TORONTO — Monday marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of Friends on NBC (and on Global in Canada).
The sitcom starring Jennifer Aniston (Rachel), Courteney Cox (Monica), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe), Matt LeBlanc (Joey), Matthew Perry (Chandler), and David Schwimmer (Ross) premiered on Sept. 22, 1994 and ran for 10 seasons.
Friends was frequently mocked for showing characters with modest incomes living in spacious New York City apartments; for its portrayal of a virtually all-white New York City; and for having a busy coffee shop where the characters were always able to find a seat on the same sofa and chairs.
But the series, which spawned memorable catch-phrases and hair-dos, was a consistent ratings winner and earned a place on many lists of the best TV shows ever. Friends racked up 62 Primetime Emmy Award nominations (it won only six) and won a Golden Globe Award, six People’s Choice Awards and one Screen Actors Guild Award.
Its six stars went from earning $22,500 each in the first season to $1 million per episode in its final two seasons. Friends not only launched their careers but boasted some big name guest stars, including Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Reese Witherspoon, Julia Roberts and Tom Selleck.
The series finale was watched by an astounding 52.5 million people and Friends remains popular a decade later in syndication.
(Friends also had a Canadian connection. Perry, the son of Suzanne Perry — former press secretary to prime minister Pierre Trudeau — was born in the U.S. but grew up in Ottawa.)
In honour of the 20th anniversary of Friends debuting on television, here are a handful of moments that made us laugh.
Ross and Rachel pretend to be married
Ross and Rachel are forced to pretend to be married after Ross’ parents refuse to tell friends they’re having a baby out of wedlock.
“Son, I had to shave my ears for tonight,” Ross’ father (played by Elliott Gould) says. “You can do this.”
Ross and Rachel are initially reluctant to go along with the lie — until they realize it’s fun to make up wedding details.
“There were some people who said I looked like a floating angel,” Rachel tells a group of women.
Someone ate Ross’ sandwich
A lot of people could relate when Ross freaked out after someone at his work ate his sandwich — a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich.
“Look, I’m 30 years old, okay. I’m going to be divorced twice and I just got evicted,” Ross explained to his friends. “That sandwich was the only good thing going on in my life. Someone ate the only good thing going on in my life.”
In the episode, Ross confronts the colleague who ate the sandwich.
“Did you confuse it with your own turkey sandwich with the moist-maker?,” he asks, referring to the layer of gravy-soaked bread in the middle.
Monica and Rachel swap apartment with Joey and Chandler
Monica and Rachel were forced to swap apartments with Joey and Chandler after losing a trivia contest in which all four were asked questions about each other.
What question stumped the girls?
“What is Chandler Bing’s job?”
Rachel guessed he’s a “transpondster.”
“That’s not even a word!” Monica screamed.
Joey wears all of Chandler’s clothes
Like most roommates, Joey and Chandler occasionally bickered. In an episode where Chandler hid Joey’s underwear, Joey got revenge by putting on every piece of Chandler’s clothing — at one time.
“Look at me. I’m Chandler,” Joey said. “Could I be wearing any more clothes?”
Chandler could never quit Janice
One of the most memorable guest stars on Friends can be summed up in three words: “Oh. My. God.”
Janice, played by Maggie Wheeler, showed up in Chandler’s life many times during the series.
Her catchphrase, uttered in a nasal New York accent, became a fan favourite.
Monica, Phoebe and Rachel wear wedding dresses
Hilarity ensued when Monica went to pick up the wedding gown for her brother’s fiancee, Emily, and decided to put it on.
Monica is caught by Phoebe wearing the dress — but it’s okay because Phoebe’s wearing one too.
“At least you didn’t rent yours from a store called It’s Not Too Late,” says pregnant Phoebe.
Later, the two friends cheer up Rachel by putting her in a wedding dress, too.
“I wish there was a job where I could wear this all the time,” Monica says. “Maybe someday, there will be”