How I Met Your Mother has been going downhill for years. What was once a clever little sitcom with fun and likeable characters has become more and more painful to watch, as situations became overblown, characters became unlikeable caricatures, and Ted just would not get over Robin despite the fact that they broke up five years ago and absolutely nobody cares any more.
But when you’ve watched eight seasons of an increasingly bad show, you kind of have to watch the ninth and final one, no matter how painful it is. Just to see how it ends.
So thank you, How I Met Your Mother, for freeing me from those constraints over the past couple of weeks.
The structure of the new season sounds inventive, but fell flat on its face as soon as it left the gate. The entire season, as far as I can tell, is set in one weekend, the weekend of Barney and Robin’s wedding. With twenty two half-hour episodes, we’re barely escaping from watching them in real time here. Add in the fact that one of the few remaining likeable characters, Marshall, is across the country and unable to interact with the characters properly at all, and the fact that Ted’s whole plotline revolves around him moping over ex-girlfriend Robin again, and the fidgets set in quickly. The stillness of it is too much to bear. We’re stuck in the same weekend for months on end, and any “mystery” or even plotpoint is going to take forever to be resolved this way, even if it doesn’t merit such a long wait for a resolution.
And this stillness reveals the flaws in the show that have been growing for years. With so little happening, all the focus is on the characters. And they aren’t real enough to work any longer.
Case in point is Robin. Once, many years ago, Robin was the independent TV reporter who lived in Brooklyn with her five dogs, was anti-romantic, didn’t believe in marriage or want kids, was generally rather confident and in control of herself, loved guns, and was once a glittery teenage popstar. For the past few seasons, she’s been rather a pathetic caricature — caricaturishly moping over Barney, caricaturishly failing at everything, caricaturishly hating Patrice. In the last episode I watched, she caricaturishly struggled to get along with other women. She was, she explained, raised as a boy, and therefore the female sex are an absolute mystery to her. She doesn’t like their shallow, superficial, fluffy, sobbing ways, and whenever she does try to befriend them, she pisses them off because she talks about things like easily losing weight. Because only women can understand and be friends with women, and they’re so competitive that they hate when someone else is thinner than them.
After straining to find a new female friend, Robin does come across one compatible person — a woman who is as into sports as she is. But then of course the show’s other female character, Lily, cannot stand the friendship competition, and jumps in to sabotage their growing bond. Basically confirming the show’s own “women are jealous and incomprehensible” stereotype.
Apparently the following week’s episode involved a battle between Robin and Barney’s mother, a return to Barney failing to meet basic standards for a boyfriend or a human being, and his brother James suddenly descending into promiscuous gay stereotypes despite being the spokesperson for monogamy only hours before in the show’s timeline. But I admit, I haven’t seen it. I didn’t even see the end of Robin’s “finding a female friend” adventure. Because the show crossed a line. It not only annoyed me, it bored me. And really, if your show is going to suck, that is the ultimate sin.