Where “How I Met Your Mother” Failed

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In a day and age where all the biggest sitcoms are getting revived. From The Office to Friends it seems odd that a rating juggernaut like How I Met Your Mother has never been discussed to return. That is until you look into what many people believe is the problem with the series, the ending.

The ending has is it’s own can of worms we can get into, but that is not where the problems start. The problems start much further back, about 8 season to be accurate.

For context, How I Met Your Mother follows Ted Mosby, a love struck romantic and his friends, college sweethearts Lily and Marshall, ladies man Barney, and new addition, reporter Robin as they look for love in all the wrong places as an older Ted explains to his children how he would eventually meet their mom.

If you can’t see where the show failed, then maybe it’s time for further exploration. And the answer is not just: the ending. The ending has its own problems, but that’s not where the show failed. It failed in the conception stage.

If the show is called “How I Met Your Mother,” then when should he have met her?

The shows approach to that question was to save that all until the very last episodes. That might be the most literal reading of the title, but not narratively the most interesting or compelling, but was the one they went with.

The best way to rationalize it comes from where I believe the concept for the show was born. The concept of a guy retelling stories from his youth to his kids is great. It’s a stellar concept the show gets a lot of mileage out of, but they wanted to add a second element. The meeting of the mother, but contrast that with a joke. They wanted the first episode to hit as a joke. It’s all supposedly sounds like how someone would meet their significant other, but it’s about how they met a close family friend. So, to resolve that they make three far more interesting and compelling characters to actually follow along the way.

Now, that joke is not inherently bad. It’s a solid enough setup, and has a good premise. The problem is that since the whole show is waiting for the mother, then ever other relationship Ted has is playing for time. Now, that’s not the way the show wants to see it. The show wants to see it as a growth and character arc that says he would not be the right person to meet the mom then, but he is by the end. That is all iffy and feels very retroactive, but fits well enough.

The real problem though, is that it could be both. If they wanted to keep the mother hidden until the final season (which I think her introduction might have been postponed because they didn’t know when the show was going to end. That’s a whole other problem. But that has its roots in deeper network politics than just this show) then every love interest should literally move him closer to the mother. He leaves one love interest only to meet a second who gets him interested in this other thing, and so on and so on. It would make sense.

The other option is to have it be a seasons long love story where they have their ups and downs, but the “Met” would be a more symbolic. He may have met her, but she was not the woman he would love. Or she wasn’t a mother yet, or… oh wait, that’s Lily and Marshall, the best characters/couple in the show.

What makes the show all the more infuriating is how the writers seem to nail how to write a couple with the most stable rocks of the group, Lily and Marshall. They are closer to what a real “How I Met Your Mother” story would go. That makes every false start and total aimless mopping Ted does throughout the middle seasons feel that much worse.

Now, if the idea of the show failing in its premise does not work, which is not an argument I’ve heard. Then the fact that the ending is not great usually does it.

Okay, so if you give that the show is great until the final episodes, which for all my complaining I do, then why does that fail? Pretty simple. They fail to deliver on the correct promise.

So first big problem is the fact the whole final season is set around a wedding weekend is not great to tell other stories outside of that. It also makes the final episodes too tight and compact when, to give it weight, they should be more relaxed. Part of that could be argued as seeing the future already in flash forwards so we don’t need to see it all, but it would help considering the first episode gag turned into a full emotional through line that is pulled out since Robin is absent most of the final episodes.

Now, if they wanted Robin to be the final love interest even after the mother, that’s fine. It was clearly planned, but they totally missed the mark on how to execute it. To execute it Ted and Robin should have met earlier that day (week… month… how long has he been telling that story? The kids don’t age so it’s all the same year. Okay, year) and connected. This would get his memory jogging of how he met the mother and want to tell his kids to build up to the reveal that they are both single when they said they would be in order for them to get together.

That ending would still not fulfill the promise the show set out with, but would fulfill the promise of the episodes.

None of this is to look over how good the show is outside of that, and people seem to do that. The ending is so bad for people that it turns them off the rest of the series. They forget all the great bits, episodes, premises, and characters that it feels ruined. But, it was ruined from the start, so it goes up from there.

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