Many real-life details about the show count: Just the fact that it ran for ten seasons, without losing any of the cast members and that they all appeared in every single episode. With 236 episodes that's no small feat.
Bonus for Lisa Kudrow, who didn't miss appearing even in a single episode despite her pregnancy from season 4 to season 5. This is particularly impressive when you consider that two of those episodes were filmed on location in London and yet despite Lisa being unable to travel the writers still found a way to include Phoebe via pre-filmed phone calls.
Plus the all for one mentality of the cast. Them negotiating their salaries as a group, something that had never been achieved before or since. They later admitted they were separately pressurized by executives to negotiate independently, but refused and stuck together and did so for the next decade.
Every time Tom Selleck guest showed up in an episode, he got a standing ovation. Every single time. Eventually, they would just reshoot the scenes without the Studio Audience.
Chandler and Monica's relationship in itself is a Crowning Moment of Awesome. Both of them started out with extreme emotional baggage from traumatic childhoods. (She was the Unfavourite, he was scarred by his parents divorce and neglect) and struggled with relationships because of it. But they fell in love, got married, and did not break up once in the whole relationship. They overcame their issues together, Chandler's fear of commitment, Monica's inability to compromise, and ended up the most stable, happy couple of the show. Awwww. Crowning Moment of Awesome for the writing staff and actors too. Anyone who claims that it's not possible for main characters to have a marital (or long term) relationship in a long-running show without the standard drama of constantly breaking up and getting back together or having things coming between them to put off getting together to the end, etc. "to keep things interesting" just needs to watch this show. It can work. The writers and actors proved it.
Especially meaningful when compared to Ross and Rachel, the other main relationship in Friends. Ask most fans about R&R, and they'll say they were glad they got together but got tired of their continuing drama. Ask most fans about M&C, and they're consistently beloved throughout the series, proving that a stable couple can be as a popular as an angsty one.
In "The One With the East German Laundry Detergent", a rude and nasty woman tries to bully Rachel out of her washing machine, but Ross steps in and tells the woman off. Later on, the same woman tries to take the duo's cart claiming it was free game, but Rachel sticks up for herself by telling the woman off and jumps into the cart saying if she wants it, she has to take her with it. A crowning moment for Rachel who, at the time of the episode, was still getting used to living on her own and not having everything handed to her.
A subtle one early in 'TOW the Butt': Chandler has a no-strings-attached fling with a married woman. He's initially excited but realizes he can't deal with being her sex toy, and wants a real relationship and ends it. Despite Chandler's rampant insecurities and her being totally out of his league he's still got the guts to call it off. Especially meaningful as his Establishing Character Moment was quipping about never getting women to sleep with him whereas this reveals that despite his commitment phobia and jealousy of Joey's one night stands he is actually happier in a relationship.
"TOW Mrs Bing'" Chandler confronting his Mom about his horrible childhood and all the crap she put him through. Afterwards he says it was a terrible talk but the main thing was that he did it.
Chandler: "Awful. Awful. Couldn't have gone worse but... I told her."
In "TOW The Dozen Lasagnas", when Ross lets Paolo out of Monica's apartment after Rachel dumps him for making a move on Phoebe:
Ross: Paolo, I just want to tell you, and I think I speak for everyone when I say... (shuts door in his face)
Joey telling his cheating dad and "The Mistress" off, outliving every oppressed teenager's wet, rebellious dream in the process:
Mr. Tribbiani: We'll go to a hotel.
Joey: (blocking the door) No, you won't. If you go to a hotel, you'll be... doing stuff, I want you right here where I can keep an eye on you.
Mr. Tribbiani:You're gonna keep an eye on us?
Joey: That's right, Mister, and I don't care how old you are, as long as you're under my roof, you'll live by my rules. And that means: No sleeping with your girlfriend.
Joey: Now, go to my room!
In "The One Where Heckles Dies", Ross spends the entire episode trying to get Phoebe to accept evolution as a scientific fact, even though she accepts that it is a possibility but does not believe in it. Eventually, Phoebe snaps and completely shuts Ross down by telling him that the greatest minds in the world in the course of history once thought the world was flat and how people also believed the atom was the smallest thing to exist until they split it open and found even smaller things inside. She then gets Ross to admit that it's possible he could be wrong about his beliefs, causing her to say to Ross that she got him to crack and now she can't respect him because he didn't fully believe what he believed in. On top of this, she rubs salt in the wound by telling Ross that now he can't face his colleagues at work or himself. Ross falls into stunned silence at what just happened and quietly walks out.
To be fair, right before this, Phoebe said that she doesn't believe evolution is false; she just thinks there are many possibilities. She doesn't do what's mentioned above until Ross kept pushing the issue.
Monica was forcing Chandler to work out with her so he very subtly tears her down by reminding her that she's unemployed and without a relationship.
The climax of "The One With The Prom Video". Frequently ranked as one of the single best moments in television history.
Phoebe breaking off the Cat Fight between Rachel and Monica: "Okay, now I'm gonna kick some ass!"
How Chandler succeeds in getting rid of Eddie, his crazy roommate. After asking nicely and then outright ordering Eddie to move out, it turns out that Eddie doesn't take the hint and suffers from short-term memory loss. Chandler turns the tables on him with Joey, by acting like he never met Eddie and he would surely remember living together with Eddie. They are so convincing that Eddie really doubts himself and eventually moves out.
Though it's kind of hard not to feel bad for Eddie, considering that he himself didn't do anything wrong that was in his own power.
TOW Two Parties is awesome for just how well the Friends all work together to stop Rachel's parents from meeting. They seem to function like a well oiled machine, taking cues from one another and being able to think on the fly, in a fantastic example of teamwork and improvised acting. The fact that they're all doing this without complaint, despite the stress and frequent humiliation, just to make Rachel feel better on her birthday makes it a Heartwarming Moment too.
Rachel in "Barry and Mindy's Wedding" has been completely humiliated, having to wear an awful dress, walking down the aisle with said awful dress tucked in wrong after going to the bathroom, Barry and Mindy telling everyone that she was mentally ill, and when she tries to run off after all this, gets mocked for leaving again. But showing how much she's grown up in the two seasons, she stays and having given up on "grace and dignity", leads the wedding (with help from Ross) in singing Copacabana.
"I'm not gonna leave. I probably should, but I'm not. See, cause I promised myself I'd make it through at least ONE of your weddings." ("ba-dum tish")
Even though she didn't manage to win the game at the end since she was just short of the goal, Rachel successfully catching the football at the end of "The One With the Football".
From the same episode Monica telling Ross she wants to win without him making an excuses. Ross had been losing and claimed it was because he had the weaker team. (Chandler and Rachel). Monica immediately swaps Joey for Rachel, insisting that after a childhood of Ross making up excuses and reasons for why her wins 'don't count', she'd beat him with the advantage all of his side. It's a subtle but downright awesome moment for Monica showing that she will always fight on her terms and won't take any easy ways out.
Monica: No! Listen, Im not gonna go through this with you again, okay. Just once I wanna beat when you cant blame it on the broken nose, the buzzer, or the fact that you thought you probably had Mono!
Even better when you take the game in context of Ross and Monica's childhood: Monica was always The Un-Favourite, so if there was bias in the football games you know it would have fallen on Ross's side. In every aspect of their lives, Ross had the advantage and Monica was the underdog, if anyone had the right to make excuses it was her. Yet in this situation Ross complaining the football games never go his way because of 'circumstances',(even though its well-established Monica is better than him sports-wise). Monica doesn't shy away from a more difficult battle, because that's how she'd lived her whole life. Unlike Ross she's not afraid to keeping fighting when things get tough.
Monica lets Ross have it over his jealousy of Mark. A lot of heartbreak might have been avoided if he had listened to her.
Monica: Ross this isn't even about you. This is about Rachel and something wonderful happening for her. Ross: Yeah, but... Monica: What if you're right, and Mark wants to sleep with Rachel. Does that mean he gets to? I mean, don't you trust her? Ross: Well, yeah... I... Monica: Then get over yourself! Grow up! Ross:[beat]You grow up.
Monica starts dating a man who writes a poem while with her. She is at first happy until the others tell her it is saying bad things about her. She confronts him to find out it isn't about her but about all American women. She comes back from this by breaking up with him... through a barbershop quartet.
You think there's no-one finer,
While your poems are unpublished,
And you work in a diner!
You're no God's-gift-to-women,
It's all in your heeeeaaaad!
You are just a butt-munch,
(No-one likes a butt-munch!)
And you're also bad in beeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeeeeed!
Rachel chewing out Ross in "The One where Ross and Rachel Take a Break", when Ross complains to her that she doesn't spend enough time with him. Sure, it leads to one of their saddest moments, but still.
Rachel: Ross, do you realize this is the first time in my life Im doing something I actually care about? This is the first time in my life Im doing something that Im actually good at. I mean, if you dont get that...
Ross got his own What the Hell, Hero? from Chandler in "TOW The Tiny T-Shirt". When he's having a Freak Out! over Rachel "moving on too fast" with Mark, Chandler reminds him that he slept with the copy girl three hours after he thought they'd broken up.
Chandler: I mean, bullets have left guns slower!
Ross' breaking up with Rachel in the season 4 opener. Every line a winner, with Rachel failing to make more than one comeback. Apart from, of course, her final line in the scene. Ross' lines in that scene are gold.
Rachel: I can't believe I even THOUGHT of getting back together with you, we are so over!
Ross:[makes fake blubbering noises] FINE BY ME!
Rachel: I just feel bad about all that sleep you're gonna miss wishing you were with me!
Ross: Oh no no, don't you worry about me falling asleep - I STILL HAVE YOUR LETTER!
Rachel: And hey, just so you know, it's NOT that common, it DOESN'T happen to every guy, AND IT IS A BIG DEAL!
Chandler: I KNEW IT!
And earlier, Ross gets bonus points for correcting her grammar:
Ross: Y-o-u-apostrophe-r-e means "you are". Y-o-u-r means "your"!
After Monica gets bullied and ignored by her workers after taking up a restaurant, Joey, despite wanting to stick as her new employee, pretends to be another heckler so Monica can fire him on the spot. The Jerkass staff immediately cower and snivel before Monica.
Monica teaching Chandler about pleasing a woman in "TOW Phoebe's Uterus". Not only because Kathy thanks her at the end, but this was in 1998, Monica and Rachel are completely gleeful about what they like, and there aren't many scenes even a decade on that actually give a damn about what women enjoy in bed.
Phoebe is told she can name one of the triplets she's carrying for her brother and his wife and decides to name it after one of her friends. She decides against Ross and says it'll be either Joey or Chandler and while the two argue over which it'll be Chandler takes Joey's dismissal of his name seriously and spends the next few days looking for a new one until Phoebe says she'll name the baby Chandler if he'll keep it. As soon as she's gone he turns to Joey and laughs, revealing his whole name changing fit as a ploy to get the baby named after him. Of course, it then backfires when baby Chandler turns out to be a girl.
Rachel is moaning to Pregnant! Phoebe about Ross and Emily's upcoming wedding. Phoebe then proceeds to tell her she had a similar problem: when she was homeless someone offered to give her food if she slept with him. Rachel asks how they are similar. Phoebe's response?
Phoebe: Well, let's see, it's not. Because that was an actual problem, and yours is just a bunch of high school crap that nobody really gives... Y'know.
Other Passenger: I just want to say that you... are a horrible, horrible person!
Rachel: Pardon me?!
Other Passenger: You say you love this man, yet you're about to ruin the happiest day of his life. I'm afraid I have to agree with your friend "Pheebs". This is a... this is a terrible, terrible plan!
Rachel: But he has to know how I feel!
Other Passenger: But why?! He loves this Emily person! No good can come of this.
Rachel: I think you're wrong!
Other Passenger: Oh no!(is about to put on his headphones, then turns back to her) And by the way, it seems to be perfectly clear that you WERE on a break.
The fact that, out of all the Friends, the only one who discovered that Chandler and Monica were together without catching them on the act was JOEYnote Rachel heard them having phone sex, and both Phoebe and Ross saw them from across the street (Ugly Naked Guy's apartment). and he guessed it from two minimal clues. 1) Both Chandler and Monica mentioned seeing Donald Trump while they were on what they told everyone were separate business trips. 2) The hotel called about an eyelash curler they left there, a call Joey took, and later Monica asks Rachel if she can borrow her eyelash curler.
In the New Years' episode, Joey was able to get Ross to kiss Phoebe and Rachel to kiss him so Chandler and Monica can kiss without anyone getting suspicious. He did this all within 30 seconds before midnight.
After finding out about Chandler and Monica, Joey does what he can to cover for them, but it starts making him look foolish and creepy. In one episode, he winds up taking the fall for a pair of men's underwear at Rachel and Monica's, a camera set-up to record sex acts and finally a naked picture of Monica meant for Chandler. Instead of fulfilling their promise to make him look better or be more careful, they can only claim that he's a sex addict after almost carelessly getting caught numerous times. When the rest of the group confronts him over all this, it looks like he'll have to admit to it. Instead, Joey claims he slept with Monica in London and that she's obsessed with him as a result. He effectively plays Xanatos Speed Chess to pin all the recent craziness on Monica and restore his dignity.
Rachel realizing that the girl Joey is dating who keeps "playfully" punching him is genuinely hurting him, punching her back and finally giving her a good kick in retaliation.
YMMV due to how Janine turned out, but when Joey faces competition from another guy over her affections during the taping for Dick Clark's New Years Rockin' Eve, after learning that the guy is an adulterating bastard who is cheating on his wife, Joey manages to get him kicked out of the taping by setting him up as a pervert just by splashing some water on him. Where? His crotch.
Ross managing to force Paul (Bruce Willis) into letting him keep his job in "The One Where Paul's the Man" by making it known that he'd seen Paul dancing to "Love Machine" and giving himself a pep talk in the mirror. For the resident Butt-Monkey of the series, Ross' ability to school John McClane was most awesome, indeed.
From the same episode — Monica puts her and Chandler's names down for a wedding at the Morgan Chase Museum, for fun and after Rachel suggests it. Chandler hears the message left for Monica stating there's been a cancellation if she's still interested in the wedding. It doesn't seem like a CMOA at first, with Chandler freaking out over this. But after he confronts Monica, telling her that he isn't ready? It turns out that he faked the whole thing, and that he went to look at the Museum and that he actually plans to propose. And this is known commitment-phobic Chandler we are talking about. He not only got over this fear, but successfully tricked Monica into thinking that he was terrified of the thought of marriage? Character Development, right there.
"The One With Rachel's Book" had several Crowning Moments of Awesome for Chandler. He insists throughout the episode that they don't spend all the money they have on a big fancy wedding, being the much needed voice of reason. He steps down only at the end, willing to sacrifice his dream for Monica's brief moment of joy, because she longs for it so much. (She'd been crushed when her parents spent her wedding fund on a beach house). And finally, despite his commitment phobia, he reveals to Monica his dreams of domestic happiness. It has it all: Awesomeness and Heart-warmth with the strength of a Tear Jerker.
"The One With Rachel's Book" also counts for Monica. Before Chandler said she could have her wedding, she decided it wasn't fair to spend all his money like that and they would go for the cheaper option. Even when he insisted it was ok, she refused, putting his dreams for their future above her perfect day.
Monica: I don't want a big, fancy wedding. I want a marriage.
Chandler tells off pretty much his whole building when Monica was making candy for them and the building loved it so much they were demanding more day and night. Monica was cracking and Chandler just takes one look at her and shuts the whole thing down.
Joey eating an entire Thanksgiving turkey all by himself should count. And he still has appetite for dessert.
When a food critic gives Monica a bad review, she tracks him down at a cooking class he teaches with a bowl of her soup, confident she can change his mind. When the Jerkass critic balks at "subjecting himself" to her cooking again. Joey changes his mind with six simple words:
Joey: Eat it, or be in it.
"The One With Rachel's Other Sister": Chandler (having spent the whole day agonizing over whether or not he could ever be responsible enough to be a parent) stepping up and breaking up a Cat Fight between Rachel and Amy on Thanksgiving after seeing how much it is upsetting Monica.
Doubles as a moment of funny, but in that episode where Joey has a party with his co-stars on the roof, everyone but Chandler gets let in on the secret, leaving the poor guy stuck watching a very awkward one-woman show. He comes back to tell them that he loved it and wants to see it again, with them this time... and the second the show starts, he informs them he lied and books it. "I can't believe you guys bought this, enjoy your slow death." *flees* Glorious.
Watching Chandler defy odds and beat Mike at ping-pong, when he was going round for round with Monica.
Joey forgot to bring a present to Emma's first birthday so he decides to do a dramatic reading of a children's book which seemed like a bad idea but turned out he was really good at it.
Ross: Thank you so much for that.
Chandler: (almost about to cry) I was not ready for this.
Joey managing to turn a potential bad situation for Chandler and Monica around in "The One with the Home Study". To explain, Joey had previously dated their social worker, Laura, and never called her back; understandably, she's still pissed. So, to avoid having this ruin their chances at adoption, Chandler and Monica spend most of the episode keeping Joey out of her sight until, by chance, she does. So, how does Joey fix this? By claiming that she never called him, and that she never gave him her number. He even makes a point of leaving in a huff, saying that any attempt at apologizing is too little, too late. Even better (and most shocking) is that this works.
An added subtle touch to this scene is that fact that he clearly doesn't remember her name during it (he came back once he did, though, but still in character). He managed to turn the whole situation around and get her to apologize for something she never did... without using her name (the closest he gets is by calling her "lady"). That's actually kind of impressive.
Ross and Rachel finally reuniting in the finale.
Phoebe clears the entire plane, allowing Rachel time to reconsider, with just the "left phalange" trick.