It's all a dream? Phoebe's on drugs? Rachel and Joey are meant to be?
It’s been over 13 years since a group of six coffee-loving, too-well-dressed-for-their-pay-grade pals with great hair spent an inordinate amount of time lounging at Central Perk (or in their huge West Village apartments) for our viewing pleasure. Yes, Friends aired its final episode on May 6, 2004, but with countless reruns gracing our screens and all 10 seasons available to stream on Netflix, Chandler (Matthew Perry), Joey (Matt LeBlanc), Monica (Courteney Cox), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), and Ross (David Schwimmer) still hold a dear place in our hearts.
That long-lasting affection means there are fun fan theories aplenty out there. Here, we round up some of the craziest ones. Who knows, maybe it was such a great show because Starbucks was subliminally filling our bloodstream with sugary, caffeinated beverages.
The one where it all takes place in Rachel’s head
When fans looked closely at the cover of the season 4 boxset, they grew somewhat perplexed as to why Rachel was the only one awake in the image. Most of us would go along with the explanation that she was startled to wake up and discover five of her friends have joined her and, snap, that’s when the pic was taken, hence Rachel’s conscious state while the others slumber. Apparently, that was far too rational an explanation for some: One theory suggests that the entire series actually took place in Rachel’s mind. Logical? Not so much, but kudos to the one fan who delved deep to support the theory.
The one where Starbucks rules the world
How do you take your conspiracy theories? With milk on the side or frothy with caramel syrup? This theory is grande-sized and, if correct, means the whole conceit of Friends was simply a ploy by the coffee conglomerate to sell more pumpkin spice lattes and stale scones. Radio presenter Alex Bake posits that the series was intended to move consumers away from the bar scene (as promoted in Cheers) and into coffee shops in what he describes as a “meticulously-planned priming exercise to manipulate human behavior.” He then goes on to detail evidence that supports his theory: Rachel’s last name is Green, which is also the main color of the Starbucks logo, and Ross and Monica’s last name is Geller, which is similar to the German word “Gellen,” meaning “to yell,” and in Starbucks, the staff call your name when your drink is read. Yes, it certainly seems like a very tenuous stretch, and it’s likely that Bake himself had one cup too many when brewing up this idea, but Friends‘ run did happen to coincide with Starbucks spreading to international locations during the ’90s so… Go and order a venti vanilla latte while you mull this one over.
Then again, maybe it’s not that much of a stretch; they did drink a heck of a lot of coffee on the show. Just look:
The one where Phoebe’s a meth addict
If you like your sitcoms with dark foundations, you’ll love this. One Twitter user proposed a super-depressing alternative ending for the ’90s show. This version sees Phoebe imagining the whole thing from a drug-addled state and claiming it was all a “fantasy of a homeless Phoebe as she stared through the window of Central Perk” watching the other members of the cast and pretending they were her friends, projecting herself into their lives. The final scene would be Phoebe walking away from Central Perk, with “the Ross, Rachel, Joey, Chandler, and Monica characters making reference to ‘the crazy lady who always stares at us,'” writes @strnks. Fade to black, indeed. Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman wasn’t exactly a fan of this theory, telling ET it was the “saddest thing” she’d ever heard. “I’m fascinated,” she added. “I just think that someone needs a life.”
The one where Rachel and Joey were truly meant to be
Ross-Rachel shippers, skip this one. Remember that odd fling Rachel and Joey embarked on in season 8? Yeah, we try to forget about it too, but some people were all for it, so much so that one fan reinvented the show’s entire narrative in favor of… Jachel? Roey? Ugh, obviously it was never meant to be. Twitter user @kaneandgriffin is on Team Jachel though and explained why on Twitter.
The one where Gunther reserved the table at Central Perk
Wasn’t it SO convenient that the gang could always procure that great table with couches at the coffee shop? (Well, apart from that season 2 episode when some bullies stopped the guys from sitting there.) Unwilling to accept that anyone could be quite so fortunate when it comes to seating in New York City, some fans took a closer look and spotted a “reserved” sign on the group’s fave table. While that pretty succinctly explains the friends’ good fortune, one Reddit user went further and proposed that Gunther reserved the table for them with the intention of keeping his beloved Rachel in close proximity. Creepy or cute? You decide.
The one where Rachel dates Ben Wyatt from Parks and Rec
A passing name-drop in season 7 led one fan to believe that Rachel had previously dated Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) from Park and Rec. In season 7, episode 9, when Rachel is telling Monica she didn’t sleep with Tag on the first date, the latter reels off a list of names of men Rachel did in fact sleep with on the first date, including one Ben Wyatt. “After doing the math, at the time of season 7 of Friends (2000), Rachel is 29 years old,” says Reddit user, Phefflin. “At the same time, Ben would be 26, slightly younger but still within the range of a relationship… I think at some point after Ben left Partridge, Minnesota in shame after his failure as mayor, he went to NYC for a brief time, met Rachel, and either had a one night stand, or a relationship.” Both shows did air on NBC…
The one where Ross loses custody of Ben
This one’s a little sad, so we don’t blame you if you’d rather not believe it. There’s no denying Ross does some questionable things over the course of the series. (Remember when he was suspended from work because he got super mad when someone ate his sandwich? And then there was the time he tried to make out with his cousin. Yikes.) But one blogger believes his oddball antics were enough to make him lose custody of his son, Ben. “Ross has a son, Ben, who plays a fairly important role in the first several seasons of Friends. But then he disappears,” he hypothesizes. “Which makes me wonder if it’s possible that Ross’s disturbing antics have caused him to lose custody of Ben? Ben doesn’t show up in person after episode 12 of season 8. He’s only mentioned six times in the remaining 54 episodes after his last appearance.” The blogger goes on to point out that after Emma is born, Ben never appears to meet his half-sister, nor is there any mention of them doing so off-screen. Either way, we’re sure Ross is fine.