By Molly Freeman
The cast of How I Met Your Mother. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
In the season eight finale of CBS’s How I Met Your Mother, viewers got a glimpse of the titular mother character, played by Cristin Milioti. But after the finale, rumors started spreading online that the ninth and final season would take place entirely during Robin and Barney’s wedding weekend.
Carter Bays, writer and creator of HIMYM, told Michael Ausiello of TV Line that the final season of the show “will tell the epic story of the longest wedding weekend ever.”
HIMYM spent most of its eighth season leading up to meeting the mother (well, technically it spent eight years leading up to the moment when the audience was introduced to the mother,) as well as Barney and Robin’s wedding, which the ninth season will be structured around.
Fans of the show were frustrated enough with how long writers stretched out what seems to be the fairly simple story of how Ted Mosby met his wife and the mother of his children. To further stretch that out by slowing down the timeline of the ninth season felt slightly cruel at first.
Omar Gallaga, tech culture writer for the Austin-American Statesman and former contributor to TelevisionWithoutPity.com is among fans who are not happy with the structure of HIMYM’s final season.
“For people who have been hanging on for so long, I feel like knowing that they’re going to drag out one weekend through a whole season is really disappointing.” Gallaga says. “I think we all were hoping that now that we’ve seen the mother at the very end of the last season that things would speed along.”
Here we are, after investing eight years into the lives of these characters. We’ve sat through girlfriend after fiancé after almost-fiancé after crazy girlfriend with Ted. We’ve watched Marshall and Lily break up (which almost killed me) and get back together. We’ve seen Robin and Barney wade through all their baggage as well as their (at times toxic) relationship in order to reach the point where they can finally get married. Through all that, we were promised that we’d get to meet the mother—and hopefully fall in love with her alongside Ted.
However, the showrunners of HIMYM seem to have a different idea in mind: have the audience and Ted’s friends get to know the mother first. Although we won’t be meeting her at the same time as Ted, it does sound like a fun way of establishing her character since most of the romantic interests on the show were introduced to the audience at the same time or after they met Ted.
The way I see it, the suuper-stretched final season can go one of two ways: either the writers pull off the hyper-focused wedding weekend with the use of flashbacks, which is nothing new to HIMYM, or it feels rushed, as if they’re trying to cram too much information about the mother into one season. No matter what, it’s certainly a change of pace from past seasons and it will be interesting to see how the creators handle the different time frame for season nine.
Another sitcom playing with the standard television timeline is ABC’s Mixology which is set to premiere this fall for the 2013-2014 season. The show follows ten single people over the course of one night out in the New York City bar scene.
Each episode will focus on two of the ten lead characters—five guys and five ladies—as they meet each other at one Manhattan bar in an individual night. ABC hasn’t released the details of how many episodes they’ve ordered for the first season of Mixology, but if they focus every combination of the ten characters, they could have as many as 25 episodes.
While the focus on a single night sounds like an interesting concept, it will be hard for the writers to avoid the recurring pattern of boy meets girl and it’s love at first sight or it doesn’t work out. It’s entirely possible that Mixology will be a funny and entertaining sitcom, and it can use a similar structure of flashbacks as HIMYM, but it’s a new show and if they don’t work out any kinks quickly, Mixology could be cancelled.
“High concept shows like that tend to flame out really quickly or the gimmick gets old more maybe its first season doesn’t work as well as it should [or] people just don’t give it a chance,” says Gallaga.
At least with HIMYM, the writers have established that they are capable of pulling off unexpected timelines over the course of an episode. HIMYM also has a large enough audience of viewers who are already dedicated to the show. Even if the writers even slightly flub the transition into the new condensed timeline, their audience will most likely stick with them.
It’s not completely surprising that television shows are playing with brief timelines because it creates a fresh take on some ideas that may have been used before. It also allows writers to hyper-focus on an event—in the case of HIMYM it will be Barney and Robin’s wedding where Ted meets the mother, or in Mixology it will be a night at a bar.
Gallaga points out that the drama series LOST has also used an altered timeline. In the last two seasons of LOST, the writers used flash forwards and played around with a normal timeline.
“A lot of people found that very unsatisfying, especially after the end of LOST when you realize that a lot of that last season was pretty much wasted time, that storylines that really didn’t attach to the ending,” Gallaga says. “It was disappointing.”
Fox’s 24, which premiered in 2001, used a real-time structure of storytelling in that each episode covered one hour and each season consisted of a 24-hour day. Though the show was cancelled in 2010, it was so popular that Fox is bringing 24 back.
24’s popularity might come from the fact that the writers knew from the beginning exactly what they were doing with the show. Whereas in LOST, though the creators always used flashbacks, in the final two seasons, they began changing their timeline structure to the dismay of fans.
Audiences have seen the alternative timeline structure both work and fail in drama series, but this fall will be the first time sitcoms like HIMYM and Mixology will attempt hyper-focusing on specific events. It’s hard to say whether these sitcoms will be successful because it relies on the writers. HIMYM might end up in a LOST situation in which fans feel disappointed by the changes made for the final season. But nothing is certain; viewers will have to wait until the fall and just hope the writers of HIMYM and Mixology know what they’re doing.