Sunday, April 28, 2019

TV on DVD Review: Friends - Season 9

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Many laughs with characters we love
Cons: The Ross/Rachel storyline is beyond done
The Bottom Line:
Next to last season
Show aging with tired stories
But still some good laughs

The One with All the Love Triangles

As much as I love Friends, it was obvious even when it originally aired that the writers were running out of ideas by the time they hit the ninth season.  Yes, there are definitely still some episodes that make me laugh here, but their attempts to stretch things out was beginning to wear thin.

As is usually the case on this show, season nine picks up just moments after season eight ended so we could resolve the cliffhanger from the end of last season.  Joey (Matt LeBlanc) has just “proposed” to Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) who has said yes.  The complications?  The ring Joey is holding actually belongs to Ross (David Schwimmer), Joey had only found it and wasn’t really proposing, and Rachel just had a baby with Ross, even though they aren’t together.  Already, you can see what I mean about storylines growing thin, right?  I remember back when the season eight finale ended, I was rolling my eyes.  Fortunately, they get this particular soap opera plot point resolved quickly, at least in the season nine premier.

Over the course of the season, Chandler (Matthew Perry) accidentally takes a transfer to Tulsa, Oklahoma, while his wife Monica (Courtney Cox) stays behind due to a new job as the head chef in a prestigious restaurant.  But before the season is over, Chandler is back in town and starting on a new career.  Meanwhile, the couple is also attempting to start a family of their own.  Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) finds a steady boyfriend in Mike (recurring guest star Paul Rudd), only to be thrown when old flame David (recurring guest star Hank Azaria) returns to town.  And Ross and Rachel try to balance their new daughter with work and living together without being a couple.

As I mentioned, there are some fantastic episodes here.  The Thanksgiving episode, when we meet Rachel’s youngest sister Amy as played by Christina Applegate, is easily the highlight and certain to make you laugh.  Chandler balancing Monica and Joey when he’s home during his Tulsa story arc also provides some good laughs.  Watching Phoebe with Mike is also a lot of fun, especially since Phoebe had never had much luck in the romance department before this.

But by this point, I was beyond ready for Ross and Rachel to be together.  They had teased us with this soap opera long enough, and adding Joey’s crush on Rachel to the mix didn’t help at all.  (In the commentaries, the creators of the show talk about how split the audience was.  Sorry, I don’t know any fans who weren’t rolling their eyes at these developments.)  As the season begins to draw to a close, Rachel begins to reconsider her feelings for Joey just as Joey and Ross develop their own interest in Ross’s new co-workers Charlie (Aisha Tyler).  This all leads to a season finale set in Barbados that also features the climax of Phoebe’s love triangle.  At least she got a resolution to hers this season unlike the now two triangles we have going on with Ross, Rachel, Joey, and Charlie.

Really, I do laugh, and I enjoy the majority of the episodes, I just find these long drawn out romantic stories to be frustrating.  Clearly, the writers were afraid of killing the show with getting more characters together, but I feel they did the opposite instead.

Anyway, the cast continues to shine.  The guest star list continues to be impressive as well, including Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Jeff Goldblum along with those I’ve already named.  While the storylines might annoy, I do still find plenty to laugh about as I watch this season.

Of course, one laugh is completely unintended.  Baby Emma, who is prominent is many of the early episodes this season, begins to vanish as the season goes along.  Heck, they don’t even include a line about who is watching her when the gang heads to Barbados for the season finale.

Season nine was the final season to have 24 episodes.  They are all preserved in the DVD set on four discs.  Extras include the standard three episode commentaries with the executive producers.  There’s also a featurette about the style of the show, a gag reel, a trivia game, and a music video.

Longtime fans will certainly find things to laugh at and enjoy here, but it is obvious that Friends is ready to wind down with the ninth season.

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