Ever since Netflix finally made the show available in January, I have been marathoning Friends for the very first time. Sure, I had quite a bit of familiarity with the famous moments from the show and have seen an assortment of scattered episodes over the years, but I’d never sat down and watched the entire series from beginning to end. This is obviously quite the undertaking—there are 236 episodes, after all. But the show is so delightful and can always put a smile on my face. It is the perfect example of a low-concept series that just struck gold in terms of casting and chemistry, and the kind of sitcom that networks have been trying to find the successor to for years to varying levels of success.
I wanted to offer my thoughts as a TV connoisseur who is watching this classic for basically the first time by listing my 10 favorite episodes from the first four seasons. This will be divided into two parts, so here are numbers 10-5:
10) “The One With the Birth” (Episode 1×23)
For a show that is often all about the laughs, Friends certainly has its fair share of sincere, heartwarming moments as well. In this episode from the end of season one, Ross’s ex-wife Carol goes into labor, and Ross nearly misses the birth of his son when he ends up locked in a hospital supply closet with Phoebe and Carol’s girlfriend, Susan. Also notable is that this episode featured what I found to be the first hints of Monica and Chandler’s eventual romance: they make a pact to get together and have kids if they haven’t found anyone else by the time they’re 40. Just an overall solid episode that culminates in the life-changing moment of one of the friends becoming a parent for the first time.
Best Quote: Susan: “You get to be the baby’s father. Everyone knows who you are. Who am I? There’s Mother’s Day. There’s Father’s Day. There’s no Lesbian Lover Day.”
Ross: “Every day is Lesbian Lover Day.”
9) “The One After the Superbowl” (Episodes 2×12 and 2×13)
This two-parter originally aired after the Superbowl in 1996 and really brought the guest star power. These episodes have it all: the return of Marcel the monkey, Joey being stalked by a Days of Our Lives fan played by Brooke Shields, Chandler being abandoned wearing only women’s underwear in a bathroom stall by a girl he humiliated in elementary school (played by Julia Roberts), and Monica and Rachel fighting over Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Best Quote: Chandler: “Joey, I’ll give you $50.00 for your underpants.”
Joey: “Can’t help you, I’m not wearing any underwear.”
Chandler: “You’re not wearing any underwear?”
Joey: “Oh, I’m getting heat from the guy in the hot pink thong.”
8) “The One With Chandler in a Box” (Episode 4×08)
Look, I really did not enjoy the episodes where Chandler and Joey were fighting. I found it very upsetting, and also Chandler was a total jerk when he essentially stole Joey’s girlfriend. The season four Thanksgiving episode finally brought their feud to a head, and Chandler willingly spends six hours in a box (the same amount of time Joey spent locked in their entertainment center when they were robbed) to prove his friendship. This episode also features a baby Michael Vartan as Monica’s ex Richard’s son.
Best Quote: Monica: [in response to digs about inviting Richard’s son for Thanksgiving] “Fine, but [pointing at Ross] married a lesbian, [pointing at Rachel] left a guy standing at the altar, [pointing at Phoebe] married a gay ice dancer, [pointing at Joey] threw a girl’s wooden leg in a fire, [pointing at Chandler in the box] lives in a box.”
7) “The One With Ross’s Wedding” (Episodes 4×23 and 4×24)
These episodes are famous for a reason. Aside from Ross making perhaps the most idiotic move of all-time and accidentally saying Rachel’s name in his wedding vows to Emily, we get to see the entire gang (minus Phoebe, who is heavily pregnant with her brother’s triplets at home) frolicking in London. Monica and Chandler definitely do the most frolicking, considering they hook up for the first (and second, and third…) time. It’s crazy to me that this cliffhanger was a season finale, how did people make it through the summer?!
Best Quote: Joey: “Psst, Monica. Alright, we really need to start looking out for Rachel. I’ll cover the front door. You watch that big hole at the back of the building and I got Chandler covering Ross.”
Monica: “Why would I care where Chandler is? You know, sometimes I don’t even like Chandler.”
6) “The One With the Prom Video” (Episode 2×14)
Friends definitely has its fair share of flashback episodes, but this was my favorite one from the early seasons. As the gang watches a video of Monica and Rachel getting ready for their high school prom, it’s revealed that Ross, who already had a hardcore crush on Rachel, was waiting in the wings all ready to be her date when it looked like she was getting stood up. Rachel’s actual date showed up after all, and she never knew that Ross was all dressed up and disappointed on the staircase. Learning this prompts her to forgive Ross after the despicable “list” incident, and she kisses him in front of all their friends.
Best Quote: Phoebe: (About Ross’s chances to date Rachel) “Hang in there, it’s gonna happen.”
Ross: “Okay, now how do you know that?”
Phoebe: “Because she’s your lobster.”
Next week I’ll post my top five favorite episodes! Any guesses? What are your favorite episodes/moments from the early seasons of Friends?