BY Joanna Mendoza
(with valuable input from fellow Friends and HIMYM fans Jen Tuazon and Elijah Mendoza)
As I was organizing our TV watch list for tonight, it really sunk in that there will be no more new episodes of How I Met Your Mother. Now that the misplaced rage over the series finale has died down, we can all face the reality of a How I Met Your Mother-less TV life from this night forward. It was hardly one of the best shows ever, but when HIMYM was good, it was really good (“Symphony of Illumination,” “How Your Mother Met Me,” “Last Forever“).
On a hangover, I decided to revisit the HIMYM world. Then I noticed what a lot of people had seen a long time ago: HIMYM shared a lot of similarities with Friends. Which is better? Let’s go at this per item, shall we?
(If you’re planning to watch either or both–I suggest both–of these shows, here’s the requisite SPOILER ALERT.)
1. The big idea
When people first saw the HIMYM gang in that bar, it was deja vu. Sure, MacLaren’s wasn’t exactly Central Perk, but the personalities of the gang, their constant need to hang out in their favorite bar over drinks, and the Manhattan setting reminded people of Friends. But that the HIMYM gang’s hangout of choice was a bar seemed to be a statement that the show was going to be less wholesome than the hit ’90s sitcom.
Friends was a straightforward story about a group of friends. HIMYM had that love story in reverse going for it.
2. The gang
HIMYM‘s Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) was almost exactly and exclusively like Friends‘ Ross Geller (David Schwimmer). Both were hopeless romantics. Both were endearing geeks. Both practiced their profession of choice before becoming professors. Both loved spewing random trivia/factoids that usually caused their friends to tell them to shut up. Both had a penchant for making certain words sound fancier than they were (the way Ted would pronounce renaissance as “re-nay-ssance” and encyclopedia as “en-cy-clo-pay-dia” would’ve been funnier if we hadn’t already heard Ross pronounce karate as “ka-raa-tay” and enunciate “indeed” the way only Ross could). Most notably, they both pined for and eventually got their first love.
The others were a little more difficult to compare, because no other pair was similar to the same extent that Ted and Ross were. But in a gist:
Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) was like Joey Tribbiani (Matt Le Blanc) with a little bit of Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry).
Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel) was good with the retorts like Chandler, but they were similar mostly because of circumstance not character.
Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan) had instances of OCD not unlike Courteney Cox‘s Monica Geller (well, okay, Lily didn’t really come close). The future Mrs. Eriksen was also into the arts just like Lisa Kudrow‘s Phoebe Buffay. (Fine, Gladys and Glynnis weren’t exactly works of art, but “Smelly Cat” is a classic.)
Character-wise, Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders) and Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) couldn’t be more different. But since the beginning, people had compared them because of how they, well, began on the show. And even though Robin was a really cool guy’s gal and Rachel was a girly girl, they were both sophisticated women most men seemed to want, on and off camera.
It was hard to pick just one favorite friend throughout the series’ entire run. On the other hand, I’ve heard a lot of people who loved Lily and Marshall but couldn’t stand Ted and Robin, and vice versa.
3. A female outsider joined the group in the pilot.
Rachel was technically not an outsider because of her shared history with Monica, Ross, and Chandler, but the three had been barkada/friends for years with Joey and Phoebe, before Rachel joined the group in the pilot episode.
The circumstances were different for Robin joining Ted, Barney, Marshall, and Lily, but the general idea was the same. There’s a new person joining the group! It’s a hot girl from way outside their lifestyle/world (Rachel was from the Upper East Side; Robin was from Canada)! The group’s cute geeky guy is in love with her!
Rachel was in a wedding gown when she was introduced. And then there’s that Ross umbrella and “Hi” thing.
4. Two from the gang were college roommates.
Just like Chandler and Ross, Ted and Marshall were dorm mates when they were in college. No complaints there. Because, you know, wacky throwbacks.
Just look at their hair.
5. The HIMYM clique didn’t know what Barney did for a living, much like the Friends group didn’t know what Chandler’s job was.
As revealed in the final season, Barney’s job was to PLEASE–provide legal exculpation and sign everything. As for Chandler, his job had something to do with statistical analysis and data reconfiguration. He was an IT man, or as Rachel put it, a transpondster. By the series’ end though, Chandler was already in advertising.
The big Barney reveal felt cramped into that one episode and it sounded ridiculous. I know it was a sitcom, a work of fiction, but it felt like it was written by a late high school or college freshman aspiring writer. On the other hand, the Friends group not knowing what Chandler did was a running joke that the writers didn’t feel the need to justify or explain with some as-big storyline.
6. Speaking of jobs, both Marshall and Chandler hated theirs.
Marshall hated being a corporate lawyer and dreamed of becoming an environmental lawyer, even though it paid less. Chandler tried to quit his IT job from way back in Season 1, finally succeeding in Season 9. For a while, he worked as an intern copywriter, unpaid but happy.
WINNER: At the risk of sounding biased, this one also goes to Friends.
More people laughed at Chandler’s work woes probably because we saw employee Chandler more than we saw employee Marshall.
7. Again with Marshall and Chandler, they were both “average” guys (I don’t agree) who married women way hotter than they were.
Marshall married his college sweetheart Lily in Season 2. Chandler met Monica when he was in college through his best bud Ross, but the sparks weren’t ignited until London at the end of Season 4. Or, at least, they didn’t have life-changing originally meaningless sex until London.
This one’s easy to defend. Lily and Marshall were already together when we first saw them. Chandler and Monica were just friends and we saw the beginning of their relationship, so we got more invested in their love story. And that proposal? I’m crying just typing about it.
8. The group’s resident womanizer officiated the wedding of the group’s dorky couple.
This seemed like such a blatant rip-off I don’t even want to talk about it.
Look at the picture.
9. Barney falling for Robin was reminiscent of Joey falling in love with Rachel.
Come on, who didn’t think of Joey and Rachel when this HIMYM plot happened? As if Ted being so much like Ross, Barney being kinda like Joey, and Robin being in some ways like Rachel weren’t enough, they had to be involved in a love triangle, too, like their Friends inspirations. Ah, it seems this whole gang-off is making me angry. Apologies. For all we know, the similarities were inside jokes among the writers.
Joey and Rachel should’ve remained friends. But Barney and Robin became so universally loved that some fans of the show got super pissed they didn’t end up together.
10. The womanizers’ pick-up lines are now forever etched in pop culture history.
Joey made the simple “How you doin’?” creepy, sexy, and hilarious all at the same time. Barney didn’t have just one pick-up line for himself, but he did have an old reliable as Ted’s wing man: “Haaaaaave you met Ted?”
Barney had other catchphrases, which were more popular: “Suit up” and “Legen…wait for it…dary.”
Like the man behind them, Barney’s catchphrases were simply legen…wait for it…dary.
11. The super cramped finale
I felt like too many things were happening in both finales that at times they didn’t feel natural, like the creators were trying to please as many fans as possible with all the happy endings.
The HIMYM series finale had a beautiful sadness to it. Cobie Smulders did such great work here. But even though the Friends series finale had more borderline corny, this-is-closure feel-good moments, if I had to choose, I’d watch that finale (and series) again because I love the characters more. And whereas HIMYM was sometimes good (the three I mentioned in the intro) and sometimes bad (to this day, I still want to take back the time I spent on those episodes with Swarley and the cockamouse), Friends was pretty much great throughout.
Friends – 7, HIMYM – 4
Though I wrote this feature because I couldn’t stand not seeing a new episode of How I Met Your Mother, it made me realize how much I miss Friends. So until the DVD set for HIMYM becomes available, I’m going to binge-watch Friends. Now it’s time for some early #TBT fun!