Greatest TV Seasons: Friends Season Three (1996-1997)
What is the greatest season of your favourite TV series? And what makes it stand out from those seasons around it? Every fan will have their own opinion of what is great and what isn't and here at The Digital Fix, our team of writers are going to complete the possibly impossible task of selecting what season of their favourite shows makes the cut above all others.
Next up is Friends. It's mad to think the show left our screens 15 years ago; little baby Emma would be 17, Ben would be 23, the Bing twins would be 14 and Phoebe’s triplets would be 20. Feel old yet? It’s even crazier that a little over 25 years ago the six ‘Friends’ actors were taken to Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas to enjoy their final night before the immense fame that would befall them. Legendary director James Burrows said to them “This is your last shot at anonymity” - safe to say he was right on the money with that statement.
Friends was and is considered one of the greatest TV shows of all time - but what is it's greatest season? With 10 seasons, 236 episodes and 84 hours of perfect comedy sitcom to sift through, could I BE anymore spoilt for choice (are you even a fan if you didn't read that line like Chandler)? Every season is brilliant in its own right and there really aren't any bad episodes so it's more about how many standout episodes and moments a season has - for that very reason the third season just pips the others to the post.
The third season was the first where the show was really full established as a global success and it was the one of the most action-packed in terms of progression of the characters. There was a lot of relatable moments and perhaps none more so than Ross' jealously that came between him and Rachel. Ross' extreme measures of marking his territory (or as he would say, "showing his affection") were hysterical; especially the barbershop quartet, but it was too much for Rachel and the fan-favourite on-screen relationship started to show cracks. Ross and Rachel's relationship spanned some major highs and lows throughout season three but it was always the backbone of the season and consistently left fans hoping for their reconciliation - none more so than the season three cliff-hanger.
Season three was able to explore a wider range of real-world stereotypes and delivered more of an emotional rollercoaster in each character's development. Besides the season largely revolving around the high and lows of the Ross-Rachel relationship, the other characters each embark some key life events; Monica dates a billionaire but chooses happiness over money, Phoebe follows her heart and discovers her birth mother, Chandler gets over his commitment issues and Joey, well Joey buys a chick and a duck. I guess you could say there was different levels of progression amongst the friends - but like the very popular theme tune, they are there for each other through it all.
The third season carried a number of the best episodes in series; below are the five very best entries...
3.02 The One Where No One’s Ready
The impressive thing with this episode is that the whole thing was filmed in real time, in the one apartment - it’s believed that they needed to shoot an episode with limited cast and crew due to budget restraints. Regardless of those requirements, it turned out to be one of the best; all you need is six loveable characters with chemistry producing comedy. Joey and Chandler’s squabble over the seat is a particular highlight, Phoebe getting the hummus down her dress and Ross almost drinks the fat. The best moment has to be Joey wearing all of Chandler’s clothes; “Could I BE wearing anymore clothes?”.
3.04 The One with the Metaphorical Tunnel
Chandler tries to get over his fear of commitment and Phoebe poses as Joey's agent in the episode's main story, but this particular episode subtly addresses two real life stereotypes which is what breaks it into this list. Having the girls comfort Chandler with cuddles and ice cream was a good spin on the typical 'guys don't do commitment' stereotype and Ross trying to prevent Ben from playing with a Barbie doll and instead replacing it with a G.I Joe action doll is about as 90's gender-stereotype as you can get.
3.06 The One with the Flashback
This episode was one of the more fascinating; given the premise. The friends remember the events of three years ago when they all nearly slept together; a distraught Ross is comforted by Phoebe, an ambitious Chandler tries his hand at winning over Rachel and a heartthrob Joey moves in next door hoping to impress his neighbour Monica. It was so intriguing to see what happened when some of them met and what could have been - the question of 'Who's slept with who?' was often one put to the cast as well as the characters.
3.09 The One with the Football
“42 to 21, like the turkey, Ross is done!”, in what is perhaps the show’s best ‘Thanksgiving’ themed episode, the friends play a game of American Football in the park and the entire episode is full of comical banter. There is a historic competitiveness between Ross and Monica for the ‘Geller Cup’ - most can relate to sibling rivalry. Joey and Chandler face-off over a girl to no avail for either of them, Phoebe uses her natural assets to distract the boys from the game and Rachel, well Rachel - she goes long.
3.25 The One at the Beach
The beach trip was so relatable; a group of friends going on a weekend getaway together; playing games and drinking. So much goes on in this episode with Phoebe meeting her real mother being a big story breakthrough. The gang playing strip 'happy days' was hysterical - at Joey's expense, and the Ross-Rachel relationship delivered one of the show's best season-ending cliff-hangers when Ross has to decide who's room to enter; Rachel or Bonnie.
Season Three's Greatest Moments
Princess Leia Fantasy
In the adequately titled episode of the very same, the Princess Leia fantasy was a perfect episode for any fans of Star Wars and/or Jennifer Aniston as her character Rachel asks Ross what his sexual fantasy is; now it should be no surprise to anyone that has seen Return of the Jedi that Princess Leia and the gold bikini was his answer. Rachel Green certainly looked the part but what made this scenario much more comical was Chandler's 'picture your mom' conversation with Ross prior to Rachel delivering said fantasy - needless to say, Ross' fantasy was ruined after picturing his own mother Judy Geller.
Robin Williams and Billy Crystal stealing the show
At the beginning of The One With The Ultimate Fighting Champion, the unplanned appearance of Billy Crystal and the late Robin Williams was one of the show's best openings. Both actors were filming in a studio lot opposite Friends and they were asked to appear - their appearance was written, added and filmed all in the same day. It was actually the best part of the episode as the comical duo took the spotlight away from the gang with their Gynaecologist affair story.
The gang buying all the dead Christmas trees for Phoebe
In The One Where Rachel Quits the very quirky Phoebe doesn't agree with everyone buying new Christmas trees. So when Joey gets a job selling them, Phoebe isn't best pleased. The characters all got in their Christmas spirit and bought all the dead or dying Christmas trees for Phoebe - they don't make friends as good as this gang.
Ross' freebie list
In The One With Frank Jr. one of the less prominent stories of the episode is Ross' freebie list; essentially where Ross is aloud to record five celebrity crushes that he is aloud to sleep with (should he encounter them) - if only it was that simple. His choices were; Uma Thurman, Winona Ryder, Elizabeth Hurley, Michelle Pfeiffer and Dorothy Hamill. Ross bumped off Isabella Rossellini upon advice from the gang because she was 'international' and therefore most unlikely to be encountered. As funny was it when Isabella Rossellini walks into Central Perk and finds she isn't on the laminated list, the top five celebrity crushes was so very relatable to everyone.
Joey teaching acting class
In The One With The Race Car Bed there becomes a situation where somehow Joey Tribbiani, despite all his difficulties with his choice of career, winds up teaching an acting class with some clearly naive students. We get an insight into Joey's hilarious catalogue of acting skills; "Smell the fart acting", pinching yourself with a tweezer in your trouser pocket in order to cry, and perhaps the best one, "when I get bad news, I just try and divide 232 by 13".
Season three significantly contributed towards the wider global success of the show. Friends is still played around the world today; on Netflix, on DVD players and on a number of replay channels. It’s said that there is always an episode of Friends being played somewhere in the world. It is a global phenomenon and throughout its 10 years, it covered a number of real world controversies, and it was relatable; their bond was desirable, but mostly - Friends is timeless. Every single episode is re-watchable, time and time again but no matter how many times you watch or have watched this flawless show, it is near impossible not to buy in to these legendary character’s journeys.
A show created by David Crane and Mara Kauffman that produced globally popular characters, quotes and iconic moments that would go on to make Friends one of the greatest TV shows of all time. No one told you life was going to be this way, but if you need a laugh, Friends will be there for you.
What are your thoughts on Friends as a TV series? What are your favourite moments and favourite seasons? Tell us all in the comments below...