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.
Just give up your sperm, Zach (John Stamos). Like you’re so awesome and your sperm is so valuable. Sure, it wouldn’t have helped Monica anyway, since neither her nor Chandler were able to produce a child – perhaps it was a sign from the universe – but he could have been a friend and volunteered anyway. It’s a pretty selfish move to deny a couple your seed.
UNAGI Score: 9.98599
I know you’re probably thinking, “But Paolo was a scumbag who slept with Rachel and then tried to get with Phoebe,” but does that necessarily make him a terrible person? For all we knew, he was just a man who preferred to be a good lover, and that more than made up for getting a little flirty with Phoebe or any other women.
UNAGI Score: 9.777777772
38) Ugly Naked Guy
Look, I’m cool with a dude doing whatever he wants within the confines of his own apartment, but walking around naked all the time with the blinds and curtains wide open? That’s pretty awful. So why is he ranked so low behind the neighbors that he punished with his ugly, naked ways? Because they were the perverts who kept looking.
UNAGI Score: 9.678888553
37) Mr. Morris
This was the male student in one of Ross’s classes who lied to him about being distracted during his lectures because he was “in love” with him. It’s wrong to lie to someone about being in love with them, especially someone as lonely as Ross. But Mr. Morris’s biggest mistake wasn’t lying and playing with the emotions of his professor. It was not reporting Ross for sleeping with one of his students. That would have been the smartest way to get his A.
UNAGI Score: 9.62222331
Jon Lovitz’s pathetic restaurant owner made two appearances on the show, once as a stoned restaurant owner possibly trying to hire Monica, and then again as a complete loser who was set up on the worst blind date of Rachel’s life. He was pretty awful, perhaps a candidate for the Top 10 if he’d been on the show more, but then I would have been more upset that he never appeared as the IRL version of Jay Sherman. We don’t talk about The Critic enough anymore, people.
UNAGI Score: 9.589
He was blasting a Smashmouth song at his party. He also tried to hook Rachel up with his loser friend (played by Doug Benson) but really it’s that Smashmouth thing that made science hate Danny enough to land him on this list.
UNAGI Score: 9.5000001
34) The Encyclopedia Salesman
It’s been a while since Friends was on TV, but even back in the 90s, were people still buying encyclopedias from door-to-door salesmen? You can’t blame the salesman (played by Penn Jillette) for trying to make a buck (and it was certainly worse that Joey not only encouraged a solicitor to proceed with bothering tenants of his building, but he also paid him with Chandler’s money), but what kind of half-assed, irresponsible salesman breaks up a set of encyclopedias to sell one F-ing book? Was he going to come to my door next and offer me a set of books without the V edition? That’s some baloney right there, pal.
UNAGI Score: 9.404040404
33) Jean Claude Van Damme
He was just kind of a dick. Nobody likes a guy who brags to a girl about how many asses he can kick, even if he’s probably right.
UNAGI Score: 9.373328599
32) Pete Becker
It’d be easy to hate on Pete for being so wealthy that he could do anything that he wanted, from trying to buy Monica’s love to purchasing his way into the UFC only to get his ass kicked by Tank Abbott. But the reason that he was so awful was that he fell in love with Monica so quickly, and that’s just the worst way for a billionaire to live. She could have married him, spent a few unsatisfying years with him and then gutted his company and fortune because of his careless naiveté. That’s very unfair to his company’s many employees, even if this is just blind speculation.
UNAGI Score: 8.6652524
You can’t be upset with a guy for trying to be good at his job, so Todd the department store fragrance cowboy doesn’t make this list because he was a threat to Joey’s job. It’s because he was one of those jerks that sprayed customers without even asking them, and as a guy who has some pretty nasty allergies to some perfumes and colognes, I would have been pissed. I mean, science would have been pissed.
UNAGI Score: 8.442837
30) Benjamin Hobart
What kind of Nobel Prize-winning scientist is so immature and childish that he’d be willing to sacrifice his entire career for the sake of getting back at the guy who is dating his ex-girlfriend? Benjamin Hobart (Greg Kinnear) is who. An adult would have properly determined that the best way to steal Charlie back from Ross would have been to bribe him with the grant that he needed, but Benjamin fortunately benefitted from the fact that Ross didn’t have the spine to pursue proper action against him within the scientific community.
UNAGI Score: 8.0124784
There’s a chance that the writers of Friends had a serious problem with guys named Steve, because this is the second such name that appears on this list. In this case, Willie Garson played the guy from Ross’s building who was collecting $100 from everyone for the handyman’s retirement, and instead of skipping the new tenant like anyone would have, he turned everyone in the building against Ross. In Ross’s defense, Steve should have let that happen naturally.
UNAGI Score: 7.983632
28) Marcel the Monkey
Hey monkey, quit pooping in everyone’s shoes, humping stuffed animals, and playing that awful song, okay? Nobody likes a dickhead monkey.
(But Jen Aniston in knee socks, you guys. That’s the stuff the 90s were made of.)
UNAGI Score: 7.7777777
27) Leonard Green
I actually thought that Rachel’s dad was the best and most realistic male character on Friends, because he didn’t put up with stupid crap, he HATED Ross, and he humiliated Ross in front of Mona, who Ross should have never been allowed near in the first place. But undertipping the server at a fancy restaurant? That’s a seriously DICK move, man.
(Related note: Science wanted me to inform everyone that if science ranked the best female characters on Friends, Mona would be a “Top 3 without question, probably Top 2 depending on how Rebecca Romijn’s disgusting apartment would have hurt her.” Science has a type, folks.)
UNAGI Score: 7.5937
Gunther never seemed like he was that terrible of a guy, but the fact that he fired Joey for leaving the coffee shop for an audition while he was getting his creepy hair dyed, took the garbage out through the front door of Central Perk because he was too lazy to walk around the back, and bought that hideous hairless cat from Rachel because he was secretly in love with her added up to some substantial points when it came to being awful. Also, it’s fun to pretend like he had an affair with Ross’s mom.
UNAGI Score: 7.35582912
25) Chandler Bing
The first of the three main male characters! Chandler definitely lost cool points because he was sleeping with his best friend’s sister behind everyone’s backs, but he made up for it by marrying her. He also lost points because he hooked up with Joey’s girlfriend, but he also basically supported Joey and even Joey had to go easy on him because Chandler was a loser. Ultimately, Chandler is ranked in the middle because he was equal parts annoying, immature and irresponsible, but he always made up for it with charm. However, his weight fluctuations were always way too strange, and that goatee he had that one season was simply awful. Chandler’s biggest crime, though, was constantly bringing Janice back into our lives.
UNAGI Score: 7.1489q87
24) Carl and Arthur (Tie)
Who were Carl and Arthur? They were the bullies who picked on Ross and Chandler at the coffee shop. These guys were just big time jerks, and it was really mean that they stole Chandler’s hat, which also raises the question of what kind of guy steals another guy’s hat? That’s kind of gross, because how did they know that Chandler didn’t have lice? Maybe he had scabies or something worse. They would have deserved it, of course, because if you just go around stealing other people’s clothes and accessories, you’re bound to catch a disease.
UNAGI Score: 6.9836367
23) Will Colbert
In one of the show’s many, often annoying and desperate A-list celebrity cameos, Brad Pitt played a former high school friend of Ross’s who was once overweight and a victim of Rachel’s cruelty. But he eventually grew up, lost a lot of weight and looked like stupid, handsome Brad Pitt, and how the hell are you going to act like a jerk when you’re handsome? Perhaps science is revealing a little too much.
UNAGI Score: 6.9696969696969
Phoebe’s 57,625,875,643rd boyfriend, Parker, was portrayed by Alec Baldwin, and this guy was almost the worst of them. Why was Parker so bad? Because he was so obnoxiously cheery and positive that he drove the always quirky and oh-so-free-spirited Phoebe to the brink of insanity. Also, by the time he appeared on this series, Phoebe was still only supposed to be in her early-30s and Baldwin looked old enough to be her dad. So an older guy behaving the way he did? Serial killer. He would have ended them all. (I also think that would have made for a much better finale than that “OMG Rachel came back for Ross!” vomit.)
UNAGI Score: 6.000347645
21) Frank Buffay, Jr.
Frank Jr. (Giovanni Ribisi) caught a break in science’s rankings because he didn’t have a positive male role model in his life to help teach him right from wrong. That’s why he not only liked to set everything on fire and tried to molest one of Phoebe’s co-workers when she brought him in for a massage (great idea BTW, big sis!), but he also started sleeping with his much older teacher before they ultimately asked Phoebe to carry their child that ended up being triplets. And after all that, he returned a few years later to ask Phoebe if she’d keep one of their kids. Again, Frank Jr. is very lucky that he had an excuse.
UNAGI Score: 5.59471111
Wait, wait, wait… why is sweet, innocent David on a list of the worst characters? Because at some point it became painfully clear that not only was David an awful scientist – his whole trip to Minsk was a huge waste of money, because his scientific theory turned out to be completely wrong – but he also returned from Minsk and didn’t even bother telling Phoebe, whose heart he broke when he decided to go in the first place. Then, when she was finally in love with Mike, he proposed? David gave all of us male scientists a really bad name.
UNAGI Score: 5.31248
19) Eddie Manoick
Few Friends characters actually terrified me. Eddie was one of them. In fact, because of Adam Goldberg’s convincing performance, this is how I picture all New Yorkers.
UNAGI Score: 4.666
18) Tag Jones
Let’s forget that this guy left his job in construction or whatever to become an administrative assistant in the fashion industry, which was a clear sign that he was trying to get some. What kind of nickname is Tag? If NBC finally came through with a Friends movie, I’d hope that they at least reveal that Tag was eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison for cyberstalking.
UNAGI Score: 4.355567
17) Fun Bobby
As if it wasn’t bad enough that his drinking problem affected the way that he interacted with the people he considered to be his closest friends, Fun Bobby had the balls to tell Monica that she had a drinking problem. Chandler was very right to call him “Ridiculously Dull Bobby,” except that was insensitive because it made light of his disease. There were no winners with Fun Bobby.
UNAGI Score: 4.20
16) Stephen Waltham
If my good friend science and I were making a list of the worst female characters on Friends, I am very positive that Emily Waltham would come in at No. 1, because any time I watch an episode that has her in it, I scream, “Emily is the worst!” at the TV. The horrible apple didn’t fall far from the fictional tree, as Emily’s dad not only tried to rip off the Geller family by having them pay for renovations to his home, but he also threatened to kill Ross’s dad. The irony is that what might have actually spared Stephen from this list would have been him knocking Ross out for saying Rachel’s name at the altar.
UNAGI Score: 4.153873524632 (converted from metric)
15) Jack Geller
Jack Geller wasn’t much better than Stephen. Between Jack and Judy Geller, it was a miracle that Monica grew up without even more problems than she had. They treated her like crap, belittling her efforts to be a successful professional adult after years of telling her to her face that she was always second fiddle to Ross. On top of it all, after they realized that they used her childhood keepsakes to stop the garage from flooding, Jack tried to buy back Monica’s love with his car. It would have worked for me, but I’m still not saying that’s right.
UNAGI Score: 4.0001
14) Paul Stevens
Bruce Willis didn’t even want to be on Friends, but he lost a bet and ended up portraying the show’s worst father figure. What kind of man allows his college student daughter to date her professor all so he can have a shot at that man’s ex-girlfriend? On a show that featured a number of horrendous love triangles, this was easily the second worst.
UNAGI Score: 3.94237643527611481741
Chandler’s Boss was a typical aging bro’s bro, who believed that slapping his male employees on the ass was a legitimate way of showing appreciation in the workplace. Doug’s behavior was so awful and offensive, that the Friends producers failed us all by not turning the episode into one of those classic NBC PSAs with this graphic at the end:
UNAGI Score: 3.81
As if it’s not bad enough that Friends also contributed to the strange, disgusting idea that Charlie Sheen was a sex symbol, the actor played one of Phoebe’s infinite terrible boyfriends. To top it all off, Ryan and Phoebe turned treating chicken pox into a sexual act, which is sure to haunt many Friends fans as they raise their own children.
UNAGI Score: 3.74293528
Stu was introduced to us as the classic workplace bully who treated Monica, who was his boss as the head chef of a restaurant, like a complete piece of crap with the rest of his wait staff. Additionally, when she finally took control of the environment and earned the respect of her employees, he gave her the contact information for a prostitute when she needed a stripper for Chandler’s belated bachelor party. We could argue that perhaps Stu was the product of Monica’s terrible leadership skills, but my counterpoint would still be that Stu sucked.
UNAGI Score: 3.5872345685
Played by Ben Stiller, Tommy’s greatest crime wasn’t that he screamed at Ross. In fact, he had every right to be upset with Ross, who almost spilled hot coffee on him. Everyone had a reason to be upset with Ross, and it’s pretty clear by this point that he wasn’t yelled at nearly enough. (Seriously, “PIVOT!” still haunts my nightmares.) But yelling at a small bird for pooping on him? That’s what birds are here for, to poop on us before we eat them. What kind of sociopath yells at a small bird?
UNAGI Score: 3.3535353536
9) Dr. Donald Ledbetter
If I had the ability to pick my least favorite male character in this show’s history, it probably would have been Dr. David Ledbetter, who was Ross’s boss at the museum. Who the hell has the balls to not only steal someone’s sandwich from the staff fridge in a professional and supposedly educational work environment, but then act like it’s no big deal when he’s called on that? This doctor jerk, that’s who. Even worse, when Ross rightfully flipped out on Dr. Ledbetter for stealing his moistmaker, he suspended him. Talk about abuse of power. But science only dictated that he was the 9th worst male character for similar reasons.
UNAGI Score: 3.266666666666666667
Played by Michael Rapaport, Gary was a police officer who was terrible at his job. Not only did he lose his badge and not report it, but when he discovered that Phoebe had found it and was using it to impersonate an officer, he abused his power and authority as an officer of the law to start a sexual relationship with her. Additionally, he used police facilities to interrogate Phoebe while he was on the taxpayer’s dime, and he shot and killed a bird with his police-issued firearm. Typical corrupt TV cops.
Also, can we go ahead and agree – for science’s sake – that Phoebe should have been locked away in prison for life? She did a lot of really messed up stuff. I would have never trusted her.
UNAGI Score: 2.7655947
Russ was responsible for the worst conversation scene in the history of television. He was basically a Ross clone but somehow worse. He was also a really, really ugly man.
UNAGI Score: 2.22222222
This guy (played by David Arquette) was stalking Pheobe’s twin sister, Ursula, before Phoebe, who we have all already agreed should have at least been institutionalized in the series finale, decided to date him. But because he was such a horrible and frightening human being, he kept stalking Ursula anyway. Phoebe probably should have reported him to the police, but with cops like Gary out there, Malcolm was free to keep roaming the streets and being a menace of the shadows.
UNAGI Score: 2.100599
5) Ben Geller
Science really hates when little kids repeat and mock people. Science wishes Ross would have been a better dad.
UNAGI Score: 1.467
4) Frank Buffay, Sr.
He abandoned his family and forced one of his daughters to fend for herself on the streets of New York City from a very young age, as she resorted to mugging nerds like Ross to get by. Additionally, his other daughter grew up to be a porn actress and one of the generally worst human beings on the planet. Frank Sr. should have been drawn and quartered.
UNAGI Score: 1.2776
3) Ross Geller
He was married three times, lied to Rachel to try to remain married to her, said Rachel’s name on the altar with Emily, actually considered cutting Rachel out of his life for good for a woman that he only knew for a few months before he married her, illegally kept a monkey as a pet within city limits, stole everything that wasn’t nailed down in hotels, made fun of a young fat girl who wanted to dance with him at a wedding, tried to have sex with his cousin, hooked up with Charlie behind Joey’s back, refused to man up for sleeping with the copy store girl behind Rachel’s back, and then lied to her about it before hiding behind being “on a break” as an excuse, among many, many other terrible things. But according to SCIENCE, that still doesn’t make him the worst.
UNAGI Score: 1.000004
2) Joey Tribbiani
He wanted to date his best friend’s ex-girlfriend who was pregnant with his child. If Joey had succeeded, he could have eventually ended up as Emma’s stepfather, and then he would have had to explain to her why he and her daddy don’t like each other anymore when he comes to pick her up for his weekends. And that’s all on top of the fact that he ate everything in Monica’s fridge, always borrowed money from Chandler (often with little intention of paying it back), and when his fridge broke, he actually tried to convince all of his best friends that it was their faults so they would pay for it. Additionally, he interviewed female roommates for the sole purpose of trying to have sex with them, and when his best friends, Chandler and Ross, met girls that they liked, he’d still compete with them just so he could sleep with the girls, despite the fact that his friends were looking to find love. He also climbed into an entertainment center, allowing a guy to lock him in so he could steal all of Chandler’s furniture, and then he acted like he could replace it all with crappy old patio furniture and a canoe. But according to science, Joey’s biggest crime of all? He constantly tucked his shirts into his jeans with no belt. That’s just wrong.
UNAGI Score: 0.987445111
1) Dr. Richard Burke
What kind of grown man seduces his friend’s daughter, who also used to be his patient? The worst male character in the history of Friends, that’s who.
UNAGI Score: 0.000000000001
Don’t get mad at me, this has all been brought to you by science.