In Depth

Which Friends episodes have aged the worst?

Creators of hit sitcom admit they regret some storylines

The creators of Friends have admitted that some of the show’s storylines and jokes did not stand the test of time.

Speaking at a 25th anniversary event at New York City’s Tribeca TV Festival this week, David Crane and Marta Kauffman “shared some new tidbits about the hit sitcom that even the most loyal viewers might not know”, says The Hollywood Reporter.

“There are some [episodes] that are better than others,” Crane said, adding that some of the show’s punchlines make him wonder why “we couldn’t stay ten more minutes and just find a better joke”.

“It’s much harder for me to enjoy the good moments when there are moments in it where I’m going, ‘Oh my God, we let that happen? We did that,’” Kauffman said.

Asked for examples, Kauffman mentioned the episode where Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) and her love interest, played by Charlie Sheen, come down with chickenpox, reports the Radio Times. “I’m not sure the chickenpox worked,” she said.

She also took issue with an episode in which Phoebe dates her identical twin’s stalker, admitting: “We did a lot of rewriting on that to make that work.” 

The storyline in question is often cited by critics and fans as one of the show’s more troubling subplots.

Friends has enjoyed a second burst of popularity since all ten seasons were added to Netflix, attracting a new generation of fans - many of whom were not born when the first episode aired in 1994, and some of whom were not even alive for its 2004 finale. But the renewed attention has also exposed elements in the scripts and plots that have aged poorly.

The show’s treatment of gender and sexuality have been called into question, particularly the male characters’ homophobia in some episodes.

“Joey and Ross can't seem to share a hug without saying ‘no homo’ or questioning their sexuality,” says Cosmopolitan, which reports that “a video editing together all homophobic moments from the sitcom racks up a whopping 50 minutes”.

In one episode, Ross is horrified to see his young son playing with a Barbie, while another subplot revolves around his reluctance to hire a male nanny. “Even with the ‘product of its time’ factor, watching Ross’ brain melt down over the idea of a straight man wanting to care for children is so cringe-worthy,” a fan told Buzzfeed.

Some viewers have also expressed discomfort about the show’s treatment of Chandler’s father, a gay drag queen, who is repeatedly the subject of mockery. In addition, the portrayal appears to conflate cross-dressers with transgender women by having the ostensibly male character played by female actor Kathleen Turner.

However, commentators have also highlighted ways in which Friends was unusually progressive for its time, with the sitcom featuring what is believed to be the first lesbian wedding in US television history.

Jane Sibbett, who played the girlfriend of Ross’s ex-wife, told The Guardian that some local TV channels refused to broadcast the 1996 episode in which the two women tied the knot.

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