How I Met Your Mother Is Really the Anti-Friends

I would like to pride myself on always having my finger on the pulse of the next big thing, discovering potential icons of cool before they go blockbuster, but who would I be kidding? Although I was country when country wasn’t cool, obsessed with Robyn back when her records weren’t even being released in the U.S., down with Mo’Nique from the first time ever I saw her face on The Parkers in the late ’90s, I’m 50/50 when it comes to getting to the party on time.

How I Met Your Mother is now in the middle of its sixth season on CBS, but I never got around to watching it until last February. What took me so long? It had been on the air for only one season when I moved from New York City to Buenos Aires, and for some reason the TV programming gods in South America haven’t gotten around to picking it up for syndication on any of the networks that run English-language series. (Incredibly, though, they deemed two failed Jenna Elfman sitcoms — Courting Alex and Accidentally on Purpose — more likely to lure South American viewers. Go figure.)

Then in February, I discovered the show as part of the in-flight entertainment while travelling from BA to NYC via American Airlines. I caught more episodes en route from NYC to London on Virgin Atlantic in March, and again in September, taking Quantas from BA to Sydney. (Apparently, the people who plan the entertainment menu for international carriers are huge fans — or they figure the jokes transcend cultural and language barriers.) A friend in Melbourne gave me the first two seasons, and after finishing those, I continued to feed my new addiction online. I’m currently up to season four, episode two, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

I’ve read stories all over the internet claiming that How I Met Your Mother is the new Friends, but I’m not so sure that I agree. Despite the similarities — Manhattan setting, beverage-serving hangout, musical romantic partners, Alyson Hannigan channelling both Monica and Phoebe as Lily — HIMYM is, if anything, the anti-Friends. Here’s why.

It’s a hit despite slightly sluggish Nielsen numbers?

As popular as it is among those at home and travelling abroad, HIMYM has never climbed above No. 42 in the yearly ratings, while Friends was a Top 10 show for its entire 10-year run. Its stars might never be rewarded with $1 million an episode, but for Neil Patrick Harris, who has earned four consecutive Emmy nominations for playing womanizer Barney Stinson, the benefits have been just as great. Friends made Jennifer Aniston a huge star, but HIMYM did something far more impressive — and miraculous (without Brad Pitt’s help). It made the child actor who played Doogie Howser, M.D. from 1989 to 1993 an even bigger star as an out and proud adult.

Booze has so much more comic potential than coffee beans.

MacLaren’s or Central Perk? That’s an easy one. How many attractive twentysomethings and thirtysomethigs do you know who sit around in their spare time guzzling caffeine in a coffee shop? Isn’t it more realistic — and fun — to watch a group of friends sitting around trading stories and insults over the harder stuff. I just wish Carl the bartendar would pull a Gunther and fall for Marshall.

Ted is so Ross, but he has a dark side.

He falls in love with Robin at first sight, foolishly tells her so on their first date, and then makes the dumbest lovesick moves to get her. He’s neurotic, obsessive, nerdy, and a little more into her than she’s into him. So far, so Ross. But unlike Ross, who was genuinely nice to a fault, Ted can be such a douche bag.

Yes, Ross cheated on Rachel, but he thought they were on a break. (I’m still with Team Ross on this point.) And he said Rachel’s name — twice! — when he was getting married to Emily, but Ted’s sins run deeper and darker. He broke up with a girl twice on two different birthdays, charged a night’s worth of champagne to another guy’s bar tab after ditching his date outside of a night club, and totally blew off Britney Spears. (Friends always got the hot guest stars — Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn — but kudos to HIMYM for taking a chance on Britney when she was still in career rehab.)

Plus, his reaction to finding out that Barney had slept with Robin near the end of season 3 — cutting off their friendship — was so much harsher than anything Ross did when he found out that Joey was crushing on Rachel.

In fact, HIMYM is darker than Friends ever dared to be.

And not just because of Ted’s occasionally dubious actions, Barney’s questionable rules of courtship (more on that below), or all the slapping. But can you imagine Joey getting hit by a bus while racing to visit Ross in the hospital? It happened to Barney on his way to see Ted, whose taxi was rammed in the side — Ted’s side! — by another car. That’s black comedy at its bleakest.

Barney Stinson might be the biggest asshole on TV.

He’s a little bit Joey: He falls for his best friend’s ex, he pronounced Marshall and Lily man and wife, and he has his own standard pick-up line — “Have you met Ted?” — though it’s used for wingman purposes, not for his own benefit (unlike “How you doin’?”). But he’s a lot more Charlie Harper from Two and Half Men. Still, as womanizing goes, it’s hard to imagine even Charlie (Harper or Sheen) pulling some of the stunts that Barney does.

It’s one thing to pretend you’re someone you’re not in order to pick up women, but to leave one conquest stranded in the middle of the woods and another to fend for herself with the cops after telling her that the for-sale apartment you’re about to bang her in is your pad and then sneaking out while she’s in the shower, that’s crueler than sitcom characters  generally are allowed to be. It’s a testament to Neil Patrick Harris’s skill that I laugh at his misdeeds. And he’s still more likeable than Ted.

HIMYM isn’t afraid to be down on love. You’ve gotta have friends — and romance. It’s a concept with which Friends frequently beat viewers over the head. Both are paramount in the general HIMYM scheme of things, but romance isn’t always shown in such a positive light. Ted’s search for The One frequently borders on desperate and psychotic; Lily and Marshall might be one of the coolest couples on TV, but they’re also certifiably co-dependent; Robin’s lack of sentimentality makes 30 Rock‘s Liz Lemon look like a cloying romantic, and every time Barney comes up with yet another reason to avoid love and marriage, it’s hard for me to disagree. TC mark

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  • Joseph Ernest Harper

    Feel like this show is fucking awful.

    • Jeremy Helligar

      Have you watched it, Joseph? If not, you really should check it out. I resisted it for a long time — five years, to be exact — and even after I finally saw it, it took a second for me to get it. But now that I do, it's one of my favorite sitcoms.

      • Joseph Ernest Harper

        I've watched like two episodes. I guess I just don't get it? My loss.

      • Jeremy Helligar

        I get it. Some shows just aren't for everyone. It's like “Glee” and me. I just can't understand what all the fuss is about.

      • Joseph Ernest Harper

        That, we can agree on. Hate that fuckwit in the wheelchair.

      • Surrendertostrangeness

        The gay kid is way worse

    • RONNOT

      yeah the sh0w is not that bad actually

  • PINA

    This show sucks.
    Story ends.
    Next post.

    • Maine

      The first time I watched this, I grew bored. Then I watched this youtube video It got me totally hooked. But I don’t know which seasons I have been watching. I just watch it randomly :P

  • Daniel

    This show is one half-step away from Two and a Half Men. It is Lowest Common Denominator comedy written by people who could potentially write something better, but elect not to.

  • mcki n zie

    Commenters on this site are way bigger assholes than on any other site. I wonder why that is…

  • mcki n zie

    Commenters on this site are way bigger assholes than on any other site. I wonder why that is…

  • Stephanterry18

    i think the reason why this show isn’t as great as friends was is the fact that it doesn’t take you on that emotional trip. Its not that great story friends was where you were pulling for something to happen between Rachael and Ross and even pulled for joey to get his chance with Rachael. It could go deeper into to relationships between both romance and their friendship. we know that Marshall and lily are crazy about each other but it isn’t as frantic and emotional as chandler and Monica and defiantly  not as much as Ross and Rachael. they could make their story more emotional. They have the same problem as Chandler and Monica where they can’t get children and been trying some time. they could make the story more of a roller-coaster than they do. the stories are too quick to get attached to.

    The only ongoing thing i see really(other than the Canadian robin jokes) is the whole mystery and primes of the show is who’s the kids mother. The ongoing jokes go on for the episode not instead of the friends format where they would drop a joke that went on two season ago. On friends they had things about th show were you weren’t a fan if you didn’t know “this” about the show. like Gunther loved Rachael and always made funny comments or actions when ever he got his heart broken by her indirectly. Or the “ugly naked guy” that went on for years. It was like a cultural on going joke between friends that you felt you were in on. The annoying laugh from Janice that and her catch phrase “…God”.  Also the “we we’re on a break” line is legendary for TV fans. that was like team Ross and team Rachael. in my opinion I’m on Ross side. “smelly cat” had so many stories. I can go on and on about the on going jokes and the iconic pieces friends drought to the table.

    also no catch phrases. joey had his “how you doin” Janice had her “Oh ..MY..God” line and her laugh.  there is no catch phrases like that on how i met your mother. the closest thing is  Barny’s pick up line “have you met ted?” and its not used in a lot of episodes. he has the “legen…wait for it…dairy” line but I just started watch in this show and i may have heard it twice. I think barney lines are the only on going joke this show has. bro code is another. I think it needs more iconic trade marks in this show to make it “Great” though. It has potential but it has to slow it down a little and take time to make it more of a emotional story. its great with plot twists but i rarely saw one that really shocked me on HIMYM.

    The type of comedy on friends is more “genius” than how i met your mother. I love how i met your mother and think its hilarious but their were jokes in friends that are still funny to this day where as HIMYM could just be humorous after a while. You seen comedic legends like Robin Williams on the show along with great legendary actors like Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, and Bruce Willis.  I think because it was better writing the stars wanted to come. At this time you didn’t see many movie stars on the small screen. So this showed that Friends was a well respected and a very entertaining show. I think everyone on frinds made the show equally funny in different ways. I havent seen that yet. Barney is clearly the funniest character on HIMYM. When they start bringing joke and incidences back up on HIMYM and make every bring different types of comedy to the table is where I think it will reach another level of comedic genius, as of right now their just funny episodes.

     Ross is ted in the since he is the morally driven one who hopes for love. He’s a teacher in one season but really an architect , and a boring nerd specially when he talks about architecture, similar to Ross and dinosaurs. but they haven’t gave ted that depth that Ross had. We need that likeable predictable factor that we seen in Ross to be in Ted . I haven’t been able to figure ted out yet.  i could break every character down but i don’t want to.

    I think one thing they could do is not try to make ted and robin the ross and rachael of the group but make marshal and the Love story. Ted on going search for his future kids mother is going to wear out the robin and ted delima. also he referred to robin as “aunt robin” to the kids time and time again so theirs no chance thats who he ended up with each other. Barney can find that cool chick eventually thats apart of the click but not really. like she’s around but not really. kind of like mike was with phoebe. she just has to be unpredictable and cool. but that can fizzle out if it takes away from barnys awesomeness. I think if they make the show more of a great story and takes us on that ride it will be that show we think it could be. HIMYM needs that fashion icon that rachael was. Rachael had the “rachael” hair due and she had the fashion down. And you seen that character in other successful series like Carey in “sex in the city”. I think Robin could be that or the love intrest of Barney could. the conflict robin would have with that is cause she is tom boyish so it might throw that a little off. Also i think this show needs a Chandler but in their own way. Chandler is the one who makes the funny joke. Barney is the funny comment. add both to the show it theirs non stop hilariousness there. there is more i could point out but i don’t feel like it

  • Henry Holm

    “black comedy at its bleakest” – you haven’t watched much english comedy have you?

  • Mujalaleta

    friends is just really really better than himym

  • dinch

    HIMYM is better than Friends by a long way in my opinion. I watched it many a time to try and get into it, but it just doesn’t make me laugh. I think the only reason people like this more than HIMYM is that they see it as a rip-off of Friends, when there are so many differences, or due to people disliking change to sitcoms. It reminds me of the PES vs FIFA argument or the Xbox PS3 debate, people just can’t accept that in the similarities there is also a completely different part of the two products. At the end of te day they have very similar review scores and both have received the awards. Friends has the advantage that it was mainstream to watch shows like friends then, now sitcoms barely break into the top 20s in Nielsen ratings.

  • Rina S

    Dude, Ted is awesome. And Ross and Rachel might have been on a break, but sleeping with someone else THAT soon? Come on! But yea, both are great! ;P

  • hello

    Thank you for this!

  • HIMYM vs. Friends | The Ultimate Smackdown

    […] Helligar, J. (2010, November 7). How I Met Your Mother Is Really the Anti-Friends. Retrieved August 20, 2013, from Thought Catalog: […]

  • HIMYM vs Friends | The Ultimate Smackdown

    […] Helligar, J. (2010, November 7). How I Met Your Mother Is Really the Anti-Friends. Retrieved August 20, 2013, from Thought Catalog: […]

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