Let’s face it, Friends has been analyzed to death. Friends is so universally watched and adored that it lends itself well to all kinds of discussions that people from everywhere can enjoy and participate in. Like the rest of you, we’re big fans of Friends. It has been one of the funnier sitcoms to come out in the last 30 years and it had true staying power. It also had plenty of mistakes. We’ve read countless pieces that point out the flaws in the show and the big continuity errors. The character’s ages get mixed up, histories and relationships are confused, and s*x lives don’t necessarily always make sense. But enough time, ink, and brain power has been spent on these errors. We’re interested in something different.
When a show like Friends brings fictional characters into the “real world,” we are confronted with some strange paradoxes, for lack of a better term. We can see these so-called paradoxes best in episodes that have guest stars. Some guest stars play themselves, such as Jean Claude Van Damme, while others are there only in name but never really show up on screen, like Pierce Brosnan and Val Kilmer. Most of the guest stars play fictional characters. However, sometimes, these two worlds collide. On a number of occasions, both the real actors and characters they’ve played in their careers exist on Friends. How could this be? How could the friends be fans of the Batman movies yet not know that the Penguin (Danny DeVito) is stripping for them? It doesn’t really make sense, does it? Sure, these things happen on TV a lot. They’re usually classified as a form of postmodern irony. But they’re still interesting when you think about them individually. Let’s explore each of the best examples that popped during Friends’ run. Here are 15 Times Friends Made No Sense and No One Even Noticed.
15. How Did Joey Not Recognize Leah Remini From Saved By The Bell?
We’ll admit. This one is a bit of stretch. But it works. In “The One Where Joey Loses His Insurance,” Ross and Phoebe are arguing about Rachel when Ross gets a phone call. As he picks it up, he says, “uh-oh, saved by the bell.” Now, we understand that this phrase has a larger cultural footprint than the show Saved by the Bell. But in our world, this show is everything. So let us have this one. Now, if you think back to season one, Carol is having a baby and Joey goes off and lends his company to a total stranger as she gives birth. This stranger was named Lydia and she was played by Leah Remini. At this point, Remini wasn’t far off her Saved by the Bell fame. If Joey was as big of a TV nut as he appears, he should have noticed he was in the presence of a star.
14. Elle Macpherson Is In Chandler’s Fantasy But Doesn’t Realize She Is Janine Lecroix
In the episode “The One with The Princess Leia Fantasy” of season three, if we’re talking specifics, Chandler brings up an interesting scenario saying, “You know when you’re in bed. With a woman. And, uh, you know, you’re fooling around with her. And you get all these, like, mental images in your brain, you know, like Elle Macpherson, or that girl at the Xerox place.” This is interesting because it foreshadows Chloe, the Xerox girl, the one Ross sleeps with when he was on a break with Rachel, or not on a break…whatever. It also foreshadows the appearance of Elle Macpherson. She shows up as Janine Lecroix, Joey’s new roommate in season six. In a sad twist, Chandler’s here fantasizing about Macpherson, whereas Janine and Joey are unable to continue their relationship because Janine can’t stand Chandler or Monica. Life can be cruel sometimes.
13. Susan Sarandon Was On Ross’ List, But He Never Noticed She Plays Cecilia Monroe On DOUL With Joey
Joey and Ross have been known to have the same taste in women (Rachel, Chloe, Charlie, Kristen), but their mutual interest in Susan Sarandon is never discussed openly. First, in the third season, Ross makes his “freebie list,” a list of celebrities that he could openly sleep if given the chance. On his list, he includes Susan Sarandon at first, but Chandler convinces him that she is “too political,” so he cuts her from the final list. Later, in the seventh season, Susan Sarandon guest stars on the show as Cecilia Monroe, an actress who plays the character of Jessica Lockhart on Days of Our Lives with Joey. She and Joey get close and end up connecting in more ways than one. You would think he might want to rub it in Ross’ face that he slept with a woman who looks exactly like one of Ross’ dream women.
12. Ross and Phoebe Ask Ross To Watch You’ve Got Mail -Greg Kinnear Was In The Movie
When we first meet Greg Kinnear as the paleontologist and Charlie’s ex-boyfriend, Benjamin Hobart, in season 10, nothing jumps out as strange right away. But, wait just a second. Do you remember back in season five when Joey and Phoebe were going to the movies and they try to convince Ross to come? Joey asks, “Sure you don’t want to come? It’s Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, they get mail and stuff!” Obviously, he’s talking about You’ve Got Mail. Hanks and Ryan are the big names here, but don’t forget that Kinnear played a big role in that film. Maybe Ross never ended up seeing the film and that’s why he didn’t recognize Benjamin. But that doesn’t explain why Joey doesn’t. After all, Benjamin and Joey are both Charlie’s ex-boyfriends, you would think they would pay some attention to each other.
11. Phoebe Doesn’t Realize Sean Penn Is Eric
It was back in season two that we learned Chandler could be a judgmental boyfriend. In a discussion with his short-lived roommate, Eddie, Chandler admitted that he once broke up with a girl for thinking that “Sean Penn was the capital of Cambodia.” We can, however, forgive the show’s writers and the characters for not making a big deal of it when the real Sean Penn actually appeared on the show in season eight playing Ursula’s boyfriend, Eric. After all, it had been six seasons since the initial joke was made. Plus, Eric was in that awesome solar system costume when the gang met him. So maybe they didn’t notice who it was. Phoebe ended up dating Eric very briefly and technically, she was the only one to get really close to him, so it would be up to her to make the connection. If you think about it, Phoebe probably doesn’t know who Sean Penn even is, or Phnom Penh for that matter, so we can’t be too hard on her.
10. Another Character From You’ve Got Mail (Steve Zahn)
When we started thinking about You’ve Got Mail, a light bulb went off. You know who else was in that film? Yes! It was Steve Zahn. Zahn, might have been better known as Duncan, Phoebe’s husband. We expect that Phoebe would have been a little alarmed to see that her ice-dancing husband left her to become a heteros*xual movie star. Since Zahn’s role on Friends came before You’ve Got Mail, it’s interesting that they chose that film to go see. Interesting indeed.
9. Winona Ryder Is Also On Ross’ List, So Melissa Warburton Kissing Rachel Should Drive Ross Crazy
Speaking of lists, Ross’ list includes another name that will come back into play later on, Winona Ryder. Ross is convinced by Chandler to bump Isabella Rossellini off his list because she’s too international. He replaces her with Winona Ryder because she’s “local.” Later, in the same season (three), Ross tries to get reservations at a hotspot, so he uses the name Winona Ryder. So, if Winona Ryder exists, how is it that neither Rachel nor Phoebe notice that Rachel’s sorority sister, Melissa Warburton who is played by Winona Ryder, looks exactly like the famous actress? It seems to us that Ross would have been quite interested in meeting Miss Warburton, even though she seems to have eyes for only Rachel, something she and Ross have in common.
8. Jessica Rabbit Is On Chandler’s List, But That Should Be Very Weird…
We promise, this will be the last mention of the list. Not only is this the last mention of the celebrity “freebie list,” but it’s also the best example. It turns out, Ross’ list wasn’t the only one to bring up a celebrity paradox. For Chandler, it was the animated character, Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? that made things interesting. Chandler had a thing for Jessica. Whether it was her sexy animation or the smoky voice, we’ll never know for sure. In season seven, when we’re first introduced to Charles Bing, a.k.a. Helena Handbasket, we see the character is played by Kathleen Turner. Ironically, it was Turner who voiced the character of Jessica Rabbit. We’re not sure what exactly is wrong with this picture, but it feels icky.
7. Ross Is Obsessed With Dinosaurs; Shouldn’t He Realize Where Jeff Goldblum Is From?
We know that Ross has a high opinion of himself and his impact on the world, so we weren’t shocked when he tried to prove to his students that he “had the idea for Jurassic Park first.” This was in season seven’s “The One with Rachel’s Book” episode. Later, in season nine, we meet one of the stars of Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum. And this time, in the world of Friends, he is director Leonard Hayes. If you’re having trouble putting your finger on who Hayes is, he’s the director that Joey pees on while hugging because he found that holding onto his pee made him a better actor. Obviously, if Jurassic Park is essential viewing in Friends as it is in our world, we expect that someone would notice that Hayes is Goldblum or he’s doing one hell of an impression of the actor.
6. Die Hard Is Joey, Ross And Chandler’s Favorite Movie… But They Don’t Recognize John McClane?
Bruce Willis‘ appearance as Elizabeth’s father, Paul Stevens, is one of the most beloved guest appearances. Playing a character type that he is used to playing, Willis’ Paul is intimidating, confrontational, and disapproving, especially when it comes to Ross’ relationship with his daughter. A couple of people have brought up the question, why, if Ross, Joey, and Chandler are such big fans of Die Hard, does neither of them notice that Paul looks so similar to John McClane? These three guys, particularly Joey and Ross, love Die Hard so much that they watch twice back-to-back (with a little nap squeezed in there). Stranger still, Paul and the watching of the Die Hard films take place in the same season (six). At the very least, there should have at least been a joke or a reference made to the films, but there was none. At one point in the show’s run, Rachel even tells us that Ross thought Die Hard was his idea. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t like Paul?
5. When Harry Met Sally And “I’ll Have What She’s Having.”
When Billy Crystal and Robin Williams showed up in Friends, it wasn’t planned or even scripted. The two acting legends were at the studio during the filming of the third season episode, “The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion,” so they jumped on set and ad libbed their entire performance. In a way, this joint appearance was to promote their upcoming film Father’s Day. It’s interesting here that Joey and Billy Crystal get into a little spat and Crystal tells him to mind his own business because later, in season ten, Joey and Sarah go on a date and Sarah orders a chocolate torte, which she loves. Joey watches her reaction and says, “I’ll have what she’s having,” the classic line from Billy Crystal’s iconic film When Harry Met Sally.
4. Monica Doesn’t Recognize Robin Williams?
While Billy Crystal’s appearance on Friends made some ripples in the space-time continuum of the Friends universe, the actor he appeared with, Robin Williams, made some massive waves. We know that Williams has had an enormous cultural impact, but few stars were indirectly referenced like Williams was on Friends. When Monica and Richard run into each other at the video store in “The One Where Monica and Richard are Friends,” the film Aladdin can be seen front and center. No biggie. Maybe they haven’t seen it. In “The One with the Fake Monica,” however, the fake Monica explains why she never liked Dead Poets Society, which causes Monica to say, “then I would definitely not recommend Mrs. Doubtfire.” This lets us know that Monica is aware of at least two of Robin Williams’ greatest films. You could say the accent he used in his Friends cameo threw them off the scent, but he was known for using accents. If Monica is as familiar with his resume as she appears, she would have spotted him a mile away.
3. Ross Doesn’t Notice His Sister Is Dating Magnum P.I.?
We’re first introduced to Richard Burke (Tom Selleck) back in season two. In total, Richard appears in five seasons and nine episodes. He’s one of the most prominent supporting cast members. He’s also Magnum P.I. from Magnum P.I. That’s why it was so strange, in season three, to hear Ross make the joke, “So I said ‘Who are you? Cro-Magnum P.I.?'” If this show exists and is known, how is it possible that no one made a reference to Richard looking so familiar? Perhaps even weirder, Morgan Fairchild, the actress who plays Chandler’s mother, Nora Tyler-Bing, was in Magnum P.I. herself. If you consider that Ross made out with Nora and Monica slept with Richard, the Gellers seem to really have a great personal interest in Magnum P.I.
2. Joey Doesn’t Remember Christina Applegate?
This one is a little bit different than most of the entries on this list. If nothing else, we simply felt that there was a missed opportunity for a really solid in-joke here. Hell, the writers of Friends might have even made one so sly that we didn’t even notice it. Christina Applegate was on Married…with Children. We all know that. She played the incredible Kelly Bundy. Not everyone remembers that Matt LeBlanc also got his start on Married… with Children. He played the recurring character of Vinnie, a boyfriend of Kelly. LeBlanc would even go on to star in two short-lived spin-offs of Married…with Children, Top of the Heap, and Vinnie & Bobby. In many ways, Joey Tribbiani is based on the Vinnie character, at least early on he was. Now, on Friends, Applegate plays Rachel’s sister Amy in a few episodes. Joey hates her, which is funny, but not necessarily as clever as the show could have been. Even though Joey says, “She may be the hottest girl I’ve ever hated,” we never get anywhere close to a joke about their connection outside the show. Maybe that’s what we’re here for.
1. The Friends, Seinfeld, And Mad About You Co-Universe
If you’ve been paying attention, you’re probably aware that Friends shares a universe with Mad About You. Lisa Kudrow appeared on Mad About You as the waitress, Ursula, before Friends was filmed, so when she was cast as Phoebe, the showrunners decided to include the gag about her having a twin sister, Ursula. This was alluded to when Helen Hunt appeared on Friends and confused Phoebe for her sister. Now, add in that Kramer (Michael Richards) appeared on Mad About You in his Seinfeld character and it was revealed that he had taken over Paul’s (Paul Reiser) old apartment across the hall from Jerry Seinfeld. This is all fun and games. But it gets really complicated when Jason Alexander (a.k.a. George Costanza) appears on Friends as Earl, the suicidal office man in “The One Where Rosita Dies.” How the hell are we supposed to reconcile this paradox? Was that really George just having a laugh?