Nearly 30 years after its premiere and 20 after it ended, Friends remains among the most beloved and celebrated sitcoms ever. The show, starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt Le Blanc, David Schwimmer, and the late Matthew Perry, followed the romantic and professional lives of six twentysomething friends in New York City. The show was a ratings and critical juggernaut, attracting high viewership and receiving the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2002.
- 10. The One with the Apothecary Table – Season 6, Episode 11
- 9. The One with Monica’s Boots – Season 8, Episode 10
- 8. The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS – Season 5, Episode 4
- 7. The One with the Pediatrician – Season 9, Episode 3
- 6. The One with the Princess Leia Fantasy – Season 3, Episode 1
- 5. The One with Mrs. Bing – Season 1, Episode 11
- 4. The One with the Fake Party – Season 4, Episode 16
- 3. The One Where Rosita Dies – Season 7, Episode 13
- 2. The One with Phoebe’s Husband – Season 2, Episode 4
- 1. The One with All the Cheesecakes – Season 7, Episode 11
Although its reputation remains unmatched, not every episode of Friends is as popular; after all, with 236 episodes, it’s logical that some might get lost in the process. These episodes are among the show’s most underrated. Whether because of their safe plots, lack of memorable jokes, or proximity to flashier, more iconic episodes, these chapters are underappreciated by fans. However, they are no less worthy of praise, as they are still solid entries in the show’s canon.
Rachel begins decorating her and Phoebe’s apartment with stuff from Pottery Barn despite knowing her roommate dislikes mass-produced furniture; thus, she lies, saying she bought everything from a flea market. Elsewhere, Joey’s new relationship with Janine is threatened when she reveals she can’t stand Monica and Chandler.
The One with the Apothecary Table excellently uses its cast to the best effect, allowing everyone a chance to shine. The witty screenplay, as always, is elevated by the cast, who by then had mastered the now-iconic chemistry everyone comes to Friends for. Both storylines are balanced and equally funny, although Phoebe’s reaction to learning the truth is quite great, as is Monica and Janine’s last interaction.
Monica buys a very expensive pair of boots under the promise that she’ll use them for every occasion; however, her splurge turns into torture when the boots turn out to be painful to wear, to the point where “the insides are filled with [her] blood.” Meanwhile, Phoebe learns Ross goes to school with Sting’s son, and she pulls out all the stops to secure tickets to his upcoming concert.
Phoebe Buffay is the best character in Friends by a considerable margin, and The One with Monica’s Boots is yet another chance for her comedic genius to shine. From screaming “Ross can” instead of “Roxanne” to her hilarious interactions with guest star Trudie Styler, Phoebe owns this episode. However, equal praise must go to the ever-underrated Courteney Cox, whose physical comedy doesn’t get half the praise it deserves. This episode is a showcase of her abilities, and she makes the most out of every scene she has.
Following the show’s 100th episode is no easy task, but The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS does an admirable job. The plot sees Phoebe trying to prove Joey wrong after he claims there’s no selfless good deed. Monica and Chandler bicker when he gloats about his sexual prowess, and Ross’ troubled relationship with Emily reaches a turning point.
Poor Emily is Friends‘ most disliked character, and this episode is among her worst moments. Monica and Chandler’s story is cute and another step forward in their romance, but it’s once again Phoebe who owns the episode as she desperately tries to find a selfless good deed to no avail. The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS often gets overshadowed by its iconic predecessor, but it deserves more attention from fans as a worthy and entertaining chapter.
Season 9 starts with newborn Emma wreaking havoc for Ross and an overprotective Rachel. The two start searching for a pediatrician, only to discover Ross still sees the same doctor who treated him as a child. Elsewhere, Phoebe and Joey agree to set each other up on blind dates, but Joey forgets about it and ends up hooking her up with a stranger. Also, Chandler agrees to move to Tulsa and struggles to tell Monica.
The One with the Pediatrician is quite an important episode that often gets forgotten. It introduces Paul Rudd’s Mike, who will eventually become Phoebe’s husband, and starts the whole Chandler-in-Tulsa storyline that would define the first half of the season. Thus, it’s strange that so many fans discard it; however, considering Rudd was such a natural on the show, perhaps it seems like he was always there.
The One with the Princess Leia Fantasy features Ross revealing to Rachel that one of his sexual fantasies features Star Wars’ Princess Leia in her golden bikini. When she tells Phoebe about it, Ross becomes embarrassed. Elsewhere, Monica is devastated following her break-up with Richard, prompting her friends to try and cheer her up.
Princess Leia is the best female character in Star Wars and a pretty universal male fantasy. However, Friends finds a way to keep the storyline interesting by featuring a twist ending that ranks among the show’s most hilariously discomforting moments. The One with the Princess Leia Fantasy might not be anyone’s favorite Friends episode, but it should be — the show didn’t often toy with cringe humor, making this episode even more special.
Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Morgan Fairchild makes the first of five guest appearances in Friends as Chandler’s wealthy, erotic novel-writing mother, Nora. Her short stay is complicated when she kisses Ross, leading to a misunderstanding with her son. Meanwhile, Monica and Phoebe get their own While You Were Sleeping plot after they fall for a guy in a coma.
Fairchild is a delicious presence on Friends, injecting some sexual tension into the often sexless show and bringing some much-needed drama. The actress chews scenery as Nora, dominating the episode from beginning to end. Her future appearances might be more notable — she returns for the memorable “More turkey, Mr. Chandler?” scene and later for Chandler’s wedding to Monica — but her debut remains her strongest moment on the show.
Rachel’s attempts to get together with Joshua reach desperate levels when she organizes a fake “Going Away” party for Emily, who is going back to London. Phoebe’s pregnancy makes her crave meat, so Joey agrees to stop eating meat so she can start eating meat without killing as many cows.
The One with the Fake Party is a showcase for Aniston. As Rachel’s desperation increases, she does everything she can to get Joshua’s attention, including wearing her high school cheerleading uniform and performing a terrible cheer for Emily. It’s a triumph of cringe comedy and one of Aniston’s finest moments that goes unfairly ignored by most fans. Meanwhile, Joey’s sacrifice for Phoebe is endearing and further proof that they have the best relationship on Friends.
Rachel accidentally breaks Joey’s Barcalounger recliner, so she buys him a new one. However, when Chandler mistakenly believes he is the culprit, he switches the broken chair for his own, leading to a mix-up. Monica and Ross travel to their childhood home, only to discover their parents used her boxes filled with childhood keepsakes to protect their car from flooding. Lastly, Phoebe begins working at a call center, but her day takes a turn when her first caller is a man contemplating self-harm.
The One Where Rosita Dies is the rare episode where everyone gets equal parts to shine. Few episodes juggle the cast as effectively as this one, with everyone getting their moment in the sun, making it even more tragic that it often flies under fans’ radar. From Phoebe’s race to get to the depressed Earl — played by the brilliant Jason Alexander — to Monica and Ross’ trip down memory lane, to Joey and Rachel’s chair madness, The One Where Rosita Dies is Friends at its best.
The group is surprised to learn Phoebe is married to a hay Canadian ice skater, whom she helped secure a green card. A jealous Rachel gives terrible advice to Ross regarding his relationship with Julie, while the group gathers to see Joey’s short, nonsexual role in a low-budget porno movie.
Most early season 2 episodes — otherwise known as the Julie saga — get overshadowed by the second half of the season, where Ross and Rachel finally get together. However, The One with Phoebe’s Husband is among the season’s best episodes. Phoebe’s storyline is particularly strong, thanks to Kudrow’s chemistry with guest star Steve Zahn. The scene in which Duncan “comes out” as straight to Phoebe is particularly funny, a twist on the traditional coming-out scenes that were so prevalent in ’90s television.
The One with All the Cheesecakes features three equally important storylines. The titular plot sees Rachel and Chandler eating and fighting over several cheesecakes accidentally delivered to his apartment. The second features Ross taking Monica to a relative’s wedding despite her not receiving an invitation. Lastly, Joey and Phoebe’s plans get interrupted when her longtime love, David, returns from Minsk for a one-night stay in New York.
It’s not an overstatement to call The One with All the Cheesecakes one of the all-time Friends episodes. Everything is stellar, from the writing to the jokes to the cast’s performances. However, it doesn’t rank anywhere near the series’ most celebrated outings, being overshadowed by showier efforts like The One with the Prom Video or The One with the Embryos. However, The One with All the Cheesecakes is what every great episode of Friends should be, mixing heart with hysterical humor supported by its brilliant cast at the top of their games.
You stream all 10 seasons of Friends on Max.
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