Four years ago a friend lent me their DVD collection of seasons 1-4 of How I Met Your Mother. “Trust me,” they said. “You want to watch this.” I was initially hesitant because I had seen an episode here and there over the four years prior, and the show had failed to capture my attention. Looking back, I don’t know what my brain was thinking, because once I started watching those DVDs, I devoured all four seasons in a week, and in the years since, I have yet to miss a Monday night when a new episode is on the air.
How I Met Your Mother tells the story of Ted Mosby, who in the year 2030 sits down with his two kids to recount to them the tale of how he met their mother. Told as a flashback narrative, the show begins 25 years earlier, when the engagement of Ted’s best friends, Marshall and Lily, compel him to begin his search for the love of his life. Ted is a hopeless romantic, and when he spots a beautiful woman across a crowded bar, time stands still, and he believes he has found his true love. This is not to be, as it is revealed in the final moments of that first episode that this woman is in fact known to his kids as Aunt Robin, thereby introducing viewers to the narrative twists and turns for which this show has become famous. Future Ted assures his children that this is “a long story”, and indeed, eight years later we are still waiting for Ted to meet the woman who will become the mother of his children.
However, Ted’s story is merely a framing device, as the show tells the stories of his friends as well, and How I Met Your Mother has over the years created five of the most complex, funny, interesting, engaging, and compelling characters on television. Ted, Robin, Marshall, Lily, and Ted’s womanizing wingman “bro”, Barney, played to perfection by Josh Radnor, Cobie Smulders, Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan, and Neil Patrick Harris, have revealed themselves over the seasons to be a close knit group that can sometimes border on dysfunction, but who are intensely loyal, supportive, and loving friends, and whose relationships, romantic entanglements, and camaraderie have driven eight seasons of amazing storytelling. Most of the show’s humour is derived from the relationships between these characters, and How I Met Your Mother delights in the absurdities that abound when attempting to navigate through life. While the show often ventures into the whimsical realm, the stories are always grounded in reality, and although the show is a comedy, How I Met Your Mother has never shied away from the dramatic, crafting beautiful episodes around the death of loved ones (“Last Words”), infertility (“Symphony of Illumination”), and childhood loss (“Legendaddy”).
While it is hard to pick a favourite among the list of exceptional episodes this show has produced over the years, I always come back to a personal favourite of mine, the first season episode “Drumroll, Please”. Only the 13th episode of the show, it was while watching this particular chapter that I became convinced I had found something truly special. Set the morning after a friend’s wedding, Ted realizes that the woman he met at the reception could be the one, so powerful was their connection, and with only a first name to go by, he attempts to track her down. I am notoriously unromantic, and normally, I have no interest in these types of story lines, but this time it was different. Instead of my usual cynicism, I found myself rooting for Ted, and in the closing moments, when he takes his leap of faith, I actually teared up at the beauty of the scene. It shocked me to realize that a self-described romantic curmudgeon had become so invested in Ted’s quest for love that it moved me to tears. More importantly, I had become completely engrossed in a television show that was, at its core, all about the search for love, and I decided then and there that this show was worth my time.
Tonight, the ninth and final season of How I Met Your Mother will begin, and in watching last season’s finale in preparation, I was suddenly struck by how much I cared about these characters, and how much I’m going to miss my weekly dose of Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin, and Barney. Last season left a host of story lines in need of resolution, and as the closing moments of the season focused in on each character, I realized just how much I wanted them all to have a happy ending. Whether or not this will come to pass, I’ll just have to wait, watch, and see, but I know that this year I will savour each episode, knowing that each one marks one step closer to the end, and that bittersweet moment when I will have to say good-bye to a show that has brought me so much joy over the years. To be honest, I am dreading that moment, but it is still nine months away, and so until then, I know where I will be every Monday night, waiting and watching to see what will become of these characters who now feel like old friends.