Over 14 years after it went off the air, Friends remains one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time. The show centering on the daily lives and zany antics of Phoebe, Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, and Joey earned legions of fans who still quote the show liberally, catch episodes on streaming video and seemingly endless broadcast re-runs, and campaign for a revival.
Over the course of 10 seasons, viewers got to know and love the six Friends for their individual quirks, foibles, and points of view. After vicariously hanging out with them episode after episode, the characters became viewers’ friends as well.
However, that doesn’t mean every episode of the comedy was perfect. After all, 236 episodes is a lot of television and all Friends storylines were certainly not equal. While Friends’ track record is more good than bad (one of the reasons the show remains a fan favorite), it still had its share of poorly executed and poorly received plot lines. Sometimes these stories were cringe-worthy and uncomfortable, sometimes they were just so dumb, and sometimes we laughed when an episode was first broadcast but have reconsidered our reactions as cultural perspectives have shifted. Regardless of the reasons, the following are storylines from Friends that the sitcom’s writers no doubt would prefer fans forget ever happened.
Here are 20 Storylines That The Writers Of Friends Want Us To Forget.
20 ROSS HAS A PET MONKEY
Friends had an odd track record when it came to pets. While a cat or dog showed up periodically, the pets that got the most time and attention on the show weren’t exactly traditional. Remember when Joey and Chandler adopted the chick and the duck? Or when Phoebe decided to raise a litter of rat babies?
Yet, perhaps the pet that made the most indelible impression was Ross’ monkey, Marcel. Many fans loved Marcel, but his introduction was decidedly strange. Ross got Marcel from a friend who’d rescued him from a lab and decided that Ross would be a better caretaker than a facility set up to care for wild animals. On top of that, the rest of the gang acted like having a pet monkey in the middle of New York was a perfectly normal thing to do. Meanwhile, Ross obsessed over his relationship with Marcel like the monkey was his girlfriend. It was all a little eye-brow raising.
19 JOEY MEETS HIS IDENTICAL HAND TWIN
When Joey gets stuck in Vegas after the movie he is acting for runs out of money, something miraculous happens — he finds his identical hand twin. What, pray tell, is an identical hand twin? Good question. It’s when someone has the exact same hands as you, of course.
For some reason, Joey is convinced that this is his ticket to the big time. Everyone else isn’t as impressed, including the man who possesses the twin hands. Joey is so sure of the genius of his idea that he proceeds to relentlessly bug the guy. Shockingly his campaign to convince him to create an act around their identical hands isn’t a winner. The audience, however, spends two episodes hearing about identical hand twins.
18 PHOEBE BELIEVES HER MOTHER IS A CAT
For all her good-natured quirkiness, Phoebe didn’t have the easiest life. Her mother took her own life when Phoebe was a child, she didn’t get along with her twin sister, Ursula, and then she learned that the mother who left her as a child wasn’t even biologically related to her. Feeling guilty for bonding with her newly-discovered biological mom, Phoebe decided that her deceased mother had been reincarnated as a cat that wandered into the coffee shop.
The ability to spend time with her “mom” certainly made Phoebe happy, but it’s a wacky storyline. Phoebe’s bid to forge a relationship with the cat was obviously an attempt to work out her guilt. Yet, while Phoebe could be daffy, the plot came across as exceptionally silly even for her.
17 MONICA THINKS CHANDLER’S ATTRACTED TO SHARKS
Chandler had already been forced to move to Tulsa under ridiculous circumstances (he fell asleep during a meeting and didn’t know what he was agreeing to). Then things got even more ridiculous when Monica showed up at his hotel room to surprise him while he was having a little, ahem, “me” time.
A startled Chandler understandably changed the channel from the adult entertainment he was watching to a shark documentary. Instead of realizing what happened like most anyone else would, Monica jumps to the conclusion that Chandler is attracted to sharks. After consulting with Rachel, Monica attempts to embrace the fetish, resulting in a very confused Chandler and a very awkward exchange as the couple sort out the misunderstanding.
16 PETE TRIES TO BE THE ULTIMATE FIGHTING CHAMPION
Today Jon Favreau is a respected director and well-known for his role as Happy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Years before the MCU was born, Favreau guested on Friends as Monica’s millionaire boyfriend Pete. While she wasn’t all that into him at first, Pete stuck it out and finally got Monica to go out with him, and soon she started to fall for him.
So, when Pete told Monica they needed to talk, Monica and the rest of the gang came to the conclusion that Pete was going to propose. Turns out, marriage wasn’t on Pete’s mind. Instead, he’d come to the bizarre decision that he would become the Ultimate Fighting Champion. Pete proved to be a truly awful fighter and Monica could only stand by him for so long while he got beaten to within an inch of his life.
15 PHOEBE IS POSSESSED
When an elderly massage client passed away on her table, Phoebe believed her spirit didn’t travel far. Convinced the woman is still with her, Phoebe made wacky comments channeling her throughout the episode. Much like the storyline where Phoebe believed her mother’s spirit is residing in a cat, this one took Phoebe’s new-age-y spiritual leanings too far.
Phoebe made various attempts to get the client to leave her body but the creepiest part happened when the woman’s supposedly grieving husband suggested that his wife isn’t leaving Phoebe because she wanted to sleep with him one last time — with clear implications for what he was hoping would happen. Ick! The woman’s spirit finally took off while witnessing the wedding of Ross’ ex Carol to her girlfriend, interrupting the proceedings to express her surprise as she left.
14 MONICA TRIES TO DATE RICHARD’S SON
Monica had one of her longest and most meaningful relationships on the series with Tom Selleck’s character Richard. Their May-December romance fizzled when Monica reluctantly ended things because Richard decided he didn’t want more children. So when she needed an eye doctor after their break up, Monica couldn’t go to Richard. Instead, she saw a new eye doctor — who happened to be Richard’s son, Tim.
When Monica and Tim found themselves attracted to each other and she invited him to Thanksgiving dinner, as Rachel said, it was “like inviting a Greek tragedy over for dinner.” Monica and Tim insisted dating one another wasn’t weird until they finally kissed and the spell was broken. It turned out Tim kissed just like his father. Thankfully that revelation put an abrupt end to any relationship the pair could have had. Although it left both Monica and the audience traumatized.
13 ROSS OBJECTS TO HIS SON LOVING BARBIES
Friends could be narrow-minded about what it means to be a man, leaning heavily on gender stereotypes. This was spotlighted when Ross’ toddler son Ben showed up to spend time with his Dad with his new favorite toy — a Barbie. Ross immediately took issue with Ben’s love of his doll and attempted to get him to play with toys he considered more “manly.”
Throughout the series, Ross’ presence in his son’s life seemed sporadic at best. So, it made it even worse that in the brief time Ross did spend with Ben he filled it by trying to convince a baby his toys should be tougher. The storyline is supposed to be funny, relying on the audience’s ingrained knowledge of gender biases, but it just made Ross seem petty and intolerant.
12 PLAYING MONICA’S PAST FOR LAUGHS
One of the things viewers learned about Monica during the series is that she was an overweight teenager. In numerous flashbacks, Courtney Cox donned a fat suit so the other characters could make jokes at her expense and the audience could laugh as she danced around for our entertainment. It’s funny ’cause she’s fat. Get it?
Plus, whenever Fat Monica appeared she had all the stereotypical traits people associate with heavier people, including being pathetically inexperienced and a slob who’s obsessed with food. Even worse is the reason Monica eventually decided to lose the weight. It’s not because she wanted to, it’s because she overheard Chandler mock her. Then, of course, when Chandler saw her after she’d become skinny, he suddenly found her beautiful. While at one time being fat could be played for laughs, it’s hard to watch this storyline today and not cringe.
11 RACHEL HIRES TAG FOR BEING ATTRACTIVE
When Rachel interviewed people to be her assistant she narrowed her options down to two candidates: a highly qualified woman with a lot of experience and a model-attractive young man named Tag who had never worked in an office. Obviously, the right thing to do was hire the woman. However, Rachel decided to go a different way and hired the hot guy.
Then, instead of keeping things professional, the two started secretly dating, making the whole thing even more inappropriate and uncomfortable. Given all the issues swirling around inequality in the workplace today, it’s hard to see the supposed humor of this premise now, and even at the time, Rachel knew she wasn’t doing the smart thing.
10 THE “WE WERE ON A BREAK” STORYLINE
After Ross couldn’t respect Rachel’s wishes and leave her alone during a work crisis that erupted on the night of their anniversary, a frustrated Rachel suggested they take a break. A hurt Ross joined Joey and Chandler at a club where he ended up going home with the hot girl who worked at the local copy place.
When Rachel found out, she understandably felt betrayed and broke up with Ross for good (at least for a few seasons). Ross’s excuse for being with someone else: “We were on a break!” In fact, the argument over whether or not Ross was justified came up over and over again throughout the remaining seasons of the show. It’s hard to get on board with Ross on this one though, and the recurring gag became increasingly less funny over the years.
9 RACHEL BECOMING THE OTHER WOMAN
Friends opened right after Rachel skipped out on her wedding. In the process, she traded a life of financial security with a not-particularly-exciting orthodontist for that of a struggling single girl. Because of the choice she made, Rachel spent a great deal of the show’s first season learning how to navigate the real world without a safety net. While it’s not easy, she made great progress — and then the orthodontist, Barry Farber, came back into the picture. Even though he was now engaged to Rachel’s former best friend, she fell right back into his arms.
It was a serious step back in Rachel’s character arc. Although it gave Rachel the confidence to completely close the door on what could have been, viewers already knew she had made the right choice given what a sleaze Barry was.
8 ROSS’ OVERBEARING JEALOUSY
During Friend’s third season Rachel finally landed the job of her dreams when she started working at Bloomingdale’s. One of her co-workers there happened to be a guy named Mark. Cue Ross and his overwhelming jealousy of Mark. Ross went overboard making sure everyone in Rachel’s new office knew she had a boyfriend. He sent gift after gift and even hired a barbershop quartet to serenade her. It’s the human equivalent of a dog marking his territory.
While Ross eventually apologized for his jealousy, he still couldn’t let it go. He continued to try to keep Rachel away from Mark and thought it was Mark’s fault whenever something went wrong with Rachel. In other contexts, people would call Ross’ behavior controlling, but on Friends, it was supposed to be hilarious.
7 PHOEBE’S SECRET GAY HUSBAND TURNS OUT TO BE STRAIGHT
Friends didn’t have the best track record when it came to addressing homosexuality. It could often be downright homophobic with jokes relying heavily on stereotypes. Those stereotypes were on full display during the plot in which Phoebe’s secret gay husband came back to town to tell her he needed a divorce. Why? He’s straight and planning to marry another woman.
Phoebe married Canadian Duncan so he could get his green card. Even though she clearly had feelings for him, he never had feelings for her. He claimed it was because he was gay, which of course is the only explanation for being a smart, funny ice dancer who throws great Academy Awards parties. The arc is supposed to be a comic deconstruction of a coming out story but it just doesn’t work.
6 ROSS IS ATTRACTED TO HIS COUSIN CASSIE
For some reason, the Friends writers seemed to think incest made for a good punchline. In one episode it’s revealed that Ross was Monica’s first kiss. Then there’s the episode where Ross and Monica’s cousin Cassie came to town. Ross hadn’t seen her in years and now that she’s all grown up, she’s super-attractive (she’s played by Denise Richards). As a result, Ross developed feelings for her that are not meant for family.
Ross and Cassie reminisce about their childhoods together but that doesn’t prevent Ross from fantasizing about what it would be like to be with her. Then Ross managed to talk himself into believing she felt the same way and tried to kiss her. It’s an unfunny plot that just makes Ross seem like a huge creep.
5 CHANDLER CAN’T REMEMBER JOEY’S SISTERS
Chandler had an awful track record when it came to women. Until getting together with Monica, he never treated his girlfriends especially well and he strung along the annoying Janice for years. After another break-up with Janice, a drunken Chandler rebounds with one of Joey’s seven sisters. The trouble is he can’t remember which one.
The sisters are depicted as a gaggle of Italian women who travel in a pack and all look and act similarly. That’s disturbing enough as it is. However, the fact that Chandler can’t remember which of the sisters he was with is just ludicrous. The fact that he can’t recognize her once he figures out her name was even worse. Chandler completely earns the black eye he gets because of his behavior.
4 ROSS DOESN’T GET HIS MARRIAGE ANNULLED
After Ross and Rachel got married on a drunken lark during a trip to Vegas, they agreed to get an annulment. Ross said he’d take care of it, but then failed to follow through. If he had, it would be his third failed marriage, and he just couldn’t live with that. Instead of talking it out with Rachel, he decided they’d just stay secretly married.
His brilliant plan? Convince Rachel to move in with him, which would inevitably lead to her falling in love with him. Then once she loved him, he could tell her the good news — they’re already married! Woohoo? Ross’ willingness to lie to Rachel and play with her life so he could get what he wanted was just gross.
3 THE TIME WHEN ROSS DATES HIS STUDENT
After Ross started teaching at a university, he learned that one of his students, Elizabeth, was attracted to him. She asked him out, and despite how questionable it was, he’s more than willing because she’s young and hot. Ross is shocked to eventually discover that dating a student wasn’t just taboo, it’s actually against the school’s rules.
However, Ross and Elizabeth kept seeing each other despite all the signs that it’s an awful idea. This led to a story arc in which Ross had to deal with dating someone whose priorities were very different from his (causing him to do stupid things like go with her to Spring Break. Woohoo!). It also led to the understandable disapproval of her father, played by Bruce Willis. Then Rachel started dating Elizabeth’s father and the whole thing got even weirder and more uncomfortable.
2 CHANDLER’S DRAG-QUEEN FATHER AS A PUNCHLINE
In a story that must have seemed risqué for network TV at the time, Chandler’s father was introduced as a drag queen. However, through the course of several episodes featuring the character, it became clear that she lived her life as a woman, which actually made her transgender.
The show mocked Chandler’s father, played by Kathleen Turner, for her gender (and sexual) preference at every opportunity. Chandler is perpetually embarrassed by and intolerant of his father’s gender identity, even though it’s clear she was actually a pretty good dad who showed up for all his swim meets when he was a child. Meanwhile, instead of using the opportunity to explore transgender issues, the show rings laughs from the idea that a man in a dress is hilarious.
1 RACHEL AND JOEY GET ROMANTIC
Based on fan reaction, Friends’ most divisive storyline happened when Rachel and Joey started a relationship at the beginning of the show’s last season. Of course, this wasn’t the first time the show had hinted that the pair could be more than friends. After giving birth to Emma, Rachel mistakenly believed Joey was proposing to her and, because she’s feeling vulnerable and alone, said yes.
While that storyline was odd enough, Joey and Rachel actually trying to make a go of it continue to make fans cringe today. After nine seasons of Ross and Rachel’s will they/won’t they relationship, Joey and Rachel just seemed wrong. Thankfully, the writers quickly realized their mistake and the characters were soon back to being just friends. Still, if there are is storyline fans still remember with dismay, it’s this one.
Which storylines do you think Friends should have totally forgotten about? Let us know in the comments!