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[OPINION] Why Joey Tribbiani is Secretly the Best Friend on 'Friends'

13 Apr 2020

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Please note that the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpoilerTV.

On the outset, Joey Tribbiani is the go-to douche of ‘Friends’; he’s slept with every female extra on ‘Days Of Our Lives’, once sought out a woman as a roommate purely to have sex with her, and he even pretended to be a doctor to gain a stranger’s personal information. To sum it up, Joey is an awful person. However, despite all of that, he’s a great friend to those lucky enough to be called one.

One of the biggest examples of Joey being the show’s best friend is his treatment of his close pal Ross Geller when it comes to love. One of Tribbiani’s biggest arcs in the show is his journey to finding a soulmate, and although he messes up in pretty much every relationship, it’s clear that when he feels something for a woman, he truly encompasses them and tries to never let them go. He goes through many girlfriends throughout the seasons, but the most poignant are Rachel Green and Charlie Wheeler; the two women he puts his feelings aside for for the sake of Ross.

With Charlie, we saw Joey try his hardest to make things work and despite him really liking her, he had to deal with letting her go and - eventually - was okay with Ross dating her. Things were then even trickier when he fell for Rachel, the main love interest for his aforementioned pal. Joey fell for Green unlike any other woman on the show; he took her in when the apartment she was in caught fire, looked after her during her unexpected pregnancy, offered to become co-parents of Emma despite the child not being his, fought with her landlord Mr. Treeger as he made her cry, and then he practised dancing with the man as a favour so that he wouldn’t kick her (as well as Monica and Phoebe) out of the apartment. On top of all of this, when the affection became really difficult, he once again put his friendship with Ross before his own feelings, despite Rachel being his biggest shot at finding a soulmate. The only time Joey can be seen betraying his friend (when it comes to girls) is in the season 9 finale, where he initially decides against kissing Rachel as she’s his best friend’s ex, but then goes forward with it once he’s realised that Ross didn’t make that decision with Charlie. When it comes to Geller, Joey always put him first, and any bad actions on his part were typically a reaction to what Ross had already done. And in the end, despite desperately wanting to find a real girlfriend, Joey missed out on a long-term romance for the sake of his friend.

Joey’s treatment of Rachel is also a poignant part of his character. Unlike the time he chose Janine as his roommate to purely sleep with her, when Tribbiani invited Green to move in, he actually made attempts to push aside his feelings. The two were already friends by the time she moved in, and he constantly tried to not fall for her. And even when he did, his nice actions were never performed to gain sexual or romantic favours. He constantly attempted to suppress the feelings for the sake of his friendship with her, and as previously mentioned - he did, despite not obtaining a single thing from it.

On top of Rachel, there were a few more moments where Joey is given the option to find a soulmate but puts his friends before his own goals. In season four this happened with everyone's favourite nerd Chandler Bing when Tribbiani goes on a date with Kathy. Bing saw the woman in Central Perk but is soon told that she was waiting for Joey. He then decided to fall for her despite this knowledge and along the way he quickly proved to be a better match for her than Tribbiani. However, although it did have a sketchy beginning, for her birthday Chandler ended up buying Kathy the first edition of one of her favourite childhood books, and then told Joey to claim it as his gift when he ended up falling short, so the relationship between the two men wasn't exactly one-sided here. But, Bing’s connection to Tribbiani didn't stop him from kissing Kathy behind his back, which caused a rift between the two. Joey eventually decided to forgive his friend, which then lead to Kathy and Chandler pursuing a relationship. This friendship between the two guys was one of the show’s most treasured, and throughout it they did mess up every now and again. But in this instance, Joey did a big thing by forgiving Chandler and not getting mad at him for pursuing somebody that he was interested in, which was a favour he wasn't usually granted in return.

As well as that, Joey was also the main reason Chandler finally stopped chasing after Janice every time the option came about as he told him to bow out as she was with a man already and had a child. So, I guess you could say he played a role in creating one of our favourite sitcom couples of all time?

Something that Joey did better than any other character is keep a secret - and in particular, he kept the secret of Monica and Chandler’s relationship the best. The first time we saw him speak to somebody else about it is with Rachel, and not only did he not initiate the conversation, he also attempted to keep what he knew to himself even when there was a chance to discuss it. The first party to actually mention and hint at the relationship was Green. He then only spoke to Phoebe about it once Rachel confirmed her knowledge on the subject (before doubting her initially and still attempting to stay silent).

The relationship between Monica and Chandler changed the dynamics of the six-way friendship forever, and Joey knew that it would, so needed to talk to someone about it desperately; his self-esteem relied on his relationship with his friends and if anything came between that it would alter a lot in his life. But despite all of that and all of the temptation he faced, he stayed true to Chandler and Monica’s wishes, proving to be an incredible friend to the pair of them.

And finally, we have Phoebe. Much like Joey she was known for her quirkiness and just being kind of weird, but something that really stuck out throughout the series was how much he stood by her side. As the only non-meat eater in the pack she did face times where the struggle was pretty real, especially when pregnant with the triplets as her cravings began to dive into things she didn’t usually eat, like the aforementioned food. And despite the temptation surrounding her, Joey - the man whose biggest personality trait is eating anything in his line of sight - stopped eating meat so that she isn’t tempted to sway from her beliefs. In addition to that, Joey held the phone for her so she didn't miss Ross’ wedding in London that she’s forced to not attend due to her pregnancy, he kissed her so that she can receive the “perfect kiss” she wished for, offered to marry her (despite having no romantic feelings) purely so that she did not end up raising her baby alone, and bought all of the trees at the tree lot as Phoebe was upset that they would get chopped up if they weren’t sold. Joey was the friend that Phoebe needed as he thought of her feelings when everybody else would think she was a little dramatic. He was the one friend who, although he didn’t quite get her weirdness, allowed her to just be without passing judgement.

At the end of the day, Joey was an incredible friend to all five members of the crew, but they were also pretty nice to him as well. What made this group so lovable was that despite their ups and downs, bad decisions, awkward moments and embarrassing scenarios, they were great friends to each other (to an extent). Joey was the best of the bunch, but they tried their best to be there for one another as much as they could, and that is why all these years later we’ve still revisited the show and talked about it again and again; ‘Friends’ was full of characters that made us forget about our troubles, had us laughing and showed us what a believable and non-toxic friendship can be. The NBC show was host to wonderful characters, and Joey just happened to be the one that - statistically - was the best friend.