There are some areas in which one of the most popular TV sitcoms ever has not aged too well. By today’s social standards, Friends could be accused of being racist, sexist, and homophobic, but that would be unfair. It’s not quite straightforward to judge a show from another time that catered to a different audience with different demands than what you’d find today. But beyond these controversies, underneath all that which offends our modern-day sensibilities, it’s hard to imagine the younger viewers can’t see the appeal of these wonderful characters. There’s something deeply magical in seeing Rachel, Ross, Monica, Joey, Chandler and Phoebe drinking a cup of coffee in Central Perk as they navigate the unconquered frontier of adulthood. Also, the show had some great seasonal specials that are worth remembering. Friends never failed to give us some holiday cheer, and seeing as we’re approaching the most special time of the year, it’s only appropriate to recapture some of that magic. To this end, here are the best Friends Thanksgiving episodes to rewatch this month.
“The One Where the Underdog Gets Away” (Season 1)
This is the first Friends Thanksgiving episode, where it all began—and it’s a really good one, too. Here’s where the group truly comes together for the first time: before they all had their own separate family holiday celebrations. As a result, Monica, always the willing hostess, struggles to find a way to make Thanksgiving feel like home for everybody, cooking several different dishes to cater to each individual taste and nostalgia. Needless to say, things don’t go according to plan. But, as the gang soon discovers, it’s not about reproducing your childhood holidays. It’s rather about spending time with the most special people in your life.
“The One with the Football” (Season 3)
Another episode from the show’s earlier era, this one is a special treat. It features a whole different set and a uniquely funny situation that brings out the worst in the Geller siblings. The rivalry between Ross and Monica reaches new heights, as does the flirting competition between Chandler and Joey over a mysterious Dutch woman. Rachel struggles with childhood insecurities as her athletic skills are seriously questioned, and Phoebe is, well, Phoebe. Which is a great thing, mind you. Ultimately, the whole conflict culminates in an unlikely standoff that turns into a battle of the sexes. “The One with the Football” is a great example of why Friends became so popular, as it shows the six endearing characters in all their glory, with their fully developed, established and distinct personalities that we grew to love.
“The One with Chandler in the Box” (Season 4)
The friendship between Chandler and Joey is going through its hardest challenge yet during this episode. After a love triangle left Joey feeling utterly betrayed, Chandler will do anything to mend their relationship—including the rather crazy gesture of spending the holiday in a box. Monica is in a bad place as well: still hung up on her ex, Richard, she decides it’s a good idea to invite Richard’s son, Timothy, to spend Thanksgiving. And yeah, they kiss. To quote Joey, “eeew. Ew, ew.”
“The One with the Thanksgiving Flashbacks” (Season 5)
You know it’s always a fun episode when it involves flashbacks to the characters’ earlier memories. And this one is no different. We get to see not one, not two, but six. From Phoebe losing an arm in two separate past lives, to Monica cutting off Chandler’s toe, it surely is one limb-unfriendly run for the gang. The flashbacks are hilarious, and seeing the “young” versions of each character is nothing short of priceless. Especially noteworthy is Joey’s conundrum as he gets his head stuck in a turkey because he wanted to scare Chandler.
“The One With The Rumor” (Season 8)
Friends, as most sitcoms, is known to feature special guests to surprise the audience and provide even more laughs. And surely enough, this guest is special. Back when Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt were still together, she had her hubby drop by during office hours to play a resentful victim of Rachel’s high school bullying. The outcome is great. We see Brad Pitt’s character constantly looking to undermine Rachel, while Ross, who was in a “I-hate-Rachel-club” with him, clumsily navigates the precarious art of diplomacy.
“The One With Rachel’s Other Sister” (Season 9)
Speaking of special guests, this one features Christina Applegate as Rachel’s estranged sister, and, yes, she was so good she even won an Emmy for her performance. Her character is uniquely annoying to the gang, and marvelously funny for the viewers: in one swift stroke of the brush, she manages to indifferently insult each member of the group in surprisingly creative ways that make her seem, well, like the worst person in the world. Callous and with the highest sense of entitlement you could ever imagine, Rachel’s sister manages to throw a very special and refreshing twist to Thanksgiving. But it’s not all about her: Monica finds herself a new obsession, Ross and Rachel discuss who’d take care of Emma if they someday were unable to, and Phoebe tries to teach Joey how to lie—a great dynamic almost as funny as when she tries to teach him French. All in all, this one is a fantastic Friends Thanksgiving episode, and that’s saying a lot.
There you have it, the best of the best Thanksgiving episodes from Friends. Put on the nostalgia glasses, grab some popcorn, and enjoy a family time with some of the most beloved characters ever to come out of television. And happy Thanksgiving!
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