‘How I Met Your Mother’ Final Season: One Man’s Misgivings

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Commentary: Final season is proof positive the CBS sitcom overstayed its welcome

The time will come in the not-too-distant future when ABC’s “Modern Family” or CBS’s “Big Bang Theory” will have to decide whether to continue for another season or exit primetime while they’re still strong.

If the producers of these hit shows need help determining their future, here’s an idea: pop in a disc of the final season of CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother.” For if ever there was a cautionary tale to be had regarding the peril of staying on air a season or three too long, it is amply provided by this sitcom that marred its otherwise impressive run by getting wobbly in the homestretch.

That may be of little concern to CBS or 20th Century Fox, which can boast of the remarkable ratings staying power “HIMYM” maintained to the very end of its ninth season. But when its March 31 finale ushers in a wave of valedictories that whitewash just how unwatchable “HIMYM” became at the end of its life, let at least one voice of dissent beg to differ.

I don’t come to this finale as some “HIMYM”-hater. To the contrary, I became a fan midway through its run thanks to Lifetime reruns that I consumed quickly enough to catch up to its then-current season. The series took my binge-watch virginity before the term even existed.

In its prime, “HIMYM” rivaled the series that paved the way for its twentysomething-social-circle-in-Manhattan premise — NBC’s “Friends” — with a great cast backed by sharp comedic writing. But somewhere around the eighth season or so, my goodwill began curdling as the series lost creative momentum. (So much so that the mere prospect that CBS may put a “How I Met Your Dad” series on the air next season fills me with dread.)

Not coincidentally, executive producers Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have known for quite some time as to how they wanted to wrap up and explain the show’s title. But as CBS and 20th have shoveled more and more money to them and the cast to continue their gravity-defying ratings, they forestalled the end and shoehorned in more episodes before the long-awaited payoff.

As a result, whatever blind loyalty kept me tuning in during the penultimate season was thoroughly exhausted this final season. Nearly the entire batch of episodes has been claustrophobically contained to the hotel where the wedding of Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin (Cobie Smulders) takes place. A storyline that would have otherwise been dispatched over a few episodes has been impossibly elongated; it’s essentially just vamping for a seven-month period.

The appeal of the titular search of Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) for his long-awaited wife has worn so thin that my hope is the finale will feature his surprise vow of celibacy.

What little the story ventured outside the hotel was even more painful, particularly earlier in the season when a endless arc about Marshall (Jason Segel) embarking on a  “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”-style journey to the wedding along with guest star Sherri Shepherd was so awful that after a few episodes, I just began fast-forwarding past their scenes. If Segel and Shepherd didn’t just sit in a car in front of a green screen and polish off production on like eight episodes of their scenes over the course of one afternoon, it sure played like that was the case.

Blame isn’t easily assigned here. The actors didn’t get any less charming as time wore on. And it may be too herculean a task for any writers to keep any show vital after a decade; if anything, “HIMYM’s” creaky last leg is a reminder that sitcoms just aren’t capable of infinite episodes, though too many great ones press on as if that’s possible. By the end of “Friends,” they had so thoroughly exhausted the romantic permutations of the cast that I was sure a Ross-Monica incest romance was in the offing.

“HIMYM” is far from the only comedy to lose steam before its time, from “The Office” to “That 70’s Show.” But Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David set a bar with which all comedies that come after it will be measured by “going out on top” even when the NBC series surely had the clout to stay on the air. They didn’t because they were knew the show wouldn’t be remembered as favorably if it stuck around too long.

Everyone at “HIMYM” has padded their already considerable fortunes, and I’m sure if I was in their beautiful shoes, I would have done the same. But that windfall comes at the expense of tarnishing a legacy that might have otherwise held up better.

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  1. fred123 says:

    I have to agree wholeheartedly, I was a huge fan 3 seasons ago but I could not even watch a full episode the past few years and i tried. The plotline was sooo thin and predictable it painful to view, unlike “In Living Color” that just had the plug pulled without any warning…… this show had the plug pulled 3 years before the finale and the cast didn’t seem to notice….. finale/finally!!!

  2. bonniebengal says:

    You use Seinfeld as the bar for exiting in a great way, but their final episode blew. It was awful. I think they are still apologizing for it.

  3. gwenillyn says:

    t’s not the show or the acter/charactors that burn out, so much as the writers. Why don’t they just bring in a fresh set. I wasn’t a huge fan of this show, but there are many shows that begin going in a bad direction after a while as if they have to keep changing so much or the veiwers will be dissapointed. It’s not the case, veiwers don’t want reality as much as they think, we want our characters to stay right were we left them basically. If you can progress their lives whithout trashing what we love about them that’s fine, but if you can’t then it’s not really nessessary. It is entertainment. Who was happy at Barney leaving Andy Griffith, who was happy anytme they ended a sit come with the family leaving the house and moving to a new state? nobody, that’s who, none of us want to think that the Tool Man isn’t “The Tool Man” through to retirement or that they don’t live next door to their best friend/counselor and the boys no longer have the friends they grew up with or the home they were raised in, to go to on the holidays, we have enough of that in reality these days

  4. I have to disagree. Some things have been slow (as the Marshall/Sherri Shepard stuff) but I’ve loving getting to see the flashforwards for Ted and The Mother. I think those are the best part of this final season. Last episode was wonderful – it was a typical Ted story episode.. but it was their first date! With a story within the story! I’m going to be very sad when it ends on Monday as I’ve loved the addition of The Mother.

  5. John says:

    The show is great. Your Jew-bashing is not. There are ways to disagree with someone’s opinion without using childish ethnic slurs. But I’m guessing that’s a simple concept which your pea-sized Nazi brain (if you have one) can’t seem to understand. As Barney would say, “Get your head out of your ass!”

  6. Boredteen says:

    Aside from the ‘friends’ bit I agree completely, I love this show but once it hit Zoey it started to spiral with only a few ‘diamond in the rough episodes’. Such as ‘how your mother met me’ etc.

  7. Krista says:

    This season is pretty much garbage. The idea of spreading a full season over one wedding weekend didn’t sound like a bad idea, but watching episode after episode, I feel robbed. I’m fine with not getting to know and love the mother, as the show is about how Ted meets her and the events in his life with his friends that make the show. I feel like all these past seasons were building up to something great and this season feels like it’s just deflated. I love the show and each character and will always be a HIMYM fan, but I’d prefer if they went ended it on a better note say a season or two ago instead of dragging this on. I will be sad when it’s over though, that’s for sure.

  8. Justin says:

    I agree, the moment after it was confirmed barney and robin I started to hate it, not to getting airings intwined, but ted and robin just had a livelier relationship. Where as barney and robin are so open minded, non children, up to doweird a crazy things, ted and the mother are like the old ccouple who want kids, go to bed at 8 at night, and have a boring life to watch. Ted and robin balance it out so well making season 2 my favorite season. Maybe it was the mystery that kept me going, but it sucks now, there’s nithing left, it’s been milked

  9. I don’t agree… When I heard about season 9 I was the only one saying: oh no, it’s gonna be awful. But instead, considering the fact that it covers the time of a week, I find it great. Sure some episodes might be there for the sole purpose of filling til the last one, but now the episoded are just awesome. And we got to know the Mother. I mean, I always thought we would’ve seen here only in the serie finale. Instead we are seeing moments of her and Ted together, we saw their first date, the names of their children, etc… And I think it’s awesome. Plus, I love Barney and Robin and the fact that they gave them some space :)

  10. wittymum says:

    Here here. Agree with everything you said. I loved the show from day one but this season is killing me.

  11. Antonio Diblasi says:

    Luckily, this can simply be considered as your personal opinion. I have been watching every single episode of HIMYM with enthusiasm, and btw, season 9 has a 100% approval rating on rotten tomatoes, just saying!

  12. Blah carol blah says:

    Your article is bad and you should feel bad.

  13. latchkeykid says:

    The final season has been just fine. If you don’t like it simply turn off your television.

  14. Jacques Strappe says:

    It’s anathema to the television industry to exit while on the top of one’s creative game, while still vital, interesting and entertaining. Once there is absolutely zero creative life left in the workhorse, it’s kicked to the side of the road. Time for a DNA clone spinoff because networks know familiar is less risky than new when it comes to ratings. Just sad.

  15. CRC says:

    Even Seinfeld went on too long. The one that ended at the perfect time that no one talks about was The Larry Sanders Show. Great Ending episode.

  16. How I know your not a fan says:

    No show is perfect. All these are great tho.

    Friends- Most of that was them finding new ways to date each other.
    (Could’ve been just 3 seasons)

    Seinfeld- All about nothing and a group of nerds who somehow always have a new gf/bf. (5 seasons needed, Max)

    HIMYM- got off track for a bit (granted)
    But for the most part they have a Main Storyline, a very dynamic group of friends that actually feel real. (Could’ve been pulled off in 7 seasons)

    -still the best show of our generation.
    Better morals, better writing, better characters.

  17. Carolina Motta says:

    I actually agree on this article, minus the part of FRIENDS. Friends had a really great last season, but the mistake of HIMYM is that they changed the recipe….one entire season passed in a weekend is just boring and the fact that in the penultime episode we still don’t know the mother that well, hence do not love her. So for TEd/Robin’s fans is not worth it…and even for the others is still too much..maybe it should be a season about the first year of ted and mother’s relationship, since we saw every other dates of Ted…

  18. kyle says:

    Didn’t care to read this article, but I think this season is great, and really don’t give a Damn what you think, so how about you just shut up and watch the final two episodes of what could be the best tv show off this generation instead of pretending people give a Damn about your opinions

    • Austin says:

      And who makes you think anyone “gives a damn” about yours? The person who wrote this is just expressing an opinion and you took the time to read it, then freaked out because you read something you didn’t like. Chillllll brah. Side note, in my opinion every word he said was spot on and I agree with him.

  19. Jason says:

    typo- They *didn’t* because they were knew the show wouldn’t be remembered as favorably if it stuck around too long.

  20. Michael says:

    It took a whole article to say that HIMYM’s last seaon hasn’t been that great? This article is not worth anyone’s time. Besides, I still quite like this season. Sure, it’s a little bit frustrating because we are so close to the end and I want to see them meet already but the jokes are still funny. They’re just staying at a hotel the whole season rather than a bar and appartment. This article is making it sound as if HIMYM got terrible but I very much disagree and this is a very subjective topic.

  21. Waseef says:

    I totally agree with this article. HIMYM was awesome till the 6th season but has gone down significantly since then. It is easily one of my favorite shows but I just don’t find it that interesting anymore. Other shows should take a lesson from this and not extend themselves for too long.

  22. blip says:

    Wow, Tim, you’re going to get all genocidal over a critique of a sitcom? Would love to see your measured, mature, tactful response to something that really matters.

  23. KC says:

    People, people, it’s only a television show. It is also a huge job provider and in this town that is a legacy to point to with pride.

  24. Agree with every word here. Since the 8th season, the show has lost it completely. I have been a huge fan of the show, and I prefer to have reruns of shows I like. But knowing the conclusion of HIMYM just makes me avoid any reruns ever!

    The last season just sucked up the essence of all the goodness that came before.

  25. Richard Keating says:

    After two episodes I could`nt watch any more of the final season, so I agree with every word here 100% . It could have finished quite strong had it done so two years ago, this is just punishment for the viewer, until you realize that all that`s needed to solve your suffering is the Off button.

  26. Alan says:

    Well, this article reminds me of why is so much easier to sit around criticize and complain instead of doing work of a higher quality.

  27. I am Dr. Hug says:

    I completely agree with your article. 100%.

    However, I’m just surprised not a single person has mentioned “The Simpsons” yet…. Granted, I’m a tried and true Simpsons fan, but no one can deny that it stands on the high holy hill of examples of shows that stayed around too long. Then again, The Simpsons has wedged itself so nicely between consumer product profit and audience subconscious, that I almost hope it stays on forever… Just for the fun of it.

    Anyway, Again, great article.

    Peace!

  28. Unnecessary says:

    Simply put, Andrew Wallenstein dumb, “HIMYM” amazing!

  29. Janie Dale says:

    Come on dude, get your head outta your ass. . .

  30. Totally agree. I actually think the show had a mediocre fifth season and better sixth season, but seasons 7, 8, and 9 have all been terrible. Seasons 2 and 4 were unstoppable, while Season 3 had like 3-4 episodes that weren’t very good. Season 1 was a little rough comedy-wise, but still interesting story-wise.

  31. Emma Pickering says:

    To the person who wrote this,

    You are wrong.

    Regards,

    Everyone in the world except for you.

  32. qwerty says:

    NO. What are you talking about? HIMYM is the best! You’re just simply not a fan.

  33. JMac says:

    I agree with you in general about this season, and the last few before it. The PTAA journey of Segel in particular was a mess.

    But since Christmas the show has gotten some (sometimes a lot) of its groove back. And every episode with Cristin Milotti and has been gold. It’s too bad they didn’t weave her in more in the early half of the season.

  34. Luan says:

    That’s only your opinion… and it’s kinda funny!! How I met Your mother is a great show, and so many viewers are still in love with this story!! You should deal with the success of the show and face the fact that HIMYM is so much more important and appreciated than this article! I’m sorry, but is the truth! Think about all the hard work the producers have to put on it for so many years! So, a simple and weak article like this one it shouldn’t really matter!

  35. I loved this show, from the beginning, it seemed to be a mix genre. A comfort when you’re all by yourself or when you’re with friends. It’s hard to keep the show running as if it was the greatest show on earth, yeah, but it was a GREAT show nonetheless. It became a hit, a success that running for nine seasons was bearable. Now they’re closing the doors SLOWLY that Marshall’s scenes and Barney-Robin’s were so thorough because once the band starts playing in the wedding, Ted sees the Mother. And that’s how it’s going to end! That’s the damn title. If its ending will be meeting and falling in love, it’s not the show. The ending is meeting. That’s what we all watched for. It won’t be that cliche everyone sticks around to watch in the end even if we already know what’s going to damn happen. Haters gonna hate and I don’t know why I’m even rattling. It was a damn hit. That’s what matters.

  36. Rod Labbe says:

    Seinfeld also stayed on the air too long. Everybody said that at the time. And Roseanne, too.

  37. SFSolstice says:

    I am proud to say that I have never watched this show. NOT ONCE, except for a few minutes early in its run. It made no sense to me and seemed like a cheap knock-off of Seinfeld. Maybe I’m wrong, but I never got the point of this show. I’m glad so many people loved it and the actors had steady work without me. BYE BYE :-)

    • Smooth says:

      So why did you take time out of your life to comment on a show that you’ve never watched, not once? Just curious!

  38. Spencer says:

    I would respectfully disagree with this myself. While the drawing out of the weekend has resulted in various questionable episodes and relying on flashbacks within flashbacks (since the whole show of course is one giant flashback) far more than they used to, having been to a weekend wedding a few times, you would not believe the amount of things that can, and do, happen over the course of two days. Plus, of course, they have shown us how the mother met everyone else over the course of the weekend, giving her her own interesting stories, and given us some of what I would imagine MANY other fans have long wanted to see…..dates between Ted and the mother, and how they came to fall to fall in love. We all knew he was going to meet her of course, the thing I think many of us stuck around for was seeing the interactions between her and all of the gang, which is my only major complaint of course. Had they done the wedding in say, the first half of the season, and used the rest as going back to the styles of last seasons and the craziness they can get into, that would have worked much better in that regard. But only in that regard. Everything else has been quite stupendous, and despite the questionable episodes, I would say I have enjoyed this season just as much as the others.

  39. Gabriel Náter says:

    I respectfully disagree. I understand your point and respect your opinion, but that’s what it is, an opinion. Mine is that, I for one actually loved the 8th season maybe even more than other, and I’m also enjoying the 9th, even though I agree it’s been really slow. But they still managed to make it entertaining by making it funny. In my opinion, I think 9 seasons is a proper lifetime for this great sitcom..

  40. DavidSask says:

    You tell no lies, the show went to crap and hopefully the final episode has some saving factor!!

  41. David K. says:

    Thank-you, Thank-you, Thank-you Andrew Wallenstein for saying what so many of us have thought for years….I could relate to each and every word you wrote….I have gotten to the point where I don’t give a sh*t how Ted Mosby met his wife….this show was great and fresh in the beginning and over the years has overstayed its welcome like a relative or friend who came for the weekend is still here 6 months later. I for one will be glad when March 31st passes….I only wish that CBS and 20th would get a clue and shelve HIMYD before it hits the airwaves.

  42. Nate says:

    Your article negates itself with the Seinfeld reference. Larry David left after Season 7, and Season 8 and 9 we awful, in “Seinfeld” terms, and gave us what is always mentioned in failed series finals.

  43. Alex Pereira says:

    I agree with the perspective that shows, sitcoms or not, should end when the audience are still attached to the show, as opposed to postponing its ending just because of the ratings that they get now, even though audiences do not care as much anymore (e.g.: “The Big Bang Theory”, that just got renewed for 3 more seasons…). That being said, I disagree with this article regarding HIMYM, I’d say that this season appears to be primarily designed for fans who have been following the show since its early stages, thus the countless references of previous events/ongoing gags (e.g.: Barney’s job). Yes, some of the gags are not as funny as…you know, the ones in the previous seasons (the Marshall and Sherri Shepherd part was a bit annoying…), but this season has been, in my opinion, a fulfillment of the transition of the show, from being a sitcom towards a drama-comedy direction, and for the most part, it succeeds (in my opinion).
    I think that the finale will be divisive, and I say that because of the speculations that’s been floating around in the internet (which I am actively trying to avoid, as of now), but HIMYM will still be considered one of the better sitcoms (or at least, network sitcoms…) of the 1st decade of this millennium, so there’s that.

  44. Jordsn says:

    What a highly accurate article. I agree with every point, and I too am just hanging out out of loyalty at this point.
    Ironically Ted has become my least favorite character. His only true good point as a person is his loyalty and his tenacity; he’s selfish, boring, pretentious, lives in his own world, and truly wears his heart on his sleeve. It’s not even if there’s more depth to his character, his initial impressions ARE his true self (as evidenced by scenes where even his friends can’t stand him saying another word). How this man has managed to sleep with dozens of beautiful women is a serious mystery :)

    However, I forgive it all for two words: NAKED MAN.

  45. Srishti says:

    Strongly disagree….there hv bn a few episodes which weren’t that good but it happens with every show…..m loving the last season as well & feelings really sad letting himym go. :(
    U are definitely not a fan…..

  46. Playhouse says:

    There have been some great moments in this final season — everything with Cristina Milioti’s Mother has been delightful — and the premise of setting the season during one weekend building up to the wedding is a solid one. It’s just been executed pretty poorly overall. They would’ve done better to cut the season order down to a better-manageable 13 episodes and picked some great key moments of the weekend to really focus on. As it stands right now, it does feel very stretched out just for the sake of doing so.

  47. JolarEQ says:

    Yeah, no. I was reading this article, thinking “Ahh, another person that says they really love HIMYM but in reality doesn’t like it all that much, but that’s ok” until I got to the point that you mentioned Jerry and Larry, two of the most annoying people on television. Seinfeld did not go out on top. The last few seasons of Seinfeld were garbage, and the only reason it did well its last season is because it was its last season.

  48. Dan says:

    Sorry Dear writer Seinfeld had the same problem and towards the end was more awkward than funny, I have actually enjoyed the last season of HIMYM and felt it redeemed the season before that. Everyone has their opinion. That is just mine

  49. I totally disagree with this article. This season has been wonderful and also sad. Sad that it is the last season. The concept of the whole season taking place in one weekend was surprising but 24 has led the way for such an idea. This season has been fantastic. Maybe other commenters are right – the author, in contrast to his claims otherwise, isn’t a real fan of HIMYM. To those of us who have loved it from the very first, this season is such a gift and is my must see and must not be interrupted during TV. Have all the episodes been great, no; but even the week ones carried the story arc and had funny moments. I will miss HIMYM and only hope that what replaces it lives up to the standards I have become accustomed to.

  50. I personally detested both Season 7 and 8, finding them boring, confusing, not even remotely funny and a slew of other negative aspects. Barring a few good episodes, I try and forget them. However, I feel they’ve really turned the show around in this season. Though I agree there are some things that aren’t perfect, such as that awful Marshall Journey storyline and that Mandy Patinkin gag, which makes my blood boil, I’d say the entire 9th Season feels like a throwback to Season 5 and 6. Furthermore I feel Cristin Milioti really breathes new life into every episode she appears in, and I cannot wait for the season finale; even if I’ll be sorry to see this show end.

    How I Met Your Mother is definitely not on its last legs. If anything it’s The Big Bang Theory (which in my opinion is a terrible show) that needs to watch out.

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