Five Reasons Why How I Met Your Mother Was One of the Best Shows on Television
The legen – wait for it – dary ride is over. After nine heartfelt, hilarious and engaging seasons, How I Met Your Mother came to a close last night. There were surprising turns (SPOILER ALERT: The Barney and Robin divorce coming the week after their marriage episode), sentimental speeches (“Always be there for the big moments”) – and yes, Ted finally met the titular “mother.”
In the aftermath of it all, feelings have been mixed and commentary endless. From the frustration at the inevitable death of the mother, to uplifting shift in Barney transforming into a father – the series finale was loaded with events and was also extremely polarizing. However, in all of this backlash and admiration, it is important that we don’t lose sight of the many things we’ve learned from How I Met Your Mother and what made it such a special program.
Here are five things that made How I Met Your Mother one of the best shows of the past ten years:
1. It never lost sight of its goals
If there’s one thing that How I Met Your Mother has undeniably enforced, it is that anyone who knows what they really want can reach their goals if they’re willing to work for it. That takes form across all areas of life. Marshall is able to reach a New York State Supreme Court judgeship through his constant pursuit of his passion for law, even as it drags him through the terrors of corporate law. In the same way, Ted is finally able to find true love with the mother and with Robin (to the jubilation of some and anger of others) through his continuous pursuit of connection and romance.
The roads to those end goals aren’t direct and the goals are rarely in sight at the beginning of the journey (Ted needed to experience every one of his earlier relationships to get to the point in life where he was actually ready to find love). However, through perseverance, optimism and a little bit of fate – everything is within reach.
2. It showed that love is fluid and different between different people
When it was revealed that the mother, Tracey McConnell, had died six years prior to Ted telling his children the story of how he met her – and that old Ted was then going to ask out Robin – the blogosphere went into a whirlwind. Many attacked the idea that after all of the build-up with the mother and their seemingly perfect connection, Ted could still later end up with Robin. I know I was personally bothered. But by having this happen, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas made an important statement: there are multiple forms of true love.
Many shows focused on relationships, especially the search for the “perfect” relationship, cast the idea of “true love” as sort of an end-all, be-all: everyone has one true love and it’s more perfect than any other relationship they’ve ever had and nothing before or after can compare. In theory, that’s a lovely idea. However, it’s just plain unrealistic and untrue. In fact, studies estimate that the average person falls in love between two and four times over the course of their life. That doesn’t make any of the times less “real” or “true,” it just means people fall in love with different people in different ways. That’s what happens with Ted, the mother, and Robin. It’s not that Ted still being in love with Robin and getting back together with her after the mother’s passing means his love for the mother wasn’t true love (if you think that, to quote Ted, “You missed (the point)”). Instead, it simply means that Ted’s love with Robin was different and existed in a different way.
It was a bold decision for the How I Met Your Mother staff to make this point, and that’s something to be admired.
3. It was human
How I Met Your Mother was a show built on characters. From Barney’s extreme “ladies’ man” persona to Marshall’s ridiculously friendly Minnesotan tendencies to Robin’s rigid career pursuit to Ted’s hopelessly romantic heart, the personalities of characters on How I Met Your Mother were built around exaggeration. They were caricatures of people.
However, for all of its unrealistic characters, its silly gags, and its general artificiality (that laugh track kept many ‘a person from getting into HIMYM), How I Met Your Mother was unquestionably human.
While the show comes with many happy and silly moments, it is also full of revealing moments of characters in various pits in their lives. When the audience gets a chance to see Lily break down and abandon Marshall during their fight earlier in season nine, it doesn’t just provide the opportunity for a big reward when the happiness returns (in the form of Lily’s second pregnancy) – it also shows that these are characters with honest emotions who, for all of their quirks, are still just people going through their lives.
A show about a bunch of clever, entertaining 20-something New Yorkers having fun probably could’ve lasted a few seasons, but it’s the heart of How I Met Your Mother that carried it for nine seasons and turned the show into a phenomenon the world over.
4. It embraced its cheesiness
While so many sitcoms try to avoid coming off as too “cheesy” or “unrealistic,” especially in recent years with hyper-realistic shows like Louie and Girls emerging, How I Met Your Mother embraced its corniness with open arms and benefited from it.
As a matter of fact, many of the show’s most treasured moments came from its indulgence in exaggeration. From romantic events like Ted’s hypothetical speech to the mother at her apartment to plain ridiculous things like Barney’s suit song, How I Met Your Mother didn’t shy away from going over the top, and the audience came over right along with it.
How I Met Your Mother certainly wasn’t alone in this embracing of schmaltziness and little gags, but it did so in its own special way, and we should be grateful for How I Met Your Mother never being afraid to be itself.
5. It gave us something to root for
There are few things better than a good underdog story, and How I Met Your Mother was nothing but a continuous underdog story – not just for Ted, but for every one of the characters. Barney, the emotionally-damaged womanizer who needed to find someone whom he could love and to gain a sense of family. Robin, the guarded professional who needed to let herself be vulnerable. Lily, the sensitive wife who needed to escape her fears and find the courage to chase her passion. Marshall, the small-town friend who needed to overcome the toils of law society to do good in the world. And yes, Ted, the hopeless romantic who needed to find his way to love. Every single one of these characters was an underdog in pursuing their needs, and every week audiences tuned in hoping that they could get to what they needed.
It’s not just because they needed and wanted those things that audience rooted for them either. Every show sets up characters with struggles to overcome to reach their final goals, but not every show gets audiences on board with those characters the same way How I Met Your Mother did. Audiences rooted for the characters on How I Met Your Mother because their needs were all things bigger than themselves. They didn’t want money, or fame, or power, or anything of superficial value. They wanted love and happiness and a better world, and not just for themselves, but for everyone around them. The characters’ needs on How I Met Your Mother were universal and positive. They were things we all want for the people we know. And with such a strong group of likeable characters, it was impossible for audiences to avoid keeping up with HIMYM in the hopes that they would see each of these characters get what they wanted and needed.
The conclusion of How I Met Your Mother has left an enormous gap in the holes of its audiences’ hearts and viewing schedules. However, with these five special characteristics, and the many other things that made How I Met Your Mother one of the best shows on television, it’s certain that the memories of the series will stay with its fans for many years after the lights of MacLaren’s have finally shut off.