (which was already open early in the series, if he was paying attention). Phoebe talks Monica into letting her massage her, but Monica turns out to be a sex-noise person. That’s a bit creepy. Rachel has contractions and Joey takes her to the hospital, thus offending Ross. Joey’s noble solution: Have Rachel move in with Ross. An insert shot of Monica entering the apartment reveals the rarest of rare angles: The wall on the AUDIENCE side of the apartment. Only time it’s ever been seen outside of shots from the balcony. Joey continues to carry the season with his angst.
– The One With the Birthing Tape. Phoebe gets Joey a dog, who is the happiest dog in the world. Joey of course manages to bum the dog out when he tells him how much he wants Rachel. Phoebe leaves a birthing video in the apartment, which Chandler mistakes for porn. But not for long. That pretty much kills the Valentine’s Day mood. Ross has to tell Mona that his pregnant ex-wife is moving in (and really, haven’t we all been there?), so in typical fashion he ducks the issue and lies about it. Until Mona shows up with Rachel there, and thus Ross & Mona come to a screeching halt. And then in an evil cliffhanger (they took a month-long break for the Olympics), Joey and Ross have a talk and Joey confesses that he loves Rachel. TO BE CONTINUED.
– The One Where Joey Tells Rachel. Ross reacts badly to Joey’s revelation. Phoebe thinks she’s dating Monica’s soulmate, which of course Chandler gets all weird about. And what’s wrong with sun-dried tomatoes, anyway? I have them on pizza all the time! Joey and Ross sit down and chat, and Ross gives his blessing, because he’s a nice guy and so is Joey. This however leaves Joey having to tell Rachel, which leads to a very touching moment at dinner and a waiter who would get NO tip from me, thus ending the Joey-Rachel story arc. Or does it”¦?
The One With the Tea Leaves. Joey is avoiding Rachel after being spurned. Phoebe reads tea leaves and determines that the man of her dreams will be entering her life soon. Rachel makes up a story about getting harassed at work by her boss to get Joey involved in her life again, but of course things go too far and get all wacky. Ross breaks into Mona’s apartment to get a shirt back and gets to see her having sex with the new boyfriend. OUCH. Phoebe’s date is a jerk who has a PHD. But not the same way Ross does. Joey goes to Ralph Lauren to straighten out Rachel’s boss JOEY STYLE, which leads Zellner to apologize instead of firing her. Phoebe tries to avoid the creep with the PHD and meets Alec Baldwin instead. Kind of a hodge podge of stuff, but it does set up the next episode very nicely”¦
– The One with Massapequa. It’s the Gellar Anniversary Party, and Monica wants to give the speech. Phoebe brings her new Baldwin boyfriend, and he’s just a BIT over the top in his enthusiasm for”¦well”¦everything. “Classic Ross!” Ross & Rachel discover that Rachel’s parents aren’t the only ones who think they’re married, so Rachel milks the spotlight for everything it’s worth. Phoebe decides she can only take so much happiness, while Monica’s speech dies. Like Grandma and Chi Chi the dog. And this episode, outside of Alec Baldwin’s guest spot of awesomeness, with so many brilliant lines that I’d break my fingers trying to type them all.
– The One With Joey’s Interview. Oh, hey, it’s a clip show. Fuck you, NBC. Next.
– The One With Rachel’s Baby Shower. Monica, showing a rare lack of robotic organization skills, forgets to invite Sandra Greene to the shower, and has to suck up in frantic fashion. Meanwhile, the guys help Joey practice to be a game show host for a complicated new game called “Bamboozled”. Sandra decides to come live with Rachel to help with the baby, which has Rachel crying for the wrong reasons. Ross & Chandler get really into the game (“Is there a hopping bonus?”) but it turns out that the producers just want a normal trivia game. Nyuk nyuk. The season continues to limp home.
– The One with the Cooking Class. Monica gets a bad review and decides to visit the reviewer at his cooking class, and then stays there with Joey for some petty self-assurance. “Data reconfiguring and statistical factoring” is FINALLY revealed to be Chandler’s job, 4 years too late for Rachel and Monica to win the trivia challenge. Ross dates the clerk at a baby store, thus weirding Rachel out. And making her insanely jealous. Chandler gets Phoebe’s help for a job interview, so he doesn’t act like a dork. That of course proves difficult, although I’m not actually sure if he got the job or not, because by season 9 he was sure high up with SOME company. Funny fighting with Ross and Rachel as they fake each other out in turn. Sadly, it doesn’t lead to anything.
– The One Where Rachel is Late. It’s the due date for Rachel, but no baby is evident. It’s also the due date for Joey’s movie, “Over There”, and only Chandler can attend. Super-bitchy Rachel is really funny. The girls start a birth pool on Rachel, and Monica loses some serious cash to Phoebe as a result. Chandler falls asleep watching the movie, but Joey forgives him because paying back all the money he owes would be too expensive. The doctor tells Rachel to induce labor via sex, which has Phoebe and Monica taking sides for money. And it also leads to some of the most disturbing seduction scenes on TV. And as Ross and Rachel prepare to do the REALLY nasty, she goes into labor.
– The One Where Rachel Has a Baby. The 8th season wraps up with Rachel stuck in a semi-private room and a rotating cast of crazies in the other bed, all of them having their babies before Rachel. Mon and Chan decide to start getting pregnant”¦right then and there, leading to a series of gags with them doing it in various places in the hospital. Judy Gellar wants Ross to propose, and gives him a ring. SO DID ALL OF US! Phoebe seduces a guy with a broken leg, and sends Joey in as Drake Ramoray for some routine questions (“Are you into any weird stuff, sexually?” “No.” “Oh, wrong answer.”). Janice returns to annoy everyone. And then, with Rachel at 36 hours and no baby, she finally delivers it, and all is well, with Monica giving her Emma as a name. However, Janice plants the seeds of doubt in her mind with regards to Ross sticking around, and with no sleep in 48 hours affecting her mindset, she gets the wrong impression from Joey picking Ross’s ring up off the floor, and accepts his “proposal” as the season comes to an end.
Really, they should have (and wanted to) ended the series with the finale here, but money talks and things got stretched out for another two years, when really they were out of stories at this point. At any rate, this was a terrific comeback for the show after a weak 7th season, and unfortunately the 9th and final seasons couldn’t really carry the momentum established here. But that’s another rant.
Definitely a TV show transferred from videotape, and it shows. Colors and contrast are about the same level as, say, a really good digital cable channel, although I noticed a lot of compression problems in darker scenes and some noise on the transfer. It’s as good or better than broadcast, so that’s the important thing.
Redone in Dolby 5.0 surround, it’s never really used. Pretty much all from the center with the audience occasionally mixed into the rears, it’s generally a waste of disc space and would have been just as well served in 2.0 stereo. A good mix, but not a necessary one.
As usual, there’s commentaries on the three “best” episodes of the season (TOW Rachel Tells Ross, TOW The Videotape and TOW Rachel Has a Baby) featuring Bright/Crane/Kauffman, and there’s tons of good stuff in them. There’s another excellent and hilarious gag reel here, too, with about 8 minutes of bloopers and stuff from this season. Plus, in a VERY welcome addition, there’s a “Friends of Friends” featurette, which is now 20 minutes of interviews with recurring character actors, instead of the usual video clips. You also get a trivia game, as usual, this time fashioned after Bamboozled in clever manner, and that’s always fun despite a lack of payoff for reaching the golden monkey hut. Plus the usual cast & crew junk, plus Gunther previewing season 9. In other words, mostly the same as the other seasons.
The Film: ****
The Video: **1/2
The Audio: ***
The Extras: ***1/2