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Warner Home Video presents
Friends: The Complete Fifth Season (1998-99)

Ross: I, Ross.
Registrar: Take thee, Em-el-lee.
Ross: Take thee, Em-el-lee.

- David Schwimmer, Peter Eyre

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: December 02, 2003

Stars: Courtney Cox, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Anniston, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc
Other Stars: Helen Baxendale, Jennifer Saunders, Tom Conti, Peter Eyre, Sam Anderson, Christina Pickles, Elliott Gould, James Michael Tyler, Giovanni Ribisi, Debra Jo Rupp, Iqbal Theba, Jane Sibbett, Jessica Hecht, Gary Collins, George Newbern, Morgan Fairchild, Michael Ensign, Julie Lauren, Maggie Wheeler, Bob Balaban, Soleil Moon Frye, Willie Garson, Michael Rapaport, Joanna Gleason, Kristin Dattilo, Lilyan Chauvin
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language, sexual situations)
Run Time: 09h:23m:00s
Release Date: November 04, 2003
UPC: 085392424924
Genre: television


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

DVD Review

In the average lifespan of a television series, its usually the fifth year when the slow decent into mediocrity begins to seep in. But not in the case of Friends: The Complete Fifth Season. Thanks to the inspired coupling of Chandler and Monica in the 1997-1998 finale, America's favorite comedy was able to expand upon the second wind that fueled Season Four with a follow up year that supplied an equally impressive run of shows.

Disc One:

Episode 1: The One After Ross Says Rachel
Original Airdate: September 24, 1998

It's mere seconds as Season Five picks up where the previous year left us hanging: Poor Ross is suffering the post-ceremony ramifications of speaking Rachel's name in front of Emily at the altarr; Rachel can almost touch cloud nine in the aftermath, hoping for a reconciliation with her former beau; Monica and Chandler continue to be as horny as toads in a Viagra laboratory searching in vain for someplace to continue their coupling. A lightning-paced, farcical gem of a season opener highlighted by the superb teaming of Perry and Cox, whose terrific chemistry in their new storyline provided a terrific springboard for plotlines to come. In tandem with Schwimmer's post-wedding disaster funk and Kudrow's forthcoming blessed event times three, Ross says Rachel kicked off a terrific run of episodes, some of the most memorable of the series.

While the rest of you pick up your jaws from Joey's over-the-moon admiration of Billy Crystal's My Giant, I'll let five Marcels out of the barrel.







Episode 2: The One with All the Kissing
Original Airdate: October 1, 1998

Rachel is all but ready to make her move on a down-in-the-dumps Ross, but not if Monica has anything to do with it. Meanwhile, Pheebs feels left out as the gang recounts their London adventures and Chandler might have some "splainin' to do" after he plants one on the future Missus Bing... right in full view of Phoebe and Rachel. Hard to top the comic intensity of the season opener, but Kissing comes close, particularly with Perry's comic expertise in masking his "oops" smooch by claiming it's a European thing he picked up on the big trip.

One can of Bianca breath freshener for Chandler, 3.5 Marcels for the episode.







Episode 3:The One Hundreth
Original Airdate: October 8, 1998

When last we left the gang, a planned getaway to New Jersey to cheer Phoebe was quickly put on ice as our mother-to-be had her water break. But the excitement is tempered once at the hospital when her regular doctor isn't available and an eccentric on-call substitute (Sam Anderson) who can't stop waxing nostalgic about a classic '70s sitcom (even during delivery time!) steps up to the plate. Meanwhile, Joey's plans to document the big event via camcorder go awry when he develops some pains of his own (and we're not talking sympathy ones, either). Leave it to Friends to put its own kind of stamp on a "blessed event" episode and avoid the sometimes schmaltzy aftertaste such plots can leave behind; I also find it admirable that they avoided the temptation to stretch it to an hour (particularly since this marks the show's 100th outing), which results in a super tight, laugh-filled, bittersweet entry, particularly in the final moments when Kudrow's eyes gaze in wonderment at her new arrivals, while ours well up with tears.

I like the Fonz, too. But I love this episode; a true Friends classic:







Episode 4: The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS
Original Airdate: October 15, 1998

Ross finally hears from Emily, the promising Monica-Chandler coupling hits a fork in the road thanks to some macho posturing from him, and news of Joey's impending hosting gig for a PBS pledge drive sparks a curiously negative reaction out of Phoebe. All three stories provide mildly entertaining laughs, but the strongest moments are drama-based in the homestretch when Ross finds himself conflicted over an impending deal with Emily to save their marriage.

When asking my magic 8 ball if this episode was worthy of 5 Marcels, it replied "Don't count on it." But 3 out of five's not bad.







Episode 5: The One with the Kips
Original Airdate: October 29, 1998

Ross must tell Rachel that he can't see her anymore as per Emily's wishes while Chandler and Monica attempt a secret getaway to New Jersey. Unfortunately, her neat freak ways and his fetish for "breaking news" don't mesh well, so in a fit of disgust, Mr. Bing chooses an unfortunate "M" word to illustrate her behavior. Good episode that moves into near-classic status thanks to a supreme showing from LeBlanc, as Joey's mounting suspicions about two of his best buds are realized courtesy of a gut-busting sequence in the final minutes. On the opposite end of the emotional yardstick, Schwimmer and Anniston share an alternately funny and aching moment as they confront the possibility of redefining their friendship.

No CNN, Fox News Channel, or whoopie for Chandler for a week:







Episode 6: The One with the Yeti
Original Airdate: November 5, 1998

Phoebe's animal activist stance takes another hit when she finds herself attracted to a family heirloom in the form of a fur coat, Ross moves into his new digs, and Rachel and Monica fog a "creepy" intruder in the apartment building's storage room, only to find out he's kind of a hunk. Average outing that never really builds steam; a rather downbeat ending doesn't help.

While Pheebs wrestles with her conscience over going fashionable, I'll pony up 2.5 monkeys.







Episode 7: The One Where Ross Moves In
Original Airdate: November 12, 1998

Not only is Ross 0 for 2 in the marriage department courtesy of Emily's recent filing for divorce, he's also been kicked out of his apartment. Chandler and Joey come to the rescue offering rent-free accommodations, but get more than they bargain for when he reverts back to his picky roommate behaviors of college days. Romance is in the air as Phoebe gets the hots for a health food inspector she meets through Monica, and Rachel gets her game face on in making a play for Danny, the guy she mistook for an intruder in the storage room last week. A second (and rather unsual) consecutive so-so offering, very unusual for this series; the Ross as a roomie subplot is cute at times, but the stories involving the girls are trite and routine.

Okay, Ross...I know I'm making too much noise typing this review, but I'm almost done:





Disc Two:

Episode 8: The One With All The Thankgivings
Original Airdate: November 19, 1998

Ross' ongoing post-Emily funk during Thanksgiving sparks off a group discussion on who has suffered the most on turkey day. Chandler knows it has got to be him, the so-called "king" of bad Thanksgivings; hard not to argue after taking a ride in the way-back machine spotlighting two Thursdays in Novembers past, one in particular he'd like to forget. With the possible exception of The Dick Van Dyke Show, nobody does flashbacks better than Friends, although it falls a couple of steps behind the unforgettable set piece contained in The One with the Prom Video, the return of Fat Monica and a pre-nose job Rachel combined with the fashion-challenged Ross and Chandler of '80s vintage, hilarious back history (watch Joey wear a turkey!) and a welcome return visit from Mom and Pop Geller (Christina Pickles, Elliot Gould) add up to the comedic equivalent of a filling holiday feast (minus the tryptophan).

Somebody hand me a tape measure to record how high Chandler's Flock of Seagulls style '80s hairdo peaks:







Episode 9: The One with Ross' Sandwich
Original Airdate: December 10, 1998

Ross goes a little funny in the head after somebody swipes his Thanksgiving leftover sandwich at work, Rachel joins Phoebe's literary class only to steal her thunder, and Joey has to play fall guy after a naked photograph of Monica is discovered in the boys' apartment (way to go, Chandler). A potentially too over-the-top storyline for Ross is handled brilliantly by Schwimmer, the Phoebe-Rachel subplot has a great payoff, and LeBlanc continues to have fun as Joey plunges deeper into patsy territory in order to keep the private romance of his friends an ongoing secret.

No, Ross...you aren't going mad; you are seeing 3.5 Marcels.







Episode 10: The One with the Inappropiate Sister
Original Airdate: December 17, 1998

Monica intends to put a halt to Rachel's pursuit of Danny, but the highly unusual relationship between her would-be boyfriend and his visiting sister may do the trick instead; Ross encourages Joey to vent out his lack of success on the acting front by writing. Two so-so stories that elicit more smiles than genuine laughs; I found the minor subplot of Phoebe enduring thoughtless Christmas shoppers while standing guard at a Salvation Army-esque donation display to be much funnier.

Though set in the season of giving, I can only contribute 2.5 golden Marcels.







Episode 11: The One with All the Resolutions
Original Airdate: January 7, 1999

The dawn of a new year brings out ambitious goals from two of the gang: Chandler pledges to be less of a wise guy; Rachel vows no more gossiping. But hurdles await in the form of Ross' brand spankin' new leather pants and a phone message from Monica to you-know-who. Holiday-themed episodes continue to be one of the series' strong suits with Resolutions ranking as one of the best. In addition to giggles provided by Anniston and Perry in their individual quests for betterment, Schwimmer gets some serious laugh-out-loud mileage out of his aforementioned leather get up in the middle of a date and has to call Joey for help.

My resolution is to be more kind to animals and to prove it, I'm plastering 4 Marcels on this classic episode.







Episode 12: The One with Chandler's Work Laugh
Original Airdate: January 21, 1998

Chandler reveals a heretofore unseen superficial aspect of his personality to Monica during a workplace party, Ross has a dalliance with a very unlikely female (I'll give you a hint: "Oh-my-Gawd"). Now that Rachel is in on the "very big secret" (courtesy of Tribbiani), she can't help but prod Monica to let her in on things officially. A fun entry highlighted by Monica's competitive streak during a tennis match and Ross' little temper tantrum when he gets some unwelcome news (so much for anger-management class).

No fake laughs necessary for this 3.5 winner.







Episode 13: The One with Joey's Bag
Original Airdate: February 4, 1999



You know the writers are pressed for inspiration when you base the lion's share of an episode around Joey becoming enamored of a fashionable tote bag for professional purposes. But what keeps this episode from being a complete loss is the "B" story involving the return of Phoebe's father following the loss of her grandmother. Bob Balaban (from Seinfeld and A Mighty Wind>) as Frank Sr. is an inspired choice for the role; both he and Kudrow manage to find laughs amidst the decidedly downbeat circumstances, a trait many family-oriented episodes involving Phoebe accomplish quite well.

If not for Phoebe, Bag would have been a drag.





Disc Three:

Episode 14: The One Where Everybody Finds Out
Original Airdate: February 11, 1999

While helping Ross check out Ugly Naked Guy's soon-to-be vacated apartment, Phoebe sees Monica and Chandler doing the nasty (and nearly goes blind in the process). So, now that (almost) everybody knows, you'd think that would be the end of it, but the girls choose to have a little wicked fun at the couple's expense with Phoebe hitting on Chandler (and quite fetchingly, I might add). But when he lets Monica in on her peculiar behavior, Monica puts two and two together as a classic game of chicken commences with poor Tribbiani stretched out as far as he can go between the two camps. From Phoebe's seductress routine to Monica's competitive streak at its most intense ("My team always wins!") to Joey's impromptu wardrobe adjustment for one of the two teams in the late going, Everybody can do no wrong. This is Friends at its very best.

Don't dance anymore, Pheebs; I'm getting all hot and bothered here!







Episode 15: The One with the Girl Who Hits Joey
Original Airdate: February 18, 1999

We all know our "How you doin'?" guy has a sensitive side, but a delicate one as well thanks to his new girlfriend who keeps punching him, albeit affectionately (but still, it HURTS!); Ross is not making a good first impression on fellow residents in his new apartment building and attempts a "par-tay" as a way of mending fences; commitment is not the word in Chandler and Monica's latest disagreement, but he may solve it with a drop on one knee (ow, studio audience, not so loud! Now that HURTS!). Former Punky Brewster lead Soleil Moon Frey is all grown up but still adorable as the girl who forces Joey to don extra layers of clothing; the stingy Ross subplot is fun, and just when you think the writers have exhausted all potential juice out of the courtship between Chandler and Monica, they keep it going.

Hunt up a watering hole Sumo wrestling outfit for Joseph's safety while I designate 3 Marcels.







Episode 16: The One with the Cop
Original Airdate: February 25, 1999

Joey is disturbed by a dream involving Monica, Phoebe gets drunk on power after finding a police badge until the person missing it shows up (Michael Rapaport), and Ross needs a little help from his friends to maneuver a new couch into his apartment. Vintage Friends slapstick emerges via the latter storyline; the Joey dream subplot manages to be both cute and touching while Kudrow gets a potential love interest courtesy of Rapaport, who begins hanging around the Central Perk confines as likeable cop Gary. Also, the flirty repartee between Joey and Rachel shows that the eventual sparks between them were beginning to ignite way back when.

While my jaw drops in amazement that Ross actually counted the number of times he and Rachel did it (298), I'll count 3 Marcels and take one cold shower.







Episode 17: The One with the Inadvertent Kiss
Original Airdate: March 18, 1999

Rachel's accidental smooching of a bigwig following a job interview sparks off a comedy of errors; Joey spots a beautiful girl in Ross' apartment building while hanging at Monica's, but can't find her and it's "anything you can do, I can do better" time as Monica feels threatened by the budding relationship between Phoebe and Gary (does the lady ever relax?). A lively set of stories spotlighted by LeBlanc's comic muscles getting a great and hilarious workout as he searches for an elusive cutie, while Anniston is at her hyperactive best, attempting to worm her way out of a premature peck.

Perhaps with a little more Sesame Street and a little less Baywatch, Joey might be able to count his way to that mystery girl's pad:







Episode 18: The One Where Rachel Smokes
Original Airdate: April 8, 1999

Rachel attempts to fit in at her new job with Ralph Lauren by joining her office mates during cigarette breaks. Struggling actor Joey gets upset as Ross' son Ben lands a part in a commercial on his first time out of the chute. Aside from a few bright spots provided by guest star Joanna Gleason, both stories never really leave the ground; without question the weakest link of Season Five.

Secondhand smoke is not a turn on and neither is this episode:





Episode 19: The One Where Ross Can't Flirt
Original Airdate: April 22, 1999

During one of the commentary tracks on the fourth season set, Friends creative gurus remarked that the most memorable episodes are the ones that gather all six principals; this entry brings that point home thoroughly. Together with Joey's beloved grandma, the gang gathers in front of the telly to watch Joey's role on Law and Order. In between commercials, Ross tries in vain to flirt with a pretty pizza delivery girl (Kristin Dattilo of The Chris Issak Show) while Phoebe and Rachel must hurriedly find a treasured pair of borrowed earrings before Monica's special date with Chandler. Again, another splendid ensemble effort with the bonus of Mr. Bing's stirring mini-rendition of a '70s- era FM radio classic (a moment that had me laughing so hard, I hit the menu button on the remote while intending to rewind).

Chandler's into Bowie? Cool!







Episode 20: The One with the Ride Along
Original Airdate: April 29, 1999

While picking up margarita ingredients at Ross' apartment for Monica, Rachel overhears an answering machine message from Emily expressing second thoughts on her impending marriage (here we go, again!). Meanwhile, Mr. Geller is playing cops 'n' robbers with Joey and Chandler as they tag along on patrol with Gary. It's the latter story that provides most of the good laughs in this go-round (including the inspired utilization of a classic TV detective theme song).

What is it with New Yorkers and their sandwiches?







Disc Four:

Episode 21: The One with the Ball
Original Airdate: May 6, 1999

Phoebe is hesitant to let Gary move in with her, Rachel realizes a lifelong dream of owning a sphinx cat only to wind up with a clawing nightmare, and a simple game of catch becomes a marathon of Guinness Book proportions. Okay, the latter plotline is so Brady Bunch, but hey, I like The Bradys (not as much as Phoebe's delivery doctor likes The Fonz, but hey). Ugly cat lovers better have thick skin for a lot of genuinely funny exchanges come courtesy of that ugly sphinx (Why is it inside out?) while the Phoebe-Gary union ends with a bang. Literally.

Here! Catch! Don't drop these 3 Marcels!:







Episode 22: The One with Joey's Big Break
Original Airdate: May 13, 1999

Joey lands a potential breakout role for a film shooting in Las Vegas; Chandler accompanies him for the journey, but gets tossed out of the car en route for expressing doubts about the project. Once Joey reaches the set, he realizes his best bud may have been on to something. Back home, Rachel is all scaredy cat over going to the eye doctor and Phoebe is so gosh-darn mad at Ross. Why? He hasn't a clue... and she can't remember the reason. Though Anniston's predicament borders on silly, Cox's take-charge moments make for some good guffaws (and a great payoff in the tag scene), but it's the Schwimmer-Kudrow scenes that are the keepers in this episode that set us up for the season's big finish.

Relax, Rachel. These 3 Marcels won't hurt a bit.





Episodes 23 and 24:The One in Vegas, Parts I and II
Original Airdate: May 20, 1999

Making do as a greeter at Caesar's Palace in Vegas, Joey tries in vain to keep Monica and Chandler away from the Strip as they travel to Sin City to celebrate their one-year anniversary. Making up for missing the fun in London last spring, Phoebe tags along while Ross and Rachel make plans to join up at the end of the week. As for those two, they're playing a game of trying to outwit one another that climaxes when Geller draws a fake beard on Green's face on the flight into Vegas (which can really put a damper on your night life). Meanwhile, Mon and Chandler survive a snit involving her past relationship with Richard to the point of contemplating a walk down the aisle at a local 24-hour chapel...that is, until another couple (and a rather familiar one) beats them to it. A whale of a big finish to semester #5 that doesn't hit too many bumps (Joey discovering his "hand double" borders closely on inanity, but I must admit, I laughed at his customized remake of This Land Is Your Land) and once more, the writers hit paydirt with another cliffhanger intriguing enough to entice us back for another 24 helpings next season.

Did they or didn't they? To be continued....



Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: Like previous seasons, the video quality continues to be impeccable: bright, natural colors, just the right amount of sharpness, little to no artifacting, and even the black levels are noticeably improved from the last couple of collections.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.0
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: If I have any complaints, the 5.0 mixes can be a little too intense at times with an overabundance of laughter and incidental music emerging from the rears along with an extreme low end that rivals action adventure films (for proof, don't be surprised if your floor rumbles as Fat Monica makes her way downstairs in The One with All the Thanksgivings). Then again, maybe I'm just getting old. But having that dialogue firmly centered and spread slightly across the fronts is more than compensatory.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by Executive Producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane on The One Hundreth, The One With All The Thanksgivings and The One Where Everybody Finds Out
Packaging: Scanavo 4-pack gatefold
Picture Disc
4 Discs
4-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Gunther Spills The Beans
  2. Friends: On Location From London
  3. Discovery Channel Documentary: The One That Goes Behind The Scenes
Extras Review: In addition to the usual trio of commentary tracks that's become standard on Friends season compilations thus far, the Complete Fifth Season raises the bar slightly in terms of extras.

Friends: On Location in London is a disappointingly fleeting two-minute piece of promotional fluff that barely gives the interviewees a chance to breathe much less gabber. At very least, it conveys the mutual excitement between the cast and their very loyal British fan contingent. Even briefer? Gunther Spills the Beans (1m:35s), nothing more than a teaser for the forthcoming sixth season set with clips from classic episodes and witty asides from the seventh Friend (he wishes!).

Fortunately, the commentaries with executive producers David Crane, Marta Kauffman, and Kevin S. Bright have a bit more substance. During three of the best episodes of Season Five, many interesting stories emerge including the iffy procedure of shooting bits sans a studio audience (The One with All the Thanksgivings) hoping they'll be as laugh-worthy as they were during conception, bizarre life imitates art moments (Kauffman experienced kidney stones like Joey in The One Hundredth mere days after giving birth) and the contagious fun that surrounds more ensemble-based episodes (The One Where Everybody Finds Out).

Pleasing and informative as the discussion tracks are, they are bettered by the best extra to grace a Friends season set to date: The One That Goes Behind the Scenes, an excellent and informative 42-minute 1998 documentary that premiered on cable's Discovery Channel. Shot at the time the show's sixth season commenced production, cameras were given unprecedented access to the program's inner workings. From dragging Central Perk out of summer hiatus mothballs to production brainstorming sessions, last minute re-writes to the final curtain call on the night of taping, it's an unceasingly fascinating look at just how much work, effort, and passion goes into making quality product; even unheralded aspects like set dressing, sound effects creation, and post production editing are given their due. But what really slayed with me is just how involved Crane, Kaufman and Bright are with the show; sometimes the title of executive producer is nothing more than the equivalent of a vanity license plate, but these guys take what they do very seriously and aside from their charismatic cast, it's their relentless pursuit of perfection that has made this series last as long as it has.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

On a par with its resurgent fourth season, Friends: The Complete Fifth Season captures a comedy classic that has yet to run out of steam. With the inclusion of a well made behind-the-scenes documentary supplementing a fine trio of commentaries and top-notch technical aspects, it's another mandatory purchase for devotees of the Central Perk Six.

 


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