The last new episode of “Friends” aired on May 6, 2004.
If you were born before 1990, you likely wept as each of the Friends left their spare keys on Monica and Chandler’s kitchen counter. (And if you were a true fan, you know that it wasn’t actually Monica and Chandler’s apartment, but that it belonged to Ross and Monica’s aunt. Things are about to get SUPER nerdy from here on out, so bear with me.)
The series defined the ’90s and the early ’00s and, for my money, nothing ever came close to replacing it (yes, “Cheers” and “Seinfeld” were great and definitely the blueprints for “Friends,” but that was not my era), and it was devastating to millions, but probably not to NBC execs who could finally stop paying all six main characters $1 million per episode.
But fortunately, “Friends” still comes on TV for at least 12 hours each day on various basic cable channels, which is great news for people like me who have and will always love “Friends” unabashedly.
In honor of the day 10 years ago when “Friends” drew its last breath, here are the 10 best episodes of the series. (These episodes are not necessarily the most poignant or the best representations of the series, they are simply my favorite episodes from each season.)
Episode 13: “The One With The Boobies” Runner-up: Episode 22, “The One With The Ick-Factor”
Chandler walks in on Rachel in the shower, and a chain reaction of naked pranking ensues. There is also a bit of a darker, more serious facet to this episode as Joey wrestles with whether or not to tell his mom that his dad is cheating on her. Joey’s Very Serious Episodes were never my favorites, but the best episodes of “Friends” involve some sort of hijinks. Rachel opening the shower curtain on Joey’s dad certainly counts. Phoebe’s Debbie Downer of a boyfriend is also one of the best one-episode characters.
Episode 14, “The One With The Prom Video” Runner-up: Episode 19, “The One Where Eddie Won’t Go”
Season one is my least-favorite season and season two is when things really start to pick up. Ross and Rachel finally get together, Joey and Chandler break up, then get back together, and Monica and Richard get together, then break up. It’s a great season full of wonderful episodes, but “The One With The Prom Video” is an iconic episode that sets up the motivations for Monica, Ross and Rachel for the rest of the series. It’s when Ross and Rachel FINALLY get together and when we get to see Ross’ jheri curl. “Friends” did great flashbacks.
Episode three, “The One Where No One’s Ready” Runner-up: Episode nine, “The One with the Football”
The last half of season three is legitimately kind of sad, so my favorite episodes are at the beginning of this season. “The One Where No One’s Ready” is my second-favorite episode of the entire series. The best “Friends” episodes are when they are all in the same room for the entire episode and — I think — this was one of the first episodes to use that trope. It is hilarious and touching because Ross was going to drink the fat. The Thanksgiving episodes were always some of the best, and this one with the Gellar Cup was the first and one of the best.
Episode 12, “The One with the Embryos” Runner-up: Episodes 21-22, “The One With Ross’ Wedding”
Things start to change in season four. Ross and Rachel break up for good and won’t get back together until the very last episode of season 10. Ross gets married, says Rachel’s name and Chandler and Monica start sleeping together, which is the best idea the “Friends” writers ever had. So while the last episode of season four is wonderful, it’s “The One with the Embryos” that is my very favorite episode. Every character (except Phoebe) is in Monica’s apartment for the entire episode, and they play an epic trivia game that many of us have tried to replicate with our friends, or maybe mine are all just losers.
TIE: Episode 14, “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” and episode eight, “The One with All the Thanksgivings”
Season five is collectively the best season of the series, and part of that is because we get to see Monica and Chandler together, but also see them try to hide it from everyone else. As I said before, “Friends” did great flashbacks AND good Thanksgiving episodes, so that one is a twofer.
Episodes 15-16, “The One That Could Have Been” Runner-up: Episode 23, “The One with the Ring”
Another flashback episode that plays with different scenarios had each of the friends gone down different paths. The flashback episodes are always great and what’s even sweeter is that Monica and Chandler still got together even though she was 300+ pounds.
Episode six, “The One with the Nap Partners” Runner-up: Episode two, “The One with Rachel’s Book”
Monica and Chandler’s wedding planning is the driving plot behind this entire season and each of the other main characters have relatively little to do except for be funny. Neither of these episodes particularly matter that much in the grand scheme of the “Friends” world, but seeing Joey and Ross take naps together because they like it and Joey finding Rachel’s erotic novel are two memorable episodes of the series.
Episode four, “The One with the Videotape” Runner-up: Episode nine, “The One with the Rumor”
Like Monica and Chandler’s wedding in season seven, Rachel’s pregnancy takes over the plot of season eight. It is best used in the beginning when she refuses to say who the father is (obviously, it was always Ross). But in “Videotape,” we see that Rachel was totally the one who came onto Ross and this whole thing was her fault. “The Rumor” features Brad Pitt (Aniston’s then-husband) as someone who HATED her in high school. It’s a Thanksgiving episode, and it’s an especially good one. It’s also the TV episode we can credit with the phrase “the meat sweats.”
Episodes 23-24, “The One in Barbados”
Okay, this season is admittedly pretty mediocre. There are still some funny episodes, but it gets heavy when Monica and Chandler can’t conceive. This episode is a series of unfortunate events, and it also wrapped up this season, which made it great by default.
Episodes 22-23, “The Last One”
I can’t convey to you how much I hated that they paired Rachel and Joey together. Bad idea. But it did make for one of this season’s best episodes when Ross gets super drunk off margaritas. It was so stupid, but the writers were running out of juice (clearly, since there were only 1 episodes). Besides some funny episodes here and there, the last season was by far the worst, but that doesn’t mean I love it any less!
“The Last One” — while maybe a few seasons too late — was the perfect way to end the series with Ross and Rachel together, Monica and Chandler with (two!) babies, Phoebe with Mike and Joey with, well, no one. The finale scene was very sad, if mostly because you see tell how sad the actors really were (especially Aniston, whose marriage was breaking up at that point).
Even though the tenth season was nothing special, that final episode that aired exactly 10 years ago was legitimately the end of a TV era and a TV era that defined my generation.