We’ll Miss You, ‘How I Met Your Mother’ (But, Please Leave)
Admittedly, I’m feeling much more melancholy today about the ‘How I Met Your Mother’ series finale than I expected. Which, on the surface, makes little sense because, boy, Season 9 has been a slog to watch. (I was once a religious viewer, but now it’s come to the point where, over this past weekend, I had to participate in a ten-episode marathon just to get caught up for the finale.) Look, I’m pretty late to the “this final season has been bad” chorus, but I don’t think that’s really the point here – or, at least, it doesn’t quite explain why I feel forlorn about a show that recently I found difficult to watch.
‘How I Met Your Mother’ premiered in September of 2005, a date that I don’t have to look up because I had moved to New York City just a few months before. Ted Mosby was an odd character to relate with, but I’ll be damned if there weren’t a few of those early episodes that felt written especially just for me. In 2005, I was dating a girl who lived in Brooklyn right off the F train; a subway train Ted references as he travels to Brooklyn in search of Robin Scherbatsky’s apartment. An episode set at a Manhattan dance club perfectly encapsulated the infuriating act of trying to have a conversation over the noise. Heck, I even had a friend who worked in finance (sort of, I really didn't know what he did, to be honest), stayed out until all hours of the night and had a propensity for wearing suits. Good grief, does it feel stupid to write that ‘How I Met Your Mother’ spoke to me … but ‘How I Met Your Mother’ really spoke to me.
‘How I Met Your Mother’ never got enough credit for using New York City as one of its main characters, which is odd because ‘HIMYM’ was filmed in Los Angeles. But, it was former Letterman writers (and ‘HIMYM’ showrunners) Carter Bays and Craig Thomas’ working knowledge of New York that fueled the series with a Gotham atmosphere about as well as ‘Seinfeld’ did (another show that was actually filmed in Los Angeles).
‘Friends’ could have been set anywhere. For six people living in New York City, they rarely encountered any of the minutiae of living in New York City. On the other hand, ‘HIMYM’ did an entire episode based around the quickest way to get downtown from the Upper West Side. And, perhaps I have the wrong kind of friends, but I don’t know anyone who spends their free time hanging out in a coffee shop, but everyone I know does spend their free time at their local corner pub (HIMYM’s MacLarens is based on Carter and Bays’ old haunt, McGee’s), consuming alcohol at a rapid rate to either celebrate the triumph of living in New York City or in an attempt to forget the impossibility of living here (sometimes both of these could be accomplished in the same evening)
Also, another hard truth of ‘HIMYM’: like most of the main characters, there are a lot of people living in Manhattan who are originally from the Midwest. (Yes, I am one of them.) My point of all of this: ‘HIMYM,’ especially in its earlier seasons, got New York City right and it was an integral part of the show.
That’s what makes this final season so disappointing. And, look, there are a lot of problems associated with trying to squeeze 24 episodes of television out of what amounts to about one weekend – and the problems associated with the Barney and Robin relationship have been discussed at length elsewhere – but Bays and Thomas attempted to do this without one of its most important characters, New York City.
I have no idea how Bays and Thomas spent their weekends when they lived in New York City. Perhaps they did waste away all of their allotted free time on Long Island, so perhaps they are experts on what they would eventually present to us as “Farhampton,” but it’s hard not to think those two undercut themselves by taking away the environment that they knew best. Perhaps they didn’t realize what an important character New York City was to their show.
Later this year, I’ll celebrate (or bemoan, I haven’t decided yet) my tenth year living in New York City. Strangely, ‘How I Met Your Mother’ has been a part of pretty much my entire existence here. It’s my New York City show, even though I never really realized that before now. And, like the show, I don’t have as many interesting adventures as I used to have – what used to be so defined because it was so new doesn’t seem as defined anymore. Some of the years run together as effortlessly as these forgettable last few seasons. Even my own suit-wearing friend got himself married and now has two children.
‘How I Met Your Mother’ overstayed its welcome, but that doesn’t mean it’s still not a little upsetting knowing that we’re seeing these characters for the last time. Regardless, I think I’m going to miss 'HIMYM' – even though I totally want it to leave.
Mike Ryan is senior editor for ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.