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.
So when EW.com 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.”
NO, HIMYM. NO. BAD TV SHOW. VERY BAD.
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.