After ten amazing years, Friends concludes one of the most successful sitcom runs of all time as the number-one comedy for the sixth season in a row, as the series finale marks the most-watched entertainment broadcast in nearly six years with an estimate of 65.9 million total viewers watching at least part of the episode and an overall average of 52.5 million viewers. Now I know that there are only ten seasons to list from, but bear with me. The following is a list counting down the not-so-good to the best. Along with each season comes a small bloopers edit for your viewing pleasure.
When it began, Season Nine was going to be the final season of Friends but it soon became apparent that NBC didn’t want to bid a fond farewell to Friends just yet. Season nine followed Rachel through her early days of motherhood, while sorting out her personal life right from the opening episode. One of season nine’s most winning episodes was “The One With the Male Nanny” which featured a hilariously sensitive turn by Freddie Prinze, Jr. Paul Rudd turned up as a last minute blind date for Phoebe and soon became a fixture. Overall a good season, but logistically it failed when it came to the raw punchlines that Friends was so accustomed to nailing.
This was the season where Friends went through maturation. Not just for the characters, but the show itself. Monica and Chandler grow more and more into a serious relationship. Many guest stars made their way onto the Friends set, including Reese Witherspoon, Ralph Lauren, and Bruce Willis. Still the emotional high point was the inspired season finale “The One with the Proposal -Parts One and Two”.
In this season Ross and Rachel broke up in “The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break,” while the show kept things together rather well. Friends was now an established hit-and the best episodes of the third season, including “The One With the Princess Leia Fantasy,” “The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break,” “The One With The Flashback,” and “The One at the Beach,”- show why. This season explored emotional issues and can fairly easily be summed up into five words: we were on a break.
Everybody loves a wedding, right? First and foremost, Season Seven was a long drive to the altar for Monica and Chandler. The season opener found the gang reacting to news of the impending nuptials, with Phoebe pitching to provide the wedding music and Rachel acting out. Throughout the season, wedding bells rang, thanks in large part to the planning of control freak Monica. Assorted wedding issues were hashed out in episodes like “The One With Rachel’s Book,” and “The One With The Engagement Pictures.” But hey, who can blame Monica? Who doesn’t like to plan their own TV wedding?
In the fall of 2003, the time had come for Friends to face its not so long goodbye. And inevitably, the need for some sort of comedic closure shaped an abbreviated season that consisted of only 18 new episodes. As Season Ten unfolded, our gang of six wasn’t exactly breaking up, but rather moving on with their lives in various ways. Monica and Chandler continued on their long and emotional path to parenthood and, yes, a home in the suburbs. Ross and Rachel were busy bringing up Emma and at times reconsidering their long and famously complicated relationship. Phoebe actually got married to her shockingly stable significant other, Mike, and settled down. And finally, of course, Joey was busy, well, being Joey.
In the beginning there was a runaway bride. By the end of the first season, Friends was a runaway smash. In between, the show enjoyed what can only be described as a dream season, both on-screen and off. While bringing to life some of the most classic Friends episodes ever.
It was the best of seasons, it was the worst of seasons. The second coming of Friends saw numerous strong episodes, but also the show’s first reckoning with what shall now be known as The Backlash. Season Two featured the further adventures of Ross and Rachel, the tragic death of Mr Heckles, the shocking revelation of Chandler’s third nipple, the comeback of Tom Selleck as Monica’s older new squeeze, the rise and fall of Joey’s soap opera stud Dr. Drake Ramoray, the lesbian wedding, Phoebe singing “Smelly Cat”, as well as the greatest prom video in the history of Western civilization.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find a season five gag reel.
Early in Season Five, Friends arrived in television’s biggest winning circle with its 100th episode. In television, reaching one hundred episodes means that a show now has enough of a backlog to provide many, many years of profitable syndicated fun. For Friends, “The One Hundredth” episode also marked another significant passage when Phoebe gave birth to the triplets she had been carrying for her half-brother and his wife since Season Four. “Hi, I’m Phoebe Buffay, and I have babies coming out of me,” the multiple mother-to-be offered by way of a hospital introduction.
What can one say about a season of Friends that starts with “The One With the Jellyfish”-in which Chandler pees on Monica to relieve the sting of the title sea creature-and ends with “The One With Ross’s Wedding-Part One and Two” in which it’s famously revealed that the same pair of friends have been under the covers together in the Motherland? Well, you can say this: Season Four is definitely one of the Friends’ greatest ever.
At their best, sitcoms gave people a place to go once a week where they can laugh and forget about their troubles for 22 minutes or so. Perhaps that helps explain why Season Eight of Friends-which began in the wake of the tragic events of September 11th, 2001-turned out to be arguably the show’s finest hour. In Season Eight, Friends seemed infused with a renewed sense of purpose and viewers took note as ratings increased. “I think Friends was like comfort food for people at that time,” says Producer Marta Kauffman. “And I was really honored to be comfort food. We weren’t dealing with the larger issues. We were just doing comedy, and I think people wanted to laugh more than they wanted to see all the images over and over and over again of the Towers coming down. After a time, people really were ready to laugh, needed to laugh again. That was just a special season, a strong season. It’s hard to look at all your children and wonder which one is strongest, but I really did love Season Eight.”
For all the good work in Season Eight, Friends would finally win its first Best Comedy Emmy-a long delayed honor considering the show’s overall quality and massive popularity success.