Tuesday, April 01, 2014

What Did You Expect?

Today on the internet a bunch of people were grousing about their dissatisfaction with Monday night's ending of "How I Met Your Mother." I would note that this post contains SPOILERS, so if you're concerned about ruining the anticipation of watching the finale on DVR, I would advise you to GET A LIFE and stop reading now!

With that out of the way, I'll briefly recap a mediocre, yet long-running show with a mildly creative premise.

The entire show is a flashback from the year 2030 where the main character, Ted, is telling his teen-aged kids a story. The story is titled, "How I Met Your Mother," but the title is deceiving. At no time in the first 200 episodes does Ted really explain how he met their mother. Occasionally, he'll give a small hint, but it's usually an aside. The really bizarre thing about the stories Ted tells is their graphic sexual content. In most stories, either he or his friend Barney is horned up and going after some broad(s). These stories are not exactly the story a dad wants to tell to a teenage daughter (and son) if he wants her (or him) to develop a healthy sense of sexuality.

Barney is easily the funniest character on the show, because he has no moral compass and that can lead to some funny situations. There is a shade of truth to Barney, despite his antics which are amped up for TV, because there are plenty of guys like that out there. Normally, they are called 19-year olds. Never mind that Barney is over 40 by the end of the show. The other characters include Ted's  fairly normal married friends, who in real life would never hang out with a guy like Barney and certainly wouldn't help him act as a sexual predator on unsuspecting women. The final main character is a girl named Robin, who in the course of the show developed a romantic history with both Barney and Ted.

You will notice that I've listed the five main characters, and the "Mother" isn't included. She really wasn't ever shown until late into the 9th season. The show would have been more accurately titled, "How My Perverted Buddy and I Got It On With (Literally) Hundreds of Women Before You Were Born." Yet fans of the show actually believed the story would end with Ted meeting their mother and everyone living happily ever after.

One interesting thing about the show is the timeline. Because the story began in 2030 and flashed back to 2006, the time-frame only advances in the flashbacks. So in season one, the story of what happened in 2006 is being told in 2030, yet in the final season the story of what happened in 2014 is being told in 2030. That creates a problem with the kids. They would be in their mid-teens while recording the first episodes, yet  would normally (until Obamacare changed the rules) be out of the house and on their own nine years later. The creators solved this by recording the ending scenes while they were still kids, nearly a decade ago. On a typical show, the kids are only shown for a few seconds, so I'd imagine that it didn't take much shooting in 2006 to gather all of the footage required for the entire run of the show. In fact, one could argue that the final show has more dialog from the kids than all the other shows combined.

Now we the audience didn't know that the kids parts were recorded in 2006, but it was one of three logical options, the others being 2) get new kids for the final show or 3) bring back adults and try to make them look like kids through makeup and camera trickery. Since they have never done 2) or 3) despite showing the kids for a few seconds at the end of each episode, it makes sense to anticipate that the ending was planned years ahead.

On to the ending, which dissatisfied so many fans of the show. In the final episode, Ted meets the mother, they spend a few minutes together on screen, have two kids, she dies, and Ted concludes his story. Along the way Barney gets a girl pregnant, has a baby girl, and completely changes his personality. Ted's kids end up explaining what anyone who's watching the show already knew: the story wasn't about how he met their mother at all. I'm shocked that anyone could possibly be shocked by that.

To the fans who are upset with the ending, I'd advise you not to get too down on this bad ending to a mediocre show. Much better shows struggled to come up with endings that were even adequate. Seinfeld and Cheers were two of the best comedies of all time and their endings were widely criticized. The Sopranos and Lost took a lot of grief for insulting their audience with their bad endings. Of all the comedies that had a highly anticipated ending, only Newhart really lived up to the billing.