A Missed Opportunity: How I Met Your Father

Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 23 2013 3:40 PM

A Missed Opportunity: How I Met Your Father

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We finally know who is under that yellow umbrella, thank goodness. But How I Met Your Mother missed a great creative opportunity.

Photo by Robert Voets – ©2012 FOX Television.

In the last seconds of How I Met Your Mother’s Season 8 finale, those fans who hadn’t already given up on meeting the titular character years ago finally got a glimpse of the elusive woman with the yellow umbrella. Played by the Tony-nominated Cristin Miloti, the still unnamed character was revealed in the show’s go-to style—i.e., things were dragged out as much as humanly possible, with a slow camera pan leading to the somewhat uninspired line, “Hi, one ticket to Farhampton please.”

That, of course, is where the wedding of Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) is taking place. At the start of the series, Robin was the on-again-off-again love interest of Ted (Josh Radnor), the show’s titular I—though one that the pilot confirmed would never be his wife: She’s Aunt Robin to his children. Robin is now engaged to the series’ serial womanizer. Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lilly (Alyson Hannigan) round out the gang—but the lovable married couple has long outgrown it: They have a child and are well on their way to living in the suburbs. The only character left lonely at this point is Ted, who’s had so many gone-nowhere relationships that some are inclined to call him a slut. Oh, and he’s still in love with Robin.

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The show has been in a creative funk for a while now; its constant fake-outs and prolonged introductions wore out their welcomes a long time ago. And for those who hoped that the big reveal of Ted’s destined wife would put an end to such dilly-dallying, the show has declared, more or less: “Think again!” The endless drawing-out will continue, as the entire final season, which starts tonight, takes place over the wedding weekend, and chronicles how Miloti’s character meets basically everyone else on the show before she finally meets Ted.

There is something to be said for this approach: Ted has always been the least inspired, least entertaining character on the show. (Barney has his obvious charms and catchphrases, Robin can always fall back on her Canadian pop stardom, and I, for one, have few complaints about any character played by Alyson Hannigan or Jason Segel.) But the show’s ridiculously high-concept premise has held back the series creatively for too long. How much can you really care about a character who drones on and on about relationships that you already know are doomed to fail?

There was a fix available this year, one that should have come sooner, and now is presumably too late. If they had just changed one word for Season 9, and renamed it How I Met Your Father, this final go-round would have instantly become far more inviting.

Yes, one of the main appeals of the show is how they reward regular viewers with in-jokes and storylines that play out across seasons. But just think of the possibilities for all the missed connections that we could finally see from the mother’s perspective! We’ve had hints throughout the show about her roommate and her time at Columbia; instead of repeating these tidbits, flesh them out! What better way to do that than to have her story integrated into the show, instead of just throwing her in at the end? They could have bagged Bob Saget’s introductory monologues and had some Full House fun by getting Gail Edwards to take over and set him straight. If only.

Miriam Krule is a Slate assistant editor.

 

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