March 31, 2014

How I Met Your Disappointing Series Finale

Tonight we saw the much anticipated series finale of How I Met Your Mother, the sweet funny sitcom that ran for nine years and 208 episodes.

Successful series often struggle with how to end, from St Elsewhere's 'it was all a snow globe dream' to Desperate Housewives' man-focussed dead people return, to Seinfeld's everybody goes to prison for being snarky to Lost just ending weird. Few series end well. But it can be done… Six Feet Under ended well, as did Cheers; Mary Tyler Moore had a sad funny ending. And Newhart had a classic clever throwback to the previous Bob Newhart series… so it can be done well.

This one was not a classic.

This was a big finale, with lots of social media buzz. While #HIMYM as it is now known and hash-tagged, started soft in the ratings, it become a solid player by season three and a juggernaut in syndication. I started watching it about four years ago, and caught up in syndication and on Netflix.

Besides funny story lines and great acting, the show -- created by former Letterman writers with no sitcom experience -- had a knack for doing sad and touching equally well to the funny. The whole premise - Ted telling his grown kids the long-winded story of how he met their mother - was new and different.

We met the mother at the end of season eight, and then all of this final season happened over the wedding weekend of main characters Barney and Robin, ending with Ted meeting the mother, including flashbacks and flash-forward's, and answering a lot of the series' questions and internet's hypothesizing.

The series finale answers included (spoiler alert, watch these event shows live, people): the mother's name is Tracy, Ted doesn't move to Chicago, Marshall eventually becomes a judge, the mother dies, Robin and Barney divorce (who didn't see that coming), the grown kids give Ted their blessing to date Robin.

Robin and Ted together? They were a lousy couple for years. I mean not as bad as Robin and Barney, but still, this felt desperate. Ted and Tracy were good together.

So this episode had too little of the funny, a lot of the dramatic, and felt like it was trying too hard to be memorable and significant. Twists are good, sure, but this is supposed to be a comedy, a romantic comedy, and having all the characters fast forward through dark ages of death, divorce, and disengagement from their friends is not funny. Or romantic.

This was a good sitcom that probably should have ended before its claustrophobic final season. And definitely should have ended as a comedy. How about a happy ending… with more funny and less death.

The producers are planning a sort of spin off with new characters, imaginatively titled How I Met Your Dad. Yes really.  I think I may have to pass on that one… Pharrel Williams is joining The Voice as a judge and that has way more potential.