I don't wanna be with them either. But it's Thanksgiving, and we should NOT want to be together TOGETHER!
Spoiled, naive Rachel enters the series in the first episode in her wedding dress, running away from her own big day. She moves in with Monica, gets a menial job serving coffee, soon learns a little bit more about grownup life and ends up dating Ross off and on (and off and on and off and on and...).
All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Rachel claimed that she had never failed to score when wearing her cheerleader uniform, leading to her donning it at a party in a desperate attempt to win the attention of Joshua in "The One With The Fake Party". It practically succeeds.
Book Dumb: She doesn't know the plot of Wuthering Heights or who was the enemy in World War One (though neither did some of the others). She even actually believes Phoebe when she sarcastically says that the plot of Jane Eyre involves cyborgs. She didn't seem to have any trouble with Little Women though.
Has A Type: Rachel has a thing for doctors in the earliest seasons. The show brings up and then hastily backs away from the revelation that her father is a doctor. Eventually, she ends up with Ross, who's Not That Kind of Doctor.
Karma Houdini: Rachel is known for coming out on top even though she had pulled some nefarious deeds. The main victims of this were Ross and Phoebe. That's not to say karma doesn't get to her every now and then.
A couple episodes after the break-up, she actually goes on a date with Mark - the guy that Ross was constantly jealous of and certain was trying to get with Rachel. And of course, Rachel even tells Mark that she's only dating him to get back at Ross.
Then again, Ross's real reason for sleeping with that xerox girl wasn't just because they were "on a break" and he was therefore free to play the field— Chandler and Joey convinced him to call Rachel and try and work it out, but then he overheard a visiting Mark...
Monica is Ross' sister and the group's Team Mom. She has signs of OCD and a generally very controlling attitude, although she puts it to good use in her job as a chef. She was fat in high school, which is still a source of shame for her. Early seasons have her dating a tremendously mustachioed man named Richard but she falls in love with Chandler and the two eventually marry.
Also her hyper-chipper "OKAY!" when all gets resolved.
The Chew Toy: Monica is usually a tool for physical comedy, such as hitting her eye and wearing a patch, getting her hair caught in a shower curtain, wearing agony-inducing boots, and getting stuck in a bean bag chair during her "fat days."
Feminine Women Can Cook Inverted. Monica is a professional chef, but she - especially post-Flanderization — is feisty, loud, competitive and downright domineering, especially with Chandler. By the last seasons she was probably the least feminine of the girls. In The One With Rachel's Sister Monica bought a different set of wedding china then the ones Chandler picked out, because in her words, the ones Chandler picked out were "too feminine."
Informed Judaism: The Gellers' religious affiliation isn't clear until season 7, when Ross appears as the Holiday Armadillo, and then the only other mention is three seasons later, when Chandler has to remind Monica she can't be a minister because she's Jewish. Considering the care she gives to decorating the Christmas tree, we might not have known.
Word Of God has said in the past that Jack Geller is Jewish, whilst Judy is not.
May-December Romance: The big conflict of Monica's relationship with Richard is not only that he's older, but that he's her father's best friend and has known Monica since she was a kid. As a panicked Monica points out when she begins to fall for Richard, "I used to pee in your pool!"
The Unfavorite: Often criticised by her mother, Judy, the same way Judy had been criticized by her own mother. Also, both parents favored Ross, which their dad tries to rectify (seemingly successfully, judging by the reaction) by giving Monica his Porsche.
Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow)
Phoebe is the group's Cloudcuckoolander who, after her mother's girlfriend killed herself and she lived on the street for some time, found a job as a masseuse. She plays the guitar (badly) and sings (badly) at Central Perk.
Apparently Phoebe became this more by the end of the series because of the revelations about her family.
Which is somewhat egregious because as she ends up reconciling with her father, her birth mother, finds her half brother and was the surrogate mother for her nieces and nephews... she was more upbeat before this when all she had in the way of family was a mother who killed herself.
Makes perfect sense when you realize that she found out she had a brother her father didn't bother telling her about, her grandmother didn't tell her how to get in touch with her father, she lost a year when she found out she's a year older than she thought, doesn't even know her full name because her sister sold her birth certificate, and found out her mom isn't her mom, but her mom's girlfriend. She probably started being such a bitch when she realized her entire family lied to her almost all of her life.
Joey: They let you get married when you're drunk. Most people who get married in Las Vegas are drunk.
Phoebe: Hell, I'm drunk right now! (beat) What, I can't have a mimosa at breakfast? I'm on vacation!
Character Development: Though her changes were late in the series, Phoebe eventually decides that she needs to hunker down and be in a serious relationship instead of having one night stands with random guys. This eventually leads Phoebe to getting married and becoming happy that she finally has something normal in her life.
Head-Tiltingly Kinky: Some of her humor derives from the fact her sexual practices have no boundaries.
Hidden Depths: She spoke to Joey's grandmother in Italian. Even Phoebe was unaware of her skill.
She also knows French... from learning it in a street corner with some other people, presumably.
And she demonstrates her knowledge of wines when Rachel's father berates a waiter for serving the '74 Lafite instead of the '75, then storms off.
Rachel: In case you didn't notice, that is a scary man.
Phoebe: He's right, though. The '74 is absolute piss.
Hypocrisy Nod: One episode has Phoebe receiving a fur coat, even though she's the first one of the six to be for animal rights, and despite her initial reluctance she quickly starts wearing it and loves it. Then she suddenly runs across a squirrel that's staring at her, leading her to admit she's gone against everything she stood for and throw the coat away.
Real Life Writes the Plot: Ursula was appearing on Mad About You before Friends premiered. (It was actually Kudrow's appearances there that helped get her cast as Phoebe.) When this series launched, it was decided to make Phoebe and Ursula twins to justify Kudrow playing characters on two different NBC shows.
Really Gets Around: Almost at Joey's level. She tends to reveal many unexpected sexual escapades at the most random times, until season 9 when she started dating Mike.
Running Gag: "Regina Philange." Even acts as a Chekhov's Gun so that Ross can say good-bye to Rachel in the season finale.
Weirdness Magnet: Having the ghost of an old woman possess her, being chased around a junkyard by a psychotic, being stalked by men who mistake her for her twin sister, Ursula, and having her apartment haunted by her grandmother.
Joseph Francis "Joey" Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc)
If the package is this pretty, no-one cares what's inside.
A laid-back Italian womanizer, Joey is Chandler's best friend and roommate, and often the group's comic relief. He tries to make a living as an actor. Later seasons turned him into a ditz. He ended up with his own spinoff, which was cancelled very soon after.
Characterization Marches On: In the original Series there's a running joke about him being a terrible actor who constanly has to lie on his resume (Phoebe once told him that one of the casting directors said they had never heard a more fake Italian accent from someone of Italian origins). In the spinoff Joey is seen as a much more competent actor.
Chivalrous Pervert: Joey is this when it comes to his female friends. He hits on them on numerous occasions and tries several ploys to either see them naked or see them kiss each other, but he's kind, fiercely loyal and incredibly respectful towards them. When everyone believes Phoebe's been in a porno movie, Joey is the only member of the gang who refuses to watch it. He also freaks out quite a bit when Rachel calls his bluff and actually offers to sleep with him. Upon hearing Phoebe was pregnant, he goes out to beat up the supposed father... then comes back and proposes to Phoebe so she won't be alone. Later when he finds Rachel is the one who is actually pregnant, he promptly proposes to her too.
In one episode, when a drunken Rachel responds favorably to his "How you doin'?" line, he tells Ross not to let her drink any more.
Dawson Casting: In-universe. Joey tries to pull this off in order to land a part for a 19-year-old character. Everyone else calls him on how ridiculous it would be.
Bordering on Genius Ditz, he's practically mentally impaired when it comes to anything but women (and food), and even then he only knows how to get them into bed. Once in a while though, he can be inexplicably cunning, fire off weird but practical knowledge or think brilliantly outside the box, and then go right back to being a ditz, sometimes in the same sentence.
Take note that Joey was also the only one in the group to figure out on his own that Ross had a thing for Rachel. (Chandler being Ross's confidant and the girls finding out when the secret was blown).
He was also the only one to figure out on his own that Chandler and Monica were together (Rachel accidentally heard them having phone sex, and Phoebe and Ross saw them having sex).
Friend to All Living Things: Joey adopted a baby chick when he heard from Chandler how the chicks given as Easter gifts are killed if the company can't find homes for them. He didn't seem to have any problem with the duck Chandler took in later on.
Handsome Lech: His treatment of potential female roommates borders on stalking. He views the single women of New York as sexual conquests and not much else (he's never abusive, he's just... very, very shallow).
Real Life Writes the Plot: When Matt LeBlanc dislocated his shoulder on set around the start of the third season, they just wrote it in for the character so they didn't have to write him out or hide his sling (Joey breaks it by falling while jumping on the bed).
Un Entendre: He can make anything sound dirty, including "Grandma's chicken salad."
Chandler Muriel Bing (Matthew Perry)
I'm not so good with the advice. Could I interest you in a sarcastic comment?
The group's Deadpan Snarker. Not much is known about his work, most likely because it only seems to involve data entry and accounting. His dad owns an all-male burlesque called "Viva Las Gaygas," and his mom is world-famous for being an erotic romance novelist, neither fact sits well with him and fuels his neuroses. He eventually falls in love with and marries Monica.
Always Someone Better: Concerning Monica's previous boyfriends, especially Richard. Given that he'd idolized Richard, and her other ex-boyfriends included millionaire Pete, its understandable he was insecure. Thanks to his strong relationship with Monica, he overcomes many of his confidence issues.
Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: It's hard to beat telling people how you got your son his first condoms on The Tonight Show. "And then he burst into flames."
Ambiguously Gay / Camp Straight / Mistaken for Gay: The character of Chandler was originally meant to be gay, but the writers dropped the idea when Matthew Perry was cast. It does come up now and then; early on in the first season it turns out most people get gay vibes when the first meet him.
Chandler: What is it about me? Is it my hair?
Rachel: Yes, Chandler, that's exactly what it is. It's your hair.
Phoebe: Yeah, you have homosexual hair.
Doesn't help that he's a huge fan of romantic comedies,knowledge of celebrites (which makes Monica suggest he watches less E! and more ESPN) and once started a sentence with "If I was a guy..."
Character Development: At the beginning, Chandler had serious issues with commitment, which made him incapable of holding a relationship. He eventually got rid of them during his relationship with Monica and he was also ready to start a family with her as well.
Characterization Marches On: In the first few seasons, Chandler is shown to be as rabid a sports fan as Joey is. As the Ambiguously Gay traits set in later seasons, this goes away to the point where even Rachel chides him for not knowing who Paul O'Neill is (the popular right fielder for the juggernaut Yankees at the end of the 90s).
Rachel: May I suggest watching a little more ESPN and a little less "E!"?...Seriously, ESPN, just once in the while, have it on in the background.
Deadpan Snarker: Of legendary proportions; it seems like Chandler can't go a scene without snarking some way - even in situations he really shouldn't. It's even exploited in "TOW All the Resolutions," in which he truly takes pains to not snark as part of his New Year's resolution (and proceeds to give up in less than a week).
Hidden Depths: He plays a mean game of ping pong much to Monica's surprise. (Note he was well-aware of this skill. He just didn't tell Monica because he didn't want to do couples tournaments and the like.)
It's not just ping pong, judging by the kinds of games Joey and Chandler play in their apartment Chandler actually is fairly athletic, just not competitive.
Humiliation Conga: Happens to him twice, first when he is tricked into wearing a grade school friend's panties and then she takes his clothes and runs off, leaving a panty-clad Chandler in the bathroom to be found by Joey and Ross who take great pleasure in his humiliation and eventually, has to walk out the restaurant with nothing but a bathroom stall door to cover his unmentionables. The second time is somewhat similar when he is hooking up with Rachel's boss and she handcuffs him in her office wearing nothing but a shirt and underwear only to be found by Rachel who gags him and locks him up again so her boss doesn't know she was in her office.
Insecure Love Interest: Concerning Monica. He idolized her previous boyfriend Richard and felt inferior in comparision. He also got very worried when Phoebe introduced Monica's 'soulmate', and offered to stand aside for him. Thanks to Monica's reassurances he does get better.
Also with previous girlfriends like Janice and Kathy, as much of his Self-Deprecation references his struggles to please women, which he frequently feels dejected about. (Not that he'd show it...)
Parental Neglect: His mother was a famous erotic novelist, his father ran off with the houseboy and he was sent to boarding school, so no one really had time for him. He even admits they didn't even come to his first parents day.
Chandler: "Oh, thatís Parentís Day, first grade. Thatís me with the janitor Martin."
Took a Level in Badass: Chandler is referenced as being mediocre in bed a couple times over the course of the early seasons, until the famous scene where Monica gives him a diagram-based crash-course in pleasuring the female body. His girlfriend literally runs across the hall to hug and emphatically thank Monica following their next lovemaking session. Ends up being a good call on Monica's part, as when she and Chandler later enter a relationship she repeatedly describes him as the best sex she's ever had.
Triple Nipple: Had a "nubbin" for the first couple of seasons; after it scared off a girl he was trying to date, he got it removed.
Tough Room: He's considered to be the funniest character on the show, but his friends find his jokes annoying for most of the time. Mainly because they're on the receiving end of his snarkery.
Oh, sure, Ross'll do it. It's not like he has a job or a child or a life of his own - no, no, I wanna play!
The nerd of the group, Ross is a Hollywood Dateless paleontologist whose wife left him when she realized she was gay. She also turned out to be pregnant, and Ross tries his best to be a good dad to his son Ben. He loves Rachel, but you knew that already, right?
Butt Monkey: The whole cast go through instances of getting dumped on, but poor Ross seemed to become the official Butt Monkey in later seasons, ending up the victim of failed attempts, misunderstandings and overreactions one right after another. What's worse is that more than half of the instances aren't even played for laughs. His romantic life is cruelly wrecked by said misunderstandings and overreactions, and his somewhat pathetic, lovesick nature makes sure he always suffers the full impact without ever really getting to stand up for himself and make an honest effort at a healthy relationship.
The director's commentary for one of the early episodes claims this is because David Schwimmer is excellent at physical comedy (such as walking into an open washing machine door).
Cosmic Plaything: Ross can't catch a break. Whenever his relationships endure the initial crush-stage and he convinces himself things are going smoothly, Rachel will interfere, or some misunderstanding happens, or his own desperation gets in the way, invariably resulting in utter heartbreak on his part. This is never seriously acknowledged, and more often than not, his friends rub it in his face afterwards, usually with all the blame too.
Crazy Jealous Guy: Pointed out that he became this after his first divorce. Ross' jealousy becomes full blown when Mark is introduced to Rachel, causing Ross to go to extreme lengths to show he is dating Rachel.
Honor Before Reason: Ross never wants to admit he is wrong or that he did something wrong (unless an extreme circumstance forces him to). For example, when Monica threatened to expose Ross' secret to his parents about smoking pot in college, Ross kept coming up with excuses and lies on how he was tricked or how it wasn't really him that smoked.
After Ross got married to Rachel while drunk, he knows that he has to get a divorce because he and Rachel would never agree to it. However, in order to save his pride and not get divorced for a 3rd time, he tries to convince Rachel to stay married to him and then lies about getting the marriage annulled.
A possible explanation behind Ross' behavior is his parents always praised him growing up and covered for him should anything tarnish his good name. Ergo, Ross grew up believing he was the star child that could never be wrong.
Informed Judaism: Subverted during his turn as the Holiday Armadillo in season 7, but otherwise there's not much indication of the Gellers' religious beliefs over the course of the show.
Insufferable Genius: He tends to be right on many subjects and he always has to prove that he is right whenever someone says something grammatically incorrect or state a wrong fact. His friends naturally get annoyed by this.
Only Sane Man: He likes to think he is, being the man of science and the only one with any kind of post-college education. He might have been earlier on, but by the end, he'd become such a neurotic mess, he and original Only Sane Woman Monica slowly lost this title.
Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: He has some of the character traits, such as being kind, and a Chaste Hero who never had a chance with Rachel. His blond hair is noted frequently, to the point that Rachel states she will remember him whenever she sees a man with hair "brighter than the Sun".
Hidden Depths: Has a smoking habit, speaks fluent Dutch and may have been a child actor.
Tyler had a real-life example in the form of working the coffee machine. It got him cast as Gunther because none of the other extras knew how to do it.
Hidden Depths: He was part of a tight knit group before becoming a shut-in.
Jerkass Has a Point: Constantly complained about noise, but everyone thought he was just trying to annoy them. After he died, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe found that the apartment's acoustics did amplify the noise from upstairs.