I’ll Be There for You: The Evolution of Friends

How the characters changed throughout the series, their best moments, and what I think they’re doing now!

Friends is an iconic 1990’s show. Every fan has a character they can relate to and the scenarios portrayed in some of the episodes were situations that some of us have experienced in our own lives.

I love this show and I’ve watched it since its debut on September 22, 1994.

My favorite episode of the series was “The One With the Five Steaks and an Eggplant”. In this season 2 episode: Rachel, Phoebe, and Joey feel that Chandler, Ross, and Monica don’t understand that they can’t afford to live the same lifestyle as the latter trio does.

Rachel is a waitress, Joey is an unemployed actor, and Phoebe is a masseuse. They don’t make as much money as Chandler, Monica, and Ross do. When they confront Ross, Monica, and Chandler about this issue, this causes resentment among the group.

This was my favorite episode because it was a relatable scenario.

As the series progressed, the “friends” seemed to become more affluent and money became less of an issue (aside from the running joke of Joey borrowing money off Chandler and not paying it back).

Towards the end of the series, even Joey became financially stable and was able to lend money to Monica.

This wasn’t the only change in the ten seasons Friends ran for.

The characters all developed and changed as time went on, just like people in real life transform as their lives progress.

Phoebe Buffay

Phoebe Buffay is an eccentric character. She is a new-age hippie with long, blonde hair and a huge heart. She is a masseuse who enjoys reading tea leaves, hanging out at the coffee house, playing her old guitar, and challenging the other friends in conversation.

Phoebe was married three times: The first marriage was to an ice-dancer named Duncan, then a random man in Las Vegas, and her third husband was Mike Hannigan, her true love.

Phoebe’s best moments: Whenever she yells, when she became a surrogate for her brother, when she gives Rachel cookies before telling her that Paolo made a move on her, when she admitted to mugging Ross when they were children, and her wedding vows to Mike.

How did Phoebe change throughout the series?

Phoebe’s personal appearance changed a lot since the beginning of the series. Her wild curly hair from season one was smoothed and straightened and her outfits became more colorful as the series went on.

I noticed that phoebe became less spiritual as the series continued. She became angrier and less of a hippie as she got older. She had moments of complete selflessness and then moments of selfishness.

Her taste in men definitely changed: From sweet but simple David the scientist, to condescending, cheater Mike (Can you tell I’m not a fan?).

Don’t even get me started on how the friends and Mike treated David in Barbados.

The Phoebe of season one would never have stayed with a man who cheated on his girlfriend and then broke up with her on her birthday.

Phoebe actually ended up doing the breaking-up part, so Mike was also cowardly. He loved Phoebe, but he wasn’t who I figured she would end up with.

Phoebe is my favorite character of the girls. Phoebe had a dark side but I think it’s true to life that the friends had personality flaws, just like real people!

I was happy to see Phoebe get her happy ending after having such a tough childhood, even if it was with Mike.

What is Phoebe doing now?

Phoebe Buffay-Hannigan is living in a brownstone in Manhattan with Mike, their daughter Hortense, and son Nicholas. Phoebe is an intense “soccer mom” and stay-at-home mother who sells essential oils.

Mike and Phoebe inherited Mike’s parent’s estate after they passed away in a plane crash while traveling to Turks and Caicos.

Once a week she meets up with Rachel and Monica to go shopping and have coffee at Central Perk.

Ross Geller

Ross is a brother to Monica, a paleontologist, and a father of two. He was married to Carol Willett, who he has a son named Ben with.

Ross was on-and-off again with resident “mean girl” Rachel Greene, who he has a daughter named Emma with. Ross enjoys puzzles, talking about science, going to the Hard Rock Cafe, and reading.

How did Ross change throughout the series?

The biggest change in Ross’ physical appearance was in the last two seasons when he began wearing sleeker outfits and more leather.

The changes in the Ross character are changes to the way the amazing acting skills of David Schwimmer were utilized.

At the beginning of the series, Ross was not physically funny. He wasn’t really funny at all, just sad.

As the series went on, Ross became more physically funny. Many of the funniest moments later in the series, involve Ross (When he spray-tanned, bleached his teeth, and got stuck in leather pants).

David Schwimmer has a gift for physical comedy.

Ross never wavered in his love of science or reading, but he did become more confident to try new things as the series progressed.

Ross had an interesting storyline when his mental health took a turn for the worse and he was put on sabbatical leave at the museum. He is shown taking medication for his anger issues during his leave of absence from his job.

I wanted Ross to end up with someone other than Rachel. I know, I am in the minority. I found that Ross was possessive of Rachel and she was continuously meddling in his relationships. It was a toxic relationship.

He started the series as an annoying character with no sense of humor and ended the series as one of the best and well-developed characters in the show.

Ross went from my least favorite character to my favorite overall. I always wanted to hear him finish his science stories.

Ross’ best moments: When he found out Carol was having a boy, getting stuck in the leather pants, when he wore a pink shirt on a date and his date was wearing the same shirt, and his argument with Phoebe about evolution.

What is Ross doing now?

Ross Gellar is working at The Museum of Prehistoric History (the same museum he worked at until his season 5 breakdown), he is a part-time tour guide.

He and Rachel were unable to make their relationship work and he is now married to his ex-girlfriend Mona. They have a child of their own named Albert, after Albert Einstien.

He spends his spare time doing volunteer archeological digs and spending quality time with Mona, Albert, Emma, and Ben.

He still gets together for basketball and hockey games with Joey and Chandler.

Joey Tribbiani

Joey was the slick, Italian actor who was the second “friend” to speak on the pilot (arguing with Monica, of course). He loved sandwiches, women, his friends, and television.

Joey had a few relationships on the show, the two most serious was his relationship with his roommate Jeannie (played by supermodel Elle Mcpherson) and his fling with Rachel.

I actually loved Rachel and Joey together, I thought they were on the same intellectual level and a more believable match than Ross and Rachel. Joey and Rachel were both shallow when it came to looks and had a lot in common.

Joey’s best moments: When he told Rachel he was in love with her, when he stopped eating meat so Phoebe could eat meat during her pregnancy, when he used “How you doin’?” on Rachel in Vegas and then tells Ross not to let her drink anymore.

How did Joey change throughout the series?

Unfortunately, Joey didn’t develop intellectually through the seasons. Despite trying to learn many new things (French, guitar), the writers dumbed Joey’s intelligence down to the point that he behaved like a 3-year-old child by the time the end of the series approached.

Joey’s character did change after he and Rachel had their fling. He started to take love seriously and wasn’t just dating for sex any longer.

I always wished Joey had found love by the end of season 10 instead of it being assumed that he tagged along with Monica and Chandler as they began their domestic life in Brooklyn.

What is Joey doing now?

Joey is still acting on “The Days of Our Lives” as Dr. Drake Ramorey.

One day, when he was picking Monica and Chander’s twins up from kindergarten, he met a young teacher named Jess.

They fell deeply in love and had a small wedding at the museum where Ross works. They had one child, a boy named Rueben (yes, after the sandwich).

They live in the same Brooklyn neighborhood as Monica and Chandler. They have barbeques weekly with the Bings.

Rachel Greene

What can I say about Rachel? She was the spoiled, used-to-be-rich, shallow girl who was best friends with Monica in high school. Rachel had some good moments, but most of these were overshadowed by some seriously nasty things she did to people.

Rachel always wanted Ross when another woman had him. She broke up several of his relationships and even convinced one of his girlfriends to shave her head so she would appear less attractive to Ross.

Rachel loved shopping, her friends, fashion magazines, and soap operas. She ended the series unemployed, as she left her job to stay with Ross and Emma.

Rachel’s best moments: She was an excellent maid of honor for Monica, her dumping commitment-phobic Joshua in a wedding dress, giving birth to Emma, and of course, her thanksgiving English trifle.

How did Rachel change throughout the series?

Rachel’s iconic look changed a lot throughout the series. She experimented with different hairstyles and even lost weight (which was unnecessary) at one point.

Rachel showed less skin as the series continued, her style seemed to mirror Jennifer Aniston’s style towards the end of the series. She always had the best outfits!

Rachel became a career woman. She gave up her cushy life as a trust-fund baby and embraced life as a working-class woman. She worked her way up in the fashion industry from a personal assistant to an executive at Ralph Lauren. Despite her obvious flaws, I always admired her for that.

At the end of the series, Louis Vuitton offered her a position in Paris, which she gave up to stay in New York with Ross and Emma.

What is Rachel doing now?

Rachel Greene lives in a beautiful apartment in Manhattan. Since Ross is only working part-time, he has full-custody of Emma. Rachel is working at Louis Vuitton full-time as a Fashion Executive.

Rachel and Ross are good friends and decided it would be best for Emma for them to never date each other again. Rachel has matured and is on good terms with Mona.

Mona set Rachel up on a blind date with her best friend’s little brother and when Rachel showed up to the restaurant, it was her ex-boyfriend Tag!

Tag and Rachel are dating and they are very serious about each other but have decided not to get married.

Chandler Bing

Chandler was the friend known for his snappy sense of humor, boring job, and self-depreciation. He is Monica’s husband and Ross’ best friend from college. Chandler had a rough start to life, coming from a broken home, and it obviously impacted him in many ways.

Until he started seeing Monica, I thought Chandler would end up alone at the end of the series. However, I can happily say that Monica and Chandler are made for each other!

Chandler loves sarcasm, playing and watching sports, and playing weird sex games with Monica.

Chandler’s best moments: When he told the mother of the twins how badly Monica wanted to be a mother, his honesty with the birth mother regarding his and Monica’s occupations, “The 5th dentist caved and now they’re all recommending Trident?”, when he tried to bond with Monica’s dad and ended up sitting on his lap.

How did Chandler change throughout the series?

Chandler gained and lost a lot of weight over the course of the series. Unfortunately, this was due to Matthew Perry’s addiction to alcohol and the pain killer Vicodin. Perry has entered rehab numerous times due to addiction and has stated that fame didn’t help him.

“I was on ‘Friends’ from age 24 to 34. I was in the white-hot flame of fame. The six of us were just everywhere all the time. From an outsider’s perspective, it would seem like I had it all. It was actually a very lonely time for me because I was suffering from alcoholism”

-Matthew Perry

Character-wise, Chandler probably had the best development of all of the characters in friends.

At the beginning of the series, he felt sorry for himself constantly but as the series progressed, Chandler became more accepting of his circumstances. He also became more positive in the face of adversity, something I think he learned from Monica.

Chandler also went from being completely terrified of commitment to a happily married father. Once he fell in love with Monica, he did a complete 360!

What is Chandler doing now?

Chandler no longer works in advertising. Due to Monica’s lucrative new job, Chandler is now a stay-at-home dad. He has the happy family he always wanted.

Monica and Chandler live in the Brooklyn suburbs with their children. Chandler still sees his best friend Joey daily.

Monica Gellar

Monica Gellar is the younger sister of Ross Gellar and wife to Chandler Bing. Monica is a head chef at Javu’s and mother to twins. Monica loves cleaning, cooking, crafts, and gossiping with the girls.

While Monica can be an annoying character, her influence on all of the friends is overlooked and underrated. She is always pushing her friends to do the right thing and usually has the most sound advice.

Monica changed both Rachel and Chandler for the better. I think if Rachel had lived with Phoebe or Joey in the beginning, she would’ve gotten off-track easier.

Monica’s best moments: Her proposal to Chandler, dumping Pete because she couldn’t stand to see him get his ass kicked in UFC, when she made Joey penis coverings for his audition for a Jewish movie, her proposal to Chandler, how supportive she was when Chandler switched careers/was unemployed.

How did Monica change throughout the series?

Courtney Cox’s looks changed as the series went on, due to plastic surgery (fillers and botox). Her hair grew longer and her clothes became less frumpy and more on the sexy side.

Monica’s personality stayed pretty consistent throughout the series. She was always dependable so her unchanging ways made sense. She loved to organize anything, plan parties, and give advice to her friends.

Monica was always a mother, even before she and Chandler adopted the twins. She was the most maternal of all of the friends and that trait never wavered as the series went on.

What is Monica doing now?

Monica and Chandler live with their three children in Brooklyn. Like many couples that adopt, they conceived a baby shortly after adopting the twins.

They named their baby girl Althea, after Monica’s beloved nana that passed away in season 1.

Monica officially took Chandler’s name and their answering machine now says “Hello, You’ve reached the Bings, leave a message at the tone”. In Chandler’s voice, of course.

Monica is a polarizing food critic with the New York Post. Her success has allowed her and chandler some luxuries, including purchasing the apartment above Central Perk so they can still visit their hangout with the gang whenever they want.

All of the friends have a key to apartment 20.

Amy Cottreau is a freelance writer who hails from a small city in Atlantic Canada. She enjoys interacting with fellow writers, dreaming of ideas for her next article, and researching a myriad of topics.

Wife, mother, and researcher of a myriad of subjects. I love to write about anything and everything! Writer for The Startup, Better Marketing, & The Ascent👊

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store