Season one of 'Friends' introduced us to the titular group of friends and their foibles. With introductions (and baby births) out of the way, season two is able to hit the ground running, giving us some of the best and the worst episodes of the series.
As season one ends, Rachel leaves to meet Ross at the airport, having discovered that he is hopelessly in love with her. Ross exits the plane with a new girlfriend, Julie, in tow. Rachel can't get over Ross' new relationship. This conflict drives the season, as Ross doesn't know about Rachel's feelings. Monica loses her cushy job, forcing her to take a menial gig at a '50s diner. Joey gets a job on The Days of Our Lives, Phoebe discovers her birth father, and Chandler realizes he's too picky with the women he dates.
There are a few things 'Friends' will forever be remembered for, but perhaps the greatest of them is the Rachel and Ross relationship. While the seeds of this are sown in season one, they don't come to fruition until season two. Rachel's devastation at finding Ross with Julie sets Jennifer Aniston up for some of the best comedic and dramatic work she did in the entire series. A brilliant example of this is “The One with the Breast Milk,” where Rachel reacts to the news that Monica went shopping with Julie as if she were a cheating lover. And, of course, “The One Where Ross Finds Out,” with Aniston and Schwimmer both being hilarious and touching. That episode also has perhaps the most famous scene of the series, with Ross outside of Central Perk, finally having worked up the courage to kiss Rachel.
Of course, this also leads to what may be the worst episode of the series, “The One with Russ”, where Rachel dates a Ross lookalike (also played by Schwimmer). The whole thing comes off as a cheap gimmick. Similarly, “The One Where Heckles Dies” takes a briefly introduced side character and tries to tug on the audience's heartstrings by killing him off. Some viewers also complained about the cheesiness of “The One with the Lesbian Wedding”. Not the wedding itself, mind you, but the b-plot of Phoebe being possessed by the spirit of an old woman.
However, these missteps are few and far between, and for the most part, season two of 'Friends' is a winner. Not only do Ross and Rachel get together, but Monica meets Richard (Tom Selleck, in an Emmy-nominated role), one of the more memorable and enduring recurring characters on the show. This is also the season where Joey lands the part of Dr. Drake Ramoray on 'The Days of Our Lives', a storyline that would reverberate throughout the series.
The other winning aspect of season two is how well the cast has gelled since season one. Their chemistry is undeniable, from Phoebe giving Monica a haircut to Joey and Chandler losing Ben, Ross' son, on the bus. In fact, the Joey/Chandler relationship deepens when Joey decides to move out, sticking Chandler with a less than perfect new roommate, Eddie. As much as season one was important in establishing the characters, season two is just as important in solidifying the relationships that would come to define the show in popular culture.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Bros. presents 'Friends: The Complete Second Season' in a two-disc set that comes packaged in a slipcover that replicates the cover art. Inside is an insert with an episode guide, and a code for an Ultraviolet copy.
Warner Bros. presents 'Friends: The Complete First Season" in AVC-encoded, 1080p, 1.78:1 transfers. As has been previously noted, these widescreen presentations do not preserve the original broadcast ratio of 1.33:1. However, almost all of 'Friends' was shot on film (until season ten when the show switched to HD cameras), and so what we get here isn't a chopped version, but rather an expanded image. Of course, the episodes were composed to fit into a 4x3 frame, meaning that opening the mattes on the sides mainly introduces empty space. This was likely done to assuage the concerns of casual viewers, who might complain about windowboxing. Ultimately, this is a livable change, with the expanded framing making no impact, negative or positive, on the comedy itself.
Seasons two shows off the strength of a show shot on film, with a thin sheen of grain and what is usually a well detailed image. Individual shots here and there take a dip in quality, but for the most part the presentation is strong. Colors are a little muted, possibly as a result of the mid '90s film stock used, but there are no major artifacts or other digital problems. For a weekly sitcom shot a decade and a half ago, this looks pretty good.
'Friends' season two comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, along with Spanish, French, and German stereo tracks. The likely culprit for not including lossless audio was space, with the whole season only taking up two discs. In fairness, a lossless mix probably wouldn't have improved matters all that much. The dynamic range is limited, and there's a bit of hiss and at times a canned aspect to the laugh track.
The good news is that for the most part the issues are intermittent, and dialogue, the most important element of a series like this, comes through loud and clear. Dynamics are rarely pushed, but there's no distortion. The audience ably fills the rear speakers, and there's a decent amount of directionality, depending on the content of the episode in question. Overall, these mixes do a good job of filling the sound field, but they're not going to blow anyone away either. Like much of this set, the audio is merely good enough instead of exceptional.
The supplements on this set mirror the discs from the complete box set, along with the slip for an Ultraviolet copy, which is exclusive to this release.
The second season of 'Friends' establishes the relationships that would come to define the series through its entire run. While it has some dud episodes, particularly anything involving Ross' lookalike Russ, it also has the consummation of Ross and Rachel's relationship, as well as the introduction of Richard, Monica's best boyfriend. While the set doesn't offer anything new over the discs on the complete series set (in fact, they're simply the season two discs yanked out of that set), and is far too light on special features, it's still a vital season of a great TV show and is worth picking up if you're cherry picking your 'Friends' purchases.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.