Now, I don’t know about you, but Friends is and probably always will be one of my all-time favorite shows. I’m pretty sure it was the first show I ever watched in its entirety (though I didn’t start watching it live until I was a high-schooler during Season Eight), and even though it’s been over 20 years since its pilot first aired it’s still a show I constantly quote and make reference to. It’s a classic in every sense of the word. Sure, it’s getting to the point where early seasons are certainly a little dated (wow the 90s were an odd time for clothes), and as I’m getting older certain aspects of Joey’s character especially is losing a bit of its charm, but it’s like the best kind of comfort food. Whenever I go back and re-watch the series, even its worst seasons (Season Seven) keep me happy and entertained.
Speaking of re-watching, I just finished my re-watch the other day. And even now, almost 11 years later, I still get a little bummed during that last episode. It was time to end it, and they ended it well with all of the friends in transition to bigger and better things, but I wanted more. I’ll always want more. However, since I don’t see that happening any time soon (nor, if I’m being honest, do I really think any kind of reunion movie or what have you would actually be all that satisfying), I’m content to keep returning to what I loved. So for today’s Top Ten Tuesday, we’re going to look back at the ten best episodes of Friends – one episode chosen from each season.
Season One: The One with the Blackout
Season One, for me, is a bit tonally different than the rest of the series. Which makes sense. It’s the earliest season and therefore the most dated, plus it’s the season where everyone’s being introduced. Just about everyone takes a little while to really come into and develop who their character actually is. And it’s the season that’s the most episodic. Many of the episodes can very much stand alone with only minimal knowledge of the main characters, and there are only a few through story lines that we’re following. None of that is bad, per se, just different. The series feels much more cohesive in the following seasons. As it is, there are still certainly some stand out episodes, and this one just edged out The One with George Stephanopoulos as my favorite of the season. Chandler trying to befriend a Victoria’s Secret model as they’re trapped in a bank together, Ross trying to psych himself up to finally ask out Rachel only to be thwarted by a psychotic cat and a sexy Italian, and Joey, Monica, and Phoebe just trying to keep themselves entertained, all make for a season highlight.
Season Two: The One Where Ross Finds Out
I’m sure the more obvious choice would have been The One with the Prom Video: seeing fat Monica and pre-nose job Rachel for the first time, not to mention Rachel and Ross actually getting together, but for me the highlight episode is the one where Rachel and Ross finally put their mutual affection for each other out on the table for the first time – even if they didn’t mean to. Everything about it is excellent from Rachel’s drunken date with Monica’s co-worker to Ross’ dumbfounded reaction to Rachel’s voicemail to their fight in the coffee house and finally to their first, glorious kiss. Okay, maybe the side plots with the other four aren’t the most memorable, but I kind of think that’s okay. A hungover Rachel vaulting over the couch to tackle Ross away from the phone more than makes up for anything lacking.
Season Three: The One Where No One’s Ready
It’s funny, while putting together this post I learned that this episode wasn’t all that well received by critics when it first aired, many caling it forgettable and boring with the actors phoning in their performances. And yet, it’s often cited in best-of lists and always put on highlight reals. Just goes to show how differently people can view the same material. For me, it’s always been a favorite. I love that it’s in real time and a simple bottle episode of just the main cast and just in Rachel and Monica’s apartment. The episode was so true to the nature of real friends, people who know each other well, know exactly how to push each other’s buttons, are easily distracted by what’s going on with each other, with one ring leader in the middle pleading for things to go his way. Not to mention, every bit of it is funny.
Season Four: The One with the Embryos
Similar to Season’s Three fav, most of this episode (with the exception of Phoebe’s storyline) would be considered a bottle episode, just our core cast in the apartment. And while I love Phoebe’s trip to the doctor with Frank Jr. and Alice (seriously, any episode with them is great) and her speech to her embryo petri dish, it’s the Who Knows Who Better game that gets me: Chanandler Bong, Maurice the Space Cowboy, Big Fat Goalie, and no one knowing Chandler’s job. For all intents and purposes, that aspect of the episode really is about nothing in comparison to Phoebe’s pregnancy, and only serves to shake things up a bit with a brief apartment switch. But when you have this group of people getting together to do nothing but be silly and play together, it’s hilarious.
Season Five: The One where Everyone Finds Out
More than simply my favorite of the season, this (and the episode above) is probably one of my favs of the entire series. Every moment is gold. Monica and Chandler have been trying to hide their relationship since they first slept together in London at the end of last season, but that can’t last forever. Joey’s known and attempted to help them hide for sometime, but now the charade is unraveling. Phoebe finds out in spectacular fashion (by watching Monica and Chandler having sex up against their window), but instead of simply letting Monica and Chandler know they’re busted, she, Rachel, and Joey team up to take them down. The battle of will between the two teams rages hilariously as they each try to break the others into admitting what they know, ending with Phoebe’s outrageous dance of seduction and the most awkward kiss between her and Chandler, who finally breaks and admits he loves Monica. And though they try to hold onto that last bit of secrecy, Monica and Chandler just can’t keep away from that window, and Ross ends up seeing them too, ending the episode screaming through the window for his best friend to get off his sister.
Season Six: The One Where Ross Got High
Again, not just a fav of the season, but of the whole series. It’s funny, I usually think of Seasons Six and Seven as being the weakest of the lot, but when I actually went to look through the Season Six episodes, I actually had a hard time choosing. There are actually several excellent Season Six episodes. I will always love the episodes where we learns ridiculous things about our characters, preferably all at once. This episode goes right along with The One with Phoebe’s Husband, The One with the Embryos, and The One with Rachel’s Assistant (and I’m sure others). While the best part is obviously the big reveals where poor Judy get a lot of information in 30 seconds, everything leading up to it is still hilarious: Rachel misunderstand Ross’ attempt to talk to her and turning it into a conversation about how alone he is, Joey attempting to teach everyone how to fake it when it comes to Rachel’s dessert, Phoebe’s infatuation with Jack Geller. Just about all the Thanksgiving episodes were great, but I think this one’s the best.
Season Seven: The One With Monica and Chandler’s Wedding
A little unfair perhaps, seeing as this was such a big event – not to mention two parts – but it was just such a good episode. This wedding was three years in the making, starting with what was supposed to be a drunken one night stand in London, and it was certainly not without its hiccups. Chandler, for one, almost ran off after hearing an answering machine message referring to him and Monica as the Bings. While Ross and Phoebe tracked him down at his office, Rachel hilariously tried to stall Monica who was desperate to start getting ready. The actual ceremony was beautiful, with Chandler’s vows almost topping last season proposal (a very difficult feat) and the episode came with some twists and turns with everyone thinking Monica’s pregnant until we realize at the very last minute that it’s Rachel’s pregnancy test, not Monica’s.
Season Eight: The One with the Videotape
This is the season I came in on. I was a junior in high school and had only seen random early episodes, but this is what I think of when I think of Friends and it’ll probably always be my favorite season. I had a hard time picking a favorite, feeling like the first four were all standouts, not to mention the actual birth episode. But I finally settled on this one. By now we know Rachel’s pregnant, and we know Ross is the father, but now we finally get to see how it all happened. Because Ross accidentally video taped it. I loved the flash back aspect, with some callbacks to Ross’ sweater and Monica and Chandler’s wedding invitations, and everyone else wanting to see the tape. And of course Ross and Rachel’s horrified reaction to watching themselves have sex. And maybe this is weird, but I always appreciated that it was Rachel who came onto Ross. One of the things I always thought they did well with Ross and Rachel’s relationship was to make sure it wasn’t always Ross chasing after Rachel. She wanted him, too.
Season Nine: The One with Phoebe’s Birthday Dinner
This episode always reminded me a bit of The One with Monica’s Thunder in that the group was supposed to be doing one thing to celebrate someone (in this case, Phoebe’s birthday dinner, and in that case, celebrating Monica and Chandler’s engagement) but the rest of the group can’t seem to get over themselves enough to actually do it. And so Phoebe and Joey are trying to fend off waiters at a fancy restaurant who want them to move to a smaller table while Monica and Chandler try to make a baby while in a huge fight and Rachel and Ross accidentally lock newborn daughter Emma in their apartment without them. Ross’ make believe story about what’s happening inside the apartment (baby and eagle caught in a death blaze wrestling match while the apartment floods) is certainly a highlight, but the best part of the episode has to be poor Phoebe’s melt down after everyone’s finally arrived. Nothing can be better than Phoebe screaming at Judy to PICK UP THE SOCK!
Season Ten: The One where the Stripper Cries
Any episode that gives a glimpse into the 80s nightmare that was Rachel, Monica, Ross, and Chandler’s high school and college days, is a gem. Fat Monica, Rachel’s nose, Chandler and Ross’ hair, not to mention the clothes. And, oh God, Rachel’s drunk dancing and answering Chandler’s “how’s it going?” with a sassy “bitchin’.” Seriously, an entire episode of that would have been perfect, but instead we’re also treated to Phoebe’s bachelorette party that started out as an elegant tea party, but really got going when Rachel ordered a stripper from the yellow pages. Instead of the hot hunk they were expecting, Danny DeVito shows up. Unimpressed, Phoebe berates him for his poor show until he cries. And then in a burst of compassion for a sad, over the hill stripper, the girls put on a good face and let him finish his set before he retires. Or, more accurately, ends up in the hospital.
Well those are my favorites. Which episodes does everyone else love?