The SmarK DVD Rant for Friends – Season 1

The SmarK DVD Rant for Friends – Season One

(A couple of people e-mailed me after the “TV Reviews” thread from yesterday and were surprised and delighted that I had reviewed Friends before, and asked for a repost.  So here you are, starting with the first season.)  

– My reviews of the season 5 & 6 box sets of Friends have seemingly set off a reaction of people (somewhat surprisingly to me) who are now asking quite frequently for the first four seasons, as well.  I didn’t realize there was such a demand, but I aim to please and I love watching Friends.

I was a devoted watcher since day one, as I knew Courtney Cox from Family Ties and Matt LeBlanc from the assorted Fox sitcoms he was stuck in early in his career, and thus thought “Friends Like Us” (the title of the pilot, which is generally forgotten now) might be something neat to try out.


And then something weird happened, as I noticed that the characters were about the same age as me, and were talking like my friends did, and having the same kinds of mid-mid-life crises that my friends were, and I knew that this was truly something that was going to be special.  It’s odd to think of Friends as a cult favorite, but back in the early days of the show, when the internet was relatively new and I used to read via my 9600 baud modem using NN, it was really the hardcore internet fans who foreshadowed the eventual mainstream breakthrough of the show in season 2.  In the beginning, though, there was just a bunch of dedicated fans and not much publicity for the show that has come to be associated with Thursday nights on NBC.  The show actually broke some of the basic rules of sitcoms, in that there was no star of the show and everyone got equal time.  It also pushed the envelope with regards to portrayal of the sex lives of young people farther than any other show.  It was really the first show to say that people in their 20s in New York sleep around.


So as the show comes closer to ending, let’s go back and see where it all started.


Note:  For the most of the early episodes I’m going to presume you already know the plot and just talk about the triviata associated with the episodes.


Disc One


– The Pilot.  The first episode, and only one not to feature a title starting “The One Where/With…”, this is the one that introduces the six main characters and starts setting up their personality quirks.  It also is the only episode to feature the full title sequence, with no intercut clips from the show.  It’s also the only episode not to feature a pre-credits sequence.  The plot of the series begins when Rachel escapes from her wedding to Barry Farber (who is called “Finkel” in this episode) and finds the five friends at Central Perk.  The first Chandler joke in the series is “Sounds like a date to me” when Monica notes that her date with a guy is just two people not having sex.  Ross is very Woody Allen here, and Joey (as he is for much of the first season) is written as more of a pig than an idiot.  The girl working behind the counter in the opening scene would actually become Phoebe’s co-worker at the massage parlor in later episodes.  After they retreat to the apartment with Rachel, they mock a soap opera, which is funny considering Joey’s later profession.  There’s a couple of basic storylines for this one, as Ross sets up furniture and deals with his wife divorcing him and becoming a lesbian, while Monica goes on a date with Paul The Wine Guy (thus starting the show’s tendency to name people by what they do rather than who they are) and falls for a line about him not being able to perform in bed since his divorce.  In later seasons Monica would never fall for something like that, but the character was nowhere near realized at this point.  Chandler and Phoebe were pretty much fully formed even in the first episode, however.  Rachel does, it should be noted, fall right into the group dynamic right away, although the backstory showing just how long they’ve all actually known each other wasn’t even hinted at yet.  There’s a clunky moment of exposition where they talk about jobs and it allows people to talk about what they do.  And in a moment I forgot about in the sixth season DVD, Rachel goes on a shopping binge with her father’s credit card, only to realize that it’s time to live on her own.  However, in the sixth season, her sister Jill does the same thing, only to realize the opposite thing.  I thought that was a nice callback to the pilot.  Finally, we learn that Ross is 26 at this point, and Rachel’s terrible waitressing skills are immediately established.  We also learn Ross has a crush on Rachel, but the writers put it on the backburner right away, which probably proved smart in the long run.


– The One With the Sonogram at the End.  The first episode to use the “TOW” naming convention.  It’s presumed to be a month or so after the pilot, judging by the exposition of the characters, and Joey’s much-improved haircut.  The cold opening with the guys and girls discussing the differences in attitudes towards kissing is still funny stuff.  In this episode, we learn that Ross is a paleontologist for the first time, and Carol is played by a different actress than Jane Sibbett, who is associated with the role now.  Carol’s pregnancy is revealed for the first time, and Monica’s borderline OCD is introduced for the first time, stemming from issues with her mother.  It should be noted that Judy Geller’s harsh character would be toned down a lot in later years.  We “meet” Ugly Naked Guy for the first time, and also get introduced to Rachel’s tendency to screw up simple jobs given to her by Monica.  Monica is revealed to be a former fat girl.  The plot, such as it is, involves Ross & Monica telling Jack & Judy about Ross’ divorce and pregnancy.  Phoebe is connected to Ursula from Mad About You for the first time, putting the show into that universe.  The first Ross & Susan fight is at the OB-GYN, as Carol has a sonogram done.  I’ve been told that the baby in the picture is actually a girl.  I guess the networks can make notes about the laws of nature changing, too.  Never liked this one.


– The One With The Thumb.  First look at Joey & Chandler’s apartment, and Chandler has to teach Joey how to smoke for a play, which reveals that he’s a former smoker.  There’s two main plots in this one:  Phoebe gets $500 from a bank error and every time she tries to return it, she ends up with more, until she gets $7000 from finding a thumb in her soda.  Meanwhile, Monica dates a guy who the others actually like, but she doesn’t like him so much.  This show marks the first appearance of Chandler in a cubicle.  The joke with the surrogate breakup would return in different forms over the course of the series.  This was very sitcommy and doesn’t work anymore.


–  The One With the George Stephanopolous.  An immediately dated reference kind of hurts this one right off the bat.  Joey’s IQ begins to fall, although nowhere near as much as later years.  We learn it’s only 97 steps from the apartments to Central Perk.  The boys go to a Rangers game to distract Ross from being depressed about the anniversary of losing his virginity to Carol, but he pulls a Roenick and gets hit in the face with a puck.  This puts much of the action on the guy side of the story in the emergency room as they wait for service.  Back at the apartment, the girls get drunk and have a slumber party, but quickly get depressed with the topic of their love lives are brought up.  This show marks the first appearance of James Michael Tyler as Gunther, although he wouldn’t have any speaking role in the show until the next season.  Phoebe’s vegetarianism is introduced, and there’s an extra scene with the girls discussing what the guys would be like in bed.  Well, two of them would find out soon enough.  Again, very traditional sitcom stuff aside from the sex talk, as the show didn’t really take off until after the second half of the season.


– The One With the East German Laundry Detergent.  Janice is introduced, and Chandler is immediately trying to break up with her, so Phoebe suggests a double breakup date while she breaks up with her boyfriend.  Rachel & Ross do laundry, which is a new experience for Rachel, and Joey & Monica go on their own double date, as Joey tries to split up an ex-girlfriend from her current beau and pick up the pieces himself.  However, he tells Monica that he’s her brother, and wackiness results.  This is the fifth episode, and the first one where they actually follow up Ross’ crush on Rachel from the pilot.  This is also a rarity, as it’s one of the only Joey & Monica episodes I can ever recall, since those two were almost never paired up by the writers.  However, there’s a major continuity gaffe here, as Monica comments as part of a joke that Ross never even told her when he lost his virginity, but in the previous episode it’s revealed that Ross did exactly that!  Also, Monica tells a story about Underdog getting away from the Thanksgiving day parade, which would become a plot point in the Thanksgiving episode, so either this was intended to be shown later, or they recycled the joke later and hoped people would forget about it from this one.  Janice is almost normal here, and Ross & Rachel share their first kiss, albeit an innocent one in the Laundromat.  Getting better, but not quite there yet.  Introducing Janice as Chandler’s foil was brilliant, however.


– The One With the Butt.  First major drop of Joey’s IQ and the introduction of his awful plays, as he does “Freud!” and Chandler meets Sofia Milos, who turns out to be married and looking for a new boyfriend to add to her harem.  We also get the first “Wagh wagh wagh” from Chandler to indicate that he can’t think of anything to say.  It’s also the first appearance of Estelle Leonard, Joey’s agent, as she gets him a job playing Al Pacino’s butt double in a movie, which he blows by acting too much.  Meanwhile, Rachel tries cleaning the apartment and Monica freaks out, establishing her as a control freak.  In later seasons, Monica would criticize Rachel for never cleaning, but can you BLAME her after that reaction?  We also learn that Monica & Phoebe lived together in the past.  Oh, and during Joey’s “shower scene”, if you watch the shadow cast in the shower by Joey, you’ll notice he’s actually wearing boxer shorts.


Disc Two


– The One With the Blackout.  The show begins with the first appearance of Phoebe singing at Central Perk.  This was part of a cheesy NBC crossover, as all the Thursday night shows had a blackout that night, including Seinfeld and ER.  Chandler gets stuck in an ATM vestibule with Jill Goodacre as the main plot point, while the others hang out in the darkened apartment.  We get the first mention of Chandler’s former roommate, Kip, not named yet, but we do learn he was Jewish.  Sadly Kip would never be introduced over the course of the series.  The friends discuss the weirdest places to have sex and Monica adds “pool table”, which Ross doesn’t approve of.  However, in the flashback episode later on, we learn that Phoebe and Ross were in the process of having sex on the pool table in what would later be Central Perk before they were interrupted, just a few months before this episode would have happened.  Ross’ fears about being stuck in the “friend zone” are very true and the kind of thing that made the writing on this show so great in the early days.  Speaking of the flashback episode, we learn that Monica had a crush on Joey when he was moving in, and THAT was originally supposed to lead a relationship between them long-term.  Obviously the characters went in a different direction, however.  That joke itself was turned into a joke within the flashback episode and paid off in the same episode, so really Joey already knew and the conversation here doesn’t make any sense.  Ross has a great moment of physical comedy, as he makes a move on Rachel on the balcony but gets mauled by a cat, who turns out to belong to the future bane of his existence…Paolo.  Oddly, Paolo would NOT be the most universally hated character introduced in the first season.  But it was close.  Paolo immediately hooks up with Rachel and fanboys start to get annoyed.  This one marks the first appearance of Mr. Heckles, another hated character, who is only listed as “Weird Man” in the credits.  Technical note:  The 5.0 sound on this one, and on the others which were included in the second “Best Of” DVD set from this season, is messed up, with nothing coming from the center channel.


– The One Where Nana Dies Twice.  I really dislike this one, as none of the characters seem to “feel” right.  Monica’s grandmother dies (not the one who she’s subletting the apartment from, obviously) dies, and they all attend the funeral.  The big running joke for the episode is that everyone thinks Chandler is gay, because he has a “quality”.  You’d think this would have been an ideal time to bring up his father, who was VERY much gay, but they obviously hadn’t thought up that character point yet.  This was the first “Chandler is gay” joke of many over the course of the series.  Another historic Chandler moment sees the debut of…THE SWEATER VEST!  Just too much melancholy stuff here.


– The One Where Underdog Gets Away.  This one briefly introduces Max Wright as Terry, the owner of the coffee shop.  Now, this was actually another bit of network meddling, as NBC had problems with six people who were essentially perceived as “kids” living on their own with no parental figures to watch over them, and he was supposed to act as that figure.  Well, that lasted one episode.  Anyway, this is the inaugural Friends Thanksgiving Episode, as they have their first Thanksgiving together and Monica is stuck cooking for them all.  Joey gets a job as a model for health clinic posters, but it turns out to be for VD, which makes his dating life a bit tricky.  This is the first mention of Chandler’s hatred of the holiday, although no mention of his gay father yet.  In another case of joke recycling, Joey mentions to a girl that they used to work together as cologne sprayers in a department store, and that would become an episode in itself the next year.  This is also the first appearance of Jane Sibbett as Carol.  It’s also the first Monica and Rachel fight, as the door is accidentally locked as they run to see Underdog floating away from the parade, which marks one of the only times in the history of the show that they actually lock the door.  Maybe that’s why?  This was more of a teaser for the great Thanksgiving eps to come, but it’s still funny, oh yes.


– The One With The Monkey.  Hey, Ross decides to get a monkey as a pet.  I HATE the monkey, as did the entire cast and fanbase.  However, the network wanted a monkey.  So there ya go.  That would NEVER happen now.  Joey gets a job as one of Santa’s elves, resulting in Chandler nearly exploding with too many jokes to make about his outfit.  However, he’s a wearing Christmas-colored sweater vest, so he’s not one to talk.  The six of them make a no-date pact for New Year’s, but everyone breaks it, bringing Janice back into our lives as a result.  It also brings two more recurring characters into the mix, as Monica brings Fun Bobby (who in both appearances turned out to be a bummer) and Phoebe hooks up with David the Scientist Guy (who had awesome chemistry with Phoebe until they destroyed his character last season in favor of Mike).  Janice also becomes more like the Janice we would know from later seasons.  There’s also a weird second reference to Chandler getting bit by a peacock (it was also mentioned off-hand by Phoebe in an earlier ep), which is never mentioned again after this episode.  Was that some kind of inside joke with the producers or something?  David is great, Janice is great, the story itself isn’t really.


– The One With Mrs. Bing.  First big guest-star stunt casting deal sees Morgan Fairchild playing Nora Tyler Bing, Chandler’s mom, as she stops by New York on a book tour and ends up kissing Ross.  Chandler was upset then, but obviously he forgot about “the code” three years later when he slept with Monica.  In another point showing that Chandler’s dad didn’t exist yet, Nora gives Ross a sympathy hug for getting dumped by a lesbian wife, but you’d think she’d be even more sympathetic, since HER husband dumped her and turned out to be gay.  Nora also has a neat metatextual moment, as she tells Ross that Paolo is only a complication in the story and Ross is the real romantic hero who kills Paolo off later.  Well, she was partially right.  The other plot has Monica & Phoebe accidentally putting a guy into a coma, and then spending weeks doting on him in the hospital.  This ep marks the first mention of Rachel’s middle name, Karen.  Marginal stuff.


– The One With the Dozen Lasagnas.  The running joke in this one is Monica making 12 lasagnas for her aunt, and then getting stuck with them, so everyone in the show gets one at some point.  The hatred for Paolo among the character has spread to all the guys now, as they constantly make fun of him.  Rachel at one point talks about going away to a place in the Poconos owned by “her sister”, but neither Jill nor Amy would have been in a position at this point to own property on their own.  Amy, maybe, but it was established that Rachel stopped talking to both of them after the aborted wedding.  Maybe there’s a third sister?  The guy’s table breaks, so they decide to buy a new one, together, which for some reason triggers Chandler’s weird commitment phobia.  They settle on the famous foosball table, which in turn trigger’s Monica’s freaky competitive streak and really introduces it for the first time.  Ross learns the sex of his unborn child despite his best efforts not to.  And Paolo makes a move on Phoebe while getting massaged, leading to him thankfully making his exit from the series.  Lots of funny Ross moments here with his indecision in wanting to know the sex, and mocking Paolo is great.



Disc Three


– The One With The Boobies.  It’s the grand sitcom convention of one character seeing another one naked, in this case Chandler walking in when Rachel is getting out of the shower (cf. Tony & Angela on Who’s the Boss) and the only mature thing seems to be for Chandler to show her his pee-pee.  We meet Joey’s dad for the first time, and it turns out that he’s cheating on Joey’s mom with an animal mortician (Chandler:  “If I go first, I want to be “Looking For His Keys””) and there’s some role-reversal as Joey prevents his dad from spending the night with his mistress.  The highlight of the show, however, is Phoebe dating a creepy psychiatrist, who hits WAY too close to home with the dysfunctional dynamic of the group (“DEFINE ME!  DEFINE ME!  LOVE ME!”) and nails everyone’s basic neuroses in one shot.  I think he was representing what critics of the show were saying all along, in fact.  Especially the bit about the coffee cups with nipples on them.  Also, Ross & Monica briefly ponder their parents’ sex life, and Monica would learn all too close-up what it was like in the second season.  There’s also the first mention of Chandler’s gay father here.  And speaking of father issues, when we finally meet Phoebe’s real dad, he happens to look almost exactly like Roger the Psychiatrist.  There’s some serious Freudian issues on this show, no?


– The One With the Candy Hearts.  First neutral-color sweater vest for Chandler here.  Trust me, start paying attention to how often he wears them in the early episodes and it’ll make it all the funnier when the others mock it in later episodes.  Joey & Chandler double-date so that Joey’s date can bring a friend, but the mystery girl turns out to be Janice.  And Chandler ends up in bed with her.  Again.  First “Oh, my, god” from Janice here.  Meanwhile, the girls are depressed on Valentine’s Day and do a cleansing ritual, which turns into a fire.  There’s a plot point about Phoebe having a friend who shaves her head, but she’s named Abby here rather than Bonnie.  I assume it’s meant to be the same person, though.  Chandler actually has a SECOND sweater vest for the restaurant.  Ross, meanwhile, goes on a date at one of those Japanese restaurants, but ends up running into Carol and Susan, until Susan has to leave.  Two “lovers return to dinner unexpectedly” plots in the same episode are a bit much.  Chandler dumps Janice, again, but she knows that they’re destined to be together.  And she was right – they ARE.  I also want to mention a nice bit of acting from David Schwimmer as he makes one last play for Carol in a moment of weakness.  A good episode, one of the best of the season.


– The One With the Stoned Guy.  How this one didn’t make the Best Of DVDs eludes me.  Jon Lovitz steals the show as Steve, a friend of Phoebe’s who is opening a restaurant and wants Monica to be the chef.  However, he “blazes up a doobie” on the way to the apartment, and leaves Monica to cope with a stoned dude who would rather eat taco shells than sample her appetizers.  Meanwhile, Chandler is faced with the impending doom of promotion at his dead-end job, which is a big deal because then he’d have to admit that it’s his career, not just some temp job that he happens to have done for 5 years.  And who hasn’t been THERE?  It’s moments like that which allowed the show to ring so true.  Chandler’s initial promotion here would eventually lead to him becoming one of the presidents of the company.  Ross, meanwhile, has a big date with a woman who enjoys dirty talk, but he has no idea how to do it.  So he asks Joey to help him, and the comedy practically writes itself.  This one was like a template for the later seasons, as the dialogue was snappier than ever before, the characters were more freely sarcastic with each other (because we KNOW that deep down they love each other anyway) and the show built around three equally effective plotlines featuring characters who the writers now had enough confidence in to craft jokes about.  For instance, by this point we knew what having Ross trying to talk dirty to Joey would entail and what each of their reactions would probably be.  My favorite episode of the first season.


– The One With Two Parts.  This one DID make the Best Of set, and I don’t agree with its inclusion there.  I don’t think it holds up at all.  Anyway, part one introduces us to Ursula in the Friends universe for the first time, and has the cheapest of cheap guest shots, with Helen Hunt and Leila Kenzle making cameos for a silly joke about confusing Phoebe & Ursula.  Joey falls for Ursula, much to Phoebe’s chagrin, and starts dating her.  Ross & Susan are stuck together in Lamaze class when Carol can’t make it, and another fight results.  Technical note:  WENUS goes from “weekly estimated net usage systems” to “weekly estimated net usage statistics” in this episode.  Oh, and Chandler has to fire someone at work for the first time, but ends up dating her instead.  Part two sees Rachel falling off the balcony and winding up in the ER, where it’s more cheap stunt casting, this time in the form of George Clooney and Noah Wyle playing, surprise surprise, doctors.  Rachel & Monica do some wacky sitcom insurance fraud and have to carry the wackiness through to a date with the doctors, and the verbal gloves are off as it’s Rachel v. Monica II.  Ursula dumps Joey and Phoebe is left to step in and clean up the mess herself.  And Ross feels like a father when Marcel swallows a Scrabble tile and he has to rush him to the ER.  NOT FUNNY.  Well, Rachel and Monica sniping at each other is, but Clooney & Wyle aren’t exactly great comic actors at this point.


– The One With All The Poker.  Finally the Ross & Rachel storyline gets going again, for real this time, as Ross starts openly fawning over her and the guys notice.  The main plot of this one would work today, as it’s the first “six of them locked in a room” ep where they’re allowed to just play off each other for the whole show.  The guys play poker, but the girls feel left out (speaking from experience, I just went through the same thing, except with Halo instead of poker) despite a total lack of experience playing poker.  So they get advice from Monica’s aunt.  Meanwhile, Rachel is searching for a new job and has a big lead at Sak’s Fifth Avenue for a job she would eventually get with another company.  Chandler has some of his all-time greatest one-liners here, including the famous “Fifth dentist” one, which was actually on a t-shirt I bought off the internet in 1995.  The big game comes down to Ross v. Rachel, who is hurting from not getting the job, and the tension actually still works today and it remains a top-notch episode to this day.  It’s also around this point where the show really starts taking off with the audience and the writing gets tighter and more focused on Ross and Rachel.


Disc Four


– The One Where the Monkey Gets Away.   Rachel is bummed when Barry & Mindy announce their wedding, and it leads to a great moment where the guys and girls have opposite views on the same movie.  Later, Ross and the guys discuss his chances with Rachel, who is babysitting his monkey.  She’s wearing a plaid skirt thing that’s mind-blowingly hot.  The end of season one until the breakup with Ross is Jennifer Aniston’s prime as far as being my dream girl goes.  Anyway, Rachel accidentally lets the monkey escape, and everyone goes looking for it as Ross and Rachel have their first big fight. There would be many more.  Luckily, the animal control officer went to school with the girls, but unluckily Rachel was a bitch in high school and Marcel is an illegal monkey.  Ross puts the moves on Rachel at the end of the episode, but again gets interrupted, this time by Barry, who still loves Rachel, thus setting up the next episode.  I hate Marcel episodes, but I love early Rachel, so I’m torn here.


– The One With The Evil Orthodontist.  While Barry tries to woo Rachel back again (and sex in his dentist’s chair seems to be a good first step) Chandler gets into a war of wills with himself regarding calling a date back and not seeming needy or anything.  Perish the thought.  Also, someone is spying on them with a telescope, but when it turns out to be a woman, Joey knows how to handle it.  Mindy and Rachel confront Barry about cheating on both of them after we learn that Rachel was actually justified in leaving him at the altar, and Mindy decides to stay with him, leaving Rachel clear for Ross again.  Almost.  Nothing memorable here.


– The One With the Fake Monica.  Monica’s credit card is stolen by another woman, who turns out to be using it for all the things she wishes she could do.  So she meets with “Monica” and does crazy things, like TAP-DANCING.  What a kook.  Meanwhile, Joey needs a stage name, so Chandler suggests something dignified, like Joseph Stalin.  “Joseph Stalin is…The Fiddler on the Roof!”  This marked the real start of Joey’s intelligence drop.  And THANKFULLY, Marcel is humping everything in sight, so Ross has to get rid of him, and sends him to the San Diego Zoo (after a memorable cameo from Harry Shearer as an animal-MMA promoter).  Easter egg note:  Bright/Kauffman/Crane play the directors at the end that set up the “Holden McGroin” joke.  The tearful goodbyes to the monkey suck.


– The One With the Ick Factor.  Back to sitcom formula, albeit with a very different twist, as Monica engages in a classic Wacky Stack with her new boyfriend, as we learn he’s younger and younger each time we get more information about him.  In fact, he’s only 17, which is probably the first case of statutory rape in sitcom history.  Power Ranger jokes result from the others.  Meanwhile, Chandler hires Phoebe for a temp job as his secretary, and despite the need to “be normal for a large portion of the day” she does okay at it…until Chandler discovers that the others don’t like him anymore now that he’s the boss.  Everyone gets a chance to do their Matthew Perry impression (“The hills are alive with the sounds…OF music.”) and much laughter is the result.  Actually, when I was in high school, people talked like Chandler all the time so his speech patterns actually rang very true for me and many others.  Especially the “So not…” stuff.  Chandler’s magic 8-ball shows up here and would return in the fifth season with Ross going crazy about Emily.  Also, there’s another mention of Cousin Nathan, the transvestite who was first mentioned in TOW All the Poker.  And then it’s yet another attempt by Ross to put the moves on Rachel with yet another interruption setting up the next episode, in this case the impending birth of his child.


– The One With the Birth.  Jonathan Silverman plays the doctor here, and a year after this NBC would make a pathetic attempt to fashion a Friends ripoff starring him called “The Single Guy”, the first in a run of many by the big networks trying to cash in on Friends.  This one takes place entirely in the hospital, as Ross & Susan squabble about EVERYTHING, Joey helps a Celtics fan deliver her baby, and Chandler and Monica spend the whole episode doing basically nothing.  Ross, Phoebe and Susan get trapped in a janitor’s closet and end up naming the baby after the janitor – Ben – while Rachel hits on the doctor, which Chandler discovers is because of more bizarre Freudian stuff.  Couple of funny lines (“Every day is Lesbian Lover Day!”) and one memorable bit with Monica & Chandler debating getting married someday that of course took on greater significance much later, but all the baby stuff always bored me.  Especially since you never HEAR about Ross’ kid from then on unless it’s a necessarily plot point.  Ditto for Rachel’s baby.


– The One Where Rachel Finds Out.  This is the season finale and the turning point for the show, as it was into the stratosphere from here.  Joey donates sperm to a science project, but can’t use the equipment on his own time as part of the deal, so Monica suggests that he “be there for her” on his next date.  I believe that was one of the first implications of oral sex on network TV, but I could be wrong.  Ross, meanwhile, has to go to China, but while he’s there Chandler (plaid sweater vest) accidentally blabs about how Ross really feels, leaving Rachel with a tough choice to make.  She has an imaginary conversation with Ross to sort out her feelings, but when she goes to meet him at the airport, he’s there with a new girlfriend, Julie, and it’s the first cliffhanger of many for the series.  Julie immediately became the most incredibly hated character in the history of the show, and I’m talking DEATH THREATS from fans who didn’t want to see her impeding the Ross-Rachel payoff.  But we’ll get to her in more detail in season 2.


The show didn’t really hit the big time until the next season, when many of the catchphrases and running jokes were introduced, but the first season serves as a good foundation for the characters and allowed the writers to push things further as the show got more popular.  While not as polished and refined as seasons 2-5, the first one was still funny and had some very true moments, as much of it was pulled directly from the real lives of the creators.  And by the end of the season, it was very close to the show we all know today.  Still, Ross didn’t really develop as a character until his bout with insanity in season 5, Joey wasn’t Joey until much later, and Monica went through a lot of changes before they finally got it.  Chandler and Phoebe were pretty much dropped fully formed from the comedy womb, however, as both actors nailed them on the first try.



A little light on extra stuff since it’s only the first year and all.  You get…


– A commentary from Bright/Kauffman/Crane on the pilot, which is REALLY great and I wish there were more of them from this season, as they cover all the tidbits about casting and original plot directions and such.


– The “friends of friends” listing, giving you clips of all the guest stars from this season, plus an easily-found Easter Egg, as clicking on the coffee cup in the corner gives you the creator cameo mentioned above.


– A quiz about the first season.


– An interactive tour of Central Perk, complete with all sorts of cool trivia about the paintings and history of the set.  You also can find interviews with the set designers “hidden” in the information pages.


– A trailer for season 2, which in later sets would be done with introduction from James Michael Tyler.


It’s probably kind of hard for newer viewers to really understand what a big deal this show was in the beginning and how many taboos and rules it broke on the way to the top, because other networks have since tried to copy the same formulas verbatim.  So if you want to see where all the fuss came from (and see Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc with really bad hair) check out the first season, which has most of the characters already in the forms you know them today and is almost as funny.  Highly recommended.