We’re on the verge of wrapping up re-watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S. When I initially watched the show in my late-teens, most of the show’s appeal lied in the hilarious scenarios (Joey’s a better actor when he drinks a lot of liquids), Chandler’s sarcasm and the randy jokes. Now that I’m at an age closer to the characters in the show, I asked myself whether I can still watch it having been accustomed to slightly more mature, no studio audience or laugh-track based comedy shows. The answer to that question was a resounding Hell Yes. This is where I’m going to list my top 3 Friends episode based on a selective criterion grounded in on an episode’s re-watchability, story arcs (i.e. all the arcs in the episode need to be equally good) and obviously the funny quotient.
3. The One With the Girl From Poughkeepsie
This episode is slightly different in that it has three tangents i.e. Monica + Joey paired together as colleagues in a restaurant setting, Ross trying to decide which girl to date based on their proximity and Chandler trying to set up Rachel. Monica’s vulnerability & wanting to be liked, Chandler miscommunicating Rachel’s intentions and Phoebe’s singing all make for a compelling episode. However, the arc that makes this episode stand out is Ross’s story-line — which is reminiscent of the Hangover movies. The initial Hangover movie worked not because of the quick, witty one-liners but because of the hilariousness of that one drunken night. In a similar vein, Ross’s story-line doesn’t work because of the dialogues but because of the lengths he’ll go to meet women. All three story lines have decent screen-time and end up being equally rib-tickling.
2. The One with the Memorial Service
There’ might be recency bias at play here, but this episode cracks me up. Ross and Chandler going back-and-forth writing ridiculous things on their college alumni website eventually leading Ross to organize a memorial service to see which of his high-school friends will show up is down-right hilarious. The other plot-line between Joey and Rachel concerning Hugsy is tight and equally hilarious. The episode was good because it banked upon previous story-lines (Chandler acting feminine and gay, Joey’ fascination with Hugsy) while still exploring new scenarios.
1. The One with the Embryos
This wasn’t an easy-pick. There are two-story arcs i.e. one where Phoebe is trying to get impregnated and the other that involves a quiz between the rest of the group moderated by Ross. Phoebe’s arc in the episode works because of its sheer ludicrousness. I’m not in the “show-business” world but a sister carrying triplets for her brother is a batshit-crazy idea and wouldn’t work unless for Lisa Kudrow’s acting chops. However, the reason it’s my #1 is because of the high-stakes quiz which presents new, funny information about the characters. You can feel that Rachel/Monica think highly of the apartment and consequently don’t want to lose it, which leads to elevated laughs. The episode relies on the strength of the plot and its actors i.e. there’s no need to introduce a crazy love interest for a character or a weird work-related conundrum. The “Miss Chanandler Bong” scene is clearly one of the best exchanges.