Friends was unique in a lot of ways, but that doesn't mean it didn't rely pretty heavily on the tools of the trade. In fact, over the course of its 10 years on the air, Friends used just about every sitcom trope in the playbook: drunken declarations of love, epic wingman-ing, mistaken identity, running at the altar — you name it, they did it. But here's the thing that made them special: they didn't just do it — they reclaimed, reinvented, and revolutionized it; which is a big part of the reason the show is still widely considered as the height of its genre, even though it had its series finale over a decade ago.
If you were to put Friends in a cage match with any other recent sitcom — say, for instance, New Girl, 30 Rock, Scrubs, or How I Met Your Mother — it would win on just about every count (and I say that as a huge fan of all of the above). Friends was lightning in a bottle, and try, try, try as they might, the formula's surprisingly difficult to replicate. There are lots of things we've seen play out again and again on new sitcom after new sitcom, but there are few things that Friends didn't do best — so, with that in mind, here are 14 times Friends blew the competition out of the water.
The Will-They, Won't-They Relationship
Is there any other show that comes close? JD and Elliot from Scrubs, Jake and Amy from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Mindy and Danny from The Mindy Project, Jess and Nick from New Girl, and Ted and Robin from How I Met Your Mother all come to mind, but let's be real: It's all about Rachel and Ross.
The Pregnancy Proposal
Schmidt proposing to Cece mid-pregnancy scare via skywriting on New Girl was pretty darn precious, but the whole Joey-accidentally-proposing-with-Ross'-ring shebang (after already getting turned down when he proposed to her when she first got pregnant)? Pure gold.
The Terrible Job Interview
Friends really takes the cake here, because it boasts not just one truly terrible job interview, but several (each of the six main characters has at least one ultra-cringeworthy experience). Heck, Monica alone dealt with that guy who was way too into the apparent eroticism of making a salad, the whole mocklate debacle, and the super, super stoned Jon Lovitz. Then there's the fact that Rachel touched her future employer's junk, the fact that Ross bored a guy to sleep, then fell into his lap — and last but not least, the fact that Joey literally peed on Jeff Goldblum.
I challenge any other sitcom out there to top that.
The Secret Relationship
Come on, guys: We all know that The One Where They All Find Out is straight-up iconic.
The Flashback Episode
Flashbacks are one of my favorite sitcom staples, and Friends' hair game alone wins it all for them.
The Running To The Airport
Liz Lemon crying whilst eating a hero sandwich at the metal detector and screaming "I CAN HAVE IT ALL" on 30 Rock is admittedly hard to top... except, Friends does it handily, because really, the catharsis of the will-they-won't-they Ross/Rachel deal was literally 10 years in the making.
Oh, and hello there, Dean Pelton.
The Guest-Star Casting
Brad Pitt. Enough said.
Chandler and Joey forever, man.
The Female Friendships
Great as Chandler and Joey were, it's really all about Monica and Rachel (and Phoebe). Few shows have a more glorious best friendships as Friends here. I mean, it's all in the title.
The Accidental Wedding...
Married in Vegas with faces drawn on with indelible ink? It doesn't get much better than that.
... And The Accidental Pregnancy
Pregnancy storylines can get tired, but Rachel and Ross' malfunctioning condom mishap was golden from start to finish — aka from the moment Phoebe found that positive pregnancy test in the bathroom, to the moment Rachel accidentally head-butted Ross in the delivery room, and he started complaining about how much it hurt. (Typical Ross.)
The Halloween Episode
SPUD-NIK (aka The One Where Ross Accidentally Dressed as a Turd Wearing a Colander).
And don't even get me started on the magnificence of the Thanksgiving episodes...
The Reformed Playboy
The whole Joey/Rachel storyline from the later seasons of Friends is still pretty divisive, but I've always been a fan: I mean, their characters actually make a lot of sense together, and it was a nice component of Joey's growth over the 10 seasons... and seeing as how HIMYM botched the whole Barney/Robin romance spectacularly, Friends definitely takes the cake for this one.
The Wedding Disaster
New Girl had a pretty terrible (almost) wedding that involved a possibly rabid badger, "Cotton-Eyed Joe," a collapsed air duct, and some unfinished relationship business that involved Taylor Swift. Heck, How I Met Your Mother had two disaster weddings, one of which involved a reverse mohawk, and another of which literally went on for an entire season (not HIMYM's finest moment, by the way) — but really, is there any beating Ross saying the wrong name at his second wedding? Or Rachel revealing her pregnancy at Chandler and Monica's wedding, while Joey officiated dressed as a soldier from WWII? Or a super-blizzard snowing out Mike at Phoebe's wedding? I don't think so.
Basically, It's Still The Best Show Ever
Thank god for Friends.