One of television's top-ranked series and the recipient of numerous Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations, "Friends" is a smart, sophisticated comedy that looks into the hearts and minds of a group of friends living in New York.
This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. As its ratings following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, illustrated, Friends has matured into television's most beloved comfort show. The peerless ensemble--Jennifer Aniston, a pre-Arquette Courtney Cox, Emmy winner Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer--makes a lasting first impression in the first season's 24 episodes, which are presented chronologically on four discs. The perky "Pilot" introduces unlucky-in-love Monica, runaway bride Rachel, sad sack Ross, New Age ditz Phoebe, wise guy Chandler, and womanizer Joey. The focus of the first season is Ross's unrequited love for Rachel, but we have these moments to remember: the arrival of Marcel the monkey ("The One with the Monkey"); Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe's "cleansing ritual" ("The One with the Candy Hearts"); the escalating game of shower peek-a-boo ("The One with the Boobies"); Joey as Al Pacino's butt double ("The One with the Butt"); Ross taking lessons from Joey in how to "talk dirty" ("The One with the Stoned Guy"); former "Must-See TV" stars Helen Hunt and George Clooney ("The One with Two Parts"); and Chandler spilling the beans to Rachel about Ross's feelings for her ("The One Where Rachel Finds Out"). Though its devoted fans can recite these episodes chapter and verse, Friends maintains its sparkle through repeat viewings, a testament to the sharp writing as well as the cast's lightning-in-a-bottle chemistry and lived-in performances. The episodes are presented uncut and extended, with previously unseen dialogue and scenes. And those who hate Friends and would like to drown the characters in the opening credits' fountain are directed to the episode "The One with the Boobies," in which guest star Fisher Stevens hilariously nails the "dysfunctional group dynamic ... co-dependent, emotionally stunted, sitting in your stupid coffeehouse and you're all like, 'Define me, define me.'" Among the set's special features are an informative "Pilot" episode commentary by the show's creators, who at one point reveal that Monica was originally conceived as a Janeane Garafalo type (how's that for a road not traveled?). More obsessed fans can take a virtual tour of coffee shop Central Perk, the center of the Friends universe, or match wits with the "How Well Do You Know Your Friends?" trivia quiz. --Donald Liebenson