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Good season, with some considerations.
on May 5, 2004
I stopped watching Friends after the second season, when I started working in high school and became interested in other things. Thankfully, my spouse's interest in the series resulted in us buying every season on DVD, and I was quite surprised to find a very, very good show.
Season 7, while containing many highlights, ranks least among the Friends seasons currently in release (1-7). Although I recommend it heartily to any fan, I would caution anyone considering this Season to be their first Friends purchase (either start at 1 or 4).
1. For whatever reason (health, addiction, or possibly bad writing), Matthew Perry is not in full form this season. In fact, during the season opener, he appears to have some trouble either physically speaking or remembering his lines (he has no timing in this episode). Luckily, he gets better, and by the third episode, appears to be back in form. However, as a character, it appears the writers decided to focus away from him and eliminate his one-liners (odd, considering the end-of-the-year wedding would seem to put him in the forefront). As is, he is now playing straight man to the other five, when the opposite should be true. Perhaps the writers knew of his personal problems and thought he could not handle that role. My understanding is that this improves in Season 8, so hopefully Chandler really becomes Chandler again.
2. Because the season seems singularly focused on Monica/Chandler's wedding, the writing is more frequently on autopilot in this season. To compensate, there is a deluge of star cameos. Unfortunately, the cameos work about half the time (Jason Alexander, yes; Denise Richards, no). Kathleen Turner plays an important relative to a primary character (I won't spoil it for you)...however, despite designing an entire episode for her (as well as a significant part of the finale), her role is underwritten severely. Considering the nature of her character, they could have used her better (and funnier), and her appearance, while a shrewd choice, is disappointing. As always, Christina Pickles and Elliot Gould do a wonderful job as Ross and Monica's parents; they have probably been the best "recurring cameos" in television history.
3. The finale is poorly conceived. Our knowledge of Chandler would expect him to get cold feet. What do the writers do? Fulfill our expectations and give him cold feet. Wouldn't it have made more sense to have Chandler be perfectly fine with the wedding...yet, write or do something to make all the others THINK he was losing it? As is, this is a ho-hum episode until the final five minutes...when the inevitable occurs (in a well-done fashion) and a key secret is revealed. However, this falls even with Season 3 as probably the worst final episode of friends.
Despite these pitfalls, Season 7 had its moments:
1. The One with the Holiday Armadillo. This is, by far, the best Friends episode ever written (up to the end of Season 7). Its concept is wonderfully conceived (and relevant, considering the growing number of Jewish--non-Jewish parent couples)...and its execution is hilarious...downright hilarious. This is the episode that, when I saw it in syndication, renewed my interest in Friends and caused me to buy the first season on DVD.
2. Matt Le Blanc. Perhaps in order to make up for Matthew Perry's decreased function as a character, Joey became much stronger. Season 7 is Joey's time to shine. His character became both funnier and more complex (watch him in The One with All the Cheesecakes...as he and Phoebe's friendship becomes temporarily strained). This season established Matt Le Blanc as more than a lucky, prettyboy actor with a role that simply matches his personality...Joey became flesh and blood in this season.
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars. Not a good first Friends DVD purchase, but worthwhile for fans and collectors...if you have the first 6, might as well get this one too.