Friends, it is time.
Try as we might, Super Hubs and I realized that we just couldn’t put it off any longer. For the sake of the blog, and with very our souls at stake, we had to do what had once seemed unthinkable: We had to rewatch How I Met Your Mother.
*cue live footage of SH’s reaction*
I know what you’re thinking. “Nikkie. Super Hubs. You both have been pretty vocally salty about the way HIMYM ended, even though it’s been three years. Are you sure you’re ready” We appreciate the concern, and the short answer is “No.” The long answer, however, is “No, but that’s exactly why we have to do this.”
You see, the rage we experienced after the spit-in-our-faces series finale has never truly quelled, and it probably never will. But I realized that that rage was potentially clouding our judgment. I’d been going around feeling as though the final season completely ruined one of my favorite shows. Then I stopped to think about how the last few seasons had felt like a slog, so I thought “Wait. Was this show really one of my favorites at that point?” followed by “So . . . Was this show ever really *that* good to begin with?”
Thinking back, I had filtered the show into chunks—the good seasons, the bad seasons, the okay. But I realized when I said “good,” what I had actually meant was the seasons that I found the funniest. It had nothing to do with the plot arcs and how they developed; it was strictly the humor. So I decided that I needed to put the pieces together once and for all and answer the question: Is How I Met Your Mother a good show, shitty finale and all?
Because I refused to do this alone, I enlisted SH to go on this journey with me. He wasn’t happy about it (see: above live footage of his reaction). I wasn’t planning on starting right away, though. I figured we’d want to give ourselves the time to prepare mentally. However, SH wasn’t having that. He decided to just rip the bandage right off and toss on the first season.
But before we could really get started, I wanted us to sit down and write out our general impressions of the show post-finale and pre-rewatching. We shall offer them up to you now, and at the end of the series, we’ll see if these impressions hold or if anything changes.
- Barney and Marshall are the funniest characters of the show.
- The quality begins to decline after season 4 but season 5 is okay.
- Marshall is the best character of the show, hands down.
- Lily is selfish.
- Ted and Robin shouldn’t have ended up together (this belief should go without saying).
Nikkie’s Thoughts and Questions
- Ted is arguably a good person, albeit one who has made some mistakes, until Stella leaves him in season four. Then he becomes the worst.
- Should this show have been completely multi-cam, a la Scrubs or Happy Endings?
Super Hubs’s Thought
- Ted and Robin are the worst characters and have been from the beginning.
We all set? Let’s dive semi-unenthusiastically into the first season.
Super Hubs: Since I’m the one who forced us into doing this before Nikkie was ready, I suppose I should be the one the start. I may have mentioned my history with the show before, but I can’t be bothered to check so, if so, bare with me while I say it again. I didn’t start watching the show until it was already in its fifth season. It was actually Nikkie who got me into it. We were poor-ass college kids just starting out in our relationship, and I was spending a lot of time at her apartment. TV shows have always been a big part of our relationship, and we spent a lot of our time together watching whichever random DVDs we happened to own. One of the few she had was the third season of HIMYM. She showed it to me, and I fell in love with it. I loved the premise of it; the fact that it was the main character narrating to his kids allowed it to do some pretty interesting things with the storytelling, and the characters were pretty unique.
Also, I should note I never understood why the tagline was “A Love Story in Reverse.” It’s not being told in reverse. Nothing about it is reverse. This has nothing to do with season 1 but it’s been bothering me for almost a decade.
All this is to say this show was pretty important to me, being as it was such a shared interest in our relationship at a time when we were too poor and too busy to find a lot of things to do. So its declining quality and the way it ended offended me more than it really had any business doing. As such, I was ready to never ever look at it again and never ever suffer hearing the weird way Ted says the word “girl.” I was ready to get it out of my life completely. And yet…
Season 1 really isn’t that bad. It has a lot of the normal pitfalls of a first season: uneven writing, odd characterizations, actors not knowing their character’s voices. But overall it’s funny. Funny enough that I remember now why I liked the show so much. Which, unfortunately, also means that it’s funny enough to piss me off even more about how badly it all ends. But we’re trying to avoid that. We’re just taking these seasons at face value and not allowing the later seasons to color our opinions. What strikes me the most is how funny Ted is in this season. He’s got some annoying tendencies and he’s always a little extra, but it’s in a charming way in this season. Mostly. His interactions with all the characters are solid, and they all have good chemistry (save for Lily, who I feel like he rarely interacts with and almost never alone). I want to like Ted in Season 1. Which is not the case in a lot of other seasons.
Barney kind of gets the short end of the stick plot-wise, but in Season 1 he’s easily one of the funniest characters. He’s very much a foil to Ted, and his sole purpose is to provide comic relief during the more serious moments. Later seasons had a tendency to make Barney more annoying than funny but that problem doesn’t show up here. And it’s clear NPH is having a blast playing him.
Nikkie: Marshall is definitely the runner-up for funniest character, solidifying (at least for this first season) our belief that these two dudes are the top funny men of the show. Perhaps I’m projecting because I sing what I’m doing a lot, as Marshall does, but I love him. There’s an episode where Barney and Marshall’s side plot is that they’re in a prank war with a dude who works in an office building across from them, and it’s hilarious.
To SH’s point about season 1 character awkwardness, I would agree that it has its pitfalls, but they’re mostly forgivable. While I am usually the first to get annoyed by inconsistency in character development, even in a first season, I feel like these characters have a pretty solid sense of who they are and where they’re going. This, of course, is gets shit all over by later seasons, but at this point in time, they’re pretty solid. The only true inconsistencies show with Ted and Lily.
Ted, we’ll get to later. But I want to call out Lily’s awkward shift at the end of the season. It’s a trait that *does* become fairly consistent throughout the series, for better or worse, but the way it’s introduced in this season is sloppy. I’m speaking of Lily’s tendency toward selfishness and flightiness.
While there’s nothing wrong with being selfish every once in a while—I’m actively trying to be more focused on me these days—I do take issue with the way it’s kind of always at the expense of Marshall and their relationship. But that’s neither here nor there for the purpose of this blog post. For now, I simply want to point out how weird the introduction into this aspect of Lily’s personality is.
For about 7/8 of the season, we see her as happily engaged to Marshall, ready to jump into planning their wedding and eager to spend the rest of their lives together. Then in “Best Prom Ever,” the third-to-last episode of the season, we see her beginning to have doubts and feel like she has things she needs to accomplish before she can be tied down. In the following episode, “Milk,” she’s secretly attempting to reach an interview for an art fellowship that would take her to San Francisco right when her and Marshall are supposed to be getting married. Ted of all people convinces her that she’s just having a little freak out, and she decides that regardless of whether she’s accepted, she won’t accept the fellowship. Cut to the finale, when Marshall finds out that she applied for the internship, and they have a very unsatisfying fight to explore this feeling/impulse of hers. While Ted and Robin finally hook up, Marshall and Lily break up as she somehow comes to the conclusion that she *will* take that fellowship after all.
I’ve never been a fan of the “Marshall and Lily break up” plot arc because I don’t think that’s a stereotype we need to enforce when it comes to making long-term couples interesting in TV shows. But what really irks me is that they don’t really make it believable. How did we get to this point in three measly episodes? If they truly wanted to sell this, they needed to sow the seeds of doubt early and have that build for more than two episodes so that the payoff was a lot bigger and a lot better.
Honestly, in general, they could’ve spent more time focusing on Marshall and Lily. I think that’s delivered on in later seasons as their relationship progresses, but this season, they are left hanging a little bit because everything is clearly all about Ted and his “search for the One.”
Super Hubs: Something I feel like I never thought about during our initial watch of the show but which really stood out now is how strange Ted’s motivations are. He spends a lot of time…a loooooooooooot of time talking about how he’s sick of dating and being single and how he just wants to find the One. It’s a common theme throughout the entire show, sure, but in Season 1 he never ever shuts up about it.
He really doesn’t act like he’s looking for the one. He allows himself to get caught up in Barney’s schemes, he flakes out on the love interests that he does find, and he just generally acts like a shitty single guy with commitment issues. His problem is that what he thinks “the One” is supposed to be is far too narrow. He’s looking for some imaginary perfect woman who doesn’t exist because she has no real personality of her own. To Ted, “the One” means a woman who shares his EXACT same interests and his exact same personality. He finds women who share some of his same interests but then when they show even a little autonomy, he starts to doubt that they’re worth his time.
Ted sucks. His views on relationships are pretty childish, and he’s a little bit sexist. Just like a lot of straight, single guys.
Nikkie, I think, would disagree with me about this. She enjoys Ted’s dating failures much more than I do. But I let her defend him cus I just can’t.
Nikkie: My husband makes some good points here. Ted is an idiot and the worst at dating, but at the beginning of the show, I feel like that is absolutely how he should be. Not so much being a sexist, obviously, but just a bumbling idiot who doesn’t know how to find and maintain a meaningful relationship because he never put a lot of thought into it before.
What’s hard for Ted is that he’s only got these two example of how to date in his life: Marshall and Lily, who have been end-game for each other since they met at 18, and Barney, who doesn’t believe in end-game. Because Ted’s not 18 anymore, he can’t conceive of how dating works as an adult beyond what he sees Barney doing. And while he knows he’s not a dirtbag like his second best friend is, he isn’t opposed to dating around. Besides, how else can you find The One without casting a wide net?
The other thing throwing a wrench into this is the fact that he met Robin in the very first episode, right after he makes the claim that he’s ready to find The One. And he quickly becomes convinced she’s The One. But she doesn’t want to be. So he continues dating, trying to come to terms with her decision and not getting too hung up on the fact that he can’t explore the one relationship that he thinks could be it for him. The unfortunate thing for him is that he’s just bad at it.
But I think that’s realistic. No one really knows how to date! Once someone decides they’re ready to find the “real thing,” the first question out of their mouth is “So how do I do that?” The joke is, of course, that you can’t meet someone at a bar—exactly where Ted meets Robin—or a club because that’s not where meaningful relationships are born. But if that’s all you know, you’re going to be incredibly awkward when you step outside that comfort zone. So I like that Ted has these missteps and falls back to his “Robin is it” thoughts when his latest relationship falls apart.
Please note that this is the only time I like this. And that all that being said . . . I can’t believe he fucks things up with Victoria.
Super Hubs: Ahhh Victoria. The best love interest Ted has for 8 more seasons. Victoria was great. She was funny and likable, she called Ted on some of his bullshit, and she helped him grow up just a little bit. Of course it was all ruined because Ted is a dumb shit who can’t get over Robin for some reason and decides that being obsessed with Robin is more important than being a good boyfriend.
I really like Victoria, guys, and I HATE what they did to her character when she shows back up in later seasons.
I honestly don’t have too much to say here other than Victoria is not only the best part of this season but I think her story is really where the show clicks and everyone finds their stride in their characters. So it’s kind of no surprise that Ted is the worst during the rest of the show because he is ABSOLUTELY the worst during this story line.
The best part of Victoria’s story is that she breaks up with Ted cus girl you deserve so much better! I can’t talk anymore; I’m angry again.
Nikkie: I agree with SH; Victoria is the best woman the showrunners ever write for Ted, other than The Mother. Her and Ted are damn near perfect for each other. I know we’re supposed to be beyond using women as vehicles for men to do something with their lives, but she’s the perfect character to get Ted to see beyond a Robin-focused future.
So, really, Victoria is a vehicle for the audience. She symbolizes the reality that there *is* no The One. There’s just a handful of people who are a lot better for you than the other randos you’ve been dating. She was clearly a better match for Ted than Robin, but because of his obsession with Robin being the One, he lets her go (and it blows up in his face). In later seasons, Ted manages to find two other women who he believes are his One: Stella and The Mother. All while still being tangled up in the Robin of it all. And I don’t think that would’ve been possible if we hadn’t had Victoria to show him the way at the very beginning.
Beyond that, there’s not much more to say except that I think Victoria was just a lovely character who, as SH said, deserved a lot better than what she got. But it had to happen because they couldn’t let an entire season pass without giving audiences Ted + Robin.
My feelings about them getting together at the end of the season were . . . complicated. On the one hand, I did feel a brief tingle of happiness as I watched Robin open the door to run out into the rain, finally ready to give in to her feelings for Ted, and she finds him waiting for her on her doorstep because he took that leap of faith in hoping she’d open the door. Their kiss is a reward—for them and for us.
But knowing what I know about the series’ end, I couldn’t maintain that happiness. Ted and Robin as a couple are terrible. They don’t work well together because all they have is that initial attraction. There’s nothing about their personalities, desires, or motivations that should hold them together, and the way their relationship (romantic or otherwise) progresses throughout the seasons is honestly a little more than twisted.
So, suffice it to say, I couldn’t really jump for joy when seeing them come together. Not when I know what’s coming.
Super Hubs: I don’t think there’s ever been a time that I’ve thought Ted and Robin were a good couple. I was mad at him for treating Victoria like garbage in Season 1 because of Robin and then I just stay mad at him for the rest of the show. And Robin. I don’t like either of them. So seeing them hook up at the end of Season 1 had no pay off for me.
And part of the problem is rooted in the premise of the show. We are told in episode 1 that Robin is not the Mother. We are never once, throughout the entire show, given any reason to believe that Robin is the Mother. And the whole entire premise of the show is about Ted finding the Mother. So why the hell do we have to deal with the endless will-they-wont-they bullshit? I could accept their relationships in Season 1 and 2 if the rest of the show showed Ted moving on. But it doesn’t. If anything he just gets more and more obsessed with her throughout each season. So the biggest surprise about the Mother dying isn’t that she dies, but that Ted didn’t wind up leaving her for Robin.
This is a major flaw in the storytelling. The show is supposed to be about Ted becoming who he needs to be to be ready for the Mother, but I’m not convinced that he ever is. The Mother just comes across as a consolation prize. She’s just another obstacle in the way of Ted and Robin. The whole show comes off as Future Ted pleading with his kids to let him go date Aunt Robin now that their mom is dead. And we get that GOD AWFUL series finale. But that’s a discussion for another time.
Nikkie: Moving on from that rage for a second, I noticed a weird feeling throughout watching this season that we didn’t have the first time around.
While the show was in its original run, I was in high school and college. So, I was years younger than the characters I was watching. But now, I’m the same age as Ted when he’s beginning his (ill-gotten) quest for love. I’m the same age as Marshall and Lilly, who are just getting engaged. And instead of feeling like I’m finally old enough to truly understand their lives and relate to them, I’m thinking “… Why don’t they have their lives together yet? They’re almost 30, ffs.”
I can forgive Marshall for not having his career lined up because law takes a while. And Ted actually has his career in place, though it’s actually never touched on in the first season. (Seriously; can you remember them bringing up that Ted is an architect before the second season?) Barney is a whole other thing (and older), so he’s not part of this equation. But how the hell did Lily go from studying art to becoming a kindergarten teacher?
Basically it’s very weird to watch them *not* have their lives together. I know that it’s a myth perpetuated by the older generations that we’re supposed to have our shit together by the time we become legal adults, but at the same time, I feel like these characters should be a little bit farther along! Like, come on! I know SH and I are total weirdos who tripped into a great relationship our sophomore year of college, but by the time Marshall and Lily are just thinking to get engaged, we’ve been married for almost five years. So I really can’t keep myself from feeling like they’re all just relishing in their own perceived childishness. “We don’t have to grow up. We have plenty of time.”
Super Hubs: So overall what I’ve been trying to say is that Season 1 is pretty good. It has its flaws, but those are mostly the same flaws that any show will have when it’s just starting out. And Ted, who is a major part of why I lost interest in the show, isn’t terrible in this season. He’s kind of relatable, he has some funny lines, and he even has some charm working for him. Up until the Victoria story, he really has potential.
But…then the show got renewed. The way I’ve always seen it, HIMYM was a risk for the network. It was a typical sitcom, sure, but there were no big names except NPH. There was no guarantee that the show would get renewed, and they needed to build in an ending in case they didn’t. I think that’s what Victoria was.
The way the first season plays out, Victoria could have very easily been the end game. The tension with Robin would have been a final roadblock for her and Ted to overcome before getting together. That way the people who did watch the show would have gotten closure. This actually would have worked pretty well. But once the show was renewed and they were guaranteed the ability to work toward their original plans, they had to get Victoria out of the way. And the way they handled it was sloppy.
And it made Ted the worst.
And with each subsequent season, the show was renewed earlier. They had more time to play around with their story and build the mystery around the Mother. All at the expense of Ted. A pattern emerged where we were given a “false Mother” with each season who then had to be gotten rid of so that the next season could advance the story. And basically the only drama they really knew how to do with Ted was “I’m soooooooo in love with Robin.” So his obsession got worse and worse and worse, and each season it was less justified than the last. And that’s why he wound up sucking so hard.
But hey, at least in Season 1 he was 85% okay.
So here we are. One season down and eight more to go. It’s likely going to get harder to watch from here, but at least this wasn’t a total wash. We managed to have some fun despite it all, and we’re writing these blogs for you lovely people, so we’re getting something out of it!
We’ll see you soon with season two, which . . . should probably be half as long as it is for the stories it tells. But we’ll get to that.
May your sitcoms be filmed in front of a live studio audience,
Nikkie and Super Hubs