Monday, March 31, 2014

How I Met "How I Met Your Mother"

The television series “How I Met Your Mother” ends after nine seasons tonight. This was my personal experience with that show:

Well this is just a simple song
To say what you've done
I told you about all those fears
And away they did run
You sure must be strong
And you feel like an ocean being warmed by the sun

- Interning at the “Late Show with David Letterman" in the spring of 2001, I met two young staff writers, Craig Thomas and Carter Bays. On the side, they had a band, The Solids, and they would play dive bars in the city on the weekends. The interns would go listen to their shows because Carter and Craig were cool and we were not. One night, a bouncer didn't believe my Virginia ID was real (it was) but Carter talked him into letting me into the bar. I worshipped them. I was an intern in the production department but because of Carter and Craig, I got to sit in the writers’ room and watch comedy crafted by professionals.

- Four years later, in the late summer of 2005, I was reading the annual “Entertainment Weekly” TV preview issue and saw that Carter and Craig had a new sitcom called, "How I Met Your Mother" premiering on CBS. I will randomly never forget where I was when I read that either: I was riding home from one of my cousin's college football games with my parents. That’s how excited I was. It felt like a big moment even then. I don’t know if I would have tuned in that first night if I hadn't seen Carter and Craig's names. But because I did, I have seen every episode on every Monday night for nine solid years.

When I was just nine years old
I swear that I dreamt
Your face on a football field
And a kiss that I kept
Under my vest
Apart from everything, but the heart in my chest

- The first episode was amazing. A story told from the future presented so many possibilities. Felt fresh. Felt vibrantly creative. I was immediately hooked. As the show progressed, they only mastered the time traveling element. They would set something up in one episode and then come back to it a few episodes later or even a few seasons later. The story telling was so crisp and tight.

- I started dating my eventual wife, Summer, at the beginning of Season 2 - just as Ted and Robin started dating. Sum was instantly hooked. It became the first of OUR shows together. It will forever hold that distinction.

- Got my buddy Paul hooked during Season 2 and I remember that we stayed constantly incredulous that no one else was watching and that the series was always on the verge of getting cancelled. If you remember - they even wrote the Season 2 finale as a potential series finale in case they didn't get picked up over the summer. Fortunately they did.

- By this point, we finally had enough friends watching that we all got together at Paul’s house for every episode of Season 3 in what became the greatest TV Group I will ever experience. The show was at the height of its powers and we gasped and screamed in delight week to week. That season contained the March Madness episode, the goat fakeout, Barney and Robin kissing for the first time (which made our group stand up, scream, and run around Paul’s house), among so many other classics.

- Season 3 also featured The Two Minute Date. I wrote this about it then.

- It's been six years but I still miss Chris, Michelle, Gray, Paul, and Emily (among others that dropped in from time to time) every single Monday night.

I know that things can really get rough when you go it alone
Don't go thinking you gotta be tough, and play like a stone
Could be there's nothing else in our lives, so critical
As this little home

- I moved to Denver midway through Season 4. I was very alone those first few months, but texting the guys from the TV Group after a HIMYM episode kept me grounded and connected. It also launched lengthy week episode recap text convos between Paul and I that still happen to this day.

- That’s when something very good happened for the show. Thanks to a brilliant syndication strategy – the show sold reruns to FX to attract more males AND to Lifetime to attract more females – new episodes started gaining ratings on Monday nights. Instead of wondering when the show would get cancelled, we started watching a runaway hit.

My life in an upturned boat
Marooned on a cliff
You brought me a great big flood
And you gave me a lift
Girl, what a gift
When you tell me with your tongue
And your breath goes in my lungs
And we float over the rift

- And then that’s when something very bad happened for the show. The show started to lose its way with more and more filler episodes in Seasons 4 and 5 and then it derailed completely from Seasons 6-9. You could feel the poor writers stretching and stalling more and more to meet the increased episode demands. The awesome macro premise of the series all of a sudden became a massive micro burden week to week. Fans were insatiable, wanting to meet the mother and we became more indignant with every Zoe, Quinn, and the back and forth incestuous love triangle between Barney, Robin, and Ted. My weekly text sessions with Paul quickly turned into bitch sessions about how terrible things had gotten (seriously though –Ted CAN NOT STILL BE FRIENDS with Barney and Robin after everything they’ve been through. Wow. That was the last time I will complain about that. Sad day.).

- No matter how many times we all threatened to quit the show, we just couldn’t. I don’t know if we were just pot committed or we just naively believed it would somehow turnaround (other than a few goosebump inducing moments, it hasn’t with one episode left to go), but we kept soldiering through. We kept watching.

Well this would be a simple song
To say what you done
I told you about all those fears
And away they did run
You sure must be strong
When you feel like an ocean being warmed by the sun

- And while the show’s storylines might be ending on a somewhat frustrating/negative note, my experience with the entire series is not. This was OUR show. Not just for me and my wife, not just for me and my friends, but for our generation. I didn’t start watching “Friends” until Season 5. I claim that “Frasier” is my all time favorite sitcom, but I only started watching that live and weekly in Season 6. I was there for the “How I Met Your Mother” ride on Day 1. Through the good and bad, it was MY bandwagon. The little series that only my friends and I were watching somehow became a cultural “thing.” You hear out-of-context references to “Haaaaave you met…”, “It’s going to be legend – wait for it – dary”, "Suit Up!" and “slap bet” (among others) all the time now. That’s pretty cool.

- Paul texted the other day that HIMYM had “it”… whatever “it” is. I couldn’t agree more. There was something magical about this show. It nailed big moments better than any other series ever. It used great music in key spots better than any show since “Scrubs” (the lyrics I’ve included in the post are from The Shins “Simple Song” which was used for the moment we saw the mother’s face for the first time). It fought for survival and will wind up leaving a legacy. There’s no way to know yet if I’m going to miss the weekly antics of Ted and the gang after tonight. But I can promise you I’m always going to feel the void of TV group on Monday nights. I am going to miss rehashing all the mother clues with my wife from season to season. I am going to miss recapping the episode from the night before with Paul on my way to work. And I’m going to miss that awesome feeling that I got every Monday afternoon around 2pm when I remembered there was a new episode on that night. No other show has ever done that for me. I doubt any other show ever will.

Turn off your cell phones, beepers, and sense of shame, baby dolls. One way or another, we’re saying goodbye to one of the all time great television experiences tonight.

Remember walking a mile to your house
Aglow in the dark
I made a fumbling play for your heart
And the act struck the spark
You wore a charm on the chain that I stole
Especial for you
Love's such a delicate thing that we do
With nothing to prove
Which I never knew