12. The One With All The Resolutions (S5.11)
David Schwimmer never gets the credit he deserves in Friends. Against the other characters, his boring, divorced father is the straight man to everyone else’s comedy flailing. Which is a shame because Schwimmer has some of the best timing and delivery in the whole cast. Something he gets to show off during this episode’s ‘leather pants’ incident. Against a New Year’s background that uses resolutions to exploit everyone’s flaws beautifully, Ross gets trapped in a date’s bathroom, unable to put the the trousers back on. Cue a gentle slide into madness involving talc, moisturizer, and an eventual shamefully bare-legged exit. It’s also, crucially, the episode where Chandler and Monica’s relationship is finally discovered by Rachel.
Best line: Monica (on the phone speaker, as Rachel listens in secret): I can't wait to see you. I'm just going to tell Rachel that I'm doing laundry for a couple hours.
Chandler: Laundry. Huh. Is that my new nickname?
Monica: You know what your nickname is, Mr Big…
11. The One With Ross’ Wedding (S4.23-24)
The most famous Friends episode ever, with cameos from Richard Branson, Jennifer Saunders, the Duchess of York (!) and – best of the lot – Hugh Laurie as Rachel’s straight-talking plane neighbour. This episode bridges everything yet to come from Friends, as Ross messing up his vows makes it clear he and Rach will never be ‘over’, and Chandler and Monica get it on for the first time: A move so popular with the live audience that Perry and Cox had to hold their pose, after Monica lifts the bed covers, for 27 seconds.
Best line: Phoebe: Let’s try some aversion therapy, okay? Look at the picture...[Rachel looks at a picture of Ross. Phoebe pushes the picture away, then slaps Rachel across the temple]
Phoebe: Okay, how do you feel now?
Rachel: Well, I like you less.
10. The One With Joey’s Porsche (S6.05)
Season 6 is rockier than its predecessors, but still throws up the occasional gem – such as this. Joey finds the keys to a Porsche and, when no owner can be found, claims it as his own upon realising its ice-breaking abilities with the ladies. Yet he still can’t let go after being reunited with its owner, and scenes dressing as a Porsche nerd and replacing the car with a giant pile of boxes raise big laughs.
Best line: Rachel: I am so mad, Ross. I don’t think I’ve ever been this angry.
Ross: What about the time I said we were on a break?
9. The One Where Ross Is Fine (S10.02)
Of course, Ross isn’t fine. He’s not fine about the relationship between Joey and Rachel, which reaches its peak when he invites them round to a dinner party with him and Charlie, and ends up getting roaring drunk. So drunk he gets a dish straight out of the oven without using gloves. Meanwhile - in another excellent, cringe-inducing plot - Chandler and Monica visit the house of a couple who adopted their son, to get an idea of what’s involved in the process. Chandler, in his biggest moment of foot-in-mouth ever, accidentally tells the child he’s adopted, which he didn’t know previously. His follow-up line about Santa is priceless. It’s Friends at its ‘oh god did he just say that???’ best.
Best line: Chandler: I'm so sorry, but you should have a sign out there or something. Or at least whisper it to people when they come in the door. ‘Owen doesn't know he's adopted, and he also thinks that Santa is real.’
8. The One With The Cop (S5.16)
Joey and Rachel become a surprise couple at the end of season 9, but their pairing is actually briefly foreshadowed four seasons earlier, in this ep. (At this point Rach is nonplussed by his awkward advances, which are based on a dream about Monica.) Love is in the air for Phoebe too, when she finds an NYPD badge in Central Park and begins using it to accost mild law-breakers – only to flash it at owner Gary, who offers her dinner. Also, one word defines this episode: “Pivot”!
Best line: Ross: Piv-et. Piv-et. Piv-eeeeeeeeeet!"
7. The One With The List (S2.08)
On the surface, The One With the List is a cruel, heartbreaking episode. The boys encourage Ross to make a list of Rachel’s pros and cons to help him decide whether or not to dump Julie and give it a go with his childhood crush. Unlike many Friends episodes, the comedy here is dark and mixed with tragedy, as the list prints just in time for Rachel to read it - a cruel way to deny fans who had been shipping Ross and Rachel for one and a half seasons. It’s smartly done, and the show doesn’t shy away from commenting on how unacceptable the objectification of potential partners is. Meanwhile Monica accepts work for the Mockolate company, resulting in one of the funniest side-plots of any episode.
Best line: Chandler: This must be so hard. Oh, no. Two women love me. They're both gorgeous and sexy. My wallet's too small for my fifties, and my diamond shoes are too tight.
6. The One With The Blackout (S1.07)
A Friends classic, from early in the very first season. There’s a power cut across most of New York, and the Friends find themselves stuck - Chandler is trapped in an ATM booth with Jill Goodacre, the model, and the rest are stranded in Monica’s apartment with a dwindling supply of candles. Chandler gets the more heartwarming story, as Jill warms to his goofy brand of humour after she saves him from choking on a piece of (someone else’s) chewing gum. Meanwhile, Rachel meets Paolo and ends up kissing him when the candles burn out, giving Ross a sickening shock when the power comes back on. Poor guy.
Best line: Ross: Do you know the word, 'crapweasel'?
Ross: That's funny, 'cause you are a huge crapweasel!
5. The One Where Everyone Finds Out (S5.14)
Ingenious use of both Phoebe and Chandler here, as news of the latter’s tryst with Monica begins to circulate among the Friends. Egged on by Rachel and Joey (Phoebe) and Monica (Chandler) – “they don't know that we know they know we know!” – the pair’s game of chicken escalates from mild flirting to the series’ most awkward ever kiss, delivering huge laughs every step of the way. “Oh my God! He wants me to come over, and feel his bicep, and more!” Then, during the credits, Ross finds out too…
Best line: Ross: What are you doing? GET OFF MY SISTER!
4. The One With The Prom Video (S2.14)
This was finally the episode where Ross’ moping, unrequited love for Rachel stopped being a character bullet point and the plot device that went on to define the show. Although the real star of the episode is the High School prom video of the tile. At the time it was a real holy shit moment, using makeup to reveal the cast as teens in the ‘80s: an overweight Monica, Rachel’s original nose and Ross’ Jheri curl. Crucially, though, Rachel gets to see what happened after her and Monica left for the prom: a crushed Ross, appearing in prom gear, ready to take Rachel when it looked like her date wasn’t going to arrive. In the present, Rachel kisses Ross and sets the agenda for the next eight seasons.
Best line: Phoebe: See, he’s her lobster.
3. The One With Ross’ Sandwich (S5.09)
Perhaps it’s cruel to laugh at the mental breakdown of one of the show’s core characters. Perhaps. All we know that it’s also hilarious to see Ross lose it when one of his coworkers accidentally steals his sandwich (it’s actually his boss), and all his pent up anger about his divorce with Rachel / his eviction come spilling out. The ending, where Joey covers for the Monica and Chandler’s secret relationship to avoid inciting Ross’ rage (and to stop everyone else finding out) - painting himself as a sex addict - is brilliant.
Best line: Phoebe: Alright, wait! Just wait. Everybody just calm down. Okay? Let's give our friend Joey a chance to explain why he's such a big pervert!
2. The One Where No-one’s Ready (S3.02)
At their peak Friends’ writers crafted great episodes based only in Monica’s apartment, and this is the best of the bunch. Cleverly, it plays out in real time: Ross has 20 minutes to persuade everyone to get ready for a black-tie work dinner. It lends the ep intensity to balance out the laughs – and there are many, particularly Joey and Chandler’s schoolboy squabble over a chair – with a fan-pleasing pay-off as Ross proves his love to Rachel by attempting to drink Monica’s leftover cooking fat.
Best line: Joey: Look at me, I’m Chandler. Could I be wearing any more clothes? Maybe if I wasn’t going commando…
1. The One With The Embryos (S4.12)
Friends’ best episode is also its most misleadingly titled. While the story of Phoebe’s embryo implantation on behalf of brother Frank delivers both laughs and a feel-good ending, it’s the quiz where the remaining quintet test how well they know each other – with Chandler and Joey ultimately winning Monica’s apartment – which steals the show, and series. “Miss Chanandler Bong!”; “He’s a trans… trans… transpondster!”; “His legs flail about as if independent from his body!”; “I can’t believe we live here!”: With more quotable lines in one half-hour than some series manage in an entire run, season 4, episode 12 marks Friends’ pinnacle. You might even call it the Friennacle. Except, of course, “That’s not even a word!”.
Best line: Ross: What is Chandler Bing’s job? [Silence]
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