For today’s post, I chose not to Google how many other people have written on this exact topic – I worry it would seriously wound my pride to discover how many other folks have drawn the same conclusions as I.
It should hardly come as a surprise that there are plentiful comparisons between the TV shows Friends (which ran from 1995 to 2005), and the ensemble show that came directly on its heels, How I Met Your Mother (which aired 2005 to 2014). I doubt anyone who has watched and loved both shows would argue that HIMYM was inspired in large part by the design and success of North America’s favourite group of 20-somethings.
I recently (finally) watched the last season of HIMYM (following re-watching all the other seasons), and I do a run-through of Friends about once every 18 months, so I feel I’m at least moderately qualified to share my insights!
I’m sure I could come up with many more points if I started breaking them down by episode, but let’s not get carried away. Without further ado, these are seven of the similarities I personally noticed between How I Met Your Mother, and Friends.
- One of the girls becomes romantically entwined with two of the guys. I’m not sure what this says about the male population of New York City, but in both shows the oft-single primary female snags two of the primary men. She even snags the same two stereotypes – but we’ll talk about that later. I speak, of course, of Rachel Green with Ross and Joey, and Robin Sherbatsky with Ted and Barney.
- Both shows are alarmingly homogenous when it comes to ethnicity. HIMYM does a bit better, with recurring characters like Barney’s black (and gay) brother, but I can’t imagine either offer up a terribly accurate representation of the NYC population.
- One of the characters is a dyed-in-the-wool “player.” Both Joey and Barney spend much of the show serving up plateloads of bull to disturbingly clueless women. Some of these women certainly fight back in the end (some with great Girl Power methods, others with the stereotypical ploys of the spurned), and I suppose, to be fair, the shows are painting a fairly stereotypical image of these womanizing fellas, as well.
- The main couple is really adorable together, and a super solid, inspiring pair. Granted, Lily and Marshall are together for pretty much the entire eight seasons of HIMYM, while Monica and Chandler only hook up in season 5, but in both instances, these lovebirds have left us to spend the last 20 years dreaming of the perfect mate who understands and compliments us (and with whom we continue to have really hot sexy moments, forever).
- Ted and Ross and both aggravatingly pompous at times. The shows have a number of parallel characters, from the sexy single girl to the bossy wife to the womanizing male, and in keeping with this theme, both HIMYM and Friends present us with a main character that is so irritatingly snooty, at times we want to crawl through the screen and beat them with their dictionary. Ted has his obnoxious mispronunciation of words and Ross his abundant misuse of his Ph.D. status, but in the end we nevertheless wish them both well (and, strangely, develop huge celebrity crushes on them).
- The characters have an unhealthy attachment to one another. While I of course realize there wouldn’t be seemingly endless episodes of these shows if the characters went the way of most friend groups, it’s hard to overlook the fact that they spend way too much time together.As guest star Kal Penn points out in an episode of HIMYM – they’re disturbingly co-dependent. Not only do they never do anything apart (though many apparently have other friends, who come to all their parties despite never being invited to anything that doesn’t require filling a room), but the desperate connectedness of the ex-lovers in the group repeatedly scares away new romances.The sap in me is glad both pairs of heroes eventually end up together (oops – spoiler), but one can’t help but wonder if they would have had other – and potentially healthier – true loves if they ever dared to venture outside their little incestuous collectives.
- Their locale. This is probably the most obvious example, but it’s also the one I feel makes it most clear that HIMYM took some pages from Friends excessively beloved playbook (which I count as a good thing, don’t get me wrong). Four of the five characters in HIMYM live in a (very nice) apartment above the bar they frequent for at least part of the show (and in Ted’s case, all of it). And five of the six Friends cast reside above the world-famous Central Perk (“Oh, I just got that!” Phoebe exclaims in The One With The Chicken Pox) for the entirety of the show.
So, what do you think of the list? As I mentioned, there are countless more – many of which I chose to leave off the list, and still others I’m sure I’ve missed. If you’re a hardcore HIMYM/Friends fan, I’d love to hear your favourite (or least favourite) parallel from these long-running shows that gave us such an impressive collection of talented actors, merchandise (the Friends game, Barney’s Playbook and Bro Code…), and rabid fandom.