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It has been exactly 12 years (May 6) since we last heard the Rembrandts' "I'll Be There For You" and waved the Friends gang off in their final episode, "The Last One." Do you feel old yet? Partial rumors, cast meet-ups, and blossoming bromances have followed the cast since the show ended, in all likelihood we have seen the last of the coffee-swilling comedic six and their Central Perk couch.
With an iconic theme tune, a band of hapless 20-somethings, and more memes than you can shake an unagi at, NBC's long-running comedy won hearts worldwide. With 10 seasons and 236 episodes, it is said that at some point, somewhere, an episode of Friends is always playing. It made household names of the core cast, comprised of Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow — but where did it begin? Let's look at the cast from the pilot, the finale, and now!
Rachel Green - Jennifer Aniston
The pretty one, the pilot episode sees Rachel Green arrive at Central Perk to see her high school frenemy, Monica Geller. With a haircut named after her (high praise indeed), Rachel's journey was probably the most notable. Across all 10 seasons, she went from from spoiled cheerleader to caring mother, but still never lost her fiery temper. It was her love and the Ross/Rachel saga that became the core of the show, and despite marrying in Season 5, the two quickly annulled their drunken Vegas mistake. There was a Dallas-style storyline of who was the father of Rachel's baby, but of course the father was Ross. It looked like the two would part for good when the last season saw Rachel heading off to pastures new to start a career, only to realize they might be lost forever. Did Ross and Rachel finally get back together? Of course they did — it was the fairytale ending we all hoped for.
Always known as the rom-com girl, Jennifer Anniston has had mixed hits with films like Bruce Almighty and the abysmal Along Came Polly. One of her career highlights was Marley & Me, which set the record for largest Christmas day box-office holdings ever. Aniston had a similar rollercoaster herself, having had a rocky love life of her own. Aniston is the ex Mrs. Brad Pitt/Vince Vaughn, but has finally found happiness with Justin Theroux. Where is her strong Ross Skywalker?
Ross Geller - David Schwimmer
(Dr.) Ross Geller was the geeky, intelligent one and a paleontologist-cum-professor. His sibling rivalry with sister Monica was a long-standing joke in the Geller household, with Ross's intelligence making him a clear favorite of their parents, Jack and Judy. However, just like the theme song, Ross and Monica were always there for each other, even perfecting their own dance routine. Ross's brief fling with English Emily was easily a low point on the show, but it did give us the hilarious London saga where Ross said Rachel's name at his own wedding. Talking of weddings, Ross's three marriages were often a talking point of the show, starting the series when his lesbian wife left him for another woman. After Friends, Schwimmer's first performance was in the 2005 drama Duane Hopwood. Despite mixed reviews, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said it changed the way we think about Schwimmer:
Duane is played by David Schwimmer in one of those performances that transform the way we think about an actor.
2005 was also the year he took on the role of Melman, the neurotic giraffe in DreamWorks's Madagascar series. Schwimmer shed his Ross persona pretty quickly and gained much success as a director for the likes of Run Fatboy Run. Still an actor at heart, he has trodden the boards of the West End and Broadway, recently hitting our screens in the critically acclaimed The People v. OJ Simpson as Robert Kardashian.
Monica Geller - Courtney Cox
Monica, or Big Fat Goalie, as her childhood friends called her, was the OCD one and fond of a Dudley Moore haircut. A talented chef and house-proud owner of the girls' flat, it seemed at one point that Monica would marry Magnum P.I. Her long-term relationship with Tom Selleck's Dr. Richard Burke looked set for a happy ending, but his age and not wanting to have kids ultimately ended their time together. In a stroke of writing genius, she eventually hooked up with other Friend, Chandler Bing. It took four seasons for it to happen, but the two were solid from there on out. Despite the inability to have children of their own, Monica and Chandler remained strong, surrogating two children off Anna Faris in the finale. See, Friends isn't all jokes and marinara sauce.
Outside of the Friendsverse, Cox was Marc Cherry's first choice for Susan Mayer on Desperate Housewives, before Teri Hatcher took the role. Cox had a similar role as Jules Cobb for a solid six-season run in ABC's Cougar Town. During Friends, you may have noticed the mid-season's title change to Courtney Cox-Arquette when she married fellow actor David Arquette. Despite filing for divorce in 2012, the two starred in all four of Wes Craven's Scream films, where Cox made a name for herself as reporter Gale Weathers.
Chandler Bing - Matthew Perry
Could he be anymore sarcastic? Chandler Bing is the boy from a broken home, after his father left him for the pool boy and eventually became a Vegas showgirl (cue Kathleen Turner's amazing cameo as Charles Bing/Helena Handbasket). Surprisingly, Chandler was a bit of a serial dater and has the honor of introducing the world of Friends to Maggie Wheeler's Janice and her laugh. Thankfully, Chandler found his sweetheart Monica, which on paper should never have worked, but thankfully it did. We never did really find out what his job was, but he definitely wasn't a Transponster.
Perry made his directorial debut a fourth season episode of Scrubs, in which he also starred alongside his real-life father. Perry himself battled a Vicodin addiction during his time on the show and you can spot his weight change almost as much as his hair's. Like Schwimmer, he is now more often behind the camera than in front. He did star in a show-within-a-show for Aaron Sorkin's short-lived Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, but as Sorkin's only show to not last more than one season, it was axed. Let's hope Perry's CBS sitcom The Odd Couple can fair better; it was renewed for a second season last year.
Joey Tribbiani - Matt LeBlanc
Joey was the stupid one (sorry Matt); the out of work actor found himself scraping through life with bit parts in Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E., and as Dr. Drake Drake Ramoray in Days of Our Lives. Ramoray was Joey's biggest part, but after arguing with the directors, he was unceremoniously killed off by being dropped down a lift shaft. Ramoray returned seasons later and an amazing cameo from Susan Sarandon saw Joey put Drake's mind in the body of a woman. The stereotypical ladies' man, the Italian stallion was the only one to remain single as the show came to an end. Joey seemed pretty content with a foot-long sub and his chick and duck.
Matt LeBlanc managed to shed his role of Joey, despite his disastrous spin-off of the same name. After the cancelation of Joey, he announced he would take a one-year hiatus from acting, which eventually turned into a five-year one. Post-hiatus, he took the lead in Friends co-creator David Crane's sitcom, Episodes, and now heads up the revamped line-up of BBC's Top Gear. Not bad for a guy who was once locked in an entertainment center!
Phoebe Buffay - Lisa Kudrow
The quirky one, Phoebe Buffay was the odd one out who, along with Chandler, was originally designed to serve as a background character. Luckily for us, Lisa Kudrow was front and center for all 10 seasons, bringing her kooky edge to the show. Phoebe's unusual personality was often reflected in her storylines, including the plot that saw Phoebe surrogate her own brother's babies, then tragically give them up. She also married a gay ice dancer and once contracted hepatitis when a pimp spat in her mouth. Her twin sister, Ursula, falsely paraded herself as Phoebe in porn films to give us classics like Buffay the Vampire Layer. Phoebe's actual career didn't fair much better, deafening us with her unique take on guitar playing. Arguably Phoebe's songs were one of the highlights of Friends and where would the world be without "Smelly Cat," or:
Are you in there little fetus?
In nine months will you come greet us?...
I'll buy you some Adidas!
While some were sad to not see her marry Joey, Phoebe did meet Mike/Crap Bag in Season 9 and the two married soon after. After Friends, Kudrow was the main protagonist, Valerie Cherish, in 2005's HBO, pseudo-docudrama The Comeback. The show was a cult-hit and nearly a decade later Kudrow reprised the role of Cherish to receive two Emmy nominations. She tends to stick to wacky roles like her one in Easy A; most recently she played Kimmy's long-lost mother on Netflix comedy The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Reaching for the tissues yet? Would Paul Rudd be Ant-Man without Phoebe? Can you ever go to London without stepping into a map or secretly shouting "in London"? Friends not only left behind a legacy of actors, it cemented itself in pop culture and is still funny all these years later. The pilot, "The One Where It All Began"/"The One Where Monica Gets a New Roommate"/"The First One" — depending who you are — aired on September 22, 1994, and with the modern HD remastering, the only thing that looks dated are the outfits (give it another five years and they will be back in fashion). Everyone has their favorite episode and favorite season, with some saying that Friends tailed off in the later years. Even at its lowest, Friends was on a high, with the finale pulling in a whopping 52.5 million American viewers. The finale may not have been to everyone's taste, but as the most watched television episode of the 2000s, we are pushed to find a better one. While the cast may have aged and gone on to other things, to us they will always be the lesbian-marrying, duck-keeping, wedding-jilting misfits that dominated our '90s viewing. The cast of Friends will always be there for us!