TV on Blu-ray: 'Friends' and 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' debut in high definition
Two sitcom landmarks get the complete treatment debut on Blu-ray
A lot of TV shows box up their extant season long after the faithful have already snapped them up in individual seasons. Here's something that the faithful haven't already picked up, at least not in this format: the respective Blu-ray debuts of "Friends" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show." Not a single season of these two defining network sitcoms have been available on Blu-ray in the past. They debut in complete series collections.
"Friends: The Complete Series" (Warner) presents all 236 episodes of the one with Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer as young singles in New York City, working on careers and looking for love (often with each other). The eventful lives of Chandler and Joey, Monica and Phoebe, and Rachel and Ross (and their tortured on-again, off-again love affair that zig and zag through the ten seasons) turned the bright, snappy sitcom into one of the rare TV shows that became part of the popular culture (Aniston's hairdo launched a veritable fashion trend) and the anchor of NBC's "Must-See TV" block of Thursday comedies. Follow the romantic shuffles, the marriage proposals, the births, the break-ups, the make-ups, and the slow headway through respective careers from the first episode ("The One Where Monica Gets a Roommate") to the last (titled, appropriately, "The Last One"), on 21 discs in a hefty 11 x 7 ½ inch book with two discs per page in paperboard slipsleeves.
New to the Blu-ray edition is an exclusive bonus disc highlighted by a new retrospective documentary. "True Friends" surveys the entire run of the show, from the creation and development of the first season through, in three separate featurettes running over an hour. None of the stars appear (at least outside of the generous array of clips) but the creators, producers, and many of the most familiar guest stars are interviewed.
There's also the original version of the season eight episode "The One Where Rachel Tells Ross" (an airport episode that was reworked in the wake of September 11, 2001), a new gag reel, and cast appearances on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show, plus an illustrated episode guide. That's in addition to all the commentary tracks, featurettes, interviews, gag reels, and other supplements from the previous DVD releases.
"The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series" (Image), winner of 15 Emmy awards, has been hailed as one the greatest sitcoms of all time (if not the greatest), Creator and writer Carl Reiner based the show about New York comedy writer Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke), his genial modern wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) and son Ritchie, and his wisecracking writing partners on the Alan Brady variety show (played by veterans Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie), on his own experiences. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore have an easy rapport and a relationship that bridges the gulf between 1950s patriarchy and 1970s equality. Written with a generosity of character and played with high spirits and a rubbery physicality by Van Dyke that always seems natural, the ensemble produced comic magic and clicked with audiences immediately.
The show ran 158 episodes over five seasons, from 1961 to 1966, and every episode has been remastered in high definition from the original 35mm negatives for this release and offered . They look and sound superb, and include exclusive original supplements, including the half-hour 50th Anniversary Q&A with Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner and Garry Marshall, "TV Academy Tribute to Carl Reiner" featuring Dick Van Dyke, George Clooney, Garry Shandling, Ray Romano, Brad Garrett, Paul Reiser, Rose Marie, Larry Mathews, and others, and appearances by Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore on "The Danny Kaye Show" (all in standard definition).
Carried over from the previous DVD release are the original pilot "Head of the Family" starring Carl Reiner, multiple commentary tracks by creator Carl Reiner, writer Garry Marshall, and actors Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Morey Amsterdam, Rose Marie, Ann Morgan Guilbert, and Bill Idelson, interviews, the cast reunion from the 1992 "Comic Relief" broadcast and from the 2003 TV Land Awards, guest spots by the cast on other shows, and other goodies.