How I Met Your Mother first premiered in the fall of 2005. I would have been two months away from my 7th birthday and, thus, too young to watch or understand the treasured 2000’s sitcom. It wasn’t until more than 12 years after its arrival, in the fall of 2017, that I began to watch the show. I had recently finished my marathon run of Friends and was in need of a new show with short, 22 minute episodes I could squeeze in during meals and homework breaks. Having exhausted That 70s Show, The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, New Girl (although I will never tire from that one), and Friends, I figured How I Met Your Mother was a good comedy to begin.
I had received mixed reviews regarding the quality of the show. A few colleagues informed me that it was simply a knockoff of Friends, but instead of a coffee shop, all the protagonists convened for social gatherings in a bar. Others raved about the show and it’s cast of amusing characters, particularly Barney and his many sexual escapades. Everyone warned me I would hate the ending. With 10 episodes left to watch in the entire show, I wanted to present my case as to why this sitcom is unique and memorable before I am faced with the dreaded conclusion. For after completing nearly 9 seasons, I confess that How I Met Your Mother has to be one of the greatest sitcoms I have ever watched.
One of the show’s strongest characteristics is the style in which the episodes are presented. How I Met Your Mother takes more liberties with the delivery and presentation of a plotline. While a particular scenario may appear slightly unrealistic, there is an aura of showmanship to each episode that allows for applaudable comedic content. Consider a few examples:
Season 5 Episode 12 -“Girls Versus Suits” features Barney as he pursues a bartender that refuses to sleep with any man wearing a suit. The seemingly normal episode is interrupted by a high-energy musical number in which Barney, accompanied by a choreographed ensemble, extravagantly parades down the streets of New York singing about his inability to sacrifice his suits for the sake of sex.
Season 6 Episode 4 -“Subway Wars” features each member of the crew on their mission to be the first to arrive at a restaurant seven miles away from the bar. This race is spurred by an argument surrounding which mode of transportation is the fastest. The storylines are separated by individual title screens that introduce why every character “needed a win” that day while a rapid-paced yet catchy tune plays in the background.
While these are just two of countless examples, they embody the unique style of How I Met Your Mother. “Girls Versus Suits” exemplifies the manner in which the show will stray from reality in order to disclose a character’s internal monologue in a laughable and invigorating scene. Barney doesn’t actually sing and dance his way through New York City. The musical number instead pulls us out of the reality of his apartment and into a fantasy world the show can use in order to properly explain his conflict.
“Subway Wars” reveals the charming methods this sitcom utilizes to display visual content in order to strengthen the show’s comedic effect. Scenes are frequently boosted by visual aids (with fitting background music) that lend a picture book-like quality to an episode. This trait supports the show’s narration with a funny and observable display of content. With each new visual representation of a theory, conflict, or overall plotline, one chuckles and thinks “only on How I Met Your Mother would you see this.”
How I Met Your Mother also reveals an exceptional ability on the part of the writers to plan ahead; even seasons ahead. Plotlines and objects that you thought were fleeting or unique to a single episode suddenly pop up two, four, or six seasons after the episode in which it first appeared, aiding in the plot of that future moment and drawing an amazing fit of laughter from the audience.
Perhaps the most obvious and one of the greatest examples of this is the ongoing effect of the “slap bet” that Barney lost to Marshall in season 2 episode 9. After a comical sequence of events, Marshall is awarded the privilege of slapping Barney as hard as physically possible, five times at any time of his choosing. The show meticulously plans out the timing of each slap, so as to remind audiences of its relevance just as the slap bet was beginning to slip their minds. The placement of each slap carries on from the beginning of season 2 all the way to the end of season 9, the show’s final season, emphasizing the precise nature in which the show plans such an outrageous concept.
I could list similar examples for hours. From the sandwich euphemism to the yellow umbrella to the reason why Barney will never break the rules of a jinx, this show is remarkably clever and well thought out.
The characters themselves are well constructed and all possess their own memorable quirks. There’s…
Ted Mosby- architect – the show’s intellectual narrator and perpetual romantic on a dedicated quest to locate his soulmate.
Robin Scherbatsky- Vancouver native teenage pop-star- the career-driven journalist who amuses audiences with her high spirited (and occasional comically aggressive) Canadian persona.
Barney Stinson- sensational womanizer- the renowned player that Robin jokingly dubs a “high-functioning sociopath” who, against all odds, often delivers some of the show’s most sensitive and heartfelt moments.
Lily Aldrin- artist and kindergarten teacher- the born and raised savvy New Yorker with an unorthodox justice system and slightly psycho yet constantly comforting presence.
Marshall Eriksen- environmental defender- the kind-hearted, midwestern lawyer who charms audiences with his loyalty and steadfast beliefs that people are inherently good.
Whether the characters are embarking on a “legendary” night out with Barney, engaging in a roast of Canada and Robin Sparkles, or sitting through yet another one of Ted’s sermons on why his newest fling is “the one,” each cast member is shrewdly grafted by the writers and endearingly portrayed by the actors. There will be moments where you want to slap one and hug another, ultimately resulting in a treasured crew of misfits surviving and thriving in the famous grind of New York City.
Lastly, How I Met Your Mother, as you might guess from the title, is one long and incredibly detailed story. The format of the show, with Ted narrating to his kids all the unlikely adventures he stumbled upon, is what makes this sitcom exceptional. We all love a good story, and the reason this tale will constantly capture your attention is that it always keeps you guessing.
Take Season 2 Episode 4 -“Ted Mosby, Architect” as a prime example. Audiences track Ted and Marshall through a full night of New York City’s club scene as Ted, after a heated fight with Robin (his girlfriend at the time), seemingly hits on a strange girl the entire night and goes home with her at its conclusion. The entire episode is hugely puzzling, as it’s extremely out of character for Ted to cheat on any girl, especially Robin, whom he is so ardently in love with. At the end of the episode, however, it is revealed that the Ted Mosby audiences saw with Marshall the entire night was actually Barney, who used the title “Ted Mosby, Architect” to pick up women after Ted told Barney earlier in the evening that girls are attracted to architects.
The reason we didn’t merely see Barney using Ted’s name and actually saw Ted himself is because narrator Ted chose to tell the story with his image substituted in Barney’s place, thus keeping audience members constantly on their toes. I can honestly say that after watching almost all nine seasons, every time I believe I have the show figured out or can guess how an episode ends, there is always a plot twist waiting to blow my mind.