With HBO Max, your pop culture viewing options are a plentiful harvest. You can catch up on movies you’ve never seen before. You can watch all of The Sopranosand try and figure out what gabagool is. You can start to binge all of the Studio Ghibli movies and then get angry when your wife watches Spirited Away with you and doesn’t “understand what the big deal is.”
Or you can just watch a buttload of Friends.
Running from September of 1994 through May of 2004, there are few shows that were more popular or culturally important than Friends. The show was nominated for 62 Emmys (and won Best Comedy Series in 2002), consistently shows up on every list of the best television shows of all time, and turned Jennifer Aniston into a household name (while the other cast members also did, well, let’s just say “fair to ok”). The show allowed David Schwimmer to work with a primate during the show (a capuchin monkey who played Marcel) and launched Matt LeBlanc’s film career, allowing him to co-star in a movie with a primate (the baseball-throwing chimpanzee Ed in the movie with the same title).
I don’t know why, but that seemed important to me.
I have always enjoyed and appreciated Friends. Here’s a fun fact about me: Whenever my wife gets her hair cut, I ask her if she is going to get “The Rachel”, a style she has never had nor expressed any interest in wanting. And it is always funny, regardless of how my wife acts or how many times she tells me, “Stop saying that.”
But something has felt incomplete about the show… until now.
Through a combination of exhaustive FOIA requests, corporate espionage, and agreeing to let two members of The Rembrandts stay at my house for a few months, I have discovered a series of lost episodes of Friends. These gems, hidden until today, help fill in an understanding of the show craved for by fans like me who strive for completionism. I present you the synopses of these episodes here:
“The One With The Penicillin”– Admitting to the group that he has persistent and uncomfortable genital itching, Joey (LeBlanc) is convinced that his years of sexual hedonism have finally caught up with him. When Monica (Courtney Cox) gets the same symptoms days later, the friends repeatedly tease the two for having a sexual encounter, despite the fact that both adamantly deny it. When Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) and Rachel (Aniston) also begins itching, Ross (Schwimmer) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) now feel left out and contemplate having their own dalliance to make the others jealous. (In the discussion, Ross says, “We’ll show them what they’re missing!” to which Chandler replies, “Will we?”) However, when all of the friends begin itching, they visit a doctor who determines they all suffer from a bacterial infection caused by dancing in a New York City fountain.
“The One With The Gentrification”– Over a series of long, uncomfortable discussions in Central Perk, the gang discusses how they all could be in New York City for a decade and only have seen, at most, a dozen black people.
“The One With The Jams”– Phoebe is booked to play a music festival in upstate New York after the booker realizes it is his best way to spend time with (and hopefully woo) Monica. Rachel meets an attractive shirtless guitar player who promises a night of wonderful, no strings attached love-making. However, Rachel leaves the festival frustrated and unfulfilled after realizing that the guitar player is in a terrible jam band who are now in their second hour of their first set (including a one note solo lasting for 45 minutes). Chandler and Joey lose Ross after he takes mushrooms, only to find him bitten by a family of squirrels after trying to explain to them different types of dinosaurs.
“The One With All The Sparklies”– (Ok, this one needs a little context: It’s relatively well-known that for the last two seasons, the cast was each getting a million dollars per episode. What was not reported was that the cast also came together and wrote an episode which they demanded be shot. The episode, set to be released in season 10, never came out, as NBC was worried that the fame and fortune of the cast may have affected their writing and made the episode unrelatable. We will never know.) Tensions are high as Ross, Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe are all bidding on a Faberge egg up for auction (Joey lost interest once he learned it was inedible). Meanwhile, Chandler cannot stop complaining about the capital gains tax (“Could this BE any more unfair?”).
“The One With All The Blood; Dear God, There’s So Much Blood”– Rachel arrives back at the apartment and heads to take a hot bath. She is stunned when she finds Monica in the bathroom dissolving the corpse of a German head of state. Monica then reveals that she is not a chef; rather, she is “The Chef”, a famed hitman known for her sadistic tendencies. Monica reveals that her excessive need for cleanliness is not some anal-retentive quirk, but rather a way to make sure she leaves her crime scenes free of evidence, allowing her to remain just out of the grasp of the authorities. Rachel is horrified, but agrees to not tell anyone out of fear for her safety and the safety of those she loves. Also, Joey and Phoebe fight over a muffin.
“The One With The Glitch In The Matrix”– It is Halloween, and the friends are all watching scary movies. Joey puts on Leprechaun, a movie no one has heard of, and everyone is stunned when the lead actress of the film looks (and speaks) exactly like Rachel. Rachel begins calling her family to see if there are any relatives who would bear such a close resemblance to her, but no one understands how this is possible. As Rachel begins to hyper-ventilate, Ross suggests they stop watching scary movies, changing the channel to VH1, which is having an “All 80s” weekend. As the Bruce Springsteen video for “Dancing In The Dark Comes On”, the camera cuts to a close-up of Monica, who looks confused, then scared. A tear of pure blood runs down her cheek. Fade to black.
You can catch all episodes of Friends- at least the ones Warner Brothers wants you to see- on HBO Max.