By Aly Semigran
Updated February 02, 2012 at 07:00 PM EST
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

There were really two types of Lost fans when the show was on the air: The ones who were there from day one and hung onto every clue, determined until the bitter end to unearth the island’s mysteries, and the ones who, despite enjoying the show at the beginning, simply couldn’t take on another unanswered question or Kate’s constant stream of awful ideas. I count myself in the former category, because no matter how many times the show had left me frustrated, disappointed, or utterly confused, I always had a place in my heart for it. That and I had to know how the damn thing was going to end.

I bring up Lost viewership fandom because of a recent story regarding How I Met Your Mother‘s viewership fandom. [Quick sidebar: Fundamentally, the shows aren’t all that different when you think about it: There’s a big looming mystery (the island/the mother), there’s a struggle between being good (Locke/Marshall) and being evil-terrible (the Man in Black/Ted) and there’s a rabid fanbase willing to stick it out. End sidebar.] According to the Associated Press, ratings for HIMYM “are the best they’ve ever been, up 19 percent over last season, and it has the youngest average audience on the network’s prime-time schedule.” (And it seems those solid numbers might continue: As EW reported, its first episode of 2012 helped CBS win the day, with 11.9 million viewers tuning in.)

So, why is this so interesting? Well, for one, unlike Lost, we actually knew from the get-go that there’s a happy ending in store on HIMYM. (Ted, in spite of being an insufferable goon, eventually finds the mother of his future children.) Which brings up another interesting thing about the rise of HIMYM‘s popularity: Are people tuning in for all the clues (we meet again, yellow umbrella) and drama (there’s been plenty over the past few seasons), or is it simply because it’s a dependable, no-frills sitcom? It wouldn’t be surprising if the answer is both: HIMYM has no doubt grown in popularity thanks to syndication and word of mouth, but there’s just as much can’t-miss cliff-hanger drama as there is TV equivalent of comfort food in every episode. (The rise in popularity of stars Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel throughout the course of the show probably hasn’t hurt much, either.)

HIMYM closed out last year with an impressive 5.1/14 rating and started off 2012 well, but where will the numbers go from here? Personally, I no longer care about the mysteries of who Ted and Barney will marry — I’m just sticking around out of allegiance to the show. I’ve been there since the first slap bet and I intend to be there for the last slap. How about you, PopWatchers? Have you stayed with HIMYM from the beginning, or did you catch up later in its run? Why do you think fan devotion to the show is so high and only continues to climb? What if HIMYM is just an extension of Lost and this is all just another sideways world?! (They do live on an island and Jorge Garcia has been there….) Share your theories in the comments section below.

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