How I Met Your Mother


Suspense, Comic Timing Save a Derivative Show

Year(s): 2005 – Present
Network: CBS
Creators: Carter Bays, Craig Thomas
Main Original Cast: Josh Radnor, Alyson Hannigan, Jason Segel, Neil Patrick Harris, Cobie Smulders

Making a Friends knock-off after the hit NBC show ended in an endless stream of syndication seemed a safe bet. There are few original concepts in the sitcom world, and the young ensemble looking for love in a big city is a familiar and proven one.

The worlds are as plastic as anything Father Knows Best presented. There are no last-minute dashes for the rent check; everyone has enough money to buy what they want and enough leisure time in which to enjoy it. If there is a squabble in the characters’ world, the issue is usually resolved in a single episode arc.

How I Met Your Mother is all of those things, and as such, deserves little attention except for two key factors. The suspense-laden hook is that we don’t know who mothers Ted Mosby’s (Radnor) children. The other element buoying the show is the comic timing of ensemble members Neil Patrick Harris (from Doogie Howser) and Alyson Hannigan (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) under the direction of Pamela Fryman, who lensed dozens of Frasier episodes in a varied career.

Each episode maintains continuity, although new viewers should find everything accessible if they first drop in midway through Season 2. Thank Fryman and the writers for maintaining clean plot references to past major events without it seeming like a recitation.

Individual episodes open with Bob Saget voicing the older Mosby and reminiscing to his children about his youth. The running gag, of course, is that Mosby only refers to “your mother” so viewers can watch the show unfold. The producers carefully shroud Mom’s identity. Hannigan is out since she is referred to as Aunt Lily, but the adorable Robin Scherbatsky (adorable TV newcomer Cobie Smulders) is always referred to as simply Robin. She is also the on again-off again love of Mosby’s life. But is she really? Every female character is a possibility.

Harris’ Barney, who gracefully came out of the closet in 2006, plays the girl-crazy member of the trio, which also includes Mosby and Marshall (big 6’5″ Jason Segel), Lily’s Great Love. How I Met Your Mother created a nice conflict with Marshall and Lily at the end of Season 1, but theirs is a Great Love viewers know will last. Meanwhile, Hannigan gets to play the minx-like character she created in the American Pie series, while Harris’ Barney remains TV’s best manipulative character next to The Family Guy‘s Baby Stewie.

How I Met Your Mother is fake and derivative, but has some strong action and a director unafraid of intelligent sitcoms. Though it certainly isn’t in Frasier territory, with more character development it could approach Friends as one of television’s most enduring shows.

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