The NBC sitcom Friends debuted in 1994 to so-so ratings and mixed reviews, with many writing it off as simply the next in a line of half-hour comedies that would be off the air within a few years. It was impossible to imagine that we’d just seen the launch of not only one of the most popular sitcoms in history, but also one of the most enduring. Hand in hand with another NBC sitcom that was underestimated early on—Seinfeld—Friends would become a staple of 1990s pop culture and remain a mainstay in the 21st century, past its end-date, thanks to heavy DVD sales and massive popularity in syndication.
Most recently, Friends entered the digital age via Netflix’s streaming library, where it reached an entirely new audience. Although the beloved series is now due to leave Netflix at the end of 2019 to land on WarnerMedia’s new streaming service HBO Max as an exclusive.
But as the fall TV season approaches, during which networks will unveil a slew of new sitcoms that can only hope to just barely graze the type of popularity and lasting power that Friends enjoyed, now seems like a fitting time to take a look back at the legacy of the NBC sitcom season-by-season.
You don’t enjoy the kind of long-lasting popularity of Friends without some semblance of quality, and throughout its ten seasons on NBC, the series certainly hit some iconic highs—and more than a couple lows. Even the most uneven of seasons still has its bright spots, which makes my task of ranking all ten seasons from worst to best slightly difficult.
Regardless, here goes the one where I rank all the Friends seasons: