friends is one of the most popular sitcoms in television history. The show ran for 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004 and has now gained traction with a whole new generation through streaming services and cable reruns. There just seems to be something about the six friends sitting together at a coffee shop sharing the ups and downs of their lives.
When it was on the air friends reached record numbers of viewers. Neilson Ratings, a system for rating shows based on the number of viewers a show has when it airs, has shown this friends maintained exceptional viewership from start to finish. While the show is loved by its dedicated fans as a whole, each season’s Nielson Ratings can help fans understand which seasons were the most successful on television during their original airing.
10 Season 7 – 14.2
Season 7 has some fan-favorite episodes such as “The One With The Nap Partners” where Joey and Ross resist the temptation to snuggle up to take a nap. However, the most popular episode of this season was the finale “The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding”, which was one of the most important episodes for Chandler and Monica.
While this season was still entertaining, there might not have been enough action to keep viewers tuned in for each episode.
9 Season 6 – 15.2
Season 6 had many quotable moments, such as in The One with Unagi and Bruce Willis’ hilarious moment in front of the mirror in The One Where Paul is The Man. The ratings for this season didn’t really get high until the final episode, “The One with the Proposal,” though. where Monica and Chandler finally get engaged.
Although it ended strong, there wasn’t much going on this season. Ross and Rachel’s respective relationships quickly grew boring, and many viewers got tired of waiting for Monica and Chandler to move forward with their relationship.
8th Season 9 – 15.2
This season started off strong, kicking off right in the hospital after Rachel gave birth to her baby. In this episode “The One Where no one Proposes” Joey accidentally proposes to Rachel and she surprised everyone by saying yes.
However, as the season progressed, viewership began to decline slightly. The friends’ life was going well, and it seems that the audience is a little more interested in conflict.
7 Season 5 – 16.5
This is another season that started stronger than it ended. In the first episode, “The One After Ross Says Rachel,” viewers were concerned about what the outcome of the disastrous wedding would be. Between Ross and Emily’s relationship ending, Monica and Chandlers just getting started, and Rachel not sure where she stood, there was plenty for the audience to do.
The rest of the season had many great moments when Monica and Chandler tried to hide their relationship and Ross licked his wounds, but ultimately the ratings were average compared to other seasons.
6 Season 8 – 16.5
Season 8 begins with the second half of Monica and Chandler’s wedding and the long-awaited answer to the question of whether or not Rachel is pregnant. Of course, this meant that the first episode of the series started with high ratings.
The rest of the season also went well, with a lot going on for everyone. Monica and Chandler were contemplating being newlyweds, and Rachel and Ross were contemplating ways to support each other as co-parents. Viewers were also heartbroken by Joey to see him fall in love with Rachel, even though they knew she didn’t feel the same way in return.
5 Season 10 – 16.8
There was a lot to get done in the show’s 10th and final season. Audiences were able to see Rachel and Joey try a relationship, Phoebe marrying her soul mate Mike and the birth of Monica and Chandler’s twins.
Season 10 also had some memorable episodes that were a little less story-centric, like “The One with Ross’ Tan” and “The One Where the Stripper Cries,” starring Danny DeVito. The most watched episode of the entire season is of course “The Last One” with a rating of 29.8 and 52.46 million viewers.
4 Season 1 – 16.9
This season is the first that audiences fell in love with. It was full of development for the characters that fans were just beginning to get to know, and many very memorable moments, such as The One with the Blackout, which established Chandler as one of the funniest characters, and The One in which Nana dies twice.”
The final episode of the season, “The One Where Rachel Finds Out,” is the highest rated episode. Audiences were excited that Ross would finally get a chance with Rachel and excited to launch season two to see what would happen.
3 Season 4 – 16.9
Season 4 had a lot to offer audiences. It started strong with the popular “The One with the Jellyfish” and progressed to cover Phoebe’s pregnancy with her brother’s triplets, Ross’ engagement to Emily and Rachel struggling with her feelings about Ross.
This season’s finale was huge as the entire cast traveled to Europe to actually shoot in England. “The One with Ross’s Wedding” had a rating of 21.2 and left the audience with the cliffhanger of Ross accidentally saying Rachel’s name during his ceremony.
2 Season 3 – 17.5
Emotions abounded in Season 3 as Ross and Rachel went through their famous breakup in The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break, which has an 18.3 rating.
However, Ross and Rachel weren’t the only interesting characters. Monica reunites with Richard, Phoebe reunites with her brother Frank Jr., and Joey and Chandler adopt their beloved pets, chicks and ducks. This season has been the best for Joey and Chandler’s relationship, cementing them in fans’ minds as the perfect roommates.
1 Season 2 – 20.5
Season 2 faced the challenge of maintaining the success of the show’s first season, and it appears to have done just that. It had the most-watched single episode of the series, “The One After the Super Bowl,” so named because it aired immediately after that year’s Super Bowl game. A record 52.9 million viewers tuned in to watch the extra-long episode, which featured guest stars like Jean-Claud Van Damme, Julia Roberts and Brooke Shields.
This season was also popular because Ross and Rachel finally got together. This begins in “The One Where Ross Finds Out,” where the two eventually share a hot kiss at Central Perk, and then in “The One With the Prom Video,” where Rachel makes one of her best decisions on the show and finally chooses to be with Ross.
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