They’ll be there for me: Why “Friends” is my favorite TV series of all time

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Review by Michael O’Hearn, Social Media Editor
mohearn@unca.edu

September 23, 2015

Back in the 1990s, before social media permeated our culture and Google had yet to be invented, television viewers saw some of our generation’s best network shows to date.

From more mature series like Friends and Boy Meets World to all of the classic cartoons like Rocket Power and Hey Arnold, television was at the pinnacle of pop culture. For 10 years, people tuned into the adventures of six friends in New York City.

Chandler and Joey became their new best friends, the on-and-off-again relationship between Ross and Rachel has been documented for the ages, and every time Janice appeared on the screen, a collective, “Oh my God” resounded across the world.

On New Year’s Day this year, Netflix unveiled the entire Friends series to audiences across the globe.

For nine months, I watched this series on Netflix and, like Boy Meets World, the series has inspired me to find my “squad” and stick with them for years to come. Because, whenever they need me, I’ll be there for them.

Here, I examine each of the six friends and tell you what I believe is their best episode.

Starting with Ross and ending with Phoebe, I chose each episode based on its significance or comedic value by focusing on the nature of each character and his or her impact on the series as a whole.

1) Ross Geller – “The One Where Ross is Fine”/”The One With All the Resolutions” (Season 10, Episode 2; Season 5, Episode 11)

I’m cheating, I know, but David Schwimmer as Ross Geller could not have been a more perfect match between actor and character. As the series progressed, he got funnier as Ross due to his string of divorces, and the freedom given to him as an actor to branch out with his character. His “We were on a break!” line goes down in television history as a great running joke. In this episode, the way he plays off seeing Rachel and Joey kissing was hilarious. The party he threw for them and his then-girlfriend was both awkward and gut-busting thanks to him getting plastered from a whole pitcher of margaritas. I’ll never forget the leather pants and the pivoting up the stairwell. Unagi.

2) Joey Tribbiani – “The One With the Late Thanksgiving” (Season 10, Episode 8)

Another season 10 pick goes to Matt LeBlanc, the actor who played Joey for the series. Usually, in a series that runs for 10 years, the actors begin to phone in their performances for a number of reasons. Either the series has overstayed its welcome, the writing begins to fall flat during the later years or something else comes along to deteriorate the show. This is not the case with Friends because LeBlanc solidified the audience’s love for Joey by turning up the charm and comedic relief of his character for the show’s final season. In this episode, not only does Joey manage to tear up Ross’s favorite shirt to make him look like he got mugged, but he also gets his head stuck in the door after four of the friends try to apologize for being late to Monica and Chandler’s Thanksgiving dinner. Joey, thank you for your comedic naivete and meatball-sub-loving humor. You earned those three lasagnas Monica made you before moving out of the apartment.

3) Chandler Bing – “The One With the Proposal” (Season 5, Episode 25)

If I were to make this decision based on Chandler’s sarcastic wit, we would be here all day because it knows no bounds. Instead, I’m going to pick the episode where Chandler shows his affectionate side and makes his proposal speech to Monica in a candlelit room. Putting my feelings that Chandler and Monica were ultimately not right for each other aside, the proposal speech made me well up with tears of happiness. It’s hard for a series to make me cry, but Friends made me do so on more than one occasion. Notwithstanding, Chandler has become my spirit animal, and whenever there’s a moment for a sarcastic comment at hand, I begin to channel his wit. Bing is king in these situations.

4) Monica Geller-Bing – “The One in Barbados” (Season 9, Episode 23)

If I have to be honest here, which I have to be, I will tell you that I found Monica increasingly annoying as the series continued. Please tell me I’m not the only one who became turned off by her character around season seven when her main priority became having babies. From her competitive nature to her OCD, actress Courteney Cox’s character became unlikable and aggravating at times. However, in this episode from the ninth season, she uses her competitive powers for good to defeat her opponent Mike in a game of Ping-Pong. With her frizzy hair and determined attitude, she (and Chandler, who filled in due to her injury in the last set) conquered the table and the island of Barbados with her balls of fury. I would never deny Monica’s cooking, but Chandler went wrong somewhere in marrying her.

5) Rachel Green – “The Last One, Part Two” (Season 10, Episode 18)

Of course, I chose the series finale for Jennifer Aniston’s character Rachel. I was screaming for her to get off the plane throughout the second half of the last episode like Ross, and the series would not have ended without Ross and Rachel finally getting back together for the last time. I also decided, after finishing the series, that I would never again say anything against Aniston like I had prior to watching Friends. I only knew Aniston from her string of romantic comedies, and those usually left me feeling like there was something more to be desired. I changed my mind after watching this series because, like Topanga on Boy Meets World, Rachel Green was America’s sweetheart in the 1990s. I officially take back every “Fa va Napoli” I’ve said about her now.

6) Phoebe Buffay-Hannigan – “The One after the Superbowl” (Season 2, Episode 13)

If Phoebe, portrayed by Lisa Kudrow, hadn’t married Mike, it should have been Joey and Phoebe getting together by series’ end. It would have been fitting for three pairs of friends to marry each other. I digress, as we’re here for another purpose. In my mind, that’s how the series really ends, with Joey and Phoebe getting married. Jean-Claude van Damme guest stars in this episode (by the way, this show has the best cameo appearances), driving a wedge between Monica and Rachel, who they fight over who gets to date him. Phoebe, using a trick she learned from her past, forces Rachel and Monica to their knees in submission and the fight is over. The line she delivers right after her forceful victory was brilliant. Phoebe Buffay-Hannigan is perhaps my favorite of the three female friends, as she is charming in her own unique way and one of the most loyal friends in the group. Although her singing career never quite got off the ground, I’ll always remember the smelly cat.

One thought on “They’ll be there for me: Why “Friends” is my favorite TV series of all time

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