If I were to ask you to to think of a long-running, beloved sitcom about life’s highs and lows regarding a group of friends living in New York City, you might answer, simply… Friends.
However, I am asking you to cast your mind back, specifically between the years 2005 and 2014 when another, yet very different show fitting that description was on television. Of course, I am referring to How I Met Your Mother.
HIMYM, as it is frequently abbreviated, ran for nine seasons on CBS, only one shy of Friends’ ten seasons on NBC. The much quoted, perennial writers’ adage of ‘write what you know’ was employed very successfully within the characters — like Ted and Marshall, co-creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas are best friends who attended Wesleyan University together, with the latter meeting his wife there.
Much like Ted at the beginning, Bays was a single man and looking for the right person.
For anyone unfamiliar, much of the narrative used in How I Met Your Mother is familiar territory – we meet Ted (Josh Radnor), a single guy in his late twenties who has just seen his oldest and dearest friends, Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan), get engaged.
With the addition of a slick city womaniser in breakout character Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders), a Canadian-born news reporter who is Ted’s on-off love interest, you have the basis of a pretty good, standard sitcom.
As most know, How I Met Your Mother was anything but standard. Its hook or abnormality when compared to similar shows was a very specific plot device – a future Ted (voiced by Bob Saget), living in 2030, is narrating all these events – the entire show is made up of his memories.
Of course, as this is as a television series that is designed and desired to last many seasons, future Ted takes quite a while getting us to where he (and we) actually meet the elusive Mother (Cristin Milioti).
In my opinion, there are a few important components that helped make HIYMYM into the huge success it became.
Firstly, a talented cast of actors. Looking at Season 1; Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segel had already enjoyed stints on acclaimed shows while Josh Radnor and Cobie Smulders were still making a name for themselves.
Even though we didn’t spend much time with – *SPOILER* Tracy/The Mother, Cristin Milioti made the most of the scenes and made us feel fond and empathetic for her character in a comparatively short stint.
Of course, these were not the only characters in the show. While the core five were the central focus, HIMYM‘s strength in adding memorable supporting characters only worked in its favour.
Some of the many guest stars across nine years included Bryan Cranston, John Lithgow, Wayne Brady, Sarah Chalke, Nicole Scherzinger, Bob Odenkirk, James Van der Beek, Kal Penn, Chris Elliott, Marshall Manesh and Taran Killam.
Throughout the near-decade run, How I Met Your Mother also had a strong, consistent creative force behind the scenes. Carter Bays and Craig Thomas created the show in 2005, serving as executive producers for the duration. The strength of their pilot script attracted big names such as Alyson Hannigan and Neil Patrick Harris which is impressive considering the pair were first-time showrunners.
Pamela Fryman directed 196 of 208 episodes overall. The stability and consistency allowed the show to feel the same without the obvious differences in writing and directing styles.
Many of my fellow fans of the series strong disliked the ending – and were not afraid to vocalise this opinion. Personally, I did not have a problem with the ending. Not to say that I was entirely happy, as the content was upsetting, but I did not feel cheated or short-changed like some.
To me, it just made sense. The show made no promises that Ted and Tracy would get to live happily ever after — it’s called How I Met Your Mother, which was fulfilled by the end. At the end of the day, Robin may not have been the title character, but she was the female lead. I do not have cause for complaint.
Thank you Carter, Craig, Pamela and the talented cast of How I Met Your Mother. It was a wonderful journey that I may or may not have revisited multiple times since…