|Friends - The Complete Second Season|
|DVD TV Shows|
|Written by Tara O'Shea|
|Tuesday, 03 September 2002|
The second season of "Friends" features the blossoming of the Rachel (Jennifer Aniston)/Ross (David Schwimmer) romance, Phoebe's (Lisa Kudrow) not-so-gay ice dancing husband and discovery that her father is alive, Joey's (Matt LeBlanc) brief stint as Dr. Drake Ramoray on "Days of Our Lives," Chandler's (Matthew Perry) bout with a freaky roommate, and Monica's (Courtney Cox Arquette) joblessness and passionate affair with sexy Tom Selleck. An hour-long post-Superbowl guest star extravaganza with Julia Roberts, Brooke Shields, Chris Isaak and Jean-Claude Van Damme is a high point, as are guest appearances such as Michael McKean as a slimy mogul, "That Girl’s" Marlo Thomas as Rachel's mother, the first appearance of James Michael Tyler as Central Perk manager (and former soap star) Gunther, and Giovanni Ribisi as Phoebe's half-brother Frank.
The second season features even stronger writing and performances than the first season, and some truly hilarious as well as touching plots, starting with Ross and Rachel finally getting together after roadblocks that include Lauren Tom as Ross' girlfriend Julie, and Rachel's meltdown over a list of pros and cons Ross made to help him choose between two women he loves. As their romance was a main focus of the first season, the second season is in many ways a payoff for fans. Aniston in particular grew in leaps and bounds over the course of the storyline, ably supported by Schwimmer as a more confident Ross. But all six friends are well served with jam-packed storylines that prove the ensemble's appeal was no fluke.
The second season is particularly notable, as it doesn’t just live up to the promise of the first season, but actually improves upon it. The relationship dynamics, while still sitcom-funny, also ring true. Rachel and Ross' fights are cringe-worthy precisely because they are so real. Joey's career ups and downs are typical of every struggling actor in Hollywood, and his and Chandler's "break-up," while played for laughs, also shows how close these characters are and how important they are to one another. Monica's self-esteem issues after being fired from her position as sous-chef at an upscale restaurant, followed by her romantic yet ill-fated affair with an older man, help soften a character whose prissiness could keep audiences from empathizing with her. The ongoing plots are what drew fans to the series and held their attention from week to week.
Like the season one box set, this set discs feature crisp and clean visuals, complete with additional footage. Colors are saturated and warm throughout, with only the restored footage showing some grain. The visual and audio presentation is still a huge cut above the aired episodes, however. The sound mix is on a par with the first box set, with the rears being used mainly for the laugh track and music, and the dialogue is crisp and easy to understand.
The extras are beefed up from the first box set, with production staff providing entertaining and informative commentary on two episodes, "The One With The List" and "The One With the Prom Video." The commentary is particularly enlightening, as Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane discuss the season's overall arc, the gag reel, writing Phoebe's songs, and how the writers balance each of the characters. As these episodes drive the Ross/Rachel arc, they are particularly important to the development of the entire season, and provide a fascinating look for fans into the inner workings of the production staff. However, one hopes that the third season boxed set might also include actor commentaries.
Other extras include the interactive map of Monica and Rachel's apartment, which features production staff commentary on everything from the set design to wardrobe, and is a real treat, although the music used in the menus can begin to grate. Rounding out the extras are video bios of each cast member, with choice clips used for illustration, as well as another extra featuring clips on guest stars. As with the first set, the menus are simple and easy to navigate, and the packaging includes an episode guide including director and writer credits as well as original airdates and brief synopses.
For fans of the show, the box set is a definite must-own.