Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Season Of Changes Ends Friends The Complete Tenth (And Final) Season!

The Good: Good sense of character and plot movement.
The Bad: Shorter season, Bonus disc DVD bonus features are nothing special
The Basics: A shortened season, the tenth and final season of Friends adequately closes the character arcs of six New York City friends.

Here it is. My wife and I began watching Friends (reviewed here!) earlier this year and I have been slowly making it through the seasons of the show. At the end of it all comes season ten and it is a rare thing for any series to make it that far. Sadly, for fans of the show, Friends The Complete Tenth Season is a truncated season and on DVD, it is a tough sell at the same price as the earlier ones. But what the series has going for it at this point in its story is a strong sense of movement. The last season is heavily serialized and it is a coda, a season that is intended to reward the fans of the show. In other words, while I do recommend this film, it is not worth acquiring or even watching if one has not seen the prior seasons. The reason for this is simple: Friends is essentially a soap opera and this season finishes the character arcs that have been building for nine years.

As well, Friends in the tenth season is impossible to discuss without revealing a few things about prior seasons, most notably how the ninth season ends (or left the characters). Because there are character elements that are quickly resolved (and a few that take longer), in order to seriously discuss the final season of Friends the changes have to be noted. The season only has eighteen episodes and one suspects that part of the reason for the shorter season was the fact that Courteney Cox-Arquette got pregnant and (for reasons obvious to fans who have seen the season before this) that caused some insurmountable filming obstacles. Regardless, with eighteen episodes, with plots that flow very quickly from one to the next, this is a fast-moving season of situational comedy.

Opening with the six friends still in Barbados with Phoebe's boyfriend Mike and (now) Ross' girlfriend Charlie, Joey wants to let his relationship with Rachel progress, just as Ross wants to move things forward with Charlie. Both men, though, want to be sure things are okay with the other before they go forward. And when Ross finds out Joey and Rachel are romantically involved, he freaks out in a way that neither of them feels comfortable taking the relationship further. Ross is abandoned by Charlie shortly thereafter when one of Charlie's ex's want her back. As Chandler and Monica work to impress the adoption board, Ross, Joey and Rachel each try to work through their separate damages. At the same time, Phoebe and Mike grow even closer.

Despite everything, Phoebe and Mike get engaged and they look to a quick marriage. Monica and Chandler discover a rather dippy girl in Ohio who has gotten pregnant and is looking to give up her baby for adoption. But as Joey becomes more upset by the way all of their lives are changing, in the wake of Monica and Chandler finding a house in Westchester they want to move to, Rachel and Ross both have professional changes that threaten to change all their lives even more!

In the tenth season, Friends moves right along with such things as the teased relationship between Joey and Rachel getting resolved rather quickly. The show becomes very preoccupied with tying up loose ends and this season is largely about that. Will Ross and Rachel ever get together? Will Monica and Chandler become parents? Will Phoebe ever do anything normal? This season answers all of these questions and leaves a few very strange ones up in the air (like where do Phoebe and Mike live after they get married?). But, for the most part, the last season of Friends is largely about rewarding fans who have been watching for years and as such, it is intended to make fans feel good about how their friends get through their lingering obstacles.

Rather nicely, this season is mostly serialized without bottle episodes that have ridiculous premises. Outside the annual Thanksgiving episode, the episodes generally flow from one to the next with the character elements building upon each other. The result is that very little actually happens this season that can be described . . . outside everyone trying to get out of Emma's first birthday party when the cake that arrives turns out to be an erotic cake. Outside that somewhat contrived plot, everything flows from the character choices. Monica and Chandler have an interview with the adoption center, which leads them to a birth mother, which compels them to buy a house and so on. Similarly, Phoebe and Mike make their choices and the only thing that does not honestly make sense is how quickly Mike comes around to proposing to Phoebe, especially how adamant he was against it in the prior season.

And while most fans will enjoy the ultimate resolution to the show, it is hard not to feel cheated by the Joey and Rachel resolution. By the end of the second episode of this season, the relationship that has been teased for two years is over and done with and the fan-favored relationship between Ross and Rachel suddenly becomes a possibility again. The thing is, the chemistry is not quite there. Instead, Ross and Rachel come together as a plot and character contrivance that is remarkably abrupt. In the few episodes they are both present, Mike and Phoebe have much better chemistry than Ross and Rachel do (at least until the finale). The other significant change is that Joey's promiscuous quality dissipates. After he loses Rachel as a viable romantic partner, he does not date the entire season. Instead, Joey has to deal with the consequences of one of his prior bad relationships.

Because the season is almost exclusively about characters and character choices, it is worthwhile to know who the characters are and what they are motivated by in the final season. The most stable cast ends as it began with:

Rachel Green - Quickly realizing that she and Joey will not work out because of her history with Ross, she returns to work and raising Emma. It is only when her work situation changes dramatically that she has to consider her relationships and what she actually wants in life,

Monica Gellar (because, as we learn this season, she neglected to change her name) - tries to avoid an old acquaintance, but discovers she cannot be that rude. She and Chandler work hard to impress the adoption agency and soon find the perfect house in the suburbs,

Phoebe Buffay - Committed to Mike now, she proposes when she realizes he is ready. With a short engagement, the two move to be married and figure out their future together . . . with or without her other friends,

Joey Tribiani - Still working on Days Of Our Lives, he gets no other gigs, nor any other relationships after letting Rachel go. He proves himself to be a good and loyal friend to Ross and Rachel through that and to Monica and Chandler when he tries to write a recommendation for them for the adoption agency and straighten a rather unique problem out with their adoption agent on the home visit,

Chander Bing - Working at the advertising agency, he and Monica focus on finding a child to adopt and a house in the suburbs. He "takes one for the team" in order to insure he and Monica do not get saddled with the worst possible neighbor,

And Ross Gellar - Losing Charlie to a crazy Nobel-prize winner, he focuses in his career and Emma. When Rachel's career gets turned upside down, he is forced to make a choice about what is truly important to him.

In the tenth season of Friends, there are no truly outstanding performances. Instead, this is an example of six people performing the roles they have made iconic. David Schwimmer still infuses Ross with a rage that comes up at awkward times, Matt LeBlanc still plays Joey as completely dippy and Matthew Perry's Chandler is still deeply sarcastic. None of the character traits truly change this season, the actors just have the characters honed to a flawlessly consistent portrayal of them.

On DVD, there are three discs of episodes and one of bonus features. While three episodes have commentary tracks, the fourth disc has featurettes. On the final disc, there is a featurette on the end of the series as well as gag reels. There is also a music video and a final featurette (standard for the last few boxed set DVDs of Friends) on the guest stars from the season.

But for fans, this is a great way to finish the series and it is goes too quickly. This becomes an essential coda to the beloved comedy Friends.

For the final seasons of other comedy television shows, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Fraiser - Season 11
Arrested Development - Season 3


For other television show reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment