However, How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) is possibly a new benchmark. Whilst retaining the conventional romance and witty gimmicks, it also adds a further layer of depth as it contrasts the stereotypical simple premise of, for example, Friends – based on six friends just hanging out at a coffee house and talking about everyday life, such as love interests and job struggles - with highly original narrative techniques. The premise is actually that you do not know anything about the characters; they are a depiction of imagination, the plot is a series of flashbacks (sometimes flashbacks within flashbacks) and the average storyline has enough twists to keep your head in the mother of all spins. The bottom-line plot is that Ted (Josh Radnor) tells his two children the story of how he meets their mother and takes them through how he met the ‘one’ – a term that Ted, an old-school romantic, uses often in the series.
The characters are vaguely based on the stereotypical midlife sitcoms a la Friends, with Ted and Robyn (Cobie Smulders) repeating the love story of Rachel and Ross, except the storyline is not as clichéd and not, as such, based on slapstick. Ted is very much an everyday guy: good career, gets the girls, yet hopeless when it comes to finding ‘the one’. Marshall and Lilly perfectly adhere to the value that they are the ideal married couple who are also best friends. I, however, feel Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), the obscenely grotesque and absurdly rich playboy, is the spark that differentiates HIMYM from Seinfeld and Friends due to his quirky values and attitudes that verge on insanity.
Despite the depth that HIMYM offers, there are certain flaws that mean the sitcom isn’t universally popular. The use of canned laughter is often looked scathingly upon as phony. However, this does not deteriorate from the obvious chemistry between the characters, and the audience most definitely feels like the ‘sixth’ character because of the closeness of the group.