Sam Rivman ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Writing Staff
This upcoming Monday marks the 20th anniversary of the pilot episode of Friends, perhaps the most innovative and certainly one of the best received sitcoms of the 90’s. Not only was Friends a monumental success, it also paved the way for modern sitcoms, moving away from sitcoms about family quarrels and dysfunction such as Everybody Loves Raymond or Married with Children, and towards more advanced sitcoms with a cast of characters that grow and evolve, such as the wildly popular Big Bang Theory. Not to mention Emerson’s own graduate, Kevin S. Bright, was one of the visionaries who brought Friends to fruition. In honor of the 20th anniversary of what I consider to be one of the most engaging sitcoms of all time, it’s only fitting to compile a list of the top ten Friends episodes of all time.
10. Season 10 Episode 17 – “The One Where Joey Speaks French”
Joey (Matt LeBlanc) needs to learn French to secure an acting gig, and enlists Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) to teach him. Phoebe, however, has no luck teaching Joey whatsoever, as he merely spouts gibberish each time he attempts to speak French. The episode is great because Joey reminds the audience that despite his growth over the past ten seasons, he is still a goofball that everyone appreciates for being a truly lovable idiot.
9. Season 6 Episode 22 – “The One Where Paul’s the Man”
Ross (David Schwimmer) catches Paul (Bruce Willis), the disapproving father of the woman he is dating, awkwardly dancing and posing in front of a mirror. Ross then threatens to tell Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), who Paul is dating, unless Paul leaves he and Elizabeth alone. Just when you expect Paul to turn Ross into a meaty punching bag, Paul actually backs down! This episode makes the list because it finally allowed for Ross to be somewhat respectable as a character. It was such a satisfying feeling to watch Ross pull of something even remotely bad-ass for once. Good job Ross, you finally won one, you chronically unlucky man.
8. Season 5 Episode 19 – “The One Where Ross Can’t Flirt”
After watching Chandler (Matthew Perry) flirt with the pizza girl, Ross tries his not so steady hand at flirting with her himself. Not only does he not woo her, Ross actually accidentally scares her into buying the pizza herself and fleeing from him. The episode was so satisfying because Chandler finally got to be the big man on campus, so to speak. If “Awkward Ross” being awkward isn’t enough to sell you on the episode, Joey’s grandmother also makes an appearance. Joey creates a fake tape of himself appearing on Law and Order just to avoid disappointing Grandma Tribbiani. It was an awesome moment to see Joey’s grandmother excited at Joey’s fake work, because it reinforced that Joey isn’t just a loyal friend, but a family man as well.
7. Season 3 Episode 21 – “The One With A Chick and A Duck”
Joey gets Chandler a baby chick, which he bonds with after spending a day taking care of it. Chandler then adopts a duck after trying to take the chick to a shelter and finding out that the shelter kills the animals if they cannot find a proper home for them. Chandler’s conversations with the chick, whom he affectionately names “Yasmine” after Yasmine Bleeth of Baywatch, are adorable. It turns out all it took to finally warm Chandler’s heart was a few ounces of fluffy friendship. This episode leads to one of the funnier and the absolute cutest running gags in the series, and anyone who says otherwise is more emotionally damaged than Chandler.
6. Season 6 Episode 14 – “The One Where Chandler Can’t Cry”
Speaking of emotional damage, Chandler admits that he never cries. After Joey calls him “dead inside”, Monica (Courteney Cox) tries a myriad of ways to elicit some emotion from poor Chandler, who just wants to go back to making his jokes. Chandler is finally able to cry when he witnesses Ross confess to Rachel that he wants there to be a chance of them getting back together someday.
5. Season 5 Episode 15 – “The One with The Girl Who Hits Joey”
Joey has a new peppy and energetic girlfriend who is quite liberal with her playful punches. Unfortunately for Joey, she is strong enough to keep hurting his arm with her punches. The tough guy of the group, if there even is one, has always been Joey. It was hilarious to watch a girl half his size prove once and for all that it doesn’t take much to out-macho any of the men on Friends.
4. Season 4 Episode 17 – “The One With the Free Porn”
Joey and Chandler accidentally discover a channel with free pornography, which was actually a pretty big deal in the days before the explosion of the internet age. In typical male fashion, they refuse to stop watching the porn for fear of losing it when they turn off the T.V. The episode makes number four on the list because of its originality and ability to keep the running gag of free porn funny and yet not overbearing throughout the entire episode.
3. Season 4 Episode 3 – “The One with the Cuffs”
Chandler begins sleeping with Rachel’s boss, Joanna. They have sex in Joanna’s office, during which she handcuffs him to her desk chair. When she is called away on business for an extremely long time, he has to figure out a way to get Rachel to unlock him. The confrontation between Rachel and Chandler is magnificently written, with a pleasant combination of both verbal and physical comedy. The interaction between Chandler and Rachel in Joanna’s office is perhaps their funniest banter together throughout the entire series, which is why this episode is so high on the list.
2. Season 4 Episode 2 – “The One With The Cat”
Perhaps the funniest event in Friends history in my book, is when Joey stuffs himself inside his entertainment system to prove to a potential buyer that it is possible. The man he is trying to impress promptly locks Joey inside and robs him of literally everything in the apartment. This episode is the pinnacle of Joey’s foolhardiness, and when Chandler comes home to an empty apartment, his anger fuels some grade A comedy. Chandler’s reaction is so priceless that it would be an injustice to type it in words. If you haven’t seen this episode, reading the rest of this piece should be your second biggest priority in life.
1. Season 6 Episode 24/25 – “The One With The Proposal”
The final episode of season six, split into two parts, is easily the greatest episode of Friends. If you say that you didn’t cry when Monica and Chandler propose to each other simultaneously, you’re lying to yourself, and the world. The two episodes were masterfully woven into one cohesive arch that proves the writers of Friends had equal talents for drama as they did for comedy. The plot of the two episodes is riveting and keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat, biting their nails the whole way through. Rooting for Chandler comes easily, as he has always been a source of not only comic relief, but also emotional support for the other characters as well. When it is finally time for Chandler to step into the spotlight and have his own big moment, he jeopardizes the whole thing with the one fatal flaw he has carried throughout the entire series: his insecurity. When Chandler finally overcomes his insecurity and the audience can see that he and Monica will share a happy life together, it becomes evident that Chandler is a changed man, and that he has evolved into a more complex character. These two episodes top the list not only because of the excellent story line, but also because of the emotional roller coaster in which the viewers embark.