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.

Video

Video killed the literary star……

An open letter from Walter Kirn. It’s hilarious and yet rather interesting critic of what is lost as writing becomes more glamorized and more open to the “fluff” of television. Also I might be a bit biased towards this because I’m not a fan of James Franco. Regardless of if you agree with all he says, it’s worth a listen.