This Is The Plot That Never Ends

Okay, I meant this to be somewhat educational, but it basically turned into a full-out rant, so…brace yourselves.

Yesterday, it was announced that the sitcom How I Met Your Mother was renewed for its ninth and final season, and something one of the creators said just about made me want to light my head on fire.

First, a little background for the uninitiated:

How I Met Your Mother‘s basic premise is that the main character, Ted Mosby, is looking back on his 20s/30s and telling his teenage kids how he met their mother through a series of stories about him and his friends, Lily, Marshall, Barney and Robin. So the ENTIRE series is based off of this idea that all the episodes are leading up to him meeting the woman he will marry and start a family with.

Okay? Okay. Now, let’s aside the fact that – no matter how clever the show is – that is an extremely limited premise. There is only so long you can drag it out before fans start throwing up their hands. And since it’s been on for so long, you can imagine that there were *ahem* several red herring women thrown into Ted’s path. We KNOW they’re red herrings because Older!Ted basically VOs all the time, “I started dating this one chick who wasn’t your mother.”

But there is one in particular – the ULTIMATE RED HERRING. An idea for a couple that the show writers are SO in love with that they won’t let it die.

In episode one – the freaking pilot – Ted tells the story about this beautiful woman he met, how they locked eyes across the bar and it was kismet blah blah blah. And the oh-so-clever twist at the end is he tells his kids, “And that’s how I met…your Aunt Robin.”

Right. So, if you’re someone like me, I’m already over this pairing. I know, for a fact, that Ted and Robin don’t end up together, so I’m not really invested in it. There’s no reason to be. She’s not the mother – they’re obviously going to split up sooner or later. I’m only interested insofar as their relationship becomes a jumping off point to her becoming part of the group of friends.

Which is why I started getting frustrated when the Ted/Robin storyline stretched from one season, to two, to three… Every time I thought they were about to let it go, the writers dragged that shit up again.

Jump forward to now. I haven’t had cable in awhile so I haven’t watched the current seasons, but I follow along anyway, out of curiosity. I hear about Barney/Robin and the proposal and the plans for the May finale to be their wedding, which is all very encouraging because – I think – they’ve finally let the Ted/Robin pairing go off to die in a back alley like it ought to have seasons ago because we already know it’s going nowhere.

She's whispering into his ear, "We're about as happening as 'fetch.' Which is to say, not happening."
She’s whispering into his ear, “We’re about as happening as ‘fetch.’ Which is to say, not happening.”


So when offers up five scoops on the last season, I go read the article. At which point, I see this:

4) Ted isn’t entirely over Robin.
Even though Ted had some closure on the issue of Robin in recent episodes, Thomas says the door is definitely not closed on that issue. “I don’t want to say how or when, but yeah,” he says, “it’s so built into the DNA of the show and, we’re heading toward this huge finish of this series. Whether sooner or later, there’s a big culminating ending coming in the near future of the show, of course, that dynamic has to be addressed again.”


I mean, they set up this context of Ted telling his kids how he met their mother, and we’ve had nine – NINE – seasons of him telling them how in love he’s been with their Aunt Robin. It’s gross. It’s beyond gross. If I were the kids at this point, I’d be having a serious talk with my mom about why she married this douchebag.

This is the perfect example of a never-ending plot. Something that could have – SHOULD HAVE – had a natural conclusion a long, long time ago, but because the creators are so in love with it and so obsessed with it, they keep drawing it out. They create faux-endings that they then renege, they introduce ridiculous new reasons to resurrect it, and they hogtie characters into place in order to keep their pet plot project alive. It’s “built into the DNA of the show” because they fucking built it there. That’s it. At this point, it’s just long-ass wankery that’s being called a television show.

You’re doing a disservice to yourself, your characters and your fans to cling to this storyline long after it should be over. It takes the concentrated awesome of the early seasons and keeps spinning it out and adding more gross until it’s not even fun to watch anymore.

HIMYM is, by no means, the only series (in any form of media) that is guilty of this crime, but it’s one of the worst perpetrators I’ve seen in awhile. Which makes it a good example to use when I say:

Don’t be HIMYM. Don’t be That Guy. Put an expiration date on your plots and stick to them. Fans will thank you.

14 thoughts on “This Is The Plot That Never Ends

  1. Oh my God, I love you even more than I thought humanly possible. I FEEL ALL OF THESE THINGS ABOUT THIS SHOW! This is also exactly how I feel about the later books of the Jessica Darling series. The first couple of books are SO great, and then it just keeps going on, and on, and on, and to me the last two books just read like fanfic written by someone who couldn’t let go of those characters and that romance. Yeah, it’s a great romance, FOR TWO BOOKS. And I know it’s hard to let it go when you’ve got something so great, but it’s even harder to make it STAY great if you don’t! (Unpopular opinion: I feel this way about WHERE SHE WENT, too. I feel absolutely no reason for that book’s existence. None. I cannot understand the love.)

    1. And I know it’s hard to let it go when you’ve got something so great, but it’s even harder to make it STAY great if you don’t!
      THIS. This so very, very much. Like, you can’t keep it fresh and exciting if you keep drawing it out and pounding it into the ground.

      I haven’t read either Gayle Foreman book (I’m terrible), so I can’t weigh in on WHERE SHE WENT. I will say that another example I have that I was reluctant to bring up is the Jace/Clary relationship in CITY OF BONES. The setup of them being the One True Pairing of the series is set up pretty clearly in that book, but at the very end of it, she introduces a faux-incest plot in order to keep them apart. I mean, you could tell, from a mile away, that they wouldn’t actually turn out to be related, so it just feels like this far-too-obvious roadblock thrown in for the sake of dragging it out. Stuff like that just cheapens things.

      1. That particular twist at the end of “City of Bones” annoyed me so much I didn’t bother to read the rest of the series.

        And you’ve mentioned one of the reasons “Babylon 5” is one of my favorite TV shows. From the very beginning, the series creator had a plan for a five-season story arc. (We can argue about how that actually worked out in execution, but the point is they had a plan and didn’t drag the story out beyond what it needed. And the first 4 seasons are some of the best sci-fi I’ve ever seen.)

        I know there are industry reasons for dragging TV shows out as long as humanly possible, but from a storytelling perspective, it’s annoying as hell.

        1. I still need to watch Babylon 5. You’re not the first person to mention that it’s a well-crafted series, and I always appreciate show creators who are willing to plot an arc and stick to it.

  2. I SO agree. I LOVED this show and the characters were awesome… but as time goes by it gets lamer and lamer. The characters are becoming caricatures of themselves. I want them to wrap it up now kthnx. But I can see them fucking with us, and not giving us a definitive conclusion, just to try to get us talking about it more. Maybe the writers don’t even know who Ted’s Wife is…

    1. I don’t think they do. I think they had an idea for a Friends-like sitcom and threw in the whole “how I met your mother” hook after the fact to try and set it apart.

  3. Oh, crap!! You know what? I’ve skipped a lot of seasons in the middle of this saga, but I totally did watch the pilot and all of the first season. I COMPLETELY MISSED that he refered to her as Aunt Robin in it. Holy crap. I have to go netflix. But yeah, if this is true, this whole thing is a disaster. Thanks for writing!

    1. Yeah, they used that line as a clever twist, but in doing so, they shot themselves in the foot for the rest of the Ted/Robin storyline. And then they’ve refused to let it go.

  4. maybe she has a twin…….lame…. but so is this show sometimes…. yeah, I agree, they probably have no clue who Ted’s wife is… I do miss them showing his kids’ bored faces. That was like seven seasons ago. They’re probably dead of boredom, lying on the couch lifeless, by now. LOL.

    1. Lol! Most likely. I know the girl who played Ted’s daughter has been/is on Nikita, so she’s a little busy, but you’d think they’d have plenty of stock footage of those two…y’know…staring at the camera.

  5. And this is EXACTLY why I stopped watching HIMYM in . . . season 3? Maybe 4? Whatever season it was when she found out she couldn’t have kids. I was already sick of the whole Ted/Robin fiasco before that.

    1. They can’t drag it out forever and expect it to not start to feel icky. It’s How I Met Your Mother, not How I Met Your Aunt Robin But We Didn’t Work So I Settled For Your Mother.

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