I Just Don’t Get it: Why are all the ‘How I Met Your Mother’ characters so insufferable?

Kat Angus
omg! TV

By now, almost everyone who watches “How I Met Your Mother” knows that Ted Moesby (Josh Radnor) is the most annoying character on the show. In fact, he’s got to make the top 5 list of most irritating characters on television. He’s neurotic, kind of rude, treats women badly, and is really, really pretentious – so pretentious, in fact, that the show itself produced an entire episode in Season 5 about Ted going to a party filled with snobs and, of course, having the time of his life.

Basically, for most of “How I Met Your Mother’s” nine-season run, it was obvious that the show would be vastly improved if Ted were just written out completely – even though that was obviously impossible, given the central premise of the show. (The possible exception to the “get rid of Ted” attitude would be Season 2 of the show, which many consider “HIMYM’s” best year. Not only did it include the classic “Slap Bet” episode and other funny installments like “Swarley” and “Stuff,” but it also made us care about Ted and Robin’s relationship despite the fact that we all knew it was doomed – a feat the writers haven’t been able to repeat with any of Ted’s subsequent relationships. Especially not the one with Zoey, whom we will henceforth pretend never existed.) Apparently, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas thought Ted’s personality was hilarious and decided that the more they exaggerated those characteristics, the better.

So, fans of the show were forced to accept that Ted was going to stick around -- but hey, at least we still got to watch Marshall, Lily, Robin, and Barney, right? And they’re pretty awesome, aren’t they?

But in “HIMYM’s” current, and final, season, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the writers are struggling. Last year, the cast and crew were clearly operating on the assumption that Season 8 would be its last (especially considering Jason Segel’s ever-growing movie career), and when a deal was made to come back for Season 9, a lot of logistical problems had to be solved. Unfortunately, the result is this ill-advised season all taking place over the course of Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend – and with each episode that goes by, you can practically see the writers straining to come up with each plot point.

Even worse, it feels like they don’t even know how to write for the characters that they’d previously established so well.

There’s Lily, who began the show as Marshall’s sweet, slightly quirky fiancée, but who, over the years, has displayed the tendency to be incredibly judgmental, stubborn, and all too willing to hold a grudge against perceived slights (and her “you sonovabeech” catchphrase is not nearly as endearing as the writers seem to think it is). But even all of that would be fine, until we got to this god-forsaken wedding weekend. Lily’s amping up the judgment (hey, maybe the weekend your best friend is getting married isn’t the best time to tell her she needs to make more female friends), and made the once-again-not-that-endearing decision to stay drunk the whole weekend (if I have to hear “Thank you, Linus” one more time, I’m going to shove blunt pencils through my eyes).

There’s Robin and Barney, who were previously my two favourite characters and who once seemed like they’d be perfect together. Instead, every episode this season features them coming to a realization that they don’t communicate well or that they clash in some pretty important way – you know, issues that probably should have been resolved before they decided to get married. They come across as immature, petulant children, and the episode in which they lie to the wedding officiant about how they met wasn’t funny but incredibly grating. (Sadly, Robin’s been in decline for several seasons now – pretty much since the writers decided that her irrational hatred of coworker Patrice was brilliant. It’s really, really not.)

And Marshall! Marshall, who has always been the moral centre of “How I Met Your Mother,” who fought for the environment and whose steadfast belief in Bigfoot was actually pretty charming. Now, they have him accepting a job without discussing it with Lily, his wife, and then lying to her about it, and conspiring with his friends to keep it from her. Sure, the most recent episode had Marshall realizing his stupidity and ultimately coming clean to Lily, but it was still a weeks-long plot point that went against his entire characterization. It certainly doesn’t help that the guy is clearly going to be stuck in that Hummer with Sherri Shepherd for the entire season, due to Jason Segel’s other career commitments.

You’d think that compared to how badly the other characters are behaving this season that Ted would almost become appealing in comparison. But no, he is just as insufferable as ever, if not more so. Hitting on a girl, getting sick of her when she gets upset for very valid reasons, then hitting on another girl who already has a date, and forcing Lily to destroy her own cell phone because they have a “no questions asked” policy. (Hey, Ted, Lily has a baby and her husband’s still on the road – she probably still needs her phone this weekend, you inconsiderate ass.)

At this point, the only redeeming character in Season 9 has been the still-unnamed Mother, who was entirely delightful in her appearances in the first two episodes. (Heck, she even made Ted slightly less odious during their brief flash forward scene.) But then she disappeared and hasn’t been seen since, and each episode has suffered for it. Yes, the Mother will reportedly return in the Nov. 4 episode, but the writers definitely need to use Cristin Milioti a lot more if they want any chance of salvaging this season. I advise a lot more flash forwards with Ted, since this show is supposed to be all about how they got together, and unless I see more of how well they work, I’m not going to care at all about how they met.

It’s understandable that CBS and the “HIMYM” cast and crew wanted to do one more season – it’s one of the network’s best successes and finding a replacement on Monday nights will be a nightmare. But why was the solution to turn every character we care about into a grating mess?

So far, “How I Met Your Mother’s” final season is a dud, but there’s a chance it can still be saved if the writers can find a way to get back to the quality of Season 2, when the characters were still flawed but still entirely likeable. (Yes, I’m even including Ted in there.) Integrating Cristin Milioti is a good first step, but if everyone else continues to be so insufferable, the show will end with me just feeling bad that the Mother ends up spending the rest of her life with these jerks.