‘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. Alex says:

    SHUT UP MAN !!! … from Brazil

  2. Craig says:

    I can appreciate that everyone has an opinion, but the final season is not as awful as it is made out to be in this article and not even as close to The office in terms of being drawn out. That being said it is one of the weaker seasons but has still managed to retain all the charm that made HIMYM the incredible series it is.

  3. Tara says:

    I LOVE HIMYM – if the series ended in season 7 I would have been upset. The purpose of season 8 is to give back to the long time viewers of this beloved show by letting everyone get the know the mother. The producers did the right thing and im still on the edge of my seat of every episode.

  4. Rossi Huizinga says:

    I have enjoyed every season and I am loving this season so much. The author of this story is obviously not a HIMYM fan. Still millions of people are watching, following and talking about it. I wish they had more seasons or a spin off of this show!!

    • Daiv says:

      I am a fan of HIMYM since it first aired and I have to TOTALY agree with the author @awallenstein , the show Jumped the shark at the start of this season. It has been so painful to watch this season, the only thing I would like for the finale is a HIMYM crossover with the Walking Dead and have the zombies kill and eat our dear friends.

  5. Rae says:

    I am enjoying the final season of HIMYM. I love all the bits that have been included that explain things & show flashbacks/flash-forwards. I especially love any parts that include the mother, it is great to get to know her. I can’t wait to see her & Ted meet, as I have enjoyed seeing him propose, their first date, & various other snippets of them together!

    • Connor says:

      If you don’t like watching the show turn it off. Are you really that obnoxious that you have to watch a show just so you can complain about it? Seinfeld is a good awful show with no deep meaning it’s a sitcom and that’s it. HIMYM is a show with romance comedy drama all packed together in 20 minute episodes each week that do not feel dragged on whatsoever. These final episodes have been some of brought some of the best moments to the show and this season will most likely become the most notable and acclaimed.

  6. darbear7 says:

    Like others have said, this season hasn’t been the best but it has gotten FANTASTIC since the midseason premiere. 9 seasons is definitely enough for HIMYM but it also definitely has not run on “Way Too Long”.

  7. Rob Schneider says:

    The difference with HIMYM vs the other sitcoms you mentioned was it struggled mightily and was almost canceled after its first two seasons. It didn’t achieve strong ratings until it hit syndication and became popular on streaming players. So you can understand why CBS would want to stretch the last few seasons out.

    But I don’t disagree with your point about this season (and last) have been rough and uneven. The really sad part is I’ve loved the Mother’s interaction with Ted and the other characters. It would have been fun to throw her in the mix and show their early dating life. It would be more interesting than what they’ve done.

  8. sovietmole says:

    absolutely bullshit.. the season may have had draggy episodes – like everyone said, Marshal’s road trip – but even that brought a point to the story. And yes, Cristin is awesome, wedding rehearsal’s awesome, and so many other awesome things about this season!

  9. Kristen Samaro says:

    Really HIMYM will always be remembered I’ve enjoyed every season not every episode but that comes with every show they have all had their ups and downs but in general this show was by far one of the best right next to FRIENDS it’s the type of show where even after 10 years goes by you can still watch it and laugh like it’s the first time you saw it!

  10. Jen says:

    The beginning of the season wasn’t that great, but midway it picked up and became amazing. I don’t think that you’re a real fan like the people that the producers wrote the show for. Most real fans watched from the very beginning.

  11. thierry says:

    Your nuts.

  12. Roman says:

    Disagree, at least to when the show should’ve ended. Season 8 actually recovered much of the goodwill that the show lost during Season 7, and Season 9’s earlier half is clearly the stronger.

    I agree that the show should’ve ended before season 9, but IMHO season 8 would’ve been as good a time as any.

  13. Jennifer says:

    I agree…somewhat, I wasn’t feeling the show at the beginning of this season. I kept thinking, “Jesus, is this whole thing going to be about the wedding?!” And I agree the Marshall road trip was getting old. But now that everyone is at the hotel and there seems to be more fast-forwards and rewinds to fill in the time, especially with the mother, it’s gotten considerably better. It reminds me of the past season of Arrested Development. I didn’t get what was going on, but slowly things started to connect and I ended up loving it. I’m hoping for the same thing in regards to HIMYM!

  14. duuude says:

    Since you got all your facts wrong, I file you under “incompetent moron” and carry on …

  15. Brian Reilly says:

    The major caveat (salute) I would add to this, would be the mother. Cristin Milioti has been one of the few good things about this season, of what was once an all around fantastic series. Beyond that though, I agree with the sentiment of this article. The jokes have become more shtickier over the last few seasons; arguably starting around season 5, when the writers admitted experimenting with changing the writing style, trying to make it more like a typical sitcom. They conceded that this was a mistake and attempted a course correction in season 6, which was encouraging, but too many of the elements from season 5 continued to permeate the series through the rest of the run; exemplified in season 9, when far too many of the stories just simply weren’t worth the effort. It’s like season 5 redux. We didn’t need the story of Ted inexplicably dressing like Liberace, or giving up his dreams of being with Robin for the fiftieth time. There comes a point where a character effectively saying, “this time I mean it,” countless times, starts to sound disingenuous the next time he says it. His romantic infatuation with Robin should have ended years ago (and at various times, it did), and at this point he should be primed and ready to meet the mother. Instead, in what way has he changed over the last 9 seasons, let alone become the sort of person he needed to be, before he could meet her?

  16. Ryan says:

    “How Your Mother Met Me” was a brilliant episode. Christine Miloti was a great addition. However, each storyline not involving her has been abysmal. They should have done the whole season in eight episodes, gotten out of the hotel, and never used Marshall’s roadtrip. I’m glad someone agreed that the creative team dropped the ball.

  17. jonathan sleep says:

    Ok so i agree the show is not as funny as it once was and like u icame in around the time Brittany. Spears came on the show but the show has become much more rhan that of a comedy its all about the story and if u payed attention there is so much heart in this last season than most shows ever have

  18. It might be awful to some people. That’s still just personal subjective opinion.

  19. Kamala says:

    Wow, did anyone proofread this before publishing it? What a mess.

  20. Mike says:

    I still enjoy it still think its very good, if you don’t like don’t watch its that simple.

    • foereem says:

      Agree that the final season is my least favorite but I’m glad to see the mother and just like all fans say it all boils down to the finale and ted finally found somebody that loves him relationship wise so I don’t careabout what critics say I’m a loyal fan

  21. Ashley says:

    I whole-heartedly disagree with this entire article.

  22. Zuzu says:

    Just FYI, Monday is not the finale. The finale isn’t until March 31.

  23. rjmcconne says:

    I think it all boils down to how the finale is. Much like HIMYM, I was an avid fan of ‘The Office’. The last couple of seasons, especially without Steve Carell, weren’t that great. However, I thought the finale was perfect and sort of made up for the final two sub-par seasons, at least in my eyes. I’m hoping the finale of HIMYM can do the same for me with its finale.

  24. Kate says:

    You should fire your fact checker (or just research your articles). This is the ninth season, not the tenth, and this coming Monday’s episode is not the finale – the finale airs March 31.

  25. SMC says:

    The fact that your opening sentence suggests that “The Big Bang Theory” is a good show demonstrates how little you understand about comedy.

  26. Dennis Vogen says:

    I completely disagree. I have adored this season, much more than the last. And as soon as you said “pop in a disc” of a season of a show that hasn’t even ended, well, I fast-forwarded through the rest of your ill-thought-out essay.

  27. SBuhrman says:

    I mean for starters you got the seasons wrong. This final season is the 9th season of HIMYM and this final season is wrapping up all the brilliantly placed jokes that have been continued through every season up until now. The story can easily be continued in a hotel than at a bar for the most of the time and the constant flashbacks and flash forwards involving the gang and mother bring a nice variety to it. The ending has been portrayed perfectly and the cast should be extremely proud as should the writers. Of course I say all this because I truly love this show.

  28. Mel says:

    It’s in the ninth season not the tenth. And Modern Family was somewhat funny for a season or two and should have made an exit as well. All comes down to personal taste. I loved HIMYM the whole way through, and comedies like MF or Two and a Half Men, Mike and Molly, won’t be remembered like HIMYM will be.

    • Boom says:

      You said “Modern Family” should have ended awhile ago & was only funny for a season or two”? LOL! You talk about this guy’s article? Dude, you are so ill-advised & misguided on what you are talking about. From a technical standpoint, the writing in “Modern Family” is vastly superior then “HIMYM”. “HIMYM” in some regards is just a different second-rate conceptualization of “Friends”. “Modern Family” will without a doubt have a better legacy then “HIMYM” as that’s not even really arguable. Your personal taste may prefer “HIMYM” but from a quality standpoint “Modern Family” wins hands doubt.

  29. Don Kitzman says:

    I cannot disagree more with your assessment of the current (and final) season. For me, this has been wonderful season and the best since season 5. It’s been nice to see familiar faces from prior seasons getting send offs. I’m sorry you’re so jaded. You’ve missed a lot of very funny and touching moments.

  30. Steve says:

    Why it didn’t end years ago: $$$

  31. Jon says:

    Totally disagree with this article. The show definitely got worse over the years, but this final season is not included in that. Season 9 has been a vast improvement over the last few seasons and will be remembered for it’s creative approach. Containing the whole season to one weekend has worked far better than I would’ve imagined and I can’t wait to see how the show bows out at the end of the month.

  32. Eric Weaver says:

    Granted, the first quarter of the season was a real drag, but episodes like “Rehearsal Dinner,” “How Your Mother Met Me,” and “Daisy” stand with the best. Despite its flaws, “HIMYM” still has moments that transcend the genre.

    • Tanner Redden says:

      This comment has perfectly described Season 9. And I couldn’t agree more that the episodes mentioned from season 9 would definitely be placed in the top 10 episodes of the series.

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