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Buy from Amazon

Buy from Amazon.com

Warner Home Video presents
Friends: The Complete Fourth Season (1997-1998)

Ross: I, Ross.
Registrar: Take thee, Emily.
Ross: Take thee, Rachel.
(Worldwide Audience: Oooooooooh…)

- David Schwimmer, Peter Eyre

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: July 14, 2003

Stars: Courtney Cox, Jennifer Anniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc
Other Stars: Charlton Heston, Sarah Ferguson, Giovanni Ribisi, Helen Baxendale, Jennifer Saunders, Jane Sibbett, Penn Jillete, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Michael Vartan, Debra Jo Rupp, Maggie Wheeler, Olivia Williams, Paget Brewster, Christina Pickles, Elliott Gould
Director: various

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language)
Run Time: 09h:21m:21s
Release Date: July 15, 2003
UPC: 085392424825
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A+A-B+ B

DVD Review

Heading into its fourth season in 1997-98, Friends had reached an age where most sitcoms (or shows of any style for that matter) begin irreversible downward spirals. Actors spend more time pondering a big screen afterlife, side projects, spin-offs and syndication residuals while the creative forces rehash old ideas and coast until cancellation or artistic bankruptcy, whichever comes first. At times during its spotty third season, even ardent fans like myself were wondering if such a decline was imminent (and don't take my word for it; on Warner's initial two-DVD Best of Friends set that inaugurated the series into the format, only one episode from that period made the cut).

Happily for the devoted, the series reversed the trend in year four with gutsy and excellently conceived storylines that took the characters to new places emotionally: Phoebe's unusual pregnancy, the testing of Joey/Chandler's friendship and a surprising coupling of two characters. Such bold moves restored the series' day-after water cooler conversation hipness that rivaled the appeal of its early days and re-invigorated its creative forces on both sides of the camera with enough juice to keep things fresh and exciting for years to come.

Friends: The Complete Fourth Season brings back the delights, thrills and laughs of a watershed period that quieted the critics, restored its backsliding audience and rewarded the devotees that never lost faith with 24 half-hours of hilarity laced with the zing equivalent of Central Perk's finest java.

Disc One:

Episode 1: The One with the Jellyfish
Original Airdate: September 25, 1997

When last we left our television friends at the conclusion of Season Three, Phoebe discovered that a close friend of her family (also named Phoebe; Teri Garr) is actually her real birth mother; Chandler was attempting to cheer up a lovelorn Monica while hinting at something other than friendship; and Ross had left us cliff-hanging all summer long wondering who was inside the room he just entered: Was it freshly shorn girlfriend Bonnie (Christine Taylor) or old flame Rachel? America let out a collected sigh of relief when their television sweethearts of three seasons past were coupled up again (sorry, Christine...but there's an Emmy¨-winning performer and former guest star whom you might be interested in).

But not so fast on the celebrating my fellow romantics, for Ross isn't really sure he wants to get back into Ms. Green's good graces after finally getting through an 18-page, yawn-inducing letter that asks that he accept full responsibility for their initial break-up. Speaking of acceptance, Pheebs isn't really sure she can reconcile with Pheebs, Sr. after keeping herself hidden all these years. As for Monica, Chandler and Joey, they're a million miles away from such cares in the warmth of the sun until a pesky jellyfish ruins their beach time fun. With Monica the unlucky recipient of a bite, a rather unpleasant temporary antidote requires fluid (ahem!) relief that only her two companions can provide. But who took the honors? That's just one of the secrets revealed once the gang returns to the apartment building in an episode that climaxes with the most memorable Ross/Rachel confrontation ever, full of snappy one-liners (Ross: "Oh no, no, no... Don't you worry about me falling asleep. I still have your letter!"), but like many a case before the credits are superimposed, Matthew Perry gets the last (and best) laugh with a gut busting comeback in response to Anniston's stormy, get-the-last word-in kiss off to Schwimmer.

So Friends faithful... Do you feel Jellyfish is worthy of 4 Marcels? "Me, too!"





Episode 2: The One with the Cat
Original Airdate: October 2, 1997

Pheebs is convinced a stray cat found wandering around her guitar case is the reincarnation of her mother; Joey and Chandler put their oversized entertainment center up for sale with disastrous results; Monica is reunited with Chip, an old high school friend she had a crush on that doesn't inspire the same warmth from Rachel since he two timed her way back when. After such a powerhouse season opener, Cat is a bit anti-climatic and nowhere near as inspiring, but Kudrow's heartfelt and believable performance in what would be come off as ridiculous in lesser hands is beyond sweet, while Perry/LeBlanc mine gold out of their storyline, especially after poor Joey gets entrapped in the entertainment center by a robber who makes off with everything but the oversized contraption.

Joey: Oh, man, if I ever run into that guy again, do you know what I'm gonna do?

Chandler: Bend over?

Before preaching to Chandler and Joey on insurance, I'll donate three Marcels to enliven their now-sparse surroundings.





Episode 3: The One with the Cuffs
Original Airdate: October 9, 1997

Re-igniting the attraction they had in last season's The One with the Dollhouse, Chandler has another fling with Rachel's boss, Joanna (Allison LaPlaca). Uncomfortable with the potential ramifications in her workplace, Rachel requests Mr. Bing put a stop to his conquest, pronto. Easier said then done, as the cozy twosome take kissing and saying goodbye to extremes as Joanna handcuffs Chandler to her desk only to be called out of the office on business, leaving the half-naked guy all by his lonesome, but securely locked in from the other side. That is, until Rachel discovers him via a spare key. In less pressing matters, Joey is hounded by an insistent encyclopedia salesman (Penn Jillette) and Monica caters an event for her perfectionist mother, Judy (Christina Pickles), where all is splendid until our wannabe master chef loses a fake nail in a sea of quiches. If not for the lame Jillette/LeBlanc storyline that goes nowhere, this episode would merit a perfect rating. Perry proves he's this generation's John Ritter in a masterful display of slapstick buffoonery enhanced by Anniston's madcap support; the underrated Cox never fails to be funny when under extreme duress.

Cuffs unlocks four Marcels.





Episode 4: The One with the Ballroom Dancing
Original Airdate: October 16, 1997

After Rachel is reduced to tears by apartment building supervisor Treeger (Michael G. Hagerty), Joey wants to have a few words with him. Instead, he winds up inciting the burly bully to evict Rachel and Monica for the latter's illegal subletting of her grandma's apartment. Wanting to make amends, Joey tries reasoning once more to find a more vulnerable Treeger moaning about his fear of ballroom dancing, leading to Tribbiani playing practice partner if he'll let up on the ladies. Other happenings: Pheebs find herself attracted to a handsome customer at the massage parlor; Chandler seeks to get out of his gym membership with a little help from Ross, who winds up joining instead after being mesmerized by Maria, one of the establishment's to-die-for workout specialists (or as Chandler puts it, a "lycra-spandex covered gym treat"). Three very diverse and entertaining plots combine for an enjoyable outing highlighted by Hagerty and LeBlanc's rooftop dance to Frank Sinatra's uptempo take of Night and Day.

Somewhere between marking time/above average, a 3.5 Marcel special.





Episode 5: The One with Joey's New Girlfriend
Original Airdate: October 30, 1997

Chandler is attracted to Kathy (Paget Brewster), a pretty visitor to the coffeehouse, only to find she's Joey's new girlfriend; Phoebe sees the good side of a bad cold (artistically, that is) as her singing voice takes on a huskier, sexier tone; the Ross vs. Rachel wars heat up again as they use their newest significant others to one up one another in the game of jealousy. Sets up the intriguing Chandler/Kathy/Joey storyline with the very funny Phoebe subplot coming in a close second; only Kudrow could take a line like "I lost my sexy phlegm!" and make it funny. Unfortunately, the Schwimmer-Anniston moments fall flat; the writers would come up with a way to rectify this problem in weeks to come.

While I attempt to entice Phoebe into a few bars of Melancholy Baby, I'll post a 3.5 on the Marcel meter.





Episode 6: The One with the Dirty Girl
Original Airdate: November 6, 1997

Ross' romance with a gorgeous paleontologist (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) is a perfect 10 on the swoon meter, until the committed neat-freak with an aversion to clutter comes face to face with her messy digs. In better romantic news, Kathy and Joey remain an item, which only makes Chandler more envious as he mulls over buying a thoughtful gift for her birthday. In matters outside the heart: Phoebe teaches Monica the art of hardball tatics in securing payment for a catering job under precarious circumstances; Rachel aspires to finish a crossword puzzle all on her own. A well-rounded outing that spreads the laughs evenly amongst the sextet, with Schwimmer arguably this week's big winner in the laughs department (his attempts to remain cool in the throes of passion with Romijn-Stamos while getting creeped out by her surroundings ranks among his finest moments), while the creeping triangle involving Perry and LeBlanc is alternately humourous and heartfelt (especially when Chandler takes Joey's uninspired birthday gift and presents it as his own).

This week's classic dialogue courtesy of Kudrow/Cox:

Monica: I can cook and you can take care of the money.

Phoebe: Yeah. Oh! It'll be like I have a wife in the fifties!

Someone hand Ross some Mr. Clean to settle his nerves while I award four Marcels.





Disc Two:

Episode 7: The One Where Chandler Crosses the Line
Original Airdate: November 13, 1997

As if Chandler isn't conflicted enough by his secret love Kathy, he accidentally sees her in the all-together coming out of the shower. Even while Joey chooses to date around, Chandler attempts to remain loyal to his friend. But during a seemingly casual moment back at the apartment, the Kathy/Bing mutual admiration society can't hold back any longer. Guilt-ridden, Chandler pulls a Rachel and goes on a spending spree to spruce up the sparse digs to surprise his roomie. Although happy as a lark, Joey's reaction is tempered somewhat by the revelation that Kathy and he have broken up... and at that point, Chandler courageously fesses up only to create an instant and possibly irreparable rift. Providing much needed guffaws amongst the sniffles, Ross' long hibernated musical side (unfortunately) re-emerges after he give Phoebe some lyrical assistance with her latest composition. Dragging the old Casio-like keyboard out of mothballs, Geller unveils his "sound" in front of his buddies, who can barely suppress giggle fits. Except for Pheebs, naturally (who is so moved and knocked out by his unappreciated expertise, she retires from performing). An absolutely terrific outing that blends laughs and pathos effortlessly, with the ending stand-off between LeBlanc and Perry that's simultaneously funny yet heartbreaking, while Schwimmer is beginning to rival the latter in terms of comic timing and expertise.

Hold on. Gotta wait for Ross to signal the end of his piece. Done? Okay, 4.5 Marcel.





Episode 8: The One with Chandler in a Box
Original Airdate: November 20, 1997

Ah, another Thanksgiving at Monica's, but the mood is far from festive (again): Chandler and Joey continue on the outs, no one wants to be Rachel's secret Santa (she returns everything she gets anyway) and our host gets ice in her eye while doing food preps. Although there's no way she'll go to former boyfriend Richard's office for help, she changes her tune with an on-call stand-by eye specialist becomes available. Accompanied by Rachel, the two can't help but ogle the designated doctor (so cute that Green briefly contemplates jamming a pen in her eye), but imagine Monica's surprise when he turns out to be Richard's son Tim (Michael Vartan). Quickly taking advantage of his eligibility status, she invites him to Thanksgiving dinner only to come into the middle of two tenacious personal flashpoints: Chandler enclosed in a packing box to make amends for his affair with Kathy and Ross/Rachel's ongoing feud which reaches a breaking point. Future Alias hunk Vartan has a ringside seat for one of the very best Friends episodes from start to finish, blessed with terrific writing and flawless performances by all, led by Perry's brilliant, non-stop zingers made all the more remarkable considering he spends half of the episode in a box (and yes, Matthew really was based inside that very prop, according to the episodes' equally excellent commentary to be discussed in the supplements). Cox gets my vote for line of the week in a voice-of-reason moment in response to the gang's "eww" reaction to her current date of choice:

"Married a lesbian; left a man at the altar; fell in love with a gay ice dancer; threw a girl's wooden leg in the fire; living in a box!"

A perfect 5 Marcel classic.





Episode 9: The One Where They are Going to Party
Original Airdate: December 11, 1997

Out of work due to losing her massage therapy gig, Phoebe joins forces with Monica on her new catering business, who is also moonlighting as a guest critic for a local rag. After surviving a lashing from the owner of a local eatery she trashed, would you believe they hire her as the new head chef? Ross and Chandler get a blast from the past when an old college buddy nicknamed "Gandalf" makes plan for a long overdue visit... and it will be time to par-teh (insert woops, hollers, bad cologne here)! As for Rachel, she's "this close" to moving up the ladder at work until Joanna botches her interview with tales of her occasional drinking binges and other sordid affairs. Second-rate episode when compared to the brilliance of previous weeks, but still puts more than its share of one-liners through the uprights, but I could have done without the Seinfeld-ish departure of the wonderful Alison LaPlaca, one of the better short-term players for the show in recent years.

Think if I trashed this one, Entertainment Weekly might come calling? Nah, I'll play honest: three Marcels.





Episode 10: The One with the Girl from Poughkeepsie
Original Airdate: December 18, 1997

As Rachel longs for male companionship or at least a fling, it's Santa Chandler to the rescue offering to set her up. Unfortunately, his co-workers become bribing, primitive animals when Chandler repeats Rachel's exact wordage, much to her dismay. News is not much better on the Monica front as her instant status as head chef at Alessandro's draws ongoing hisses from the staff. Offering to play patsy and install the fear of God in her co-worker, Joey is fit to be fired in front of the assembly by Monica in slam-bang, show-'em-who's-boss fashion until he sees just how much he's making in tips. Last but certainly least, Ross juggles dating a local "plain jane" and a sexy uptown girl in Poughkeepsie, which is only accessible by train. By far the weakest in the Central Perk starlog for the season; some bright spots in the Rachel/Chandler storyline and when is a Phoebe tune not smile-inducing? But otherwise....

Take the last train to Clarksville, Poughkeepsie, even Bayonne... anywhere but here; 2.5 Marcels.





Episode 11: The One with Phoebe's Uterus
Original Airdate: January 8, 1998

Phoebe is ecstatic when her brother, Frank, Jr., returns after eloping with Alice. The newlyweds hit big sister with a proposition that will change her life: since Alice cannot have children, would Phoebe be game to become a surrogate mother? Intrigued, she seeks advice from the gang who are united in their encouragement, but advise Pheebs to proceed cautiously and realize what she's in for. Joey gets a chance to work alongside Ross as a tour guide at the museum while Chandler seeks advice from Rachel and Monica on intimate matters. Smooth return to form after a couple of less-than-stellar episodes; Cox's explanation of those special areas "where a woman likes to be touched" is on a par with Meg Ryan's infamous fake orgasm in When Harry Met Sally...; look for Less Than Perfect's Sherri Shepherd in an early role as one of Joey's fellow tour guards.

An episode awash in seventh heaven, or 3.5 on the Marcel scale.





Episode 12: The One with the Embryos
Original Airdate: January 15, 1998

It's moving day in more ways than one: Phoebe bravely undergoes implantation of Alice's embryos while Chandler and Joey's overt knowledge of minute personal details involving Rachel and Monica escalates into Family Feud/Jeopardy! territory as the girls challenge the boys for a "winner take all" face-off. With our host, Rosssssssssss Geller playing mediator, the stakes escalate from one hundred smackeroos to possession of the girl's beloved apartment. Full of zip, warmth, zaniness and every other classic Friends attribute you can think of, this "all killer, no filler" episode is a highlights reel unto itself: Kudrow's heart-tuggingly sincere pre-implementation speech offers proof of how well earned her 1998 Emmy¨ was, while the trivia challenge deserves to rank among situation comedy's best moments. Line of the week honors must go to the brilliant Giovanni Ribisi (as Phoebe's little brother):

"My sister's having my baby!"

Like Paul McCartney in Help!, ""I can say no more."







Disc Three:

Episode 13: The One with Rachel's Crush
Original Airdate: January 29, 1998

On edge because of steamy scenes in Kathy's play, Chandler wonders if life might imitate art in between performances; Rachel drops a few rungs on the promotional ladder by being assigned as a personal shopper ("I just helped an 80-year-old woman try on a thong and she didn't buy it") until a hunky male customer (Tate Donovan) convinces her otherwise. Two good storylines give Perry and Anniston situations that fit their comic gifts to a "T." On a sad note, we had to say goodbye to Paget Brewster after this outing (but she would go on to projects of equal quality including the highly underrated Andy Richter Controls The Universe).

Good kickoff to Season Four's second half: 3.5 Marcels.





Episode 14: The One with Joey's Dirty Day
Original Airdate: February 5, 1998

Tate Donovan returns as Joshua, the attractive customer that caught Rachel's eye in our last episode; she's overjoyed at landing a date with the cutie, until she remembers a promise made to her boss involving his visiting niece, Emily (Helen Baxendale), whom she must take to the opera. Begrudgingly, Ross accepts the assignment to help out, a move that will pay dividends in more ways than anyone could imagine (based on first impressions). Meanwhile, whipped after a long weekend of fishing, Joey falls asleep in the bathroom only to wake and realize he's late for an early morning film set call alongside Charlton Heston. Unable to shower beforehand, Joey doesn't want to stink in more ways than one, but the only shower on the premises is the one inside the famed actor's dressing room. With the other guys occupied, it's up to the girls to cheer a forlorn Chandler, who's in mourning over his break-up with Kathy. Brunch? Shopping spree? Nah, these girls and their guy hit the local strip club! Yet another well rounded batch of entertaining storylines surround the arrival of the talented Baxendale, who will play a pivotal role as the series heads toward its season ending arc. Bonus points for Heston's brief but hilarious cameo that playfully spoofs his larger-than-life image (with a dilly of a closing line).

Someone explain the advantages of a wake-up call to Joey while I award a 3.5 rating.





Episode 15: The One with All the Rugby
Original Airdate: February 26, 1998

Anxious to keep good impressions going with Emily after they hit it off at the opera, Ross plays tough and accepts an invitation to play in a rugby game with some of her local friends, which is about as bright an idea as inviting Marcel back for a reunion episode. Just when Chandler is making progress in getting over Kathy, who should wander back into the picture but a freshly divorced Janice, who's footloose, fancy-free and anxious to pick up where they left off. Unable to loosen her grip, Mr. Bing resorts to drastic measures and concocts a bogus job transfer to Yemen. Maggie Wheeler returns as Chandler's adorably annoying ex in a fun, James Burrows-directed episode that's highlighted by Schwimmer's increasing flair for physical comedy, Cox's minor but humorous obsession with a faulty light switch, and Perry's unfailing knack for taking "been there, done that" material and making it work.

Psst! Chandler! Over here; hide behind my three Marcels!





Episode 16: The One with the Fake Party
Original Airdate: March 19, 1998

Desperate to be with Joshua in any way possible following many false starts, Rachel launches a spur of the moment bon voyage party for Emily to double as a launch pad for potential romance. Meanwhile, a rapidly expanding Phoebe craves something a little stronger than her vegetarian specialties. In order to make her feel better, ever-dependable Joey offers to go meatless (what a guy!). Back at the party, Ross goes into mope mode (which he does really well, by the way) over Emily's impending departure until he gets a heartfelt pep talk from a most unlikely ally: Rachel. Although all members of the ensemble shine in this fantastic effort, Anniston's remarkable versatility in moving from broad-based physical comedy (in a league with Lucille Ball and Mary Tyler Moore in my opinion) to straight drama without sacrificing believability is evidence that the television academy was five years late in awarding this gem of a performer her due. Hats off to the creators for revealing new layers in Ross and Rachel in terms of maturity. Sometimes sitcoms tend to get lazy in later years and let their characters be, but not this show; yet another example of why this series has proved so enduring.

Gimme' a F-I-V-E... Perrrrrrrfect FIVE! But no cartwheels.







Episode 17: The One with the Free Porn
Original Airdate: March 26, 1998

Phoebe's craving for meat may have been more than justified according to her doctor: she's gonna have triplets! Equally exciting in a manly way, Chandler and Joey are the proud recipients of free adult televison (something to supplement those Baywatch reruns eh, guys?). Seems like everyone's humming except Ross, who's still despondent over Emily's impending return to London. It's up to motivational Monica to convince big brother to make like Bogey, high tail it to the airport and pour out his heart. In doing so, Ross doesn't exactly get the kind of response he's looking for. Another winner for Schwimmer who reached new heights of hilarity throughout this season (although even funnier moments would be added to his resume in years to come. Tight leather pants and fluorescent smiles, anyone?)

All I can offer besides a simple, polite "thank you" are a quartet of Marcels.





Episode 18: The One with Rachel's New Dress
Original Airdate: April 2, 1998

Ah, the dust has barely settled from the "Kathy" debacle as Joey and Chandler are pitted against one another once more as they attempt to convince Phoebe to name one of the triplets after them (an honor granted to the mom-to-be by a gracious Alice and Frank). While the battle rages on, an understandably nervous Ross is on pins and needles as his ex-wife Carol's companion, Susan, is hitting it off with Emily, both of whom are in London on holiday. Could lightning strike twice? Speaking of the elements, all that's missing is the thunder as Rachel and Joshua are finally alone for a cozy dinner at her apartment, when he confesses to his fear of barnyard animals (thanks to Chandler and Joey's pet duck and chicken). Suggesting they continue the festivities elsewhere, Josh offers his parent's apartment since they're in Paris. All appears cozy to the point of Rachel feeling comfortable enough to don a sexy nightie to surprise him, only to be surprised herself when the folks arrive home early. Anniston's impromptu explanation after being caught in "bad girl" mode is one of the few high points of an amiable but average go round; John Bennett Perry (Matthew's proud papa) and Pat Crowley have a brief but amusing sequence as Josh's folks.

While Vegas oddsmakers decide on Chandler or Joey as the best bet for baby names, I'll roll a three Marcel rating upon this one.





Disc Four:

Episode 19: The One with All the Haste
Original Airdate: April 9, 1998

Ross and Emily discuss the possibility of living together. While playing up each other's turfs, he figures why not go for it? On bended knee with recently acquired earring, he asks for her hand in marriage. Back in the city, Rachel and Monica entice Joey and Chandler with season tickets for the Knicks in a quest to get their apartment back. Tempted at first, they decide the pad's too cool to give up. So, it's round two of fun and games, but luck just isn't on the girl's side, who find themselves ticket-less and back to square one. Mixed emotions greet the newly engaged couple but it's plain to see that Rachel is beyond stunned. An outing that takes a while to get going with the attempts at a rematch as in The One with the Embryos coming off as strained. But a major plot twist midway through shifts things into overdrive, followed by the slam-bang revelation of Emily and Ross' news make this edition a keeper. Oh, and Chandler's thoughts on Ross' newest fashion accessory are a scream.

In honor of the happy couple, a pre-wedding gift of 3.5 Marcellies.





Episode 20: The One with All the Wedding Dresses
Original Airdate: April 16, 1998

Joey's snoring reaches high decibel proportions, so its off to a sleep clinic at Chandler's insistence; Ross attempts to bond with Rachel and Joshua by inviting them to dinner with he and Emily, but she's trying too hard to pretend everything's okay; Monica plays helpful by picking up Emily's wedding dress and just can't help wearing it once back home. Equally delightful and bittersweet, Dresses possesses many a high point including the interplay between Kudrow and Cox when Phoebe follows Monica lead in playing dress-up, while Anniston reduces us to mush when confiding Rachel's heartbreak to her best friends. Although the snoring subplot has a chuckle or two, this one belongs to the ladies.

Catch the bouquet if you can; if not, try for one of the four Marcels.





Episode 21: The One With The Invitation
Original Airdate: April 23, 1998

While preparing wedding invites, Emily is surprised to see Rachel's name on the guest list. During a private moment, Geller reflects back on the past—and so does Ms. Green, as we are taken on a "Ross and Rachel-cal History Tour" (a.k.a. the clip show). Most times, these types of retrospectives disguised as a "new episode" strike me as nothing more than an excuse to give everyone a week off, but with the mother lode of magic Jennifer and David have provided over the course of 92 episodes, this well-edited homage to their storylines winds up being richly entertaining.

Thanks for the memories, kids:





Episode 22: The One with the Worst Best Man Ever
Original Airdate: April 30, 1998

And now, stepping into the ring for round three of their Season Four rivalry are Chandler Bing and Joey Tribianni! Yep, the two buds are pitted against each other again as Ross is forced to choose a best man for the big event in London. Across the hall, Rachel and Monica are at their wit's end in dealing with Phoebe's extreme mood swings as her pregnancy demons begin kicking (I know, Pheebs... don't say kicking) into high gear. So maybe a baby shower might do the trick? BUT SHE'S NOT KEEPING THE BABIES! (Sorry, it must be catching). Things are slightly calmer at Ross' low-key bachelor party with Joey having good reason to celebrate: Not only has Geller tabbed him for best man, but he also gets lucky with the party's obligatory stripper. Unfortunately, his winning streak comes to a dramatic halt in the morning upon discovering the all-important wedding ring turns up missing... and did we mention it was a family heirloom?

Granted, the Joey vs. Chandler routine was beginning to drag at this point of the game, but the actors have so much fun with their predicaments that it rubs off on us. But Kudrow takes scene-stealer honors on this go round, going from devil to angel and back again without smearing her mascara. Long-time fans will appreciate a semi-parody of a memorable moment from Season One (The One with Two Parts—Part 2) complete with musical accompaniment from Mr. Copacabana himself, Barry Manilow(!).

This 3.5 keeper sets the stage for the season finale.





Episode 23: The One With Ross' Wedding, Parts I and II
Original Airdate: May 7, 1998

It's London Calling time as Monica, Chandler, and Joey fly across the pond to join Ross and Emily for the big event; Rachel opts to stay behind and take care of Pheebs. However, her strong feelings for Ross remain unchanged to the point that after Phoebe suggests every trick in the book—from shopping ("Manhattan doesn't have enough stores") to aversion therapy doesn't faze her. What to do but take matters into her own hands as Rachel jets off to England in the hopes of making it in time to tell Ross how she feels. Meanwhile Chandler plays reluctant tourist in contrast to a way-excited Joey; Ross and Emily get their knickers in a twit as the site of their wedding is in the initial stages of demolition; and Jack Geller (Elliott Gould) is enraged after discovering his half of the wedding payment includes household renovations for the in-laws-to-be (Jennifer Saunders, Tom Conti).

All this pre-Here Comes the Bride chaos really helps set the mood for a charming rehearsal dinner, doesn't it? Not helping matters: Chandler's sarcastic wit loses something (no, a lot) in foreign territory, Monica is in a blue funk over being perpetually single, and Joey is longing for the comforts of home until a pretty English tart by the name of Felicity (Olivia Williams) settles him down (can I take lessons from this guy?). Morning breaks as a chipper Ross awakens Chandler for the big day; upon exiting the room, we find that Chandler hasn't been alone for the night as Monica surfaces from beneath the covers. Back home, Pheebs has been giving her phone quite a workout in mostly fruitless attempts to contact her mates to warn of Rachel's impending arrival. Finally, she manages to land Joey on the other end, who insists he'll take care of things. Instead, he winds up taking care of Felicity (ahem) with speed walking Rachel blowing right past him into the chapel. Upon seeing the newlyweds to be embraced in a pre-wedding kiss, she just can't go through with her plans and puts on a brave face to an overjoyed Ross, who is beyond delighted at her last-minute presence. Perhaps a little too much. As the main part of the ceremony commences, a verbal boo-boo on his part leaves everyone breathless... and hanging until Season Five.

Most hour-long "very special episodes" tend to be overblown and padded; problems that mar Wedding ever-so-slightly. Additionally, I felt the writers went a little over the top in spoofing the culture clashes between Brits and Americans (yes, we know they are supposed to be dry, etc.). That said, there are plenty of golden moments, and surprises abound, not the least of which is the we-didn't-see-it-coming pairing of Chandler and Monica (a nice bookend to their flirty repartee in The One with the Jellyfish that opened the season); a combination that got the creative engines warmed up for Season Five. Equally memorable moments: Phoebe's unusually attempt to shake Rachel out of Ross fixation mode ("You missed your chance"), Joey getting misty-eyed at a very familiar television theme song (LeBlanc's descending expression is priceless), Chandler's morning-after behavior ("I've not seen Monica!") and guest performances from Jennifer Saunders (of Ab Fab fame) as Emily's stepmum, Hugh Laurie (my fave of all the import thespians in a wickedly snippy exchange with Rachel on her flight to London), an all-too-briefly utilized Olivia Williams, and the Duchess of York herself, Sarah Ferguson.

To be continued: Until Season Five my little Central Perkies.



Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Depending on how technically blessed your local affiliates that carry the program are (particularly in syndication), your opinion may vary as far as how good or average the transfers are. What I can tell you from an insider's point of view is some stations use devices to automatically delete hundreds of frames (in order to get more ad revenue) which makes for an odd-looking playback. So aside from a few thankfully brief traces of the edgies (as in enhancement) and slight grain in a few close-ups, these transfers look fantastic in comparison. Colors are so much more vivid from the neon fixtures at Central Perk to Gunther's snazzy ties (hey, one must give Rachel's would-be boy-toy kudos for his fashion sense). Additionally, the episodes were transferred from the original elements that graced the NBC broadcasts (with additional scenes to boot), so quality is super smooth.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.0
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Although the effort to tweak the sound for 5.0 is a nice move, there are moments when the laughs are mixed a little too high in the rears. But let's consider it a trade-off for the crystal clear dialogue and nice presence in the fronts. Surprising low-end forced me to turn my subwoofer down a few notches, but since music only comes into play during scene transitions and music-video like moments, it wasn't a bother.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean with remote access
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by Executive Producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane on The One With Chandler In A Box, The One With The Embryos and The One With Ross' Wedding
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Scanavo 4-pack gatefold
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Friends Around The World
  2. Friends Of Friends Video Guestbook
  3. What's Up With Your Friends?: Video Character Bios
  4. Who Knows Whom Best: Ross' Ultimate Challenge Quiz
Extras Review: Seemingly jam-packed with goodies, some of the extras are disappointingly slight. Weakest links out first: What's Up is nothing but more six highlight reels focusing on each character; nothing you'll play more than once; Friends of Friends salutes the notable guest performers on the show via a clip apiece. Slightly more entertaining/informative is the 7-minute featurette, Friends Around the World. John Michael Tyler (Gunther) is our tour guide for a quickly-paced visit with the voiceover artists that re-dub the shows in Japan and Germany. Who Knows Who Best is a cleverly designed game patterned after the memorable contest in The One with the Embryos that die-hard Friends fans should find worth a go; for the record I scored eight out of ten on Joey/Chandler's team (so does this mean I can at least play foosball with them?)

But by leaps and bounds, the most impressive bonus is the three commentary tracks with exec-producers Marta Kauffman, Kevin S. Bright and David Crane. Verging on "tell me something I don't know" territory for the first couple of minutes in The One with Chandler in a Box, I was a little nervous. But like a great jazz trio that kicks into high gear after finding their groove a number or two into a set, they were a fun bunch to listen to. Chock full of insights (the origin of the secret Santa, Kudrow's real-life pregnancy inspiring her now-classic storyline, etc.) and on-set tales (the cast did three separate performances for their fanatical British fans during the filming of The One with Ross' Wedding, an experience so exhausting that the planned wrap party was a drop), my only complaint is that only three commentaries were contained.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Perhaps its most consistent season, Friends: The Complete Fourth Season will always "be there for you." No-brainer for fans of the show, but those on the fence need not be wishy-washy (or as Phoebe might say, washy-wishy).

 


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