A fine example of a sitcom that started out with a gimmick and now no longer needs it, How I Met Your Mother is at an interesting point in its existence. The premise has main character Ted (Josh Radnor) in the year 2030 telling his son and daughter (via a voice-over narration by Bob Saget) just about everything that led up to meeting their mother. Thus the whole series is the TV version ? of a memory play — technically the only current network sitcom that takes place in the past — with Ted guiding us through his life with his best pals, Lily (Alyson Hannigan), Marshall (Jason Segel), Robin (Cobie Smulders), and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris).
When it premiered in 2005, HIMYM played like the latest variation on Friends, with a guessing game added: On any given week, clues would be dropped or viewers could infer that this woman or that one might be Ted’s future wife. But now, six seasons in, while those clues still surface and fans still speculate and have erected a mythology around the series’ events that rivals that of any drama this side of Lost, the show doesn’t really need that element to work effectively.
That’s because creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas and their writers have delineated characters so vivid, with weekly plots that can be so devilishly intricate, that guessing ”how I met your mother? is superfluous to the enjoyment anyone can have watching the show. We now tune in for the latest doings of the dapper horndog Barney, the sweet, lusty marriage of Lily and ? Marshall, the endearingly clunky misadventures of Robin, and Ted’s hangdog attempts to find true love while surrounded by friends who love him as much as anyone’s ever going to. (Sorry, future mom/wife.)
The show has become so sure of its tone — raunchiness sitting atop a firm moral foundation of loyalty and commitment — that it can address subjects that usually spell disaster for lesser series. Such as death: The January passing of Marshall’s father was handled in a manner that was realistic (capturing the brutal abruptness of a sudden departure) without losing a thread of comedy (Marshall so wanted his dad’s final words to him to have been profound, but at first all he could recall were bits of fatherly advice like ”Rent Crocodile Dundee 3.? It totally holds up!?).
At this point, I’d wager that a large part of HIMYM‘s viewership isn’t that invested in learning how Ted met his kids’ mother. Oh, it’ll come as a nice capper to the series (or if the producers decide to move up the revelation, perhaps a season ender). But really, most of us are in it for the fun of watching these people we’ve come to like enormously interact in amusing, surprising ways. B+