Now we can finally watch Green Acres Friends the way it was meant to be seen.
Friends: The Complete Series Blu-ray box set hits stores Tuesday for the first time, featuring all 236 episodes completely remastered, with 17 hours of extras from the original DVDs and more than three hours of all-new bonus features. Among the new content: New retrospective documentaries, a never-before-seen gag reel, and the original script and producer's cut of Season 8's "The One Where Rachel Tells Ross," which includes a Monica (Courteney Cox) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) story line that had to be modified in the wake of 9/11. The 21-disc collection is a must-have for any diehard Friends fan who has been there since Ross (David Schwimmer) grabbed a spoon or is just learning what the "Joey special" is now in syndication. "I think we have something that's going to make Friends fans really happy," co-executive producer/director Kevin S. Bright tells TVGuide.com.
Kevin S. Bright: Well, what's unique about this box set ... is that this is the only one that has the original, as-it-aired-on-NBC versions of the show. We tried to get more bang for the buck when we originally put it out on video and DVD and added in [deleted] footage. But these are the episodes as you saw them on NBC because it's more about seeing them again in a new way. The deleted scenes aren't there, but Warner Home Video did a terrific job providing features. The new feature documentary has interviews with myself and [creators/co-executive producers] Marta [Kauffman] and David [Crane] talking about the history of and making of the show that had never really been discussed before on camera. But I think the real attraction is seeing and hearing this show, which we're very familiar with, in a new clarity. Visually, it's stunning. Particularly when I look at the first season — it's just so improved. The picture is so crisp. The skin tone is great, the actors look fantastic. They did a great job. It's like it's airing now, but in much shorter, commercial-free versions. What's been encouraging to me is a whole new audience has found our show. I constantly have the sons and daughters of friends of mine telling me that they discovered Friends on Nick-at-Nite or TBS, and how much they love the show. Now they can see the full-length original versions of the show as they were broadcast.Was it nostalgic delving back into everything?
Bright: I think I felt more pride than anything. One of the things I feel proudest about is that — except for some very old-looking computers and cell phones that are out of date — the show doesn't feel dated. The proudest thing the three of us can hold onto is that it still stands up. It doesn't feel like you're constantly going, "Oh, remember those days?" It's not like watching I Love Lucy. We love Lucy, but it's a show of its time. Friends doesn't feel dated.
Bright: No, I think the things we were more concerned about were not allowing mistakes to get in as a result of the high-def, Blu-ray transfer ... like a camera in the shot or a lighting fixture or a stagehand. ... In the London wedding, during the wedding, which was surrounded by candles, some kind of artifact showed up on the film that made it look like Ross' and Emily's hair were on fire. We had to fix that in post frame-by-frame. I happened to pick that episode as a test episode and we had to go back and fix that. We have no regrets on the creative content, the writing, the directing — no feeling of, "Wow, I wish I had another shot at that." It was more about rediscovering the initial process of getting to this place. In some cases, it was something as simple as not having HD versions of stock footage, so in some places we had to replace stock shots totally. In the documentary, you guys talk about the "vague" ending you were going to give Ross and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston). How seriously did you consider that?
Bright: There were no other endings, let's be honest. There was only one ending. [Laughs] Honestly, the different ending was just a shortened version of the same script in which [the studio audience] didn't see the actual end. We really wanted to keep the surprise, so we did a bunch of misleads, but there was never any other real consideration of how things were going to go.What's your favorite moment or episode?
Bright: The moment where Ross says "Rachel" while he's marrying Emily (Helen Baxendale) — "I, Ross, take thee, Rachel" — still sends chills up my spine. The way the audience reacted there and the whole reaction that the episode got — it was a mixture of horror for Ross, but at the same time, you're jumping for joy because it's those two people you want together. Emily's nice and fine, but we don't really care about her! [Laughs] We care about Ross and Rachel. And the look on Jennifer's face as that episode fades out is still really great. I also liked the season with Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Rachel — that really stood out to me. Matt is so fantastic. He continues to be fantastic on Episodes today. That was a very difficult arc for him to play. Even though they weren't seeing each other anymore, when you go out with your best friend's ex-girlfriend, it's really a tough place for a guy to be. I think he made that identifiable and gave it some honor. It could've been very sleazy in the hands of another actor.A lot of fans didn't like it and saw it as another roadblock for Ross and Rachel.
Bright: Yeah, but the challenge for us year-to-year is "how do we keep the show fresh?" While the Ross and Rachel story still had legs, we felt we had to go at it at a different way. By bringing Joey into it and making it a triangle between three people we really care about and didn't want to see get hurt, I think it reinvigorated the show. We saw it as just another small step for Ross-kind. [Laughs]I love how deliberately different Monica and Chandler's relationship was from Ross and Rachel's. How important was it to make it more grounded, fun and drama-free?
Bright: The aspect of Monica and Chandler's relationship that I liked the best is when they were keeping it a secret. A lot of really funny stuff happened and when the secret unfolded, the tension off of that relationship was gone. The audience certainly rooted for them and we realized we got to do something with them that we never really did with Ross and Rachel, which is explore them being a couple and growing as a couple together and having children and dealing with something very identifiable across the country: two people having trouble getting pregnant. I think that resulted in some really good writing and some contemporary stories.Lisa Kudrow) and Joey together?
Bright: [Laughs] I hate to break it to them, but that wasn't going to happen. We kind of intimated some flirtation, but I think because both of them played a similar role in being the go-to person that sort of supports the other two friends, seeing them together felt too easy and too expected. And Mike (Paul Rudd) was awesome.
Bright: Yes! Mike was awesome. That's one of the rare times where you bring a guest star on and they bring something to it that you would've thought only a regular cast member could bring. Paul fit in so well with the six of them, and look at his career since. I'm sure if he wanted to, he could have his own TV show right now.Were there any story lines or episodes that never came to fruition for one reason or another?
Bright: The one that never got made was a Disney World episode. Joey gets a summer job at Disney World as one of the lightbulb people in the electrical parade. Basically, he meets the girl who plays Cinderella and has an affair with her, but doesn't ever get her real name. She has to leave suddenly because she has to get the costume back by midnight or they're going to fire her, and all she leaves behind is her bra. The idea was the bra was going to be the glass slipper. [Laughs] Unfortunately, it wasn't a story Disney World was looking to get shot on location. It was a little too racy for them, but it would've been fun to take the friends to Disney World.London's better than Disney World.
Bright: Yeah, and when many sitcoms shoot on location, they [are] very different from their regular show because they shot it on location and there was no audience. We were fortunate to go to a place like London where they have studios and we can build a set, so we shot the majority of the show in front of a very large audience and did three shows there. We did have some exteriors with Joey and the map and outside the church. But I think the sets are why those episodes came out so good. How often do you get asked about a reunion?
Bright: Definitely not as often as the actors. But there is absolutely, 100 percent no talk about a reunion. Maybe they'll find a reason one day, and obviously the reason can't be about money and things like that. Other than that, I don't think there is a reason to do it. There will be no Friends movie. It was made to be an intimate show in your living room. It wasn't a broader show like many of the comedies today that are shot single-camera. It's wonderful the way it is, but it's even better on Blu-ray! [Laughs]
Bright: [Laughs] I'm hoping that Ross and Rachel, and Monica and Chandler, and Phoebe and Mike are still married and living happily ever after. I imagine that after they had the surrogate twins, Monica did get pregnant after all and they had a third child, so they have a wonderful family. Chandler now owns his own number-crunching business.His own WENUS company? He left advertising?
Bright: Exactly. He realized he wanted to go back, so he formed his own WENUS organization. They're living very nicely in Westchester. I think Ross and Rachel — I don't know. [Laughs] I've never imagined any of them before! They also had another child. Joey is a star. He finally got his big break.He found his Shutter Speed?
Bright: Yes, and it was a huge blockbuster. And Phoebe opened a chain of holistic spas across the country using her unique massage techniques she developed over the years. She's spreading the joy.The TV landscape is so different now, but do you think we'll see a cultural phenomenon like Friends ever again?
Bright: It seems more and more that the idea of a show lasting for 10 years on television is going to be a very rare thing. I think the attention span of the audience has gotten shorter. I think five years is going to be the max for most shows now. Part of the reason that Friends is so embedded in our culture is because it was part of our culture for a full decade. When something's part of you for 10 years, it doesn't go away that quickly. We have a lot of terrific shows on television and they end after somewhere between three-to-five years or have shorter seasons. They're not so ingrained in the fabric of who we are. And just economically, the structure of television now and the competition with more channels and the Web, it's just going to be harder and harder to see another show like Friends. But I hope we do.