According to a scientific study that I just made up, every person currently alive on this planet and several others has seen at least one episode of the beloved NBC series Friends. Thanks to syndication and endless reruns on local affiliates and networks like TBS, Nick, DIY, Telemundo, ESPN, Spike TV, and Playboy, Friends has become the most available sitcom in TV history, and while I have no evidence to support that hyperbole, it just sounds like it’s true. The fact is a lot of people still watch and love Friends very much, as it is regarded as one of the most popular sitcoms of all-time.
I, too, have watched my fair share of Friends, as I’ve probably seen each episode at least 20 times. I’m not bragging, mind you, as I don’t particularly like Friends. Then why, you’re probably asking the air around you, have I watched this show so much? Because I’m fascinated by how horribly the show’s characters were written. On the surface, the core characters of Friends were supposed to be a lovable and relatable group of 20- and eventually 30-something guys and girls who experienced the same life problems that most people faced in the 1990s. Except their problems were always a little more goofy and ridiculous than ours. Last time I checked, Joey never ate rice as a meal for three weeks at a time because he couldn’t find work, Ross never had to tell Ben why his mommy liked his other mommy more than his daddy, and Chandler never had to explain to anyone why he withdrew $1,000 at two strip clubs in one weekend, despite being one of the loneliest bastards to ever make us laugh on NBC’s once legendary Thursday night lineup. But that’s the advantage that TV characters have over us.
The reason that I decided to undertake this latest scientific experiment as a follow-up to my Pulitzer-nominated piece on the girlfriends of Jerry Seinfeld is because I’ve been upset about something for a while. In the Internet’s neverending love of nostalgia for the 80s and 90s, I’ve seen plenty of retrospective features and listicles written about Friends, and one theme that has always stuck with me in a bad way was the idea that Ross Geller was the worst character. I’ve always agreed that Ross was pretty terrible, but on a show with so many awful male characters, was he actually, truly the worst of them all? That’s a really bold statement.
Was he a terrible character whose friends should have shoved into traffic when he shouted, “PIVOT! PIVOT!” as he forced them to move his couch up multiple flights of stairs? Should he have had his teaching license revoked and been shunned by the scientific community when he dated and slept with one of his students? Did he deserve to be fired on a rocket into the sun when he started hooking up with Janice simply because she empathized with his status as a single, divorced dad? Yes on all accounts. But does that automatically make him the worst? That’s up to science.
Known as the UNAGI process, I have examined a very long list of the many male characters that appeared on Friends during the Emmy Award-winning show’s 10 season run. This scientific process uses characteristics such as loyalty, confidence, trustworthiness, career, generosity, impact on other characters, kindness to animals, and general appearance in order to rank each character from 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest. Again, this is science, so you cannot get mad at me. Only science, okay?
Not all of the male characters were terrible enough that we would have loathed them if they were real and in our own lives, but the good ones were few and far between. In fact, here’s the very brief list of the show’s so-called “good” male characters:
Roy the Stripper – Played by Danny DeVito, Roy was just a male exotic dancer trying to make some money to get by. So what happened when he showed up to a gig that he was booked for? The women treated him like he wasn’t even human. Why is there so much bullying today? Because of Friends.
Mr. Treeger – The superintendent of the building that Monica, Rachel, Chandler and Joey lived in could and should have tossed all four of them out on their asses because of their violations. Instead, because Joey agreed to help him dance, he let the fact that the guys had pets and Rachel was clogging the garbage chute with pizza boxes slide. Maybe he doesn’t deserve to be excluded, since he should have been fired for not doing his job.
Mr. Zelner – This was the boss that gave Rachel the job after she first kissed him and then yelled at him when he tried to point out that she had ink on her lip. Later, she’d even “accidentally” grab his crotch after he gave her the job. I put accidentally in quotes because Rachel was a bit of a tramp. Look, slut-shaming’s not cool, but neither is dating while you’re pregnant.
Larry the Health Inspector – This was one of Phoebe’s many, many boyfriends, and she used his status as a health inspector to shut down certain establishments that she didn’t like. But when he tried to reprimand Gunther for taking the trash out through the front door of Central Perk, Phoebe stopped him. I can only assume that customers of the coffee shop went on to contract a number of diseases.
Mr. Heckles – He just wanted to live in peace, and Monica and Rachel wanted to be loud and obnoxious. Even after he died because of them (citation needed), he left them all of his belongings.
The Singing Man – He was the random singing neighbor in the season 4 episode, “The One with All the Haste.” I think he was also only one of three black men who ever appeared on the series.
Mike Hannigan – He was played by Paul Rudd, so he was pretty much the best character on the entire series.
And now, I believe I promised you a scientific study. Remember, SCIENCE did this, not me.