Almost 20 years after Friends said goodbye to viewers, people all over the world are still hooked on the iconic 90s sitcom. There are now Friends-themed daytime raves, festivals, and replicas of the Central Perk cafe the six titular friends frequented (one by a self-proclaimed Chinese “Gunther”). And despite being the ultimate cheugy symbol, it turns out that excitement over the upcoming Friends cast reunion is one of the few things Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z can agree on—dated jokes and all.
Set in New York City, the sitcom chronicles the day-to-day adventures of six young adults, Ross (David Schwimmer), Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Chandler (Matthew Perry), Monica (Courteney Cox), and Joey (Matt LeBlanc). While the reunion special was first expected to begin filming in early 2020, production was delayed repeatedly amid coronavirus concerns.
Now that Friends: The Reunion is finally set to hit screens through the streaming service HBO Max, online buzz surrounding the long-awaited TV special is at an all-time high. Google searches for the “friends reunion” skyrocketed in May and Twitter is booming with chatter about the #FriendsReunion.
As everyone’s favorite statistical analysis and data reconfiguration employee would say: Could people be any more excited?
Of course, there’s always a bone to pick with any tremendously popular TV show. Some jokes didn’t age well, like the fat Monica trope and the gamut of homophobic references. There are also polarizing fan debates (Were Ross and Rachel really on a break?). Over the years, we’ve seen illuminating hot takes (read: Ross Geller is trash) and some rather unsettling fan theories.
Besides seeing the cast share the screen in a, well, pivotal pop culture moment, generating comparable buzz was the list of guest stars slated to appear. These include: David Beckham, Justin Bieber, BTS, Lady Gaga, and Malala Yousafzai, among others.
Ahead of Friends: The Reunion, set to drop on May 27, e-commerce platform OnBuy collated the IMDb user ratings of every Friends episode on May 14 and sorted them from highest to lowest. From the most rewatchable, to the good-enough-for-background-noise, below are the best and worst-rated Friends episodes.
The highest-rated episode, with an IMDb rating of 9.7 out of 10, is “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” (season 5, episode 14). In this episode, Monica and Chandler’s secret relationship finally comes to light, but not without enduring a slew of antics from Phoebe and Rachel.
This episode is the recipient of gushing acclaim from casual viewers and critics alike, from the characters’ comically evil schemes to hilariously stackable jokes, which all culminate in that unforgettable scene where Phoebe and Chandler almost share a reluctant kiss in the ultimate game of chicken.
“I watch this at least once a year... and [it] remains the most hilarious episode of Friends if not any TV show. Really shows off Jennifer Aniston's superb comedic timing,” reads a comment on IMDb titled “Multiple belly laughs.”
Sharing the same score is “The Last One” (season 10, episode 17 and 18), a two-part finale which marked the end of Friends’ 10-year run in 2004—and the end of an era. The series finale sees the show tying up loose ends as the gang bids sorrowful farewells to one another. The keys on the counter! The chick and duck! Rachel getting off the plane!
“Perfect ending to a perfect show,” reads one IMDb comment. “I believe this final episode was the perfect way to say a final farewell to the characters we have loved since the first time we saw them.”
Other highly-rated episodes include: “The One with the Embryos” (season 4, episode 12) and “The One with the Prom Video” (season 2, episode 14).
Out of all 235 episodes that aired (236 if you count the finale as two parts), the lowest-rated was “The One With The Invitation” (season 4, episode 21). With an IMDb score of 7.2 out of 10, the episode was the series’ first clip show, with the bulk of the runtime consisting of flashbacks to old footage as Ross and Rachel each ruminate on their past relationship—and of course, relive the whole we-were-on-a-break saga.
“Although I recognize the need for the producers to stretch the budget, there's a lazy quality to these episodes, and this one is no exception,” an IMDb user wrote.
Put together by recycling fragments of old episodes, clip shows were a convenient way to allow viewers to revisit memorable bits of the show before the time of DVDs and streaming services. However, they tend to offer little in driving the plot forward.
Naturally, relegated to the bottom of the IMDb ratings list are all clip shows: “The One with the Vows” (season 7, episode 21), “The One with Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E.” (season 6, episode 20), “The One with Christmas in Tulsa” (season 9, episode 10), and “The One with Joey's Interview” (season 8, episode 19).
While not all episodes are equally enjoyed, Friends continues to offer much-needed comfort to viewers in trying times, like Huggsy does to Joey. Amid a nagging pandemic-induced uncertainty, retreating to something familiar to soothe COVID anxieties—be it a comfort food recipe or re-watching Friends for the nth time—is perhaps people’s way of finding a tranquilizing silence.
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