Friends took a lot of twists and turns over the course of the sitcom's ten-season run, but the Joey and Rachel romance was by far the show's worst decision. The series ended in 2004 and the romance between the two characters is still one of the most controversial subjects to fans of the series.
Friends first debuted on NBC in September of 1994 and ran for a decade. The ensemble cast featured Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, and Matt LeBlanc in the sitcom's lead roles. Over time, Friends became a monumental hit with viewers due to the cast's chemistry and its unique way of interweaving comedy and touching storylines. Today, the series is considered to be one of the best shows of all-time and, with a little help from syndication and Netflix, Friends has left a lasting legacy.
With any long-running show, not every storyline will be well received by viewers and critics. The relationship between Joey Tribbiani (LeBlanc) and Rachel Green (Aniston) is easily regarded as Friends' biggest head-scratcher moment. Throughout the series, Joey never held back in flirting with Rachel but she always playfully brushed him off. However, when Rachel was living with Joey in season 8 because she needed a stable apartment for her unborn baby, his feelings towards her continued to grow. Rachel turned him down at first but the pair tried officially dating in the final season.
Looking back, Friends' Joey/Rachel romance seems like nothing more than a plot device. Rather than introduce brand new faces so late in the series, the showrunners paired two main characters as a way to keep the arcs interweaved. It seemed as though the writers had run out of options in what to do with the dating lives of Joey and Rachel, so they just threw them together. The initial attraction and developed feelings seemed like it was meant for the shock factor but there was no deep meaning behind the romance. The show took a long-running gag with Joey's flirtation and turned it into something implausible.
It was clear from the start that Joey and Rachel were better off as, well, friends. They shared a special bond but that doesn't mean every friend of the opposite gender should date. Even the cast has shared their frustration with the Joey/Rachel romance. They agreed with many fans that the decision didn't feel right.
Thankfully, the showrunners of Friends heard fans' wishes and left the strange romance in the rearview and had Rachel end up with Ross (Schwimmer). In the end, they tried to make it seem like Ross had to feel the jealousy through Rachel and Joey's relationship for him to realize his true feelings. Surely, they could have had Ross come to that realization without Joey's involvement. After ten long years, fans just wanted to see a satisfying end to the stories of the six main characters. They each deserved a happy ending and it would have been nice if the final season of Friends didn't focus on break-ups and hidden feelings.