It’s generally a given that a joke becomes less funny the more times you hear it. Yet after 20 years of Friends, somehow we’re still laughing. Why? Because not only was it consistently funny, it was also eminently relatable. Friends wasn’t just a sitcom, it was a perfect epitaph to the highs and lows of life in your mid-twenties. It embodied the thirst for professional success we all aspire towards, and observed our ever-changing attitudes towards dating and commitment with sharp wit. It encapsulated our need for close friends, and it did it all with infinite amounts of warmth and good humour.
Even the endlessness of its repeats on Comedy Central has failed to dent our enjoyment of Friends. It is a show that continues to define a generation, and now, 20 years after it all began, it’s time to celebrate its finest moments with a run down of our 10 favourite episodes. The ones that made us laugh the hardest, the ones that resonate with us the most, and the ones that, thanks to the magic of TV scheduling, are always there for us.
The One With All The Poker (S1)
Within friendship there’s always rivalry to be found, and many is the time Friends used this idea to great effect. The One With All The Poker continues to be a textbook example. Playing out as a classic battle of the sexes, the boys find their poker game interrupted by the girls, whose lack of knowledge of the game turns out to be very lucrative. However, having been taught some tricks by Monica’s aunt, a rematch is called, which eventually descends into a contest between Ross and Rachel.
Though it’s an episode full of great gags (Marcel bobbing along to ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ being a personal highlight), it’s during this extended final showdown that the sparks truly fly. As ever, it’s the energy between David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston that gives the scene such heart, with Ross’ decision to surrender his pride and let Rachel win perfectly encapsulating the affection he had for her, and would continue to have for her, throughout the series. JM
The One with the Prom Video (S2)
The episodes of Friends that provide us with flashbacks to the characters’ younger selves are among some of the best. In ‘The One with the Prom Video’ the group sit down to watch the tape Jack and Judy made on Monica’s prom night, we see Monica before she lost weight, and Ross with curly hair and a moustache. This episode is jam-packed with hilarious moments, but the highlight is undoubtedly Rachel finding out that Ross planned to take her to the prom when her date stood her up. CH
The One Where Heckles Dies (S2)
Over its 10 seasons, many great secondary characters came and went in the world of Friends, and though his time on the show was short-lived (excuse the pun), few of them were as memorable as doddery old Mr. Heckles – a consistently hilarious Larry Hankin. Even in death, Heckles succeeded in outwitting our favourite Manhattanites, by leaving the contents of his cluttered apartment to Monica and Rachel. However, it is Chandler who finds himself most affected by Heckles’ death after discovering how similar the two of them were and convincing him that he’ll also end up alone.
Tapping in to the issues of commitment that plague most twenty-something men, the writers find lots of great humour in their exploration of Chandler’s plight, with his “crazy snake man” speech undoubtedly being one of the highlights. However, it’s the final scene that garners the biggest laugh, as Chandler’s courage to ask out a girl is somewhat vanquished by how distracted he is by her substantially sized bonce. JM
The One Where No One’s Ready (S3)
In the words of Jeff from Community: ‘It’s a bottle episode!’ The gang is meant to be attending a fancy work do for Ross, but as obstacles increasingly arise, dresses get stained and underwear gets stolen. It looks less and less likely that our six friends will arrive on time. This episode is funny because it escalates the ridiculousness of these characters to the 9th degree: from Chandler’s obsession with chair etiquette to Monica’s incessant need to record the perfect, ‘breezy’ phone message to her ex, Richard, to Ross’s promise to drink the fat. Standout moment though goes to Joey, dressed head to foot in Chandler’s entire wardrobe, completely unwilling to back down and let his best friend win. These friends love one another, but they also don’t mind winding each other up. AS
The One with the Embryos (S4)
‘The One with the Embryos’ is a classic Friends episode because it combines touching moments with the group’s silliness. Monica and Rachel have to switch apartments with Chandler and Joey after losing their bet, and we learn that Monica has her towels arranged into 11 different categories, that Joey and Chandler have their TV guide delivered to a Miss Chanandler Bong, and that nobody knows what Chandler does for a living. Phoebe has offered to be a surrogate for her brother Frank Jr. and his wife Alice, and we see her soft side when she gives her future nieces and nephew a moving talk while they are still in a Petri dish. CH
The One With All The Thanksgivings (S5)
Chandler’s ‘Flock of Seagulls’ haircut, Rachel’s original nose, Joey’s head stuck in a turkey – this episode has it all. In an attempt to cheer up a depressed Ross, the gang recount their worst ever Thanksgivings, resulting in a series of flashbacks that range from the hilariously awkward (teenage Monica trying to seduce Chandler with a knife and a bag of frozen carrots) to the outright bizarre (Phoebe repeatedly getting her arm blown off in past lives). But the episode culminates in a beautiful moment, and a major relationship milestone, for Chandler and Monica, because nothing says “I love you” like dancing around with a fez-wearing turkey stuck on your head. RD
The One Where Everybody Finds Out (S5)
When Phoebe and Rachel find out about Monica and Chandler’s relationship, Joey thinks that all the lying can finally stop, but the girls decide to have a bit of fun of their own, realising that Monica and Chandler “don’t know that we know they know we know” (give it a second). They decide to see just how far they can push Chandler before he breaks and the fake tryst that follows soon devolves into a brilliant game of one-upmanship, as Phoebe and Chandler each try to out-do one another with sexy dancing and the threat of lotion. RD
The One with the Routine (S6)
This episode is an instant classic; it has Ross and Monica at their most cringe-worthy, self-obsessed and socially oblivious as they perform ‘The Routine’ at a pre-recorded New Year’s Eve dance show. While these two try their utmost to get on TV for New Years, Rachel, Phoebe and Chandler only have Christmas on their minds as they search desperately to find Monica’s hidden presents. Hilariously entertaining, the dance itself is side-splittingly ludicrous. The ‘hidden presents’ storyline is simpler and less strange (who hasn’t secretly gone on a Christmas present hunt?) but no less fun to watch. One question: why did they express the slightest surprise at Monica buying a water purifier as a gift? AS
The One With The Rumor (S8)
He might not be the best guest star to have ever appeared on Friends, but it’s hard to resist the brooding charm of Brad Pitt as Will Colbert, a friend of Ross’ from high school. Instead of making Will a love interest for Rachel, the writers made him absolutely despise her. As tensions over dinner escalate, it’s revealed that Will and Ross were in an ‘I hate Rachel’ club, which Will tries to revive over Monica’s Thanksgiving feast. To this day it’s difficult to hear the word yams without thinking of the line: “Look at her standing there with those yams. My two greatest enemies Ross; Rachel Green and complex carbohydrates.” And let’s not forget Joey wearing Phoebe’s maternity pants and getting the meat sweats whilst consuming that mountain of a turkey. NX
The One Where Ross Is Fine (S10)
Otherwise known as the one where Ross is anything but fine, this episode is David Schwimmer at his best. Ross’ funniest moments come from his more neurotic scenes, and his frantic reaction to walking in on Rachel and Joey kissing is just about as awkward as they come. In his hyper state, Ross invites the not-so-secret couple to a double dinner-date with his girlfriend Charlie – who previously dated Joey. As everyone bar Ross expected, the night is a complete disaster, with Ross making FAJITAS, getting drunk on margaritas, clicking his fingers like a flamenco dancer, and basically making everyone feel really uncomfortable. This is without a doubt the finest Ross episode of the final season. NX
So, which ones do you agree with? And which ones do you think we missed out? Let us know! And be sure to check out Comedy Central on Sat. 20th & Sun. 21st, as they list off the best Friends episodes voted for by the public!