Imagine what Penny and Luke have endured as their rambling father, How I Met Your Mother's protagonist Ted Mosby, held them captive for nine seasons of the titular story. If their experience was anything like mine, it was tedious and delightful and aggravating and heartwarming and all those other things that sitcoms are when they suck you in.
But long after the series finale airs on Monday (7 p.m. CST on CBS), after the characters settle into syndication and Neil Patrick Harris goes on to charm us in endless other ways, How I Met Your Mother will be remembered, by me at least, as a sitcom that had something to say. And no, it's not "...and kids, that's how I met your mother."
To be sure, How I Met Your Mother had a lot of things to say. Between the intricate storytelling, carefully crafted inside jokes, and raunchy, slapstick humor that rarely crossed into tacky (who doesn't love a good slap bet?), Carter Bays and Craig Thomas created a world uniquely fitting for its five characters. Like most 20- to 30-year-olds, Ted, Lily, Marshall, Robin and Barney stumbled through bars, mistakes and co-dependent relationships, but their stories --and the specific vision that tied them all together-- were far from generic.
My favorite episode centered on the gang's annual tradition of attending Robots-vs.-Wrestlers (I dare you and your friends to top that), but as we later discover, took place entirely in Ted's imagination - a coping mechanism for his loneliness. In a scene that still crushes me, Future Ted tells his kids that if he had only known he would meet their mother in exactly 45 days, he'd have appreciated the gravity of that moment. He'd have revisited his old apartment, spent time with each of his friends --who were too busy to honor their tradition that night-- and, most importantly, tracked down his future wife to steal 45 more days with her.
Sappy and over-the-top? Absolutely, but much more significant than anything How I Met Your Mother's famed predecessor offered us in its 10 years. That became all the more apparent last year when Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman shot down rumors of a reunion with this depressing nugget:
Friends was about that time in your life when your friends are your family, and once you have a family, there's no need anymore.