Reader, sit back and make yourself comfortable. I’m going to tell you about a show. Not just any show, but what I consider one of the most well written comedies on television.
I’d be lying if I told you I’m a long time fan of How I Met Your Mother, the multi-camera sitcom that airs Monday nights on CBS at 7 p.m. I didn’t jump on the bandwagon until the show was well into its fourth season…or was it the fifth? I’m sorry, it’s been a few years, and I can’t keep track of all of these details.
How I Met Your Mother follows Ted Moseby (Josh Radnor); an architect living in New York City during his late 20’s when the series begins. Upon learning of the engagement of his best friend Marshall (Jason Segal) to his girlfriend Lily (Alyson Hannigan), Ted sets out to find “The One,” or the future mother of his children.
His quest has turned into a seven season odyssey with Marshall, Lily and his friends Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smolders) along for the ride, all while their misadventures are chronicled by the ever present narrator, Future Ted (Bob Saget).
Framed around Ted telling his children the story of how he met their mother in 2030, HIMYM is able to fit more in its 22 minute runtime than most comedies thanks to the use of flash backs, flash forwards and plenty of misdirection.
Why it Works
To put it simply, the characters make the show. For me, you can’t have a long lasting show without having characters you can relate to some level. The main focus is Ted and his search for the love of his life.
Over the course of its seven-year run, all of the characters go on journeys with specific momentous events that change them. You follow Marshall and Lily from engagement, their first break-up in nine years, through marriage, moving into their first home and the big milestone of trying to start a family.
While many shows suffer after reaching a fifth season, let alone a sixth, few shows are able to get better with age and avoid getting long in the tooth. HIMYM is now halfway through its seventh season, with an eighth already guaranteed and the writers are still coming up great material, with portions of season seven devoted to re-visiting storylines and episodes from all the way back in season one.
But the best example of the shows longevity is in the character people most associate with the show, Barney Stinson.
From the beginning, Barney has been the alpha male of the show. A womanizing, scotch drinking, one-liner spouting and most importantly, suit wearing, man. For almost the entire first two seasons of the show, there was nothing redeemable about Barney. He’s just a bad example of a person. He just cares about his close friends and making every night as legendary as possible (which means sleeping with the hottest woman at the bar).
But with every passing season, his suit of denial and cowardice is chipped away at, until Barney is no longer a caricature, he’s a person. If the show had ended in season five, you’d never have the emotional pay off of Barney’s father issues and his fear of developing a real relationship.
However, even though the main focus of the series is Ted, I have to give the award for best over all series story to Marshall and Lily.
Where should I begin with this subject? The slap bet? The goat? Heck, I think I could write at least two paragraphs on Lily’s hair color. With a show in its seventh season, HIYM has been able to stock pile storylines and jokes the writers have been able to refer back to time and again.
With the flashback format of the show, continuity is a must, especially for an audience that is looking for any clues as to the identity of the mother. The show flashes back over the series seven year run and beyond, going all the way back to the college days of the Ted, Lily and Marshall, while also showing the childhoods of Barney and Robin (Robin Sparkles!!!).
If I had to compare the continuity of HIMYM to any other show, it would have to be the Lost, with its interlocking storylines and its similar use of flashbacks and flash forwards. Really, the only show on television right now that even compares to the complex storytelling of Lost is HIMYM. However, where Lost got it right is where HIMYM hasn’t: setting an end date, and that’s where my next section comes in.
Where it Lacks
Putting it Off
The writing on How I Met Your Mother is great, but the only show that’s put off the series end game as long as it has is Smallville, which finally ended last year after a decade on the air.
The show is called How I Met Your Mother, and the most we’ve seen of her is her foot as she darted into a bathroom in the series 100th episode. With the story being told in 2030, 18 years from present day and the children being roughly 16 years old, that gives the show a two-year period where Ted needs to meet the mother and have two kids.
Having the show last this long has provided some great material, but there is no way it should proceed past an eight season. The mother should be introduced at the end of the 7th or the beginning of the 8th and then they get married for the finale. I think it would be unfair to the audience not to let us experience the early days of their eventual relationship.
As I said earlier, the writers have on many occasions subjected their audience and Ted on his kids, many fake outs regarding the identity of the mother. Some are clever, some are even hilarious (meet your mom the stripper). But by the end of the 6th season it’s just annoying. Get it over with.
With the lengthy run of the series Ted has dated many women, way too many in fact. After thinking it over and discussing it with my fellow Lazy Ass Librarian, I’ve come to the conclusion that Ted is just a poor man’s version of Barney, just without a suit and catchphrases.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Ted. He’s the reason I watch every Monday and why I’m sticking it out till the end. However, as I’ve thought about it, Ted hasn’t changed that much. His profession has changed three times, but as a character, I feel he hasn’t progressed nearly as much as Marshall, Lily, Robin, and definitely not as much as Barney.
As the show has gone on and the meeting of the mother has been put off, I think the character development of Ted has also been put off. He keeps saying he needs to grow up and be an adult…well, when is that going to happen? I know it’s a sitcom, but he’s in his mid 30’s now.
Also, I’ve seen every set of emotions come from Ted, but I don’t remember him ever having a good cry. He’s been mad, furious and down right sad. Every character on the show has shed a few tears, but I don’t recall Ted ever doing it.
Anyway, enough with the Ted bashing.
Because of Netflix and Christmas gifts, I recently finished a complete re-watch (not counting season 7) of How I Met Your Mother. I rediscovered why I fell in love with the show and watching all 100 + episodes in quick succession allows you to see how the characters have evolved since it premiered in 2005.
It’s rare to find a show where the writers actually care as much about they characters as they do. Craig Thomas and Carter Bays know exactly what their doing when it comes to running a show (except for not ending it), and besides Dan Harmon of Community, I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather have controlling my favorite show.
Now go to your Netflix queue or the local video store and give How I Met Your Mother a shot, you’re missing out.