I don’t follow a whole lot of TV shows on a regular basis at this point in my life. For one thing, if I like a prime-time drama, it’s the kiss of death. Since Supercarrier and High Mountain Rangers in the 80’s, television history is littered with cancelled dramas that I’ve liked: Space: Above and Beyond, Jericho, FlashForward, The Event and others. Every rule has its exception, of course. For this one, they seem to be The West Wing and The X-Files. Now, this list would seem to suggest that I lean toward Sci-Fi. That is true, and one could legitimately wonder about shows like Battlestar Galactica, Lost, Babylon 5 and Heroes. The fact is that these shows did interest me, but one thing or another
kept me from following them at the outset, and since I’m not great at picking up serialized story lines my gaze of death did not rest on these shows and they went on to multi-season success on their own merits. But I can assure you, that if I had invested my time in Heroes instead of Jericho, we would be following the exploits of Jake Green and Robert Hawkins to this day (or someone would), and we would have no concept of the idea that the fate of the world could rest in the well-being of a cheerleader. So to the fans of those shows spared my gaze of death, I can only say “you’re welcome.”
Okay, now that all that self-important nonsense is past, we can move onto comedy. I have a better record with sit-coms. At least I don’t seem to kill them with my love. Accordingly, the two shows that I follow are sit-coms, both on CBS. One is The Big Bang Theory. The other and the subject of this post is How I Met Your Mother.
HowI Met Your Mother is set in 2030 when protagonist Ted Moseby, voiced by Bob Saget and acted by Josh Radnor sits his teenage kids down and tells the story of how he met their mother. For reasons only partially clear, he starts the story in 2005 when his two best friends from college, Marshall and Lily get engaged after dating for nine years. This event motivates him to get serious about his love life and seek out his soul mate.
This journey, as told by Ted to his teenage children has taken 6 years (with two more seasons purchased by CBS) and has involved at least 4 serious relationships (including one broken engagement) and numerous less serious ones and one night stands. It can’t be a terribly comfortable conversation. Along the way, Ted’s circle of friends is rounded out by Robin (aforementioned relationship # 2) and Barney. Robin’s a reporter. Barney is a womanizing bank executive. Both have huge emotional wounds, and their healing/growing process is driving them together in a positive way. (Oh yeah, spoiler/prediction alert.)
Ironically, the weakest thing about this show is its title. It clearly replaces Friends as the “young-adult-out-in-the-world-coming-of-age” sitcom. Really, Ted’s search for his soul mate plays in the background of much of the story. In the meantime, we see Marshal and Lily navigate engagement, early marriage, career choices, home ownership, personal finance, the loss of a parent, and trying to become parents. Lily’s drive balances Marshals idealism. He wants to be a lawyer forthe NRDC and save the planet. He’s quite intelligent, but there’s an innocence about him relative to the rest of the group. Somehow, his college years didn’t leave him jaded and angst-filled. I can identify with that and the role of that individual in a more sophisticated group. I’ve been that guy.
Robin’s journey tends to revolve around head and heart choices with regard to relationships and career. There’s more under the surface with her, but her resolution will ultimately be found in finding the balance between career and family.
Barney comes off as extremely shallow, but his suits, his extreme womanizing, and his resistance to anything that could change him is all armor to protect a very wounded soul. Of course Neil Patrick Harris plays this character with such range that it makes Barney’s journey the
emotional heart of the show.
Thenthere’s Ted. I get Ted. I understand why he’s telling his kids hisstory in such detail. I would do thesame, although it would not be nearly as uncomfortable. I’m pretty sure that Ted has to throw in a whole lot of “do as I say, not as I do” with his narrative. So really, the story is less about Ted seeking out his soul mate than about a group of, dare I say, friends trying to find their way from childhood to full-fledged adulthood. We’ve all taken that journey, and along the way, we all have those stories in our lives, but for most people, they just
remain amusing anecdotes to share. But, like me, Ted is a romantic, and more than amusing anecdotes his stories are
about life and all the drama and glory contained in the most mundane element thereof.
Is How I Met Your Mother the greatest thing ever on TV? No, but its premise is one that celebrates the stories that are all around us, and present in the simplest experience. That’s the draw of such a show, at least for me.