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What the Past Can Teach How I Met Your Mother

by F. John Rickert April 11, 2011 6:00 am
What the Past Can Teach <i>How I Met Your Mother</i>

After so much March Madness, How I Met Your Mother is finally returning for the last leg of its season. Compared to last season, this one has been okay, with a particularly effective recent string of episodes, but that just isn't enough. We remember a time when we thought that HIMYM was going to save the laugh-track sitcom's soul and we think there's still a chance for the series to return to peak form -- by using past shows as a guide to what should happen in the future.

Bigger Timeshifts into the Future
Small jumps to times we know the show will get to have been nice, but we need bigger jumps. Like Lost did in its later seasons, HIMYM needs to start increasing the amount of time between its own (Manhattan) island time and the flashes. The jump to 2021 a few episodes ago really gave us a nice sense that some of Future Ted's stories might actually be more than the exaggerated ramblings of a dad forcing his kids to sit through the nostalgia phase of his mid-life crisis.

Better Hints at the Endgame
This whole season has been overshadowed by that wedding we all know is going to happen, which would be fine if we weren't constantly exposed to the same thirty seconds every episode. Remember how it felt during the second season of Dollhouse knowing that it was all heading toward "Epitaph One"? We know that Ted is going to meet the Mother, so give us a better view of how that will happen without any teasers or fake outs, while making the situation seem so absurd that we're still left looking for answers in little details ever episode.

More Doppelgangers
The show established the existence of the character's doppelgangers in order to provide some kind of narrative device for that whole pregnancy arc, but there isn't any reason why we can't have some more fun with them, particularly if it is a Barney prank. After all, the tactic worked well back in season three of Buffy. I even bet that Alyson Hannigan has her body double's number at the ready for just this kind of episode.

Less Mythology
Lately, every episode of HIMYM seems to be trying to hit us over the face with details that are supposed to be important to the overall mythos of the show, not just with Barney's dad but even Robin's job. This sort of piling of ideas onto the mythology is exactly what The X-Files did back in the day as the writers were losing steam and it turned what was once a burning mystery into a story we were just ready to be done with. While the stories can matter to the future (see: time shifts), they shouldn't always be connected to the question of the Mother.

More Girlfriends for Ted, Fewer for Barney
As a show that has basically limited its main character to only one lasting relationship that can't come before the end of the series, HIMYM needs to look to the gold standard of disposable relationships: Seinfeld. Every week, we should see Ted in a relationship learning just what he does and doesn't want from the Mother. And while we're at it, Barney shouldn't ever be seen by his friends with any women that he has successfully wooed. His stories about them to the gang should always be on the verge of outright lies.

Less Barney Drama
Remember when Will & Grace tried to give Jack and Karen more "serious" story arcs? Awesome, but vapid characters really should stay that way, aside from those rare, rare moments of depth that come and go like Andrea Anders shows.

Keep Barney from Being a Cartoon
While this might seem like just the opposite of the last point, it really isn't. Barney is awesome for his bro-wit and belief that reality is only as good as the lies you tell. Letting his silliness get too far out of hand could easily result in scripts that turn the show's most lovable character into a walking catchphrase machine. This is exactly what happened on Family Matters and so many shows since then. Don't let Barney get Urkeled.

Stop Ignoring the Ladies
Lily and Robin seem to have been just sitting at the bar more this season then when both actresses were pregnant a few years ago. Even worse, when they have a plot together, they spend the whole time focused on how they don't feel like they're as good friends any more. There are plenty of shows that have dealt with this issue, from Rhoda to Sex and the City, but it's always to better to devote most of their precious screen time to the women actually being friends.

Let Them Start Acting Like Thirtysomethings
If you need to see how this age group acts, just look at thirtysomething. Marshall and Lily come closest to this right now with Marshall's job choices based on the mistakes of his wife, but everyone else seems to be stuck in their twenties. Robin seems to be back at a near entry-level job, while Ted's search for love is not at all turned toward practicalities. And Barney has to finally admit the age range of women he attracts is shifting upward.

What other shows could How I Met Your Mother learn from? Let us know below.

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