Friends is one of the most beloved sitcoms to ever hit the small screen. That’s just a fact. To this day, the show remains massively popular among fans and is still a regular fixture on television thanks to reruns, as well streaming services like Netflix which has exposed a new generation of fans to the hit series. What makes the show’s appeal so enduring?
In addition to the laughs the show provides no matter how many times we watch it, the characters are what brings most of us back. From the main cast -- Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, and Joey -- to the smallest supporting players, Friends’ biggest strength was its ability to create characters that made an impression. Of course, not every character made the best impression.
For all of the show’s enjoyable qualities, it’s hard to overlook how problematic it was at times. Granted, most comedy of its era was to an extent, but times have changed and Friends often feels like the product of an era of entertainment that wasn’t as sensitive to delicate issues. These problems are reflected through some of the multitude of characters who populate the show’s ten seasons. That’s not to say we can’t still enjoy these characters, but we should acknowledge their flaws. On the other hand, some characters just aren’t worth remembering for various reasons. Even the best TV shows have bad characters. In some cases, old cast members would rather forget about their tenure on the show and distance themselves from it altogether.
Here are 20 Characters Friends Wants Everyone To Forget.
20 Sandy the Nanny
In the episode “The One With the Male Nanny”, Freddie Prinze Jr. plays Sandy, the titular babysitter for Ross and Rachel’s baby daughter, Emma. However, the combination of his gender and chosen profession freaks Ross out, as he believes men shouldn't be nannies. Throughout the episode his ignorant beliefs manifest to the point of absurdity.
Overall, the episode didn’t have any malicious intent. Ross was portrayed as a fool and that was made clear from the get-go. That said, despite the episode’s desire to poke fun at those who harbor stereotypical beliefs, the decision to portray Sandy as overly sensitive just because he was a nanny was somewhat misguided. Prinze’s performance is entertaining, but the character could have been written with a little more thought.
19 Joseph Tribbiani Sr.
Joey was never exactly the best guy when it came to treating his dates with common decency. He would wine and dine them, but after doing the deed, he’d never call them again. When we met his dad, however, it was clear that the apple didn’t fall too far from the family tree.
As it turns out, Joey’s old man was a no-good cheat. Yes, he’d been seeing another woman behind his wife’s back, and of course Joey was conflicted when he found out. The worst part, though? Joey’s mom was fine with it. Granted, every relationship has its own rules, but here we got the impression that she resigned herself to playing second fiddle and, quite frankly, she deserved much better.
Ross was arguably the worst human being in Friends' history. Not only was he possessive and guilty of holding some pretty ignorant views, but he also dated his students, which is inappropriate. Ross’s secret relationship with the 20-year-old Elizabeth wasn’t exactly the show’s most considerate storyline.
Despite dating his own student, Ross didn’t experience any real ramifications for breaking the rules, and in the end he walked away unscathed. Additionally, when he broke up with her, the show decided to portray Elizabeth as an immature, temperamental brat as opposed to the mature character she had seemed like until then. Friends seemed to want to have it both ways with her.
In the early seasons the show, Central Perk had another owner. While Gunther was still the most recognizable staffer, a mean old man named Terry was running the ship. He wasn’t around for long, but he didn’t make the best impression while he was.
In one episode, he asked Rachel to retake her waitress training. In another, he stopped Phoebe from performing her songs in the coffee house. Maybe he had valid reasons for both circumstances, but what was the point in the grand scheme of things? Afterwards, he basically disappeared without so much as a mention. Given that he was so authoritative during those brief moments, it’s strange that he wasn’t significant to the coffee shop in any way.
This one isn’t so much about the character as it is about the actor who portrayed him. Ryan was merely a sailor who enjoyed a brief fling with Phoebe, and she seemed more than happy to keep it that way. The man behind the suit isn’t exactly held in high regard by any means.
The decision to cast Charlie Sheen, given his controversial history, probably isn’t the greatest in the show's history. His troubling lifestyle has been well-publicized by this point, and he hasn’t exactly been a positive role model in any way, shape, or form. Sheen’s star would rise years later, but his real-life reputation has tarnished his work in the eyes of some.
Tag was a fun character. He was goofy, entertaining, and had a good heart. Overall, he was a fine addition to the cast in many ways. That said, he also came about through some questionable means. When Rachel hired him to be her assistant, she did so simply because he was a handsome. Even though there was a woman who was more experienced and qualified, she went with the young, inexperienced stud.
Of course, considering that real-life workplaces have often been criticized for their lack of equality in the past, a sitcom storyline about a straight, white dude getting preferential treatment over a qualified woman wasn’t the show’s finest hour. There was no moral to the story, either.
Most viewers will remember this character from Caroline in the City, another '90s sitcom set in the Big Apple. In “The One With the Baby”, actress Caroline Lucas reprised the role, marking one of the few occasions where Friends crossed over with another sitcom. In the episode, Chandler and Joey are babysitting Ross’s son, Ben, when they bump into Caroline. She automatically assumes that they’re a gay couple, much to the pair’s disappointment.
If anything, Caroline’s appearance was just one of many reminders that Friends is very dated. There were many times where it didn’t paint gay people in the most respectful light. This brush-off attitude displayed by Caroline was emblematic of the sitcom’s failure to explore such topics with any substance.
There’s no denying that Brooke Shields' guest-starring role as Joey’s stalker was fun to watch. Her performance was a hoot, but if they made Friends today,we have to wonder if this character would have been included. In “The One After the Superbowl Part One”, she was introduced to Joey as a fan, only to become his worst nightmare. You see, she believed that he was really his Days of Our Lives character Dr. Drake.
The crazy stalker trope has been overdone and here it was supposed to be harmless. Given that conversations surrounding mental health require some nuance and sensitivity, portraying it in this goofy light didn’t exactly do anything to dispel stereotypes.
Not only was this guy unfaithful, he was also a predator. While dating Rachel, he made a move on Phoebe -- except, it was much more nefarious than making a move. It was assault. While Phoebe was giving him a massage, the Italian stallion took it upon himself to touch her without consent. Then, even though she made it clear that she wasn’t comfortable with his unprompted advance, he decided to flash her.
This scene was played for laughs and it’s quite uncomfortable to watch. While it’s easy to dismiss as the comedy of a bygone era, it’s understandable why this character is considered problematic. The fact that Rachel dated him again for a brief time was mind boggling.
11 Alice Knight Buffay
Much like the Ross and Elizabeth situation, Alice was a teacher who preyed on a student. Only in this case, Alice preyed on a high school student while still he was way too young. That high school student just so happened to be Phoebe’s little brother as well.
Instead of highlighting the problems with this type of relationship, though, the story decided to focus on making Phoebe have their babies -- since Alice was too old to have her own. Phoebe telling people that she was carrying her brother’s children was always good for a few laughs, at least. That said, you can’t really blame people for finding this particular pairing quite creepy and offensive, either.
Do you remember Kathy? She briefly drove a wedge between Chandler and Joey’s friendship after they both fell for her. At first she dated Joey, but the spark just wasn't there. She had feelings for Chandler and the love was reciprocated. Unable to control themselves, they went behind Joey’s back.
After breaking up with Joey and dating Chandler, she betrayed with him someone else after their first fight. Not only did she nearly ruin the show’s central male friendship, but she messed around on both of them as well. Kathy showed up and caused too much drama for the liking of fans. We could spin a positive on this one and view Kathy as a test for Joey and Chandler. Fortunately, they passed with flying colors.
9 Pete Becker
Jon Favreau gracing the show should have been much better. However, his character was a rich, annoying creep who annoyed Monica into dating him. She wasn’t attracted to him at first, but he wasn’t taking no for an answer. He even tried to buy her a restaurant in exchange for affection. Who does that?
After finally wearing her down and making her like him, he threw it all away by becoming a cage fighter. Not only did he guilt Monica into showing him affection, but he then proceeded to make her life stressful by worrying about him. All in all, Pete was just a big waste of time. He wasted his time, Monica’s, and the viewers.
When you think about it, Ben was a pointless character. After Emma was born, Friends didn’t seem to pay attention to Ross and Carol’s son, and instead chose to focus on Emma, Ross' second child.
Really, the only purpose Ben served as to give Ross an excuse to resent Ben’s lesbian mothers. There’s even an episode where he freaks out because Ben wanted to play with a Barbie doll, further suggesting that he has issues with femininity in men. All Ben did in the long-run was bring out some of Ross’s worst traits, which in turn exposed the show’s most misinformed attitudes. Maybe Ben being forgotten in later seasons was intentional on the writers' part?
7 Fat Monica
Fat Monica was one of the longest-running jokes in the series. Despite only appearing in a handful of episodes as her teenage self, references to Monica's "fat" years are mentioned often, mostly as the butt of jokes. To put it bluntly: the character was fa-shamed by her friends, parents, and the show's creators.
Furthermore, the only reason why Monica lost weight in the first place was because she overheard Chandler talking about her weight. She was basically shamed into becoming the strong character she ended up as -- because a man found her unattractive. At the end of the day, the show treated fat Monica as a punchline as opposed to a person. If the writing team could turn back time and change that, they hopefully would.
6 Fun Bobby
Another issue that Friends didn’t approach with care was addiction. This is evidenced through Monica’s brief love interest Fun Bobby, a character who was fine and jolly when inebriated and clinically depressed while sober. As the character vowed to get sober, Chandler poked fun at him behind his back, calling him “Ridiculously Dull Bobby.” On top of that, Monica dumped him because he was no longer the "good vibes" type of guy she fell for.
In short, Friends brushed off addiction as a joke and kicked the subject out of the bar when the jokes dried up. When you look at the character from this point of view, perhaps it would have been better to not include him in the show at all.
Former supermodel Elle Macpherson regrets appearing in Friends, admitting she didn’t realize how much of an impact her short stint would have on her life afterwards. In the show, she played Janine, the dancer roommate who stole Joey’s heart in season six back in 1999. She was only in five episodes, but she didn’t have the best time, it seems.
She revealed all to the magazine TV Week (via E News): “If I’d known how important it was in the US, or how long it would be shown on TV, I may not have chosen to do it. It was a lot of pressure, if you look at in the way that it’ll be around for 20 or 30 years.”
As we’ve established with this list, Friends didn’t shy away from inappropriate subject matter -- and most of the characters were victims at some point. In the case of Doug, he basically harassed his employees -- Chandler, mostly -- by spanking their behinds really hard, much to their displeasure. Or was it?
It goes without saying that this dude was awful, but Chandler actually stood up to him. The show almost had a moral to one of its inappropriate story arcs. Of course, this was all undone after Chandler felt left out because he was the only man in the office not being hit by his boss. In the end, he caved to Doug’s enthusiastic hand and that was that.
This guy was a real piece of work. After tricking Monica on the first date with a sob story about not being able to perform between the sheets since his divorce, he disappeared, never to be seen again. Good riddance.
It took lots of bad dates and mistakes for Monica to realize that Chandler was her lobster. Paul, on the other hand, was arguably the worst of those bad experiences, yet he was so pointless in the grand scheme of things. He’s someone we’d rather scrub from our memories so it doesn’t sully Monica’s happily ever after. When it comes to true love, no one wants to be reminded that there are also villains out there who manipulate people.
If we added Ross to this list then we could remove some of the other characters. If anything, a couple of these characters are only worth forgetting about because they highlight his questionable character traits. However, Ross also happened to be an integral part of the show and lovable for the most part, so we can’t ever forget him.
trying to romance his cousin, Cassie, was really too much. Fortunately, the creators had the sense to make her reject him and perceive him as inappropriate. That said, you have to wonder why they even thought giving one of the main characters such feelings was a good idea in the first place.
1 Helena Handbasket
Chandler’s dad, Helena, was a frequent butt of the jokes in Friends. She was trans woman and a performer at a Las Vegas club. Any mention of the character tended to come with a negative sentiment attached -- especially from Chandler. If people weren’t poking fun at Helena's appearance, they were questioning her gender identity and lifestyle. She was never anything more than a silly punchline for the most part.
When we met Herelan, she always portrayed as a loving parent who cared about her son. Eventually, Chandler learned to accept her as well. At the same time, the fact that Helena was mostly on the receiving end of ridicule says a lot about the show's attitude toward trans people back then.
Who are some of the other characters that Friends wants everyone to forget? Sound off in the comments.