Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None
THE one that everyone thought would be the last series, actually turns out to be one of the best. Season 9 picks off after Rachel has had her baby and Joey has accidentally proposed.
And episode two of the series is an absolute corker, as the misunderstandings get resolved and Joey and Ross confront each other in Central Perk, resulting in the hilarious scenario in which Ross attempts to hit Joey, hits a post, breaks his hand and is then given a black eye for his troubles.
The first half of season nine, though, is packed full of great moments, as well as more guest appearances than ever before. Appearing this time around are the likes of Paul Rudd (as Phoebe's piano-playing boyfriend), Christina Applegate (as one of Rachel's spoilt sisters), Dermot Mulroney (as Rachel's replacement at work), Selma Blair (adding a little zip to the traditional flashback episode), and Freddie Prinze Jr, as an overly sensitive nanny (in the 200th episode).
Yet, as ever, the guests seldom outshine the central characters, merely serving to heighten the enjoyment of several episodes and helping to keep things fresh. And this seems to be coming more important, as the newfound maturity of many of the characters (Monica and Chandler, in particular), has resulted in fewer possibilities for the writers to exploit.
In fact, with Monica and Chandler now happily married (and only having Chandler's move to Tulsa to contend with), and Ross and Rachel minding the baby in just about every scene they're in together, it's left to the ever-reliable Joey and the still-offbeat Phoebe to hold centre stage.
Phoebe's relationship with Judd is particularly well-played, but it is Joey who hogs the limelight, continually placing himself in one absurd dating situation after another, and coming out with all manner of vocal gems. This time around, we have him stuck for remembering if he's already slept with a girl and unwittingly thinking that Monica is having an affair.
The ninth series is unlikely to bring any new fans to the franchise, but remains compulsive viewing for anyone who has hung out with New York's finest from the start. It is a measure of the quality of the writing that Friday night's on Channel Four remain one of the only times in the week that the video button must be set to record.
And the good news is that they'll still be there for us with a tenth season and possible movie.