With the end of March also comes the end of CBS’ How I Met Your Mother. After nine seasons, the series is wrapping up, finally giving us the ending that the show and its title promised when it debuted in 2005.
I plan on watching the series finale, yet I don’t know how excited I am about it. To me, this feels something like meeting a friend whom you’ve lost touch with over the years and come to realize that maybe you don’t have that much in common after all. I wish I could say I stuck with the show for its entire nine-year run. But I gave up on HIMYM a while ago. Actually, I moved on at some point during season 4.
I tend to do this a lot with TV shows. I become a fan early on, pulled in by a premise or cast of characters that intrigues me. Or maybe I read something about the show that piqued my curiosity, whether it was a preview or favorable review by a TV critic. I give a series a chance, and if it attracts me within its first couple of episodes, I fall pretty hard for it. Then I tell my friends about the show and convince them to watch, so I have someone to talk about it with. I find other fans on social media, maybe someone who’s started a blog or podcast about that program.
But somewhere along the line, I often lose interest. Characters I previously enjoyed begin to annoy me. Actors decide they’ve had enough of playing the same role and move on to other projects. I can see the writers cooking up storylines that don’t seem to fit with the tone that was previously established. Maybe the plots seem desperate, an attempt to keep viewers or extend the life of the series. Any or all of these factors result in the show no longer being the one I initially decided to watch. So I bail.
How I Met Your Mother was one of these shows for me. I was a huge fan when it first began, intrigued by the premise of the main character telling his kids the story of how their parents met and that story being the basis of the entire series. On some level, I related to that protagonist, Ted Mosby, as he tried to navigate single life with his friends. Of course, I didn’t live in New York and Ted’s dating life was much more active than mine, but he was likable enough that I rooted for him to find his eventual wife.
Even better, one of Ted’s friends was among the most memorable characters in recent TV sitcom history. Barney Stinson — played by Neil Patrick Harris — was a notorious womanizer, searching for any flaw to justify discarding his latest conquest for someone new. Oh, and Barney was always dressed immaculately, imploring his buddies to “suit up” whenever joining him on the town. Yet though he seemed to avoid any emotional commitment, Barney was fiercely loyal to his close friends and feared being abandoned when they entered serious relationships with women.
Yet maybe the most appealing aspect to this series was that there was an endpoint in sight. Eventually, Ted had to meet the character mentioned in the title. The pilot episode had some fun with that, introducing Ted to a woman — Robin Scherbatsky, played by Cobie Smulders — he fell in love with. But by the end of the episode, it was made clear that she wasn’t the mother. What? How could those two not be together? They had great chemistry! Naturally, if Ted had met his future wife and mother to his children in the very first episode, there wouldn’t be much of a series.
I was all in. I jumped on to the series a few episodes in and soon made a point to watch every Monday night. When the season 1 DVD set came out, I caught up on the shows I missed. I passed the DVDs along to my sister, hoping she’d get hooked too. (She was never as enthusiastic as I was, though she did watch those DVDs with her husband after they got married.) I eventually bought the season 2 DVD set when it was released, convinced that HIMYM was a show I’d want to revisit years later.
However, as the series progressed from season to season, I wondered just how much of a plan creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas had. Yes, the show had a final destination mapped out. But how much of the journey was being made up as it went along? Any extended, serialized story is going to be at least somewhat created on the fly. Writers and actors have new ideas. Characters reveal different possibilities.
While it might be impressive if Bays and Thomas had every piece of the show already figured out, that could have ultimately led to a stagnant show that didn’t develop or grow. Yet as the series went on, I questioned whether or not its premise was really suited for one season but had to be stretched out over multiple years to sustain the life of a successful television program. Maybe this is the inherent flaw in American sitcoms. Under the British model, for example, a show would just tell its story in exactly the number of episodes necessary. It doesn’t have a chance to feel old and tired.
Eventually, Ted became a character I couldn’t stand. He was self-centered, a jerk to his friends and any woman he dated. I no longer cared if and when he found “the mother.” Barney’s catchphrases felt increasingly contrived, as if the writers were constantly trying to top themselves with something clever, rather than just use him to tell a funny story. I didn’t want to spend my Monday night with these people anymore and soon found something else to do.
That was approximately six or seven years ago. Since then, I’ve sort of kept up on HIMYM as friends on Twitter and Facebook post their thoughts. Occasionally, I’d read a review to see if critics thought the show was still worth watching or if any story development was compelling enough to bring me back. Not even Barney and Robin getting together could pull me in again. As time passed, the characters and storylines I once found so entertaining faded from memory. I can barely recall them while writing this post.
HIMYM once felt fresh — even kind of daring — unlike most of what else was on TV. But so many more interesting shows have come along, ones that just felt more significant. There’s nothing wrong with a show that just makes you laugh and doesn’t weigh on your thoughts. Yet for me, that wasn’t enough to keep me drawn in.
Since I was there at the beginning, I want to see how Ted’s story ends, along with those of Barney, Robin, Marshall and Lily. I don’t know if I’ll have any idea what’s going on during the final episode because I haven’t followed along in so many years and didn’t see what brought these characters to this point. I feel doubtful that the ending will live up to what the series built up to. Really, how could it?
However, maybe it won’t matter for that final episode. For one hour, perhaps I’ll get a reminder of what made me fall for HIMYM to begin with. That’s what I’m hoping for. Maybe we’ll have a pleasant reunion for one last episode before moving on.