Netflix is ushering in 2015 by adding NBCs iconic Friends to its stable of streaming television shows. This development is amazing news to those Friends-lovers who had to rely on their DVD collection or (shudder) browse for the show in syndication.
To celebrate this news, we at ADTV recommend the following 10 episodes as most representative of the series. They’re not necessarily the best (it’s a fool’s errand to try and rank them), but they’re the ones we certainly remember the most. Feel free to add your picks in the comments section below!
“The One Where Rachel Finds Out,” Season 1, Episode 24
The Ross/Rachel’s romantic arc ran through the entire series, wrapping up only in the series finale. This episode provided the release that many viewers craved by having Rachel accidentally discover Ross’s undying affection for her. The reveal happens during Rachel’s birthday party where Ross has given her an expensive pin that resembles one owned by her grandmother. Chandler tries to defuse her astonishment by saying, “Come on, Ross? Remember back in college, when he fell in love with Carol and bought her that ridiculously expensive crystal duck?” And so Friends history was made.
“The One With the Prom Video,” Season 2, Episode 14
Friends often dealt in flashbacks, giving Courtney Cox ample opportunity to don her legendary fat suit, but the most emotionally satisfying flashback showed Monica and Rachel preparing for their senior prom. Rachel’s date was a no-show, so Ross (David Schwimmer wearing an afro wig and mustache) puts on a tuxedo and attempts to take Rachel to the prom. Just as he’s set to come down the stairs, Rachel’s date arrives, and it’s not until the group views the videotape years later that Rachel realized what Ross offered to do. This kicked off the official Ross/Rachel relationship. This episode also features an amusing subplot about Joey buying Chandler a gaudy gold bracelet. Through a series of events, they end up with matching bracelets – “bracelet buddies.”
“The One Where No One is Ready,” Season 3, Episode 2
Ross invites everyone to a black-tie function at the museum. When he arrives to take them, no one is ready. Joey and Chandler fight over a chair, and the fight escalates to Joey wearing all of Chandler’s clothes at once while “going commando.” Monica obsesses over a voice mail from her ex-boyfriend Richard (Tom Selleck). Phoebe’s dress is accidentally doused with hummus. Rachel can’t decide what to wear, and, frustrated, Ross yells at her, causing her to wear sweatpants. Taken out of context, the episode highlights the most annoying aspects of the characters. Yet, it’s a testament to their skills as actors to somehow make the events and arguments endearing.
“The One With the Jellyfish,” Season 4, Episode 1
The season four opener has Monica, Joey, and Chandler going to the beach where Monica is stung by a jellyfish. The most common remedy for a jellyfish sting is to have someone urinate on the bite, and Chandler finally agrees to do so. This episode is also crucial in the Ross/Rachel storyline as Ross breaks up with a girlfriend and, before they can get back together, Rachel asks him to read a letter asking Ross to accept that their breakup was his fault. Ross falls asleep while reading the letter but won’t admit it. In a subplot meeting with her mother (Teri Garr), Phoebe describes her life at 18: “Let’s see, my Mom had killed herself, and my Dad had run off, and I was living in a Gremlin with a guy named Cindy who talked to his hand.”
“The One With the Embryos,” Season 4, Episode 12
This episode sets up the cover-up for Lisa Kudrow’s real-life pregnancy with Phoebe opting to become a surrogate mother for her brother Frank Jr. (Giovanni Ribisi), but it’s most famous for the wager between Chandler/Joey and Monica/Rachel on who knows more about whom. The bet ends in a trivia contest, devised by Ross, where Monica and Rachel gloriously lose their apartment by incorrectly guessing Chandler’s job as a “transponster.” As Monica exclaims, “That’s not even a word!
“The One With All the Thanksgivings,” Season 5, Episode 8
Season five proved to be especially great for the series as it offered many episodes widely acclaimed as the series’ best. I’d originally intended to include the Thanksgiving episode where they play the football game, but this flashback-laden clip show proved much funnier. They all assemble for a Thanksgiving meal and reminisce about their personal worst Thanksgivings. The episode gets a lot of mileage out of Chandler’s broken family (“It’s a tradition, like the parade, if the parade decided it was gay, moved out, and abandoned its entire family.”), but the true addition to the classic Friends canon is Joey getting his head stuck in a turkey in an attempt to scare Chandler. This is also the first time Chandler tells Monica he loves her – while she’s wearing a turkey on her head.
“The One Where Everybody Finds Out,” Season 5, Episode 14
There’s a lot of “finding out” on Friends. When Ugly Naked Guy decides to move out, Ross to applies to sublet his apartment. While visiting the apartment, Phoebe sees Monica and Chandler having sex across the way. This sets up a series of hilarious deceptions and mixed signals including Phoebe pretending she’s in love with Chandler (“They don’t know that we know they know we know!”). Things escalate until Monica and Chandler finally admit to all but Ross that they are an item. This episode is widely seen as one of the best of the entire series.
“The One With the Ball,” Season 5, Episode 21
This episode starts off simply: Joey and Ross throw a ball around. They realize they’ve been able to toss the ball without dropping it for a few hours when Monica (of course) joins and makes it a contest. There isn’t a great deal of plotting, but it has what the best Friends episodes feature – seamless, easy chemistry amongst the cast. One of the episode’s subplots involves Rachel buying an expensive hairless cat. Ross famously asks “Why is it inside out?”
“The One With the Holiday Armadillo,” Season 7, Episode 10
This was a decent episode unexpectedly elevated by a Ross storyline. He wants to teach his son, Ben, about his family’s Jewish heritage, more specifically Hanukkah. Events escalate (as they tend to do on Friends) until Ross, dressed in the only costume he could find – an armadillo, and Chandler, dressed as Santa Claus, face off. When recounting the best Friends episodes, it’s a nice thing to do to throw Ross, typically embroiled in annoyingly neurotic plots, a bone once in a while. Here, he actually does a really nice thing and has some great moments with his son.
“The One With the Rumor,” Season 8, Episode 9
While it’s not the best Thanksgiving episode, it’s certainly one of the most high profile thanks to Brad Pitt’s (married to Aniston at the time but mainly promoting his film Spy Game) guest appearance on the show as Will Colbert, a formerly fat high school friend of Ross and Monica’s. Highlights include the “I hate Rachel” club, the titular high school rumor that Rachel was a hermaphrodite, and Joey’s drive to eat an entire 19-pound turkey while wearing maternity pants. The writers did Brad Pitt a solid by giving him the line “Look at her holding those yams. Those are our two worst enemies, Ross – Rachel Green and complex carbohydrates.”