As the recipient of countless accolades and the accompanying awards that went with it, Friends is almost always included among the most prestigious sitcoms in television history. Capturing the affectionate bond between six friends living in the heart of New York City, the sophisticated charm and undeniable wit of the series made its cast members some of the most instantly recognizable faces in Hollywood. Now living a second life through syndication, as well as a pricey new deal with Netflix, the eccentric personalities and amusing antics of Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, and Joey can be relived at home for your binge-watching pleasure. With 236 episodes and ten years of top-notch comedy under their belts, the six central characters have felt like real-life friends, even fourteen years after the series finale.
Although the relationships on the show were already well established prior to the pilot, the members of the group weren't always so close. Along the way, other members have come and gone, while those in the series experienced their own troubles before eventually finding their way to each other. Much like the greatest moments of the series, there were many memorable instances that happened prior to the opening scene of Rachel entering Central Perk in a wedding dress. While the timelines didn't always make sense chronologically, nor were very many details always given, many of these moments make up the characters' histories. So, come along as we explore 22 Wild Things That Happened Before Season One.
22 Ross, Rachel, and Monica Attended Lincoln High School
A frequently referenced location, Lincoln High School was the backdrop for Ross, Monica, and Rachel's formative years. From their freshman days until graduation, some of their most embarrassing recollections could be traced back to their teenage youths. Located somewhere in Long Island, Lincoln is where Rachel and Monica became the closest of friends, until Rachel's eventual popularity resulted in her drifting apart from her BFF in her later years. It's also where the lovestruck Ross first developed an attraction to Rachel, which he later used to form the “I Hate Rachel” Club with Will Colbert, a once overweight student played by Brad Pitt who Rachel frequently picked on.
Although the gang's nicest moments were never shared at Lincoln, many of the school's various graduates would occasionally be mentioned, including characters such as Luisa Gianetti, Chip Matthews, Amy Welsh, and Roy Gublik.
21 Phoebe Becomes Homeless
The result of a tragic upbringing, Phoebe and her twin sister Ursula were born to Phoebe Abbott, who shared a relationship with Frank and Lily Buffay. Unprepared to become a mother, Frank and Lily adopted the children from Abbott, although Frank would later leave and divorce Lily when the siblings were still children.
At fourteen years old, Lily's second husband was imprisoned and sometime around Christmas, Lily took her own life. Forced to live on the streets, Phoebe resorted to mugging for survival and even mugged Ross at one point, stealing the only existing copy of his comic book “Science Boy.” Although various inconsistencies exist in Phoebe's stories, it's well established that she never attended high school and at some point, learned to speak French with three other homeless people she met behind a dumpster.
20 Ross and Chandler Meet As Undergraduates in College
Sometime after graduating from Lincoln High, Ross spent time at his grandmother's apartment where he contemplated a career as a professional dancer before turning his attention towards college. Although the exact location of his undergraduate studies is never specified, it is known that he shared a dormitory with Chandler, which is where they first became friends.
During Thanksgiving break in 1987, Ross invited Chandler to eat with his family, where he was formally introduced to Monica and Rachel. During the holiday commotion at the Geller residence, Monica would accidentally drop a kitchen knife on Chandler's foot, severing his toe in the process, an incident that angered him years later. Soon after graduation, Ross would pursue a career in paleontology while Chandler moved into the apartment across from Monica's, specializing in statistical analysis and data reconfiguration as an IT procurements manager.
19 Ross and Carol Begin Their Relationship
In the early '90s, when characters of certain orientations on television were far and few between, Ross' ex-wife Carol had an attraction to women, whose personal desires went against the grain of traditional depictions. Although initially introduced as a running gag to showcase Ross' inability to please the women in his life, she later exhibited her own strong qualities as a caring mother, loving partner, and competent sixth-grade school teacher.
On paper, Carol was a model wife. She got along well with the rest of the group and appeared generous while having a strong career. Although it isn't known exactly when the couple became an item, it likely occurred sometime during their college years when Carol was still unsure of her attraction to women and Ross appeared as an equally attractive option for marriage.
18 Rachel Gets a Nose Job
Despite her history as the popular girl at Lincoln High, Rachel wasn't exactly the self-centered “daddy's girl” she was always depicted to be. As an image conscious teenager, her insecurities were evident in her earlier years, particularly concerning her abnormally large nose.
As Rachel mentions in “The One with the Prom Video,” she would later have surgery on her nose, which she claimed was due to a deviated septum. Other episodes, however, seemed to insinuate that the nose job was the result of her insecurities over her looks. As writer Alexa Junge would mention, the large nose was a way to tone down the cast's attractiveness and add “some realness to their past.” Although the storyline would begin as a small inclusion in a flashback, it would add a real dimension to Rachel's character.
17 Monica and Rachel Attend College
Although never explicitly stated throughout the series, the show's leading characters all represent varying levels of education. With a respectable profession as a paleontologist and later a professor at NYU, Ross spent the longest time in school, earning the only Ph.D. of the group. Meanwhile, it's known that Chandler likely earned his bachelor's while Phoebe never attended high school and Joey likely dropped out.
For Monica and Rachel, their college years weren't only a sign of adulthood, but it also signified the temporary end in their friendship. Although it's unclear whether Rachel ever graduated after admitting to switching majors several times, it is likely that Monica received a degree in culinary arts. Ultimately, the two friends drifted apart after maintaining contact for a couple of years in college, only to reconnect down the road.
16 Monica Loses Weight After Chandler Insults Her
Although Monica and Chandler would later become the exemplary couple of the series, their relationship initially began over a chaotic Thanksgiving weekend. Known for his over-reliance on sarcasm and his often brash demeanor, Chandler's personality is the antithesis to Monica's controlling need for perfection, which is why when the two first met in 1987 after Ross invited Chandler to Thanksgiving, there was little love shared.
After overhearing Chandler insult her weight during a private conversation, a distraught Monica stopped overeating, only to encounter Chandler again the following year. Noticeably slimmer, Chandler immediately acknowledged his attraction to Ross' sister, which she used as a chance to embarrass him: seducing him with her new looks, she attempted to talk him out of his clothes, only to drop a knife on his foot, resulting in the permanent loss of his toe.
15 Rachel and Monica Grow Apart
BFFs during high school, Rachel and Monica drifted apart sometime during their college days, seemingly after attending separate schools, which limited their communication. Although the specifics of why Rachel eventually cuts ties with Monica isn't known, it likely had something to do with her reputation as the self-absorbed spoiled girl at the beginning of the series.
Soon after college, Rachel became engaged to Barry Farber, an orthodontist with enough money to support her lucrative lifestyle. During a trip to New York to celebrate the engagement, she unexpectedly bumped into Monica, who agreed to have lunch with her the next time she was in town. Although Rachel snubbed her former best friend by not inviting her to her wedding, she'd later rekindled their friendship after ditching Barry at the altar and seeking support from her in the pilot episode.
14 Phoebe Moves in with Monica
With her bohemian lifestyle, carefree wit, and wild story of being chased around a tire yard by an escaped ill patient, Phoebe's spirited personality makes her an oddball among the group, which is why her friendship with Monica stands out as particularly peculiar.
Sometime after living her teenage years on the streets of New York, Phoebe met Monica, who invited her to move in as her new roommate. During her stay, she married an ice dancer named Duncan to help him obtain a green card. She also began working as a masseuse and playing guitar during solo performances at Central Perk. After Monica's uptight, controlling demeanor became overbearing, Phoebe discreetly began moving her stuff out and staying with her grandmother. She'd later move in temporarily after her apartment caught on fire in season six.
13 Chandler Moves Into An Apartment With Kip
Before the start of the series, multiple formations of the show's group existed. In the late '80s, when many of the characters were attending college, Ross first met Chandler, who he introduced to Rachel and Monica, forming the backbone of the gang. Later, as Rachel became distant and Monica moved in with Phoebe, others were slowly brought in.
Although Joey was last to join, Rachel technically counts as the last inclusion, having reconnected with Monica following her unsuccessful marriage. Still, other less talked about members have come and gone, including Chandler's ex-roommate Kip. At one point very close to Chandler, Kip was phased out after having a bad relationship with Monica. Although Chandler also suggested Kip ran off and got married, it's hinted that the animosity between him and Monica was the real reason behind his departure.
12 Ross and Carol Get Married
As an ongoing joke throughout the series, Ross' unsuccessful relationships resulted in him raking up the marriage count, having married three different women on the show. Although his on-again, off-again status with Rachel was among the most frequented storylines, it was Ross' hopeless romantic side that garnered him the reputation of the lovable loser.
Although his two month marriage to Emily and quick Las Vegas nuptials with Rachel are equally embarrassing, nothing takes the cake more than the six to eight years he spent with Carol, who would later confess to being involved with her friend Susan. Although it is unknown exactly when Ross and Carol walked down the aisle, it is known that the gang got along well with Ross' ex-wife, even admitting to missing her after her disappearance from the group.
11 Chandler's Ex-Roommate Kip Moves Out
In the season five episode “The One with the Kips,” Rachel worries she's being phased out of the group after Ross intentionally begins avoiding her at the behest of his new wife Emily. Discussing her worry of losing her friends, she references the previously mentioned, but never before seen, Kip, Chandler's ex-roommate who grew distant after his relationship with Monica turned sour.
Although little is known about Kip, Joey mentions in passing that he was Jewish while Chandler briefly acknowledges him, stating that he ran off and got married. Despite promising to remain friends after his departure, the group ultimately lost touch, resulting in Joey replacing him as Chandler's new BFF after answering a “roommate wanted” ad. Luckily, the duo meshed, creating one of primetime's greatest bromances.
10 Joey Nearly Gets Involved With Monica
In the season three episode “The One with the Flashback,” the group reminisces on earlier days after Janice questions whether any of them have come close to being involved with one another. After Chandler unsuccessfully searches for a roommate, he meets Joey, with whom he bonds with over Baywatch re-runs and cold beverages. Shortly after his introduction, Monica invites Joey to her apartment, signaling her attraction to him.
Misinterpreting Monica's flirtatious cues, Joey removes his clothes as she prepares a glass of lemonade for him. Surprised at the sight, she rejects his offer, although she acknowledges the absurd encounter as an instance that could have happened to anyone. Although nothing ultimately comes from Monica and Joey's first meeting, the mutual attraction was evident, suggesting the two may have connected had Joey acted more appropriately.
9 Phoebe Moves Out of Monica's Apartment
With her obsessive cleanliness, over-the-top organizational skills, and overbearing bossiness, Monica's controlling personality borders on OCD levels, making her an extremely intolerable roommate for a free-spirited individual like Phoebe. Although the two's apartment-sharing days brought them together, their time as roommates was short-lived as the duo were unable to see eye to eye.
Right around the time Chandler welcomes Joey in across the hall, Phoebe sneakily begins moving her bedroom furniture out of the apartment, making sure not to wake Monica when she leaves every night. Unable to break the news, she returns every morning, assuming the role of the roommate without suspicion. Ultimately, Monica catches on to Phoebe's scheming ways after noticing the missing bed from her room, ultimately accepting the truth that the two aren't compatible living with each other.
8 Ross Discovers Carol's Orientation
The first of Ross' many unsuccessful marriages, Carol was likely first introduced to the gang sometime during Ross' college years. Together, they shared custody of Ben, Ross' oldest child, but despite a sustaining platonic relationship that endured due to their shared love for their son, some resentment still remained from the way things ultimately ended.
After years of marriage, Carol's waning feelings for Ross resulted in the revelation of her orientation. Once she began a relationship with Susan, a woman she met at the gym, she broke the news to Ross, much to his dismay. Moments after learning about the situation, Ross confided in Phoebe about the news, nearly resulting in a romantic moment between the two. Although he'd learn to move on, a lingering disdain for Susan remained even years after the separation.
7 Ross and Phoebe Nearly Get Together
Clearly impacted by the news, Ross sluggishly made his way over to Central Perk, which was still a bar during the time of his marriage. Happening upon Phoebe, he shared the newfound information while pouring himself a shot. After Phoebe suggested that Ross' gym partner Susan may be her partner, she embraced him during his most vulnerable time.
As Ross futilely attempted to clear space for them on a nearby pool table, they realized the silliness of the situation. Stopping before things got out of hand, the rest of the gang entered the room just in time to miss out on the action.
6 Central Perk Transforms from a Bar Into a Coffee Shop
Situated in the middle of New York City's Greenwich Village, Central Perk has become an iconic sitcom setting and was the shared space in which the six central cast members of Friends spent most of their time. Although the bright orange couch, Rachel's bad waitress manners, and Phoebe's bemusing songs became a staple of the location, it wasn't always the quaint coffee shop next door.
Prior to Monica moving into to the same apartment block, Central Park was a bar that the gang later frequented. Although the bar's name is never disclosed, it's likely that they visited often due to its proximity to Monica's. Sometime before Rachel reconnected with the group following her wedding jitters, the bar was converted to the bustling coffee shop, which has inspired countless imitations ever since.
5 Ross and Carol Conceive Ben
In season one, Ross acknowledges that his marriage to Carol involved little connection in its later years. With Ross' marriage officially over, questions have risen over Ross' son Ben, who was conceived only weeks prior to the start of the series, well after Carol began dating Susan. If the timeline is correct, then Ross and Carol's final intimate encounter was the only possible time Ben could've been conceived.
Sometime after Carol's revelation, the couple rekindled the flame long enough to become involved. While the momentary situation makes little sense for Carol, some fans have suggested the pregnancy may have been planned behind Ross' back. No evidence points to Carol purposefully getting pregnant, but with her moving out in the pilot episode, it's easy to see how such a fan theory became popular.
4 Joey Gets His Head Stuck Inside a Turkey
In the season five episode “The One with All the Thanksgivings,” Ross' complaints about his most recent divorce and eviction prompts the group to recount their worst Thanksgivings. When Rachel interrupts, stating she knows Monica's worst moment, Phoebe interjects with another story, reminiscing on the time Joey got his head stuck inside Monica's turkey.
Walking in with bags of groceries, Phoebe is met with a muffled introduction as Joey walks out with the turkey on his shoulders. Intending to spook Chandler with the bird, he entered panic mode after realizing he couldn't remove it. Ultimately, his wish comes true as Chandler walks in shortly afterwards and jumps at the sight. Although Joey's Thanksgiving incident happened in 1992 according to the episode, the year contradicts earlier episodes stating that Joey didn't meet Chandler until at least a year later.
3 Rachel Gets Engaged to Barry
As the endearingly spoiled rich kid, Rachel rarely worked for anything, having everything handed to her by her father, who worked as a doctor and expected flawless results from all his children's endeavors. Growing accustomed to a lucrative lifestyle, Rachel initially sought a similar comfort in her relationships. Sometime after splitting ways with her best friend Monica, she met Barry Farber, a well-respected orthodontist who could provide the kind of opulence she desired.
Although wedding day jitters over Barry's bland personality ultimately ended their engagement, Rachel later contemplated returning to her ex-fiance at the end of season one, even after the revelation that he had been involved with her maid of honor, Mindy. Luckily, after seeing him one final time, she realized how disreputable he was, proving she made the right decision after all.
2 Barry Becomes Involved With Mindy
Portrayed by guest star Jennifer Grey in season one, and later replaced by actress Jana Marie Hupp in season two, Mindy Hunter was Rachel's former friend, whom she met when they were children. After college when Rachel became engaged to Barry, Mindy was involved with the soon-to-be-married man, though she kept it hidden from her former BFF until she later revealed that she and Barry went to Aruba on a vacation that was originally intended to serve as Rachel's honeymoon.
In the second season, Rachel reluctantly accepted the offer to be Mindy's maid of honor in her wedding to Barry. Refusing to leave another wedding early, she stayed through the ceremony in which Chandler playfully stated that all the women were dressed as “Little Bo Peep” and “Princess Bubble-Yum.”
1 Rachel Leaves Barry at the Altar
In the pilot episode, Rachel is introduced in a rain-soaked wedding dress after jilting her fiancé Barry at the altar. Having grown apart from her high school friend Monica, they reunite after she recounts the story of her doomed relationship.
Prior to her early wedding exit, Rachel discovered Barry getting cozy with her former best friend and maid of honor Mindy Hunter. With Rachel out of the picture, Barry and Mindy grew closer, fleeing to Aruba together. Although Mindy would later marry Barry, the two divorced a few years later when he was again caught with someone else, suggesting Rachel's decision was the correct one.
Did we miss anything that happened before season one of Friends? Let us know in the comments below!