A couple of weeks ago I started watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix, and as a lack of recent posts by me shows, I’ve been watching it obsessively and just finished watching the last episode of the 7th season. Sadly, Netflix doesn’t have the 8th season of the show yet, and because I don’t want to watch the episodes out of order if I can help it, I’m not going to start watching the ninth season when it airs starting Monday.
There aren’t a lot of TV shows that I watch, and there are a few reasons for that. The first is the time commitment, with working full time (plus having a decent commute), along with bowling in 3 leagues a week, I’m a fairly busy guy. Along with that I still try to read as much as I can, which leads to another reason why in many cases I prefer books to TV. With books the author knows that there is going to be an end, so the characters have growth arcs that they go through, and when they’re done with that arc, the story is usually over. There are some TV shows that do a very poor job of that because they refuse to let the characters finish their arc, or you’ll run into a show where the writers don’t give the characters room to grow. Or if the show runs a long time, the characters will finish an arc and then get another arc forced on them (this happens in books as well, and I complain about it with books as well).
Lastly, when it comes to comedies, there are a lot of times when the humor just doesn’t work for me. With something like Family Guy, the show is almost entirely comprised of non-sequitar jokes, which – to me at least – get old pretty quickly. Then there are shows like The Big Bang Theory, which I can’t stand because it does nothing but make fun of nerds for every episode, and being a nerd, that bothers me. It also has a tendency to make fun of Sheldon being an extremely anxious person, which also bothers me as a person who has an anxiety disorder. (And once again for clarity, it’s self-diagnosed, but I did study psychology so I have a semblance of an idea of what I’m talking about.)
Two of my favorite shows of all time are M*A*S*H and Scrubs, because I think both shows do a fantastic job of being outrageously funny while being able to stop on a dime and deliver some of the most poignant moments you’ll ever see in TV. I can easily add How I Met Your Mother to that list, because it does so many things so well.
The most important thing about any TV show is the characters, and the 5 main characters on this show are wonderful. They each have distinct personalities and a number of quirks that separate them from each other, but also allow the characters to play off of each other as well. From Ted’s intellectualism, Marshall’s earnestness, Lily’s innocence, Robin’s bluntness, and Barney’s insanity, they all work perfectly on their own but they work just as well when mixed with the other characters. In some ways, it’s exactly what made Joss Whedon’s Firefly work so well, you put a bunch of unique personalities together and you see what the results are. And just like in Firefly, the results are wonderful here.
Another thing that the show does a wonderful job of is not overusing it’s jokes. There’s a fine line between a running gag and beating a dead horse, and this show runs it perfectly. It’s one thing to watch a season over the course of 6 or 8 months and not overuse a gag, but I watched 7 seasons of this show in 3 or 4 weeks and never got sick of the jokes. I suppose the only way I can finish this paragraph is by saying that the writer’s willingness to show restraint in not overusing their jokes was legen – wait for it – dary.
One of the more interesting things that this show does is also one of the harder things to do in fiction, it tells a compelling story when you know the ending. Because of the flashback nature of the show, there are parts of the show where you already know how it’s going to end. The obvious example is Ted and Robin dating. You’re told early in the first season (maybe even the first episode, I don’t remember offhand) that they don’t get married when Ted tells his future kids about how he met their Aunt Robin. Yet even though you know they don’t end up together, they’re dating for most of season two and it’s still great to watch.
This is a show with fun characters, great humor that is never overused, and at the same time the show is able to stop and deliver a truly touching moment. This is one of the best comedies that I’ve seen in recent years, and it’s one that I’ll definitely go through and watch again in the future.