Barry Quinn lists his top 10 episodes from Friends. Happy 20th birthday Friends.
The pilot of Friends first aired twenty years ago in America on September 22 1994, so this week’s Binge TV takes a look at the legacy of Friends. To celebrate we bring you some gems from this hit show. Some of them are classics, and some of them you may have been forgotten somewhat, but all of them deserve to be celebrated.
The blackout in New York brings the friends together at Monica’s apartment, during which Ross attempts (again) to woo Rachel. It’s going his way before… a cat attacks him. This cat leads to Rachel meeting and falling for Paolo, who becomes another obstacle keeping Ross and Rachel apart.
But the best part of this episode belongs to Chandler. He’s trapped in an ATM vestibule (‘Is it a vestibule? Maybe it’s an atrium.’) Here he exhibits his trademark awkwardness around the opposite sex when he finds himself trapped with Jill Goodacre, a model for Victoria’s Secret. Trying to impress her he chews used gum and nearly chokes to death, and when they finally strike up a conversation the lights come back on and Jill scarpers.
The Paolo subplot grates instantly, but Phoebe is as brilliant as usual. Unfortunately for her, though, she was the last one to find out about Chandler being bitten by a peacock at the zoo. Poor Pheebs.
Its Rachel’s birthday and her parents hate one another. So what’s the solution? Throw two parties, naturally.
One sees Chandler and Joey throwing a drunken bash, filled to the brim with attractive ladies. The other sees a sausage-fest at Monica’s, who bores her guests to death with parlour games. We know which one we’d prefer to go to!
The ensuring chaos sees Ross attempting to socialise with Rachel’s unforgiving father, Rachel’s mother thinking that Rachel has only fallen for Ross because he is seemingly like her father, and Phoebe helping some of Monica’s guests escape.
This time round Phoebe is the star. Her helping Gunther escape by distracting Monica with a fake coffee stain is laugh-out-loud funny and something genuinely memorable. Her kookiness in the first few seasons is a thrill to watch, although unfortunately come season four it is forgotten somewhat.
This episode sees Monica as overbearing, obsessive, and nagging. But then again, doesn’t every episode?
This time round Monica and Ross’ Aunt Sylvia dies and she leaves Monica a fabulous dollhouse in her will. Monica being Monica refuses to let Phoebe play and becomes genuinely excited when she realises one of the rooms has laminate flooring. How… thrilling?
To counter Monica, Phoebe constructs her own dollhouse – one with a liquorice room and a slide. Unfortunately for Phoebe, the house burns and the foster puppets don’t make it.
The subplots see Joey mooning over his co-star Kate (who becomes the first woman to not want Joey in return) and Chandler going on a date with Rachel’s boss Joanna. Alison La Placa’s Joanna is brilliant here, belittling Sophie and telling her to ‘please climb out of my butt’. Joanna only starred in a handful of episodes, but became an extremely memorable character.
Chandler does the one thing you should never do – he makes a move on his best friend’s woman. And how does Joey suggest he makes amends? By sitting all day in a box, of course.
This episode is all about love, and we see Monica falling for her ex Richard’s son. In doing so she gives a brilliant assessment of her friends’ love lives: Ross ‘married a lesbian’; Rachel ‘left a man at the altar’; Phoebe ‘fell in love with a gay ice dancer’; Joey ‘threw a girl’s wooden leg in the fire’; and Chandler ‘lives in a box’. This group of people are all as messed up as one another, but we love them nevertheless.
We also see Gunther confess he always thought Joey was Chandler, the iconic line ‘the meaning of the box is threefold’, and Joey relenting and giving Chandler his permission to date Kathy. Like most romances on Friends, Chandler’s with Kathy is doomed, but it allowed Chandler to show his commitment to his friendship with Joey. And who can forget Chandler’s finger aimlessly wavering out of the hole in the box whilst the friends eat Thanksgiving dinner? Pure comedy gold.
It’s Thanksgiving again, so naturally we need some flashbacks.
This episode details everybody’s worst Thanksgivings, and in it we see Chandler’s parents tell him they’re divorcing, Joey get a turkey stuck on his head, Chandler insult fat Monica, and a thinner Monica severing Chandler’s little toe.
Fat Monica is one of the best aspects of Friends as a whole, as it always produces ample gags. Who can forget the iconic shot of Joey wearing the Thanksgiving turkey whilst emotionally declaring ‘It’s Joey!’ when Monica comes in startled. This episode shows the viewers that Monica has always cared what Chandler thought of her and makes us fall for them as a couple even more.
And the standout line of the episode? Phoebe declaring, ‘Of course – you have your head stuck up a dead turkey’s ass,’ when Joey complains about the smell. Only in Friends would you find such a quote.
Perhaps the most cringe-worthy episode in Friends’ entire run, ‘The One with the Routine’ sees Ross and Monica dancing manically in order to impress the selection guy at Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Eve.
Their dance is a sight gag that only Friends can pull off, and because of it this episode goes down as one of the most iconic of the show. ‘Ross, we better stick to the routine,’ Monica says part way through the episode. ‘We don’t want to look stupid.’ Genuinely hilarious.
The bromance between Joey and Ross recurred throughout Friends’ entire run. We saw them laugh, hug, and even kiss when Joey needed help with a play he was auditioning for. And this episode sees them sleeping together (no, not like that).
‘Come on, admit it – that was the best nap you ever had,’ Joey says to Ross, before spending the rest of the episode trying to persuade him to nap with him once more. Ross later relents, and naturally the rest of the gang walks in on them. Again, this is another brilliant sight gag, which more than makes up for the lacklustre plot about Chandler once dumping an overweight girl.
‘You were the hermaphrodite cheerleader from Long Island?’ Chandler asks Rachel towards the close of another hilarious episode.
‘The One with the Rumour’ sees guest star Brad Pitt spend the entire episode hating on Rachel. It’s an episode littered with gags, and genuinely one of the funniest episodes of the entire run.
‘Look at her holding those yams,’ Will says to Ross. ‘Those are two of our worst enemies, Ross – Rachel Green and complex carbohydrates.’
It appears as though Rachel, like Chandler, was once mean to a former fat person. Brad Pitt’s Will was fat during high school and Rachel constantly belittled him. So to enact revenge, he and Ross started a rumour that Rachel was born with both male and female reproductive organs.
Some of the highlights come from Monica declaring she was Will’s ‘thin friend’, Rachel reading her yearbook in which someone wrote ‘sorry about your teeny weeny’, and the revelation that Ross, as a 16-year old, once made out with a 50-year old librarian. The newspapers would have a field day with that one nowadays
Phoebe mugged Ross when she lived on the streets, and stole a self-made comic book from him. The Adventures of Science Boy would surely have been a hit, right? Marvel would have snapped that up for a big screen outing, surely. This is another example of how long these characters have been in each other’s lives, even if it was unbeknown to them at the time.
We are also treated to Joey’s desperation to succeed as an actor, as he desperately tries to fight the urge to pee – which results in him urinating on Jeff Goldblum – and Chandler getting a new job as an unpaid intern writing advertisements. Not much happens here for Rachel and Monica, admittedly, but do you really need them when we are treated to Phoebe’s ‘crap from the street’ box?
Friends‘ final season was admittedly the poorest of the lot. It appears as though the gags were running thin at this point. That said, ‘The One where Joey Speaks French’ is an hilarious tale in which we see Joey’s lame attempt at French, Monica and Chandler discovering the father of their baby may have killed his own father with a shovel, and a teaser for Ross and Rachel ultimately ending up together.
The scenes of Joey speaking French are amongst the best of the series and make for tear-inducing viewing. Whilst probably considered slightly xenophobic nowadays, this was purely a case of harmless fun. ‘Che ble blah. Me la pee! Oublah! Poo,’ indeed Joey.