Monday, March 28, 2016

TV on DVD Review: Friends - Season 7

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Many funny moments; the wedding
Cons: More embarrassment humor than in previous season.
The Bottom Line:
Big wedding season
Filled as always with laughter
Fans love time with Friends

The One Where Two Friends Get Married

A couple seasons of Friends revolved heavily around the relationship between two of the characters.  No, I’m not talking about Rachel and Ross but about Monica and Chandler.  Season seven was one of those seasons.  Yes, the other characters still get plenty of screen time, and the laughs are still plentiful.

Season seven opens moments after season six ended with the proposal.  That’s right, Monica (Courteney Cox) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) are engaged!  As a result, much of the season revolves around the two of them and the plans for the wedding, especially near the end of the season as we gear up for the season finale wedding.  And those episodes are wonderful.  We get plenty of laughs from control freak Monica while also seeing just how much this couple cares for each other.  There are some truly touching moments between them here.

Season six was also one of the few seasons not to end with a Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) cliffhanger.  But the writers quickly fix that in the season opener as Rachel suggests they sleep together one last time.  The rumors that swirl around as a result upset Monica who wants that night to be about her engagement.  But no, the two of them aren’t about to really get back together since Rachel quickly falls for her new assistant, Tag (guest star Eddie Cahill).  Elsewhere over the course of the season, Joey’s new cable show bombs, and he winds up back on Days of Our Lives when his character gets a brain transplant and Phoebe’s apartment is ready after the fire from last season, but she moves back in alone when the wall making a second bedroom is taken out during the renovations.

But as I said earlier, everything leads up to the wedding in the season finale.  We finally meet Chandler’s father, but then the groom gets cold feet.  And someone learns they are pregnant before the final blackout of the season.

There aren’t quite as many ongoing storylines this season.  There’s the wedding, Joey getting back on the soap, and Rachel’s relationship with Tag.  Other than that, we have more standalone stories this year.  But that’s okay because there are still plenty of laughs.  As always, the Thanksgiving episode is wonderful as Ross’s big mouth gets him into trouble trying to name all 50 states.  An episode where Joey and Ross are both dating the same woman also has some outstanding laughs.  And in another episode, Ross, Monica, and Chandler start trying to out embarrass each other.

These are tempered by a number of subpar episodes.  Some of these come from the characters acting stupidly for laughs.  I know that embarrassment humor has been a staple of the series for years, but there seems to be more of it this year, and it leads to some very cringe worthy moments.  And some of the episodes just don’t quite work, like this year’s Christmas episode, “The One with the Holiday Armadillo.”  Another subpar episode is “The One with All the Cheesecake” which finds Chandler and Rachel stealing a neighbor’s delicious cheesecake.  The only funny bit from “The One Where They’re Up All Night” involved Phoebe fighting with a fire alarm that won’t stop making noise.

February sweeps found Friends facing off with powerhouse Survivor, and to counteract that, NBC rolled out supersized episodes of their shows.  These ran just a little longer than the traditional episodes ran, and we get that extra footage in the set.  They also features some great guest stars such as Jason Alexander as the suicidal supply manager Phoebe calls and Susan Sarandon as an actress on Joey’s soap.  The season features several appearances of Elliot Gould and Christina Pickles as Monica and Ross’s parents, and the season ends with Morgan Fairchild and Kathleen Turner guest starring as Chandler’s parents.

And of course, the regular cast does a great job with the material.  While I am not a fan of all the writing, the cast still hits it out of the park each week.

The four DVD set contains all 24 episodes of the season in their native full frame and stereo sound.  Extras include three audio commentaries (although the one on “Holiday Armadillo” is worth skipping) interviews with some of the notable guest stars, and a gag reel.  Gunther’s preview on next season and the quiz about the wedding are completely skippable.

While season seven isn’t the best of Friends, it still contains plenty of laughs.  Fans of the show will enjoy watching these episodes over and over even if some of the best are behind us.

Season 7 Episodes:
1. The One with Monica’s Thunder
2. The One with Rachel’s Book
3. The One with Phoebe’s Cookies
4. The One with Rachel’s Assistant
5. The One with the Engagement Picture
6. The One with the Nap Partners
7. The One with Ross’s Library Book
8. The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs
9. The One with all the Candy
10. The One with the Holiday Armadillo
11. The One with All the Cheesecake
12. The One Where they’re Up All Night
13. The One Where Rosita Dies
14. The One Where They All Turn Thirty
15. The One with Joey’s New Brain
16. The One with the Truth about London
17. The One with the Cheap Wedding Dress
18. The One with Joey’s Award
19. The One with Ross and Monica’s Cousin
20. The One with Rachel’s Big Kiss
21. The One with the Vows
22. The One with Chandler’s Dad
23 & 24. The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding

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