By Stephanie Schaefer
I remember watching the series premiere of “How I Met Your Mother” when I was sophomore in high school. It was the perfect sitcom to fill the void left by the end of my favorite show “Friends,” provide distraction from my math homework, and entertain a 15-year-old girl stuck in the suburbs without a driver’s license. The truth is, at that point, I didn’t have a great deal in common with the show’s characters. I had never been in love and the thought of settling down seemed like a continent away, but I enjoyed the premise nonetheless. After all, isn’t that what sitcoms are for? To allow us to escape, dream, and laugh?
As I watched the crew gathering at MacLaren’s Pub each week, I envisioned what it would be like to be a 20-something gallivanting in New York City, dating eligible bachelors, and chasing an exciting journalism career like Robin. Back in 2005, I wanted the happily ever after between Robin and Ted. After all, I was young, naïve, and didn’t know anything about love.
A lot has changed in the past nine years since the pilot episode. In fact, after graduating college I did end up moving to Manhattan where I got my first taste of a journalism career. I soon related to the main characters more than ever. There were moments I shamelessly cried on a crowded subway like Robin, wondered if I’d ever find lasting love like Ted, and debated if I should stick to my career dreams or find a more financially stable job like Marshall.
Many of the creative and well-written early episodes resonated with me. Whenever the city got me down, I would retreat to my closet-sized room and watch reruns. I remember one episode that hit the nail on the head. Marshall and the gang go on the hunt for the “best burger in New York City.” Like most of the show’s iconic symbolisms, the burger meant more than just a meal. Marshall recalls the time when he first moved to the city eight years prior and tasted a bite of heaven in a tiny burger joint. Eating that delectable burger once again would make Marshall feel okay about putting his dreams of becoming an environmental lawyer on hold—especially when he disappointedly realizes that the location of the eatery had turned into Goliath National Bank (the corporation that recently offered him a job). However, in true “How I Met Your Mother” fashion, the five best friends finally taste that perfect burger after a long search in one of the most memorable moments of season four.
Similar to the HIMYM crew, in the midst of the confusion, heartbreak, and soul searching in New York, I did experience the moments that made me feel alive and as on top of the world as someone tasting the best burger they’ve ever had. Like Lilly, Marshall, Ted, Robin, and Barney, I met my friends at Irish bars after work, enjoyed amazing food, and even fell genuinely in love.
So kids, you may be wondering how I felt about the finale. I could dive into every flaw and tear the sitcom’s ending apart like many critics. Honestly, that was my original plan for this piece. However, after giving myself a few days to process the much-talked-about ending, I decided to take a slightly different route.
Like most HIMYM fans my age, I’ve grown up a lot in the past nine years. But while most of us gained maturity and insight over the near-decade, it seems as if the once beloved sitcom and its characters seemed to become less mature and more one-dimensional—which can be blamed on sloppy writing, poor character development, or failed attempts at humor.
The finale and episodes leading up to this big moment only increased my frustrations with the characters and their total lack of growth. Essentially, they were right back where they started, but we, as viewers, were not. Robin and Barney divorce because the two weren’t mature enough to handle Robin’s work schedule. Barney immaturely recreates his chauvinistic playbook and impregnates a one-night stand. And perhaps in the most frat-boy move of the show, instead of revealing her name, Bays and Thomas call the mother of Barney’s daughter “31” — as in the 31st woman he’d slept with that month. Hmmm, I wonder what will happen with Barney sits down to tell his daughter the story of how he met her mother…
What did change toward the end of the series, however, was the magic of the first few seasons. Anyone who’s watched the sitcom religiously knows how special the beginning of the series was. If you would have told 15-year-old me that future Ted Mosby shows up with a blue French horn at Robin’s doorstep to win her back once again, I would have thought it was romantic. But now I know that if you love someone – I mean truly, deeply, and unconditionally love someone – then you don’t make any excuses not to be with them, which is the main problem I have with the Ted/Robin courtship. When you know that you want to, or at least hope to, be with someone forever you do things that may seem illogical—like give up a judgeship so your wife can live her dream in Italy (à la Marshall), or, in Ted’s case with Tracy McConnell, cancel your plans to move to Chicago at the last minute.
Throughout the past nine seasons this “I can’t live without you” mentality was never the case for Ted and Robin, particularly on Robin’s part, but they’re both to blame. The timing between them was always off. Either Robin didn’t want a commitment or was “too busy” at work or Ted was chasing other women or Robin was preoccupied falling in love with shallow and sexist Barney, etc. Bottom line, they never fought for each other. They only ended up together in the very end when it was convenient for writers who had grown too lazy and too reluctant to change their original plan.
But, you know what Bays and Thomas? Love doesn’t always mean convenience. Love, although at times messy, means sacrifice, commitment and compromise. It’s finding a way to greet your spouse at the airport even when it’s snowing, like Marshall did for Lilly. And, most importantly, it’s staying by someone’s bedside when they're sick like Ted did for Tracy. Ultimately, love means more than stealing a somewhat superficial (yes, I said it) blue French horn.
Like many “How I Met Your Mother” fans I was disappointed by the lukewarm ending—a conclusion that didn’t allow me to escape, dream, and laugh quite like I did while watching the show as a teenager. All and all, I hoped the finale would make a return to the sitcom's initial magic and leave me satisfied like eating the best burger in New York.
However, all I found was a Goliath National Bank.
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