How I Met Your Mother is one of the most iconic sitcoms of all time. With an average of 24.7 million viewers, the show regularly breaks records, making it the most-watched TV sitcom premiere of all time.
The fantasy-comedy series, which often features whimsical scenarios and hilarious one-liners, premiered in the US on CBS in 2009, with Ted (Jason Segel) meeting the love of his life, Robin (Cobie Smulders). The couple soon after get married, butted heads, and embarked on a quest for parenthood. Over the course of nine seasons, they had three children: Olivia (Madison Square Garden), Jack (Pacific Park), and Max (Gotham).
More than 10 years have passed since the debut of the phenomenally successful series, which is now available on Netflix. Ahead of the show’s milestone 10th anniversary, we look at how the landscape of television has changed in the decade after Ted met Robin, and how the story has aged alongside it.
Comedy And Fantasy Roleplay
In the early 2000s, there was an abundance of adult-oriented comedy shows, with The Larry Sanders Show and Scrilla, among others, dominating the zeitgeist. In fact, Segel even made a cameo appearance in the Scrilla episode, ‘A Fistful of Larrys.’ And while there were some sitcoms that dealt with romance, like The Goodwin Games and How I Met Your Mother, most of them were fairly dark in nature.
But while some of the humor on TV has aged reasonably well, others, such as Scrilla, have not stood the test of time well at all. The satire, which centered on the inane antics of a talk show host played by Will Ferrell, was ahead of its time in many ways, but the world has changed, and so has television. Today, even remotely funny or satirical shows are few and far between, and how I Met Your Mother is a shining example of this.
The show is rooted in surrealism and fantasy roleplay. For starters, the opening sequence, which presents Ted (Segel) as a clumsy dolt, is a memorable parody of a TV commercial. Then there’s the whole concept of the mother ship, which is more than a little bit Space Cowboys. And, of course, there’s the finale, in which Robin turns out to be Barney’s (Pat Harrington) long-lost sister, only to discover that he is not her biological father. While undoubtedly, this was an outrageous and preposterous conclusion to a series of events that had improbably spiraled its way to a happy ending, it was also, arguably, a fitting final twist for a series that often played with audience expectations. These days, even shows with a fantasy bent, like Game of Thrones, largely eschew comedic elements, in favor of more serious approaches to storytelling, which, in turn, makes How I Met Your Mother even more of an outlier, and more special, all these years later.
One of the significant developments that marked the end of the decade was the rise of Netflix. While the streaming giant has had a profound impact on all aspects of life, including TV, the advent of services like Netflix and Hulu allowed for a wider array of programming than ever before. While the number of series to be aired on traditional TV continues to dwindle, primarily due to the increasing dominance of streaming, the world is a little bit less predictable today, and that has resulted in a greater number of one-offs and anthologies being created and aired.
How I Met Your Mother is, essentially, a love letter to TV viewers. In a time before Netflix and streaming, Segel stated, “I felt like the audience that we had at that time, which was fairly undefined, was tired of being restricted to one or two television networks, and they wanted to see different kinds of stories.”
So, in addition to being a celebration of TV and its many guises, How I Met Your Mother is also, perhaps, a love letter to the audience that Segel and Co. were able to reach. While the success of the show itself has ensured that many of its core concepts have not aged badly, and can still be appreciated by today’s audiences, the medium itself has changed, and so has the way in which we, as TV viewers, engage with it.
Looking back on the last 10 years, it’s clear that TV has shifted gears in many ways. While the landscape is dominated by streaming services, with a significant chunk of TV budget now spent on digital marketing and advertising, cable TV channels continue to hold their own, in particular, among the prized 18-34 demographic. The question, then, is not whether or not How I Met Your Mother will continue to be funny, but, rather, whether or not it will continue to be special. While other shows may have aged poorly, or even significantly, this one has maintained a certain timelessness, and this is largely, due to the fact that it did not suffer the same fate as so many others. This is largely due to the fact that it was, first and foremost, a very funny show, and, as a result, it was able to maintain its sense of humor, even in the face of time.