The brand new Friends: The Complete Series Blu-ray set boasts more than 20 hours of bonus material, including three hours of never-before-seen features, but it's what's missing from the collection that has some fans disappointed: deleted footage.
The extras were included in previously released DVD versions of Friends, but producers opted to only feature the original broadcast episodes of the show on Blu-ray. "[The Blu-ray set is] more about seeing them again in a new way," co-executive producer/director Kevin S. Bright told TVGuide.com last week.
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In light of the fan reaction, we caught up with Bright again to get the full story behind the exclusion. Plus: What may bring the cast back together?
You said you didn't include deleted scenes because you wanted fans to watch the show they already know and love in a new clarity in Blu-ray. Is that the only reason?
Kevin S. Bright: Yes. I was not lying or withholding information. [Laughs] I know that it's frustrating for fans when DVDs ... come out and some fans are invested in one thing and some fans are invested in others. Our goal each time we put something out is to put something completely new and different on the market that hasn't been released before to try to give the fans something new each time. ... We really have tried to give something original each time in the packaging. It also occurred to us that so many new fans are familiar with the show from the version they've seen in syndication on Nick at Nite or TBS. These versions are substantially shorter than the original episodes to make room for more commercial time. Sometimes the tags are cut altogether. We felt, in looking back at all of our options, that the classic versions of our show that we would like to have put in a time capsule are the ones that should be in this DVD collection.
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How seriously did you consider including the deleted footage?
Bright: We definitely considered it, but once we decided to use the originals, that was that. The deleted footage was, frankly, added specifically for one home video release. If fans are particularly interested in additional footage, those versions are still available. But for this, we wanted something that we, the creators, felt represented the show as we always wanted it to be remembered, which is the original NBC broadcast versions, which have never before been released as that, combined with fantastic new picture and sound, a new documentary and other new features. As we know from doing Friends, we received letters from audiences each week. Not everybody is happy 100 percent of the time. But we really believe that this is the way we want the show preserved.
Do you know how much the deleted footage amounts to?
Bright: It's about three-to-three-and-a-half minutes per 24 episodes. We did not cut the heart out of this release. It is the best version of the show. If we felt that material was essential, we never would've cut it in the first place. And they're mostly a line or two that were cut, not full scenes, so [a reel of lines] doesn't really work. We just packaged the bonuses differently. We haven't taken away anything that we feel was of essence or value to the series.
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Are you surprised that fans are upset?
Bright: No, but I have to take it with a grain of salt. I'm not sure, by sheer numbers, how many are upset. And it always tends to be a little bit unfair because the people who are really happy with what they bought tend to not say so. [Laughs] They just enjoy it. That's true for anything you buy. I understand why some people are disappointed, but we really feel that we've given you new features in this release that are better than what we had before. That was our real goal: presenting what we believe are the classic versions of the show and seeing the show in a better light. As we all know, it's hard to unanimously to please all the fans, but we feel this package will please the vast majority. ... What's disappointing, I think, to me, is the talk is immediately "Look what's not there" instead of "Look at what is there." The amount of money that's invested was huge. Most shows don't do a 35-millimeter print negative to 1080p [high-def] transfer. ... It really is something done that is special. We've gone to great expense to remaster these things in the best possible picture quality. I say, sit back and enjoy.
If fans are looking for deleted footage, there's a whole "lost" episode with a Monica (Courteney Cox) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) story line in "The One Where Rachel Tells Ross."
Bright: [Laughs] Exactly! And that episode, as it was originally meant to air, has never been seen before. It was a rough cut that we issued before. Now it's been remastered the way the other ones were done.
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You guys rewrote their whole plotline because of 9/11. Is that the only instance you had to do a complete rewrite or are there other lost episodes?
Bright: That was the only time, so we're not holding anything else back. [Laughs] We've, of course, had times where we felt during the filming of an episode that a story or joke wasn't working as well as it could, and we'd stay later to do some rewriting and re-filming. That's pretty par for the course for any multi-camera show. But this — the episode was shot, edited, cut, and it's the only time we had to go back, rewrite and reshoot. And that happened for unfortunate reasons.
You also included the original script and the edits for that episode.
Bright: Yeah. We wanted to show fans how that works when you have to go back and re-do a story line and the changes that were made.
Is there anything else you thought about or wanted to put in the set, but didn't?
Bright: No, this was really what we had in mind. As producers, we couldn't be happier with the package the way it is. As most things go, there may be another time in the future where there will be another release. If fans want to tell us now what should be in there the next time around, we'll be happy to include it. We're taking all suggestions now, so comment away! We want to take the good and the bad.
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You know most will be calling for a reunion. Have them do commentary.
Bright: [Laughs] Hey, that, I'm not going to say is impossible. I said there would be no movie, but I didn't say the actors would never get together again. It's hard because everyone is busy, and they're all doing so well, but it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility, especially for something like this in the future. I think since [the show ended in 2004] it's been too recent for a reunion and, like I said, there is absolutely no talk of one now and it would have to be for a good reason.
Like the 20th anniversary of the premiere?
Bright: [Laughs] Or who knows! But if anyone has suggestions, fire away!
What do you want on the next box set? How would you like to see the cast reunite?