'How I Met Your Mother' - the TV Show Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

'How I Met Your Mother' - the TV Show

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How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) was a US sitcom that ran for nine seasons between 2005 and 2014. Set in New York, it followed the lives of five characters, starting from when they were in their mid-20s, and featuring Ted's search to find love. The whole concept of the show was Ted telling his children (in 2030) how he met their mother1.

The show was on the CBS network in the US and shown on E4 in the UK. The show was devised by Craig Thomas and Carter Bays.

As a warning, this Entry contains spoilers.

Main Cast

Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) – Originally from Ohio, he moved to New York after graduating from Wesleyan University and shared a flat with his friends Lily and Marshall at first. Ted is an architect, although he later moves to teach architecture at university. Ted dates a wide variety of women through the show, always looking for the person who'll be the one he'll settle down with. He is a bit of a snob with some of his interests, such as fine wines and calligraphy, that are not shared by his friends; however he is also a massive Star Wars fan. At college, Ted had already developed a pretentious streak, hosting an underground radio show2 as the mysterious Doctor X.

Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel) – Originally from Minnesota, Marshall was Ted's college roommate and best friend. When he arrived in New York, he was still studying to be a lawyer. His ambition was to become an environmental lawyer, which he did briefly, but also had spells working 'for the man', for example in a bank. By the end of the show, Marshall has become a judge. Marshall comes from a big family of large boys and is proud of his former athletic achievements. Coming from Minnesota, he hasn't acquired the New York cynicism, and so is sometime naive and over-optimistic. Marshall's car, an old Pontiac Fiero with a tape of The Proclaimers 'I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)' stuck in the car radio, was much loved by Ted and Marshall as it took them on many college road trips.

Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan) – A native New Yorker, Lily was a goth girl who met Marshall in her first week at university and fell in love. Although she wanted to be an artist, she works as an elementary school teacher in New York. She calls on her teacher background often by stealing people's possessions if she thinks they are misbehaving. Although cute and sweet, she is highly sexed (at various times inquisitive about both Barney and Robin) and also extremely manipulative, having broken up many of Ted's relationships if she thought they weren't suitable. While engaged to Marshall, she broke off the relationship and ran off to San Francisco to find herself. Eventually they reconciled and were married in two eventful ceremonies. They have one baby during the show, Marvin Waitforit Eriksen, and go on to have two more children. By the end of the show, Lily has got her dream job as an art buyer.

Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) – The other native New Yorker in the gang and the show's 'breakout character'3.  He approached Ted in Maclaren's Bar and offered to teach him how to live. Barney's aim is to live life to the max; every night has to be legendary. He is possibly a sociopath, using all manner of lies and 'plays' to sleep with women, sometimes with Ted as his wingman4. Barney lives life according to the Bro Code, a set of rules for how male friends should act towards one another, which he claims was written by the country's Founding Fathers.  Barney's father ran off when he was young, and for years he believed his real dad was the TV host Bob Barker. Because of his abandonment issues, he is very close to his friends. Having grown up as a hippy and having his heart broken, he morphed into a suited corporate employee. Nobody knows what his job is - the company he worked for claimed to make felt for tennis balls, but had a lot of other less seemly deals in play. They were taken over by Goliath National Bank (GNB), and for a while Barney gets Marshall to work with him. Barney is also a fan of magic, especially setting things on fire. He believes that he is Ted's best friend, despite Ted pointing out that Marshall is. Barney always roots for the bad guy in movies, such as rooting for the Terminator in The Terminator. Barney was at the losing end of a slap-bet with Marshall, allowing Marshall to slap him without comeback. Originally there were five slaps, but this was upped to eight which are doled out throughout the run of the show.

Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders) – A Canadian woman that Ted falls for, she becomes part of the gang. She moved to New York to try to carve out a career as a broadcast journalist, and by the end of the show she is a successful international reporter. Her dad raised her as the son he always wanted, which, although she regrets this, means she has a love of Scotch, cigars and guns. As a teenager, she was a Canadian pop star called Robin Sparkles, appearing in videos looking very much like 1980s American teen-pop videos5. Ted and Robin did start dating, but their breakup was masterminded by Lily. Robin and Barney then ended up sleeping together, temporarily causing a rift between Barney and Ted. When Ted and Robin start sleeping with each other again, Barney realises that he is in love with Robin, and eventually the two start dating. After another breakup, Barney and Robin got engaged and it was after their wedding that Ted finally met The Mother.

The Kids / Narrator

The whole idea of the show is that Ted is telling his two teenage children how he met their mother. Lyndsy Fonseca and David Henrie, who played the daughter and son respectively, filmed all their scenes in 2005, including the big reveal in the final episode. There are 208 episodes in the show, each running at 22 minutes, which means that Ted kept his children sitting there for over three days as he told his story6.

Bob Saget voices Ted as the narrator. The show uses the idea of the unreliable narrator a lot, with Ted forgetting people's names, getting things out of order and randomly introducing a goat to a story. While he uses various euphemisms for having loud sex7 and smoking a joint8, Ted does tell his children about the 20 women he slept with before he met their mother. He also details a lot of Barney's exploits, including Barney celebrating sleeping with 200 women in a fourth season episode, so by the end of the show Ted must have told his children how their Uncle Barney had slept with nearly 300 women9.


It wouldn't be an American sitcom without a communal place to meet. In HIMYM, this is Maclaren's Bar where the gang have a regular booth. Maclaren's seems to attract a lot of single women in their 20s for Barney to prey on - one would have thought a warning would have gone out about him! Very few of the girls Barney or Ted hook up with in Maclaren's ever show their face in there again.

Ted, Marshall and Lily's flat follows the New York sitcom tradition of the main characters living in unexpectedly large apartments. The flat is above Maclaren's and is the other place that most of the action happens in the show. At various points it has been home to Ted, Marshall and Lily, Marshall, Lily and Marvin, and Ted and Robin.

Barney is the only main character who doesn't move out of his apartment during the show. It has various secret compartments and cubby holes for hiding either himself or things he doesn't want people to see. He has a lifesize Star Wars Stormtrooper in his flat.

Barney's Catchphrases

Part of Barney's breakout appeal is his range of catchphrases:

  • 'Ted, what's my one rule?' ...  'No, my other one rule.' – Barney has lots of one rules as to whether a girl is dateable.
  • 'Awesome' – Barney is confident in his own awesomeness, hence, 'When I get sad I stop being sad and be awesome instead... True story.'
  • 'Suit Up' – Barney has dozens if not hundreds of suits 'to distinguish ourselves from the millions of T-shirt and jeans lemmings out there'. His suits even inspired a song-and-dance number, 'Nothing suits me like a suit'.
  • 'Legendary' and 'Wait for it' – Everything that Barney aims to do is: 'It's going to be legen- wait for it - and I hope you're not lactose intolerant, because the second half of the word is -dary! Legendary!'
  • 'True Story' – Barney has a lot of stories, such as how various aspects of the Bro Code were codified, and all these tall tales are concluded with the words 'True Story'.
  • 'Challenge Accepted' – Many offhand comments Barney accepts as a challenge, some include touching everything in the Museum of Natural History, getting a girl's number while talking like a dolphin or getting a girl's phone number in a garbage bag without using the letter 'e'.
  • 'What Up' – Normally a cue for a high-five
  • 'That's The Dream' – Barney has a lot of things which he calls 'The Dream'. These include a suit made of prosciutto so you can eat yourself naked, a pack of lions fighting a tyrannosaurus, and going to jail for your bro.

Ted's Girls

Ted dated 31 girls before he met The Mother and slept with 20 of them. At least, those are the ones he told his kids about.

Amy (Mandy Moore) was a tattooed girl who convinced Ted to get a tattoo.

Becky / Boats, Boats, Boats (Laura Bell Bundy) was one of Robin's co-hosts and spoke in a really childish voice. She made Ted feel like he was needed, but then he realised that she really was like a little child. Becky also did an advert for boats and she wore a tight fitting spandex dress. The advert consisted of her dancing with the tagline 'Boats, Boats, Boats', hence her nickname. They dated in season six, and again briefly off screen.

Blah Blah (Abigail Spencer) is a girl that Ted dated whom he couldn't remember the name of when telling the story.

Carly (Ashley Benson) is a 21-year-old girl that Barney encourages Ted to date when Ted is concerned about the age difference. Barney discovers Carly is his half-sister, so tries to get them to marry!

Cindy (Rachel Bilson) was a student at the university where Ted was teaching. She had an issue with her flatmate, as she claimed that all boys fell in love with her flatmate. Despite Ted not teaching her, Cindy broke up with him, because staff-student relationships were not allowed. Ted tried to win her back by going around her room showing her all the things they had in common. Every item he picked up belonged to her flatmate, who it was revealed was The Mother, and Cindy threw him out. Cindy got married to a woman and settled down. Ted bumped into Cindy on the train in the eighth season, and told her that the wedding band for Barney and Robin's wedding had cancelled. Cindy arranged for her ex-flatmate's band to play the wedding.

Jeanette (Abby Elliott) was the last woman Ted dated before he met The Mother. Jeanette was stalking Ted after she saw his face on a magazine. Ted's friends worked out pretty soon that she was crazy, but Ted was flattered by her obsession. She managed to destroy most of his stuff in bouts of jealousy.

Karen (Laura Prepon) was Ted's pretentious college girlfriend that both Lily and Marshall disliked, partly because she kept cheating on Ted. They started dating in the show, only for Lily to break them up. It later turned out that Karen had also been cheating on her boyfriend with Ted.

Naomi (Katie Holmes) was referred to as the Slutty Pumpkin as she was a girl that Ted met at a Halloween party on the roof of his apartment. She was dressed as a Slutty Pumpkin, and he was dressed as a Hanging Chad10. Ted lost her number, so it became his Halloween tradition to go to the same party every year in the same costume, in case she turned up again. They get together in season seven, but aren't comfortable with each other, so break up.

Natalie (Anne Dudek) was a girl that Ted had dated before the series started. Ted broke up with her by leaving an answerphone message on her birthday, which everybody at her surprise party heard. Ted started dating her again, and managed to break up with her again on her birthday, at which point she beat Ted up.

Stella (Sarah Chalke) was the tattoo removal doctor that Ted visited after his night with Amy. While Stella was reluctant to date Ted, she soon relented. Stella had a daughter from a relationship with her high school boyfriend, Tony Grafanello. Stella and Ted got engaged, and eventually Ted accepted that he'd have to move to New Jersey (which he had a long built up hatred for) to be with her. Despite Stella saying she didn't think a person's ex should be at their wedding, Ted invited Robin to their wedding, and also Tony. Stella then left Ted at the altar and returned to Tony. Tony was from an influential family and eventually got Ted his job as a lecturer. Tony went on to write a hit comedy film, The Wedding Bride, based on Ted and Stella's relationship, but with Ted as a villain.

Trudy (Danica McKellar) was a girl at the bar in the first season who'd just got out of a relationship. Ted was told that he over-thought everything, and was given a load of shots to drink. Ted woke up with a hangover, an injured ankle, a brunette in his bed and a pineapple on the bedside table. After Ted thinking he'd got together with Robin after drunk phonecalls, it turned out that he'd got Trudy's number in the toilets and had called her up. Trudy and her college friend Rachel (Busy Philipps) appear in season three and possibly both slept with Ted.

Victoria (Ashley Williams) was a girl that Ted met at a wedding in the first season, Victoria having made the cake. She didn't give him her name or number, just wanting to have a fun night. Ted eventually found out her name and where she worked and started dating her. Victoria left to go to Germany for a cooking course and although they tried to make a long-distance relationship work, they broke up after Ted tried to sleep with Robin. They met again in the seventh season and Ted invited her for a date, thinking she could really have been The One. She turned up in a wedding dress, having run away from her wedding. They dated for a while, with Victoria living in Ted's flat. However Victoria's slobbish habits and her wanting Robin out of Ted's life led to them breaking up.

Zoey (Jennifer Morrison) was a protester who was campaigning to save an old building that was to be knocked down for GNB's new headquarters, that Ted had designed. Despite initial attraction, Ted was turned off Zoey when he found out she was married and also how it looked like she was stopping his dream building coming into being. Zoey went as far as getting his architecture class to rebel against him. The gang started spending time with her and eventually Ted warmed to her again when he found out she was getting divorced. They eventually broke up as Ted was forced to chose between the building and her.

Barney's Girls

Barney records his 'plays' in his 'Playbook'. Some of them include:

  • The Ted Mosby – Dressing as Ted and claiming you were left at the altar.
  • The Time Traveller – Barney made up as an old man telling a girl that young Barney won't solve global warming unless she sleeps with him; he then returns as a young man.
  • Weekend at Barney's – The ultimate play, recreating Weekend at Bernie's11.

Some of the notable women that Barney has gone out with include:

Abby (Britney Spears) - Stella's naïve receptionist who is obsessed with Ted. Barney sleeps with her after trying to get her to stop being obsessed with Ted. Hurt by Barney, she then goes on a mission to try and warn every girl about him, leading to Barney being rejected and slapped by a lot of women. Barney is forced by Lily to apologise to many of the women he'd wronged so she could identify the mystery girl who was warning people about Barney. After ruining a few lives and not actually apologising, it turns out that Abby was the mystery girl, at which point Barney suggests, to get their own back on Ted, they pretend they are getting married and sleep together again, with Abby believing that the marriage is real.

Margaret (Brooke D'Orsay) is the woman Barney hired to play his wife to convince his mum that he had a family. Barney's mum was very ill at the time, and he thought it would give her comfort in her last days. Margaret (or Betty as Barney's wife was called) went off script and announced she was pregnant. As Barney's Mum recovered, it meant that Barney also had to hire a son. Ted had seen Margaret in an off-Broadway play and the two hit it off in the kitchen, leading to Barney's lie falling apart with the revelation that Barney's mum hated her 'daughter-in-law' and 'grandson'.

Nora (Nazanin Boniadi) is a friend of Robin's and was the first girl in the show that Barney looked like committing to a serious relationship with. She broke up with Barney due to him lying constantly, but eventually gives him another chance, and another. Given the chance to meet her parents, he can't do it, and ends up in bed with Robin.

Patrice (Ellen D Williams) is a co-worker of Robin's. She adores Robin but Robin hates her, screaming at her at every opportunity. In Barney's last 'play', he starts dating Patrice who, being short and plump, is so far from Barney's normal targets that Robin gets suspicious. As the relationship gets more and more serious, Robin gets more and more crazy, convinced that Barney has lost his mind and they need to stop it. When she finds out that Barney wants to propose to Patrice at Robin's favourite spot, the roof of her workplace, Barney gets Ted to take her to stop him. It turned out that Barney and Patrice were only faking the relationship so that Robin would come to terms with her feelings for him. Barney proposes to Robin on the roof.

Quinn (Becki Newton) is a stripper who scams Barney out of a load of money by pretending to be his girlfriend. Eventually they start dating, but Barney realises that having a stripper as a girlfriend isn't as great as he'd hoped, especially when she greets customers on the street. He tries to get her to quit her job which she'll only do if she is married so they get engaged (in a holding cell in an airport), with Quinn letting her flat to Ted and moving in with Barney. Barney tries to get her to sign a pre-nup, which prompts Quinn to draw up one of her own. At this stage they realise they don't trust each other, so break up. Quinn was hired, by Robin, as the stripper for Barney's 'worst ever bachelor party'.

Other Cast Members

Bilson (Bryan Callen) is a senior employee at GNB and works closely with Barney. At one point Ted hits him over the head with a chair.

Carl (Joe Nieves) runs Maclaren's Bar. He wears black and is never seen in the daylight, so Marshall theorises he is a vampire. Robin points out that these are also the characteristics of a bartender.

James (Wayne Brady) is Barney's black gay brother. He is as much a man's man as Barney is a lady's man. Much to Barney's disgust, James gets married and starts a family.

Loretta (Frances Conroy) is Barney's mom. She was involved with a lot of men when she was younger, and told a lot of lies to her young sons.

Mickey (Chris Elliott) is Lily's father. They don't get on, as he had very little tact or parenting skills and was obsessed with designing board games. When Lily and Marshall were looking for a nanny for Marvin, Mickey was surprisingly competent so he got the job. Much to Lily and Marshall's disgust, he started sleeping with Marshall's mom.

Ranjit (Marshall Manesh) is a Bangladeshi taxi driver who moves to being a limo driver. He appears regularly during the show, either driving members of the gang or hanging out with them. He doesn't have a driving licence.

The Captain (Kyle MacLachlan) is what the incredibly wealthy George Van Smoot likes to be called. He has an obsession with boats, hence the name. He is married to Zoey, however she isn't his first wife, as he has a 16-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Ted is scared by The Captain, especially has he has feelings for Zoey, and, when The Captain insists that Ted joins him for a trip on his boat, Ted goes under the assumption that The Captain wants to kill him. After The Captain's divorce, Ted is still wary of him, as he knows that he is the reason Zoey left him. However, the next time he shows up it is to offer Lily a job as his art buyer. It is revealed that The Captain is dating Boats, Boats, Boats.  

The Doppelgangers are lookalikes of the gang. The first four spotted were Lesbian Robin, Moustache Marshall, Stripper Lily and Mexican Wrestler Ted. Lily and Marshall decide to have a baby when they find the fifth Doppelganger. Barney then dresses up as a taxi driver, a pretzel vendor and an Estonian street performer to try to help them. The last true Doppelganger turns out to be Lily and Marshall's fertility doctor.

William Zabka (William Zabka) is Barney's favourite actor from his favourite film, The Karate Kid. When Robin was planning the 'world's worst bachelor party' for Barney, she hired Ralph Macchio, the star of The Karate Kid, knowing that Barney wouldn't like it as he always roots for the bad guy. She also hired a rubbish clown to make balloon animals. The clown was William Zabka, who recognised Barney as somebody who actually understood the character he played. Zabka is appointed over Ted as the new best man for the wedding, then when Ted is given his role back, Zabka tries to sabotage Ted's duties.

The Mother

The first clue about The Mother was when Ted finds a yellow umbrella at a St Patrick's Day party that she had been to. This belonged to The Mother, and she gets it back when Ted leaves the umbrella at Cindy's flat. This is where we see The Mother's ankle, our first sighting of her.

The Mother attended Ted's first lecture. However since Ted was in the wrong room, she was expecting economics and got architecture.

At the end of season eight, The Mother was revealed, played by Cristin Milioti, buying a ticket to the wedding, with bass in hand. We also see her standing in the rain at Farhampton station with the yellow umbrella, after the wedding.

The first member of the gang to meet her was Barney, who tried to pick her up. Instead she gives him some dating advice which helps him realise what he feels about Robin. Lily is the next person to meet her, on the train to Farhampton, where she helps calm Lily down. She then gives Marshall and Marvin a lift to the wedding. Before the wedding, she also calms Robin down.

Ted doesn't get to speak to her until he gets to the station after the wedding. Ted is set on leaving New York to start a new life in Chicago, but on speaking to The Mother, he decides to stay in New York.

It's revealed that The Mother has the same initials as Ted Mosby (which were carved on the umbrella), Tracy McConnell. Which are also the same initials as the words The Mother. It's almost as if they planned that.

The End

The last two seasons were setting up Robin and Barney's wedding and were not as highly rated as those that came before. The final season all took part over the weekend of the wedding, which much of it featuring Marshall's almost endless journey back from his parents.

One of the big reveals in the last season was that we, and the rest of the characters, found out what Barney actually did for a living. Whenever asked about what his job actually was, he brushed it off with a casual wave of the hand and the word 'please'. It turned out that this was an actual role: Provide Legal Exculpation and Sign Everything. Barney was a legal scapegoat for all the evil doings that the company was up to. He'd been given the job by the suited man who'd stolen his first girlfriend. A few months after he was married, Barney gave everything up to the government, getting his revenge.

The last show brought the story up to date (2030). And now for the major spoilers:

  • Just three years after their wedding, Robin and Barney got a divorce; Robin's jetsetting news career was not compatible with their relationship.
  • Robin gradually drew away from the rest of the gang; she didn't like seeing her ex-husband chasing younger women, Lily and Marshall with their happy family, or Ted, who she realised was the man for her, with his new family.
  • Barney, who'd previously managed a 'perfect week' (seven girls in seven days) managed a perfect month. However the last girl got pregnant. When Barney met his daughter, he finally found a woman he could devote his life to.
  • The Mother fell ill and died. The kids then asked if the whole story was to actually tell them how much Ted cared for Robin, and they encouraged him to try to start seeing Robin again.
1Hence the title.2Nobody listened!3Originally a more minor part, the character gained more prominence as the show progressed. 'True Story'.4Generally a role that either involves walking up to a woman and saying 'Have you met Barney?' or agreeing to whatever lies Barney is saying.5Canada being about a decade behind America.6Or his children only have one set of clothes.7Playing the bagpipes.8Eating a sandwich.9That's parenting for you!10Referencing the controversy around the US Presidential Election in the year 2000.11In which a man named Bernie hires an assassin to kill two of his employees when 'he isn't around' and then dies shortly before a party. The employees, who discover that they are targets, then spend the weekend keeping Bernie's dead body close to them and pretending he's still alive so the assassin doesn't kill them.

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