Storytelling lessons learned from the (failed) HIMYM final

I was one of those who fell into watching How I Met Your Mother; namely, I had Netflix and time on my hands. It wasn’t amazing but it was OK…..

In the end, I would call myself a semi-devoted fan, I liked it. I liked the characters, the story was ok, and by the end I just wanted to meet the mother…..

And like most fans, I found the final to be a slap in the face, and came away thinking, why did I waste my time watching this series, for this final. Not only was I disappointed but I was angry…….

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I understand that this is the writer’s stories and as such they can do what they want, however; there were several mistakes which were made (which we as storytellers can learn from) :

1.Pacing matters: First, the final season’s pacing was way too slow. It was bloated. Instead of advancing the plot, the story turned to self-congratulatory and self-absorbed flashbacks.  But, within that, the writers of HIMYM spent a year of the viewer’s life focused on Barney and Robin’s wedding. What does this do? It focuses the viewer’s attention on the couple as well as created an investment of time and emotion in the development of the couple. Then, they promptly dissolved the couple within the first 15 minutes of the show. Oh you can argue well that’s life…but that comes to our second point:

2. Genre conventions: Sitcoms (or comedies) like most genres come with a certain set of expectations and conventions. You can break those conventions but you better have a good reason for doing this or face the readers/viewers wrath. The HIMYM final failed to have any real reason explained for this slide into drama.

3. Character Development: HIMYM spent nine years developing characters. Again it spent the better part of the year giving Ted the balls to walk away from the dysfunctional and cold Robin, and Barney the insight to heal his awful self-esteem and view of women, to again within the lesser part of the hour, have the characters slide back to their old way, for no real reason or purpose.

“Barney and Robin had issues because she worked a lot, so hey who cares that he spent the better part of two years trying to be a “decent” person, let’s just make him a slut puppy again because it’s funny!”

4. Reader’s (Viewer’s) Expectations: The title says it alone. This is a story of “How I Met Your Mother,” and the better part of nine seasons were spent building up this epic romance of Ted and his wife. Episode after episode allude to it. To then what, introduce her for one season, again building it for their meeting: One hour. One hour in which she promptly dies. And then the worst part:

5. Negating the entire point of the series: The final turned what was suppose to be a cute story about true love, into a pitch to Ted’s teen children on why he should date their “aunt” Robin, who Ted has apparently been pinning after, maybe all along. Instead of celebrating his love of their mother, she is relegated to a place filler that Ted might have been happy with, all while probably still harboring a flame for Robin. To make this worse, Robin spends half of the final lamenting how she should have married Ted (probably because within their dysfunctional relationship, she could do no wrong) while Ted is with the mother.

In short, the final rewrote the meaning of the series. This wasn’t a story about hapless in love Ted growing up and finding adult true love, rather it was about the inability of Ted to ever move on from a doomed and one-sided relationship with an egomaniac. Ted kinda comes off as a creep and a loser. And there dysfunctional relationship can now envelope to innocent teens…….

Awesome.

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13 comments on “Storytelling lessons learned from the (failed) HIMYM final

  1. Thought it was just me… was like… what the heck. Actually lost interest early on and switched to pretty people dancing instead :).

  2. Sorry, thought the whole series was crap. Poor play on the Friends formula, badly scripted, unconvicingly acted, poorly directed and dreadfully cast. Could never watch an entire episode without wondering why all the actors seemed to think they were so funny. And then there was the sub-mysogny, which was so obvious, as a male, I’m amazed any self-respecting woman could’ve gone for it.

    Anyway, glad someone finally gave me the chance to get that off my chest. Thanks a million. I feel a lot better now.

  3. If it is any consolation (and I don’t know why it would be), a show called “How I Met Your Father” is currently in production. Maybe they will learn the lesson! (excuse me while I roll on the floor laughing)

  4. Maybe more cynically, the message is that at the end of the day people don’t change, don’t grow up and are ultimately driven by their base desires. Just like good ol’ Charlie Brown, that football’s gonna be pulled away from him at the last second, even at the very end. Poor sod should’ve known better. Brilliant.

    (seriously, though, that sounds awful and I’m glad I never got invested in this show, even though the episodes I saw were pretty amusing).

  5. Let’s get one thing straight about this show (and other shows that try the same sort of thing under less obvious tactics). It never was a direct plot path to the goal. It was very indirect and consumed by two horny single guys who never want to settle, their mixed up Canadian female friend and a couple bouncing off their juvenile walls…all while bringing viewers of their reality (TV show) little philosophical tidbits to take to the water cooler. In other words, these actors took the liberty of an audience and a horrible title/premise to have fun seeing how many off beat tales they could air before people stopped watching. And, based upon those numbers, they decided when to pull the plug and finally dig up a “mother”.

    There is rumored talk of spin-offs, already. I care not to think about that. I think the show had its charms and wit. It wasn’t entirely stupid. But, like “Scrubs”, it got a lil tiresome with the protagonists endless bumps and scrapes with a sex life…and went a lil overboard with Barney’s sex life. In a way, it kinda was a commercial for sex with commercial breaks that featured witty Super Bowl commercials. Yes, Barney seemed to make progress toward being a “civilized gentleman ready to settle down”…but that also took away from being the crazy, zany sex fiend he was…so who wins? Who do the people want?

    The man laws/rules and all of the puns were enjoyable. I couldn’t care less about Barney’s elaborate home/gadgets (like the Star Wars stuff comparable to Seinfeld’s Superman interests with less humor). The doppelganger concept kept people searching. And, now, it’s dried up, I guess…though such plots seem endless. It’s just the audience it garnered moved onto other “webisodial” series.

    I knew from season one that it wasn’t going to be like a novel broken into pieces or anything obviously direct. It took immediate liberty to say finding “the one” isn’t immediate or short, normally. And, rather than tell just the parts that led to the goal, they told an entire “chapter” of Ted’s life and brought in the stories of his friends…because “Friends” was kinda popular for some time and made the cast millions before it tanked.

    In short, love it because it happened…but don’t grieve too much, because, if it bothered you, it’s over.

  6. By the way, did you stay after the credits when they said, “April Fool’s! That wasn’t her, and the yellow umbrella will belong to another woman next year!” ?

    I’m just joking. April Fool’s:P

  7. I don’t watch this show, but I’ve heard it was very disappointing. I shudder to think of one of my shows ending like this. (Most of my shows have gone pretty downhill, but they’re still salvageable.)

  8. I’m still not over this. What’s funny is that people can argue that this is what real life is like. But the thing is, HIMYM is a TV show. It’s not real life, and the fans didn’t need a realistic ending. It was a sitcom, yet it ended dramatically? Watching HIMYM over years usually cheered me up, because it was a ridiculous show and it made me laugh. Yet somehow, the ending tried to make me sad. That’s just not how you end a show like this one.

  9. Now I’m glad I missed it. I always really liked Marshall and Lily best anyway. Ted was just so…..whiny and Robin, well just kind of unstable. There’s no denying the comic talent of “Doogie” but Charlie Sheen’s got the market cornered on womanizing. I did love the movie this series was base upon, with Ryan Reynolds. It had a better ending.

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