I am resident of the USA, and a huge fan of this series.
Just to get it out of the way, yes, I too am rather disappointed that the extended versions of the episodes are not included in this set. I am hanging onto my extended edition US DVDs for this reason, and this is also the reason why this is only getting 4 stars instead of 5 from me. I'm not going to say too much more about this issue as it's already been well covered in other reviews, and it's not the main reason why I wanted to write this.
As I said, I'm a huge fan of this series, and when I heard it was coming to Blu-Ray, I knew that it was something that I would definitely want to add to my collection.... at least for the right price (since this is a 'double dip' for me and also for the other 'issue' that I discussed above).
In addition to some of the rather high initial preorder pricing, in my opinion, for the US set on other sites (including the US Amazon site), the one thing that really wasn't impressing me was the packaging....
DVD and Blu-Ray packaging is often something of a sticking point with me. Yes, the on-disc content is ultimately what REALLY matters, of course, and for the most part I'll buy any release that I REALLY want regardless of the packaging. That being said, both the look of the packaging as well as the function of it are still pretty big issues for me.
The US set comes in this large book style packaging, with the discs sitting in sleeves within the 'pages' of this book. Visually it is nice on it's own merits, but it is horrible in my opinion for storage. I want something that I can reasonably fit on a shelf next to the rest of my movies and TV season sets.
Then I saw initial images of the UK version of this set. The discs are stored in normal Blu-Ray cases which along with the included booklet are housed in a 'slip box'. And the discs are region free with the exact same on-disc content as the US set. Perfect! And even better (at least at the time that I placed my preorder) the price after currency-conversion was actually cheaper than what the lowest preorder/release price was at any retailer in the US (at least that I saw).
I was still on the fence over it for what may seem like a very silly reason, at least to UK residents who are used to this and probably aren't bothered by it at all. I'm really NOT a fan of the ratings logos that end up all over DVD and Blu-Ray packaging in the UK. I know it's there for legal reasons, but just from a visual/ascetic standpoint, it's very distracting and often conflicts with the cover art. The only other UK import that I own is the limited edition tin set of the Back to the Future Trilogy, which I bought in addition to the US set of the same films (mainly because I'm a HUGE fan of BTTF and we never got a similar tin set released here). Even though on some websites that I frequent people often point out when some releases region-free UK releases are actually cheaper than their US counterpart, I will often wait for a price that I'm willing to pay on the US set simply because I really want to avoid having those logos on the box.
However I was VERY pleasantly surprised to find out that the ratings logos on the box for the Friends set are just stickers on the outer shrink wrap and come off when it is opened! In this instance I was prepared to by the UK set anyway even if the logos would be on the box (since the packaging is still better and much more functional to me than the US set), but this made me VERY happy. Even the logos on the discs, themselves aren't bad as they are the same color as the rest of the disc and don't really stand out much. (On the fore-mentioned BTTF import set, which again is the only other import set that I own, there are all kinds of different colored ratings logos on the discs, making them look like the Blu-Ray Disc equivalent of a car with too many bumper stickers on it).
I wish more UK releases would just put stickers on the shrink wrap for the required ratings logos, and not put them on the actual cases.... but I digress.
I know, I know, some of you are likely reading this either laughing at or raising an eyebrow at the 'crazy guy' going on and on about such a silly issue as packaging and ratings logos, but hey, these things do kind of matter to me. Yeah, I would have ultimately bought the set no matter what at the right price, but the packaging just helped seal the deal in this case.
It's friends in HD, it's in nice, functional packaging, and if you can live with the fact that it's the broadcast episodes and not the extended versions, this is the version of the set to get (whether you live in the US or the UK)!