How I Met Your Mother is one of the three funniest shows on TV right now, along with The Office and 30 Rock. However, because it’s on the normally sucky CBS, it gets very little love and very little attention, except when they do things like stuntcast Britney Spears.
Sigh. They don’t need Britney, not when they have great comic actors like Neil Patrick Harris,Cobie Smulders, Josh Radnor, Alyson Hannigan and the absolutely awesome Jason Segel.
For the uninitiated, the framing device of the show is simple: in the year 2030 (still no flying cars, sadly), this guy Ted is telling his kids the story of how he met their Mother. That’s it: nearly every episode starts with a shot of highly uninterested teenage kids staring in the camera while a voiceover starts the week’s episode with a “Kids, let me tell you …), before flashing back to the present with that week’s part of the story of how he met their Mother.
Seems simple enough, but within that framing device lurks misdirections, fast-forwards, flashbacks, Rashomon-like POV changes, and, so far, no concrete idea of who The Mother actually is. And oh yeah, lots and lots and lots of great jokes.
At its best, it is, in a word, awe–
It’s also probably the most continuity-obsessed sitcom in the history of TV, though the makers of Arrested Development or The Office might beg to differ.
In any event, because it’s so continuity-obsessed, it works on more levels than just that particular episode, meaning that it’s perfect to geek out over. Which I obviously have.
So, for the past year or so, the morning after an episode has aired, I’ve rushed over to Alan Sepinwall’s blog to see what the other HIMYM geeks thought of the latest episodes.
In the first season, the kids would occasionally react, or ask questions. But no more. Because the actors who played the kids have aged, they’ve gone to using the same stock shot. Apparently the thinking is that they can’t show any type of the interaction with the kids anymore because the actors would be visually older than they were when the show started.
The main reason this sucks is that it means that we will never get the reactions of the kids to the final revelation of how Ted met The Mother.
I’m here to tell you why that thinking is wrong: it has struck me that even if Future Ted (the father who is telling the story to his kids in 2030) was telling the story to his kids as just a narrative, it would take a very very long time.
One of the conceits of the show is that he will stop in the middle of an episode, and explain a piece of dialog (or cover-up for a particularly risque piece of business) to the kids. Because of this, I’ve always assumed each story was told in “real” time. In roughly 20 minute pops.
So, say the series lasts 100 episodes. (Please CBS, say the series lasts 100 episodes!) That would mean 2000 minutes of the story of how Ted met The Mother. 33 hours. By the end of this season, they’ll have done nearly 2/3rds of that.
Now, no teenage kids are going to sit still for 33 hours straight while their father rattles on and on and on about his sex life, so therefore, this story has to be told over time.
In other words, he isn’t telling the story in just one sitting, but rather over multiple sessions. I call them “episodes.”
And once you come to that conclusion, then you make it take any amount of time (days, months, years) for Future Ted to get through the entire story.
Therefore, the kids should actually be aging while he’s telling the story. So, it’s OK for the Showrunners to bring back the actors for reactions. It actually makes more sense.
Now, people might point out that the flaw in my theory is this: why the kids would come back for multiple sessions, er, episodes? That’s easy: punishment. They did something absolutely heinous — like make fun of one of their father’s haircuts, and this is their punishment, like Jem reading to Mrs Dubose every day in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Of course, in that case, Jem and Scout learned a valuable lesson about dying with dignity, in this case the only thing learned by the kids is that their father can’t tell a story in a linear fashion or a short amount of time.