From the cosy little diner in Seinfeld to what became the most famous and homely coffeehouse in Friends, the world came of age in that iconic booth at Maclaren’s Pub where five friends gathered to play their roles in a hopeless Romantic’s quest to find “the one”. To a world that felt hung over after the end of a sitcom filled with comedy, mistakes and misdemeanours of adults trying to find their way in the world which capped ten years of a gloriously comic time, How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) provided the perfect tonic—unique characters, perceivable undercurrent of a storyline, love, sex, New York City, getting drunk and making mistakes etc. It was the perfect after-party, if not a party in itself. Ephemeral yet enduring in its ability to adapt to the shifting landscape of life, honest yet out-there (Exhibit A—Barney Stinson) and ethereal yet delightfully overbearing, HIMYM has left a legacy befitting the legend it has woven. In so many ways, HIMYM has shaped our idea of a contemporary sitcom—there needs to be a pub which means there need to be drunken nights, there needs to be a stranger who becomes part of their group, there needs to be a crazy guy in love, a crazy guy who pledges to never fall in love, the puppet-master and the guy who wears a nightshirt.
“Dude, lots of chicks think that architects are hot. Think about that, you create something out of nothing. You’re like God. There is no one hotter than God.”
Since the show went off the air, with the miserable attempt at an ending, there has not been one like it, a show that could carry the torch of being the most iconic sitcom based in New York. I believe that the reason is because it was so damn unique. For starters, there is no other story, whether real or fantastical, where some guy has more emotional and mental endurance to fall in and out of love faster than Kanye West going through his daily routine of madness and depression, and have his heart broken, only to fall in love just episodes later. Some might call Ted stupid, naive and innocent—putting his heart out there only for every third girl (I swear I calculated) to walk on by and stomp on it (kind of like Captain America with Bucky), and yet have the courage to rip it out of himself and present it to another (who would inevitably spit on it or dump him at the altar or just sit on him and go all “Krav Mugga”). But the Romantic in me is in awe of his character and his ability to hold on to life and to his sanity because he knows that one day he’ll find someone who would fit with him, like two pieces in puzzle, right next to each other, forever. Of course, most would call the Romantic in me stupid but, well, that is, I believe, the official definition.
“Because maybe it’s dumb to look for signs from the universe, maybe the universe has better things to do – and dear God, I hope it does. Do you know how many signs I’ve gotten, how I should and shouldn’t be with someone? Where has it gotten me? Maybe there aren’t any signs. Maybe a locket’s just a locket; a chair’s just a chair. Maybe we don’t have to give meaning to every little thing. Maybe we don’t need the universe to tell us what we really want. Maybe we already know that. Deep down.”
But that’s vital to the show, to any show that would hope to emulate any semblance of the aroma of romance that HIMYM created—you need the propulsion, that idiot who just won’t give up. Yes, you want to punch him every few episodes for being a jackass and ruining the reputation of Romantics by being an “I-love-you slut”, doling out “I love yous” like joints at, well, any concert, but at the bottom of your heart, or any part of you that gives a shit, you smile and feel happy when Ted finally, conclusively and to the relief of his children meets “the one” (in the alternate ending, the original sucked!). The show is so incredibly infused with the beauty of love that it is unparalleled (in my not-so-humble, amateurish and foolish opinion) in how every character contributes to the smooth undercurrents of romance that every viewer feels as clearly as one does the potholes in India—the constant of love between Lily and Marshal, the moment when Robin walks on to the roof and looks at the page out of the playbook “the Robin” and then Barney appears, and with virtually every moment that Ted is on the show. People keep saying that the show is Legendary because of Barney or because of how amazing Cobie Smulders looks but those aren’t the most vital pillars of the show; it’s love, the simplest yet the most complex, the most painful yet blissful emotion and answer there is. More than anything, HIMYM encapsulates not only the brilliance of being in love but how rewarding that is when the troubles you go through are gruelling and you have the courage and strength to hold on.
“Legen-wait for it…
Every show, at least those that begun in the 2000s, have a wildcard—Sheldon, Charlie Harper, Castle, Alan Shore—characters that never fail to entertain. HIMYM has perhaps the greatest of them all, Hollywood’s numero uno entertainer and host, sexually ultra (ultra, ultra, ultra) charged Barney Stinson. Eternally “suit(ed)-up”, the Bro of bros, greatest wingman, best friend and earning tons (edit: “craploads”) of money doing almost nothing, Neil Patrick Harris’ insertion into (seemingly every woman in New York) the character, like most shows, isn’t vital to the plot; anyone could have played Barney. But despite how amazing the character of Barney Stinson is, it takes someone with the panache and the I-own-this-room-and-everything-and-everyone-in-it charisma of Neil Patrick Harris, who loves the camera just as much the camera loves him. Harris and Stinson are both characters with apparently unlimited talents, married by the creative genius of the creators, who shock, awe, surprise the audience and make the show truly legendary. Perpetually calling a moratorium on love, marriage and having kids, and ending up doing all those three (in one ending or another), Harris is not only able to take an enchantingly conflicted character and work wonders but he also, somehow, makes “Barney” sound like a cool name, banishing to the netherworld any images of a big, purple dinosaur who used to play games with a young Selena Gomes.
Given my current and seemingly absolute state of utter joblessness, I’ve wasted my time had the pleasure of watching a lot of shows and the two that really stand out are Castle and HIMYM. Why? Because, in my infinite wisdom, I believe that both shows borrow from Shakespeare in a very particular manner—interspersing scenes of inaction with action, moments of romance with a lack of it—making sure that the audience has time to digest what is happening and to ingrain and highlight, by contrast, the moments of importance. It is there where Barney fits perfectly into the sitcom. His character reserves the capability to push you up to the heights of poignancy, with “the Robin”, asking Lily to come back from San Francisco et all, and he is most usually the person who tips you into the chasm, making your sides ache with laughter. Quirkier than most, if not all, what with his perpetual high-fives, fist-bumps, the umpteen constructs he creates (Hot-Crazy Scale, the Playbook, the Bro Code, his “rules”) and his fetish for accepting compelling albeit stupid challenges, Barney Stinson embodies what it means to live life. There are, after all, few who can claim to have licked the Liberty Bell, run the New York City marathon without any training, slept with over 200 women (a number even John Mayer would struggle to match), have a “guy” for everything and be unable to take a bad photo.
“Now remember my three beginner’s tips for picking up chicks: address her by name, isolate her from her friends, subtly put her down.”
It’s always difficult to say goodbye to a show that you’ve loved and enjoyed for years. Of course, the shit ending made it easier, but for most, if not all, it was especially difficult to wave farewell. To say goodbye to all the Canadian jokes, Marshal’s ability to proclaim “You go girl” with the snap, Ranjit’s succinct and precise cameos, the sight of drinks thrown into Barney’s face and Ted’s romantic gestures was a process that most dreaded and hated but it was a testament to the brilliance of the show, the efficacy of the acting, the sweet lightness of the manner in which comedy and romance came together and charmed the viewers. No other show has ever so accurately depicted life—a puzzle with so many pieces, too many to even envisage, with a divinely magnetic pull toward each other, toward a desire to align in the right way and to create that sublime tapestry called life. All it takes is time and patience and, occasionally, a blue French horn and a yellow umbrella. It’s a zero-sum game—every moment matters, every action counts and every little thing suffered leads to something better. It was to all those teenagers who came of age with the show, to all those who fell in love with the show and with someone else in reality that HIMYM spoke to the most. In every period, there is something that talks about love which outlasts its generation—Romeo and Juliet, Keats’ poetry and some of Erich Segal’s work, perhaps. Of course, it doesn’t compare, but if ever there were a show which captured the essence of what it meant to be in love and to persevere in it, it was HIMYM. Enveloping the laughter, the slaps, the stories and the conversations was the angelic halo of romance and friendship, serene in its permanence yet seemingly fleeting in its beauty, making How I Met Your Mother truly, “Legen-wait for it-dary, LEGENDARY!”
“A few final thoughts. Don’t get married ’til you’re 30. Play laser tag at least once a week. Give as many high-fives as you’re gonna get. Teacup pigs are lady magnets but very hard to care for – not worth the effort. The same goes for dogs and babies. And most importantly, whatever you do in this life, it’s not legendary unless your friends are there to see it.”