How I Met Your Mother: Are We All Living A Boring Life?

*Warning: Some How I Met Your Mother spoilers are present. Read at your own will!*

Many young people today see the idealized impression that once stepping foot on the soil of The Big Apple, lives will change for the better. This has been a true and false statement represented through the television show How I Met Your Mother. Our generation is seeing the lives of five different people trying to live life to the fullest while the protagonist Ted, tells the story of exactly what the viewer may think, how he met his children’s mother.

As we sit back and refresh our Netflix over and over, engaging in the roles of the How I Met Your Mother characters, we realize that our lives are completely different from those on the show who are around the same age as the viewers give or take a few years. The characters are between 25 and 35 and are living life to the fullest–nights on the town at MacLaurens Pub, the popular bar downstairs from Ted, Marshall and Lily’s apartment, working dream jobs and trying to find love. While watching though, does one realize that they are lacking in the game of life?

Working and Money

How I Met Your Mother cast enjoying a drink
How I Met Your Mother cast enjoying a drink. (Characters members from left Barney, Robin, Ted, Marshall and Lily)

The characters of the show-Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin, and Barney all seem to live life whilst enjoying socializing and working a steady career. The show seems to show the free time every character has though to an unrealistic amount. For example Lily, marries Marshall by time the series is over, is a kindergarten teacher. How does she manage to work all day, yet spend daunting hours hanging out at the bar with friends on school nights? When does she grade papers or sleep or even leave for work because half the time she is just hanging out in the apartment during the day with the rest of the gang!

Lily is not the only character with this problem though. Viewers do not know what Barney does for work, yet he can spend all night at the bar picking up random women to sleep with and still have all the money in the world to afford expensive suits. Clearly, he does something for a job or else he wouldn’t have a five-star apartment and expensive designer suits to wear everyday. It is eventually said that he works at GNB, Goliath National Bank, but no one knows exactly what he does there. From the different languages he gets yelled at in, it is something he is taking too lightly.

Marshall Eriksen: But you were the fifth doppelganger! How can you be… you? I called you, we had a whole conversation, Barney, what happened?

Barney Stinson: Ah, yes. I know what happened. People at work have this very strange expectation that I, well, work. I know, I know. So to make my colleagues think I’m busting my hump while I’m really out humping busty chicks, I decided to record a special recording.

What makes him so different from a regular working man is that he focuses more so on the aspect of sleeping around with women and making that his main goal of the day. Who actually has the time and energy to work and then pick up a girl every single night? Not a lot  men on the planet can have that type of power.

Marshall, Robin and Ted are the only three on the show who hold a job that we actually see them have a generally regular work schedule with. Marshall has an unrealistic schedule throughout the series, but we do regularly watch as he leaves for work daily. We watch as Robin casts the news upon the characters everyday at general times 11am, 11pm, 5am, 2pm. The time varies on the company she works for. Every time the gang is in Ted’s apartment, his architect work is lying around somewhere in the background and we see that in almost every episode that is his career. The downfall is we only see him working in a handful of episodes. So, how are these characters paying for these amazing apartments in Manhattan?!

Socializing and Dating

Every single night the gang meets up at MacLaurens Pub and have drinks for hours. At the ages of 25 and 30, how do they manage this and still are able to go to work the next morning? The show portrays that one just is immune to hangovers apparently because only in one episode, does it show a sort of hangover. When they are not at the pub, they are in the apartment where the door is always unlocked. Should we all leave our doors unlocked so our friends can barge in when we are trying to work or go along with a daily routine? According to How I Met Your Mother, probably!

Ted, Marshall and Lily sitting the the apartment.
Lily,Ted and Marshall sitting in the apartment.

This gang also seems to have the active dating life compared to the average dating life of someone in the age group. Since Lily and Marshall have been together since college, this leaves Ted, Barney and Robin to find their “soul mates”, which Ted determines to find even if it means dating Robin twice, and telling her he loves her after one date. Barney also takes a spin with Robin and ends up marrying her, that is until they divorce.

Until this fiasco happens, Barney is sleeping with one, sometimes eve multiple, girls in one night and Ted is dating one girl after another trying to find that perfect girl who reaches his somewhat unrealistic expectations. Robin seems to date any guy who shows an interest even though her stone cold personality says otherwise. Should everyone at this age be participating in this? Many people around this age group are already with the person they will marry or maybe even have kids with that person. So the dating game that happens seems very unrealistic. Yet, with some circumstances, Ted seems to have the most realistic single life out of the three characters.

The friendship of these characters give the show quite a “wish this was me” feel. It is hard to find that group of friends that one fits so well in and somehow, these five people all found each other, one way or another, and became the best of friends. Everyone wishes they had friends like this, but when you are in your twenties its easier. There is always a Marshall and Lily- that couple that has been together for god knows who long, Robin- the one who doesn’t want a relationship but actually does, Barney- who just wants to sleep around and the Ted- who just is trying to find their place in the world.

The Reality Concept

An adult living in Manhattan in the age range of 25-30 is probably working the good old 9 to 5 grind, just trying to get by because they had just graduated from college and are getting a fresh dose of reality. In the show, we don’t see the financial struggles of the characters for most likely the reason that it wouldn’t make the show as appealing as it is. People gather around the television to escape from reality- bills, relationships, socialization, work- and strive off it to get through the day.

The socialization and dating aspect of the show is very realistic to the age group. There are a lot of people who don’t get married until their late twenties and trying to find that perfect person is a struggle. The men jump from woman to woman and the women jump from man to man, it’s just a part of life. Although, Barney sleeping with a new woman every night, possibly a couple a night, is a little unrealistic. Ted’s adventure to find his perfect woman though, is quite realistic.

This same over look is used in many television series similar to the show such as the hit sitcom Friends and more recently, The Big Bang Theory. Never does a viewer hear that the character had to file for bankruptcy or has to pick up multiple jobs because their student loans and rent has to be paid off. In both shows we almost never see the characters go about a “normal” day in the life of a working adult because viewers don’t want to see this, viewers want to see things that will make life seem more enjoyable. Viewers watch television to escape reality.

How I Met Your Mother has become the modern day Friends much to some critics disapproval. The show has become very popular since the air date even with the last episode having mixed reviews due to a “rushed” ending. It’s brought a new outlook on sitcoms and have welcomed people of the younger generations to enjoy them in a modern way. Now being available on Netflix, more and more people are watching the series and becoming hooked on the new Friends.

HIMYM characters sitting around with significant others.
HIMYM characters sitting around with significant others.

Unfortunately, Netflix isn’t a dating site, or else everyone would be with a significant other. This show makes viewers rethink how they are living their lives. For example, if you are watching one show on repeat for a weekend, you are living a boring life and should go out, get drink, pick up a hobby, do something! At the age of the characters in How I Met Your Mother, you probably have a job and aren’t doing what they are, but there are still ways to enjoy your life so go out there and do it!

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Nof

    Good article! I love this show and I know whenever I’m watching it, I’m always wondering about how unrealistic it can be in some aspects. Their jobs seem like they only work an hour a day. But in reality, if they showed this in a more realistic light, where they worked 8 or 9 hours a day, it would be a pretty boring show.

    • Brianna

      Thank you so much for the feedback! I completely agree, if it just showed the characters in a realistic light, there would be no show because as I stated, most of the time we watch television to escape reality!

  2. The moral of the story is life isn’t perfect, and relationships aren’t perfect either. Things happen in life, both good and bad, and we’re to learn from our choices and mistakes, but somewhere along the way we’re always able to find a silver lining. Robin realized she had made a mistake by marrying Barney. She realized she should have been with Ted all along, but she isn’t perfect as no one is, but their lives were able to somehow still come back to one another. Life just is, it happens, and that’s the message I got behind the show.

  3. The show NEVER EVER had low points, second the finale was perfect down to the T!

    • Brianna

      Personally, I thought the same thing, but due to research, apparently after season 8 I believe, the series began to go downhill a little bit.

    • Sorry but totally disagree. Marshall’s dad dies! There were whole episodes based around that topic. While the show was obviously upbeat, as the writer accurately points out, people watch tv to escape reality, there were low, very realistic parts too. Fertility struggles, break ups, feelings of unfulfiment, ext. we’re touched on.

  4. I was initially reluctant to watch this show because I am a HUGE Friends fan, and I felt that this show was just a cheap knockoff of Friends. My brother forced me to watch it and I fell in love, although I did notice some similarities between the two shows. That being said, this was a great article because I find myself asking the same thing every time I watch this show! Good work!

  5. This quickly became one of those shows that I could watch sporadically, missing large chunks between seasons, and still have a basic understanding of the plot when I picked it back up again. Reasonable as far as escapism, but like you’ve brought up, extremely misleading as far as what cuts it as young-adult life. A lot of the characters also seem to be either tropes, or blank pages, so the viewer can import themselves onto that character’s life and identify with them, making it seem like the show is a lot more realistic than it is, just because someone can see themselves in one particular aspect of an overused character profile.

  6. Samantha Brandbergh

    I’ve watched this show in the past, and never even thought of the points you brought up, such as their financial and social situations until I read this article. It seems like so many shows on TV portray New York as such an obtainable place to reside, and the kids that watch these shows (myself included) wish to achieve those lifestyles, when it’s nowhere near that easy. Much like any other TV show, HIMYM is just portraying another fantasy world. Nice article, too, you brought up some good points!

  7. Yer Pyle

    Corp. greed, and fans, and writers not being able to let go after its more appropriate age of 5 seasons caused this show fail at the end. Much like Smallville, and Supernatural and those are shows I actually watch!

  8. I am a big fan of the show and I have to say, I was not disappointed that Ted ended up with Robin.

    • It was an obvious ending. I may understand why people didn’t like it, but I don’t understand why they didn’t see it coming.

  9. Should be renamed How I Kill How I Met Your Mother

  10. How I Met Your Mother spent nine years making me fall in love with The Mother, and then made a complete and devastating mockery of that love in less than an hour. I say nine years, and not just one season, despite the fact that we, the audience, only met The Mother last fall, because in my mind, since the end of the pilot, the mother was so very real, and my love for her only grew, over the course of almost eight years, even as I refused to let myself build an image of her in my mind. Consciously NOT picturing something you love a great deal is an act of faith that takes real work.

  11. Jemarc Axinto

    I absolutely love this show and the impact it had on my college years was grand. That being said, the sheer lack of financial hardships (I mean, an apartment that nice and they didn’t have to pay utilities?) did frustrate me at times. Great article!

  12. LaurenCarr

    What a great article! I love that show.

  13. ericespo7

    Great article pointing out the fantasy that is behind the presentation of the real on this show.

  14. LynsCantu

    Looks like HIMYM has found its own place in that inglorious land of series that disappointed fans hugely with their series finale. A shame for a show that was successful for so long and had such devoted following.

  15. Shoshana

    I think all relationships, romantic and otherwise, have a lot to do with timing.

  16. No one watches a Tv show to learn life lessons specially not a comedy show we watch it as a mean to escape from all the bullshit we deal in our real life and watching these comedies makes us forget them may just a little but in a way that kind of helps,many will say this is life shit happens you are right but guess what every one knows that.

  17. Brianna

    Thank you everyone for the comments and opinions, I appreciate it.

  18. I have seen my share of finales that have disappointed but How I Met Your Mother was not one of them.

  19. Mary Awad

    I understand all your points. But half the fun of watching shows is suspending your disbelief so I feel like bringing all this up is a bit ehhhh. Fiction is fiction for a reason, you know? But it’s a very well written article!

    • That’s exactly how I felt about it. I’m okay with suspending my disbelief but that may have to do with the fact that I’m a college kid not living in New York, so I guess I can understand how an actual young New Yorker may watch the show and think “well how is any of this happening.”
      I do agree with you though, part of the show is not questioning everything and just taking what the artists give us for what it is worth

    • I agree too – I enjoyed HIMYM b/c I decided I just wanted to laugh. Sometimes life is too hard and you don’t want watch something that is so serious.

      On the other hand, it did get a bit over the top at some points in its dramatizations, particularly with Barney who’s lifestyle was just “silly” at points.

  20. estrella

    Granted the writers crammed 10-20 years of events in the last two episodes, but I still liked how it turned out. Everyone who saw the show before me said the final season was awful, and it had a horrible ending, but I disagree. People even spoiled the last episode for me as I found out the mother had died before I even saw the last season, but as I watched it I kept one thought in the back of my head; Ted and Robin would end up together again….and I was right.

  21. Morgan R. Muller

    Awesome article! I need to start watching the show ASAP!

  22. I largely agree with your article, but perhaps using Barney’s job wasn’t the best reference, considering the show makes a running gag of how unrealistic his money/work time is. There’s no attempt here to portray his position as any sort of realistic role, and this dismissive attitude is because his economic and career goals aren’t the part we’re supposed to care about with him. He’s the only one, after all, who doesn’t get any sort of resolution with his career (Ted gets a building built, Marshall becomes judge, etc.). Each character has an intentional set of arcs to fulfill; his job is more joke than arc, and can be thrown away pretty easily by the writers.

    I’m curious about your opinions about the development of the characters. You seem to be kind of hinting at this with some of your points, and I think you could write something very interesting, especially in regards to the career/financial aspects no one really notices during the show!

  23. mgrantham27

    This show was fantastic, something that my friends and I enjoyed up until the end- although we weren’t particularly satisfied with the ending of course.
    Many things in the show are definitely unrealistic, but it’s just part of the magic of the show. There are definitely events that would never happen in real life, and Barney’s job is certainly a mystery but it’s just one of those things you accept as you’re watching. There are many long standing jokes throughout the season (such as the epic slap bet) and even though they were unrealistic, they made the show worth watching. They gave people with groups of friends like that something to talk about, joke about doing, and compare themselves to. My best friend and my fiance and I have “How I Met Your Mother” moments and even though they may not be as crazy and out there as some of the stuff on the show, it’s amazing how a TV show can affect your everyday life like that.
    It certainly wouldn’t do that if it was realistic.

  24. Francesca Turauskis

    I hated the ending of HIMYM, except for Barney’s. I thought it was very funny when we found out his job was the ‘fall guy’ and then his baby? Made total sense!

  25. I think this is a phenomenon of many mainstream sitcoms especially ones set in New York; Sex and the City in particular and, as much as it tries not to be, Girls. ON your other point, I don’t think HIMYM could ever be as good as Friends which had, in my opinion, far superior writing and a much more satisfying (if similarly cheesy) ending.

  26. Like you said, TV is entertainment: we watch TV to escape our realities (gotta pay those bills, ahh I’m working overtime tonight, credit card debt BOO). Also, How I Met Your Mother was a comedy so things in the show get exaggerated all the time. Great article by the way.

  27. samcel

    I see your point about HIMYM, but I think it’s purposefully exaggerated to be funny. Of course no man has the time or energy to sleep with as may women as Barney does! That would be gross! It is exaggerated to show Barney’s character. WHY does he feel the need to sleep with that many women? WHY does he have a whole “play book” or even a bro-code? Of course it’s not realistic, but the reasons why Barney does those things are.

  28. I agree with you. There are a lot of unrealistic parts to the show like how Robin is able to afford to live by herself in Manhattan. In many of the seasons, she does not have good reporter job, so it is unrealistic that her salary gives her enough money to pay for her apartment

  29. Great article! I also found it super hard to believe that Lilly and Marshall were doing this routine even with a newborn baby. Somehow after they had a kid, they were still hitting up the bar all the time. Does anyone else know how that’s possible with a young kid? Also, even with typical jobs they must have spent a fortune on alcohol! Although the show was super realistic and kinda sucked at the end, I miss the show and wish it would come back (with better writing of course)

  30. Diego Santoyo

    Really liked the article. I love the show! It is really entertaining!

  31. Teunteulai

    Well, maybe the most of it what happens, is just happening during the weekends ? People do have some days-off, right ? And also, yes there is so much exaggeration, but this show makes fun of our lives through exaggerating, it’s a parody on the stereotypes. And still, I see HIMYM as a guide, how it would be ideal to live. Your life with only small possibility will be so mich interesting as what’s in the show, but you can try. Also as a guy from Europe (Berlin) it all seems to me like it could be realistic, since the higher education is free in Germany, so no loan debpts, and for example in Sweden many companies go for 30 h/week jobs. Still, one of the greatest shows.

  32. Cristin Milioti

    In short, this is a terrible post. There are several issues with some of your statements, for example we often see Lily marking papers in the bar and there are shots of her at work, more notably however is that the end was “rushed”? Completely untrue. The end was planned from the very beginning.

    Your post doesn’t hold any clever critiques, nothing backed by objectivity or facts, and while I appreciate an opinion post, you essentially bag it out for the same reasons several times over in a placid and vapid manner.

    Also, Barney has a job… Please

  33. I think the show is great overall. Although there are positive and negative aspects that correlate with viewers point of view. One of the good things about it is the fact that they show how these characters like lilly+marshall and robin+ted tend to have liftstyle best suited to them, I mean there were conflicting isssues between robin and ted but that is part of reality. So really it depends, how you look at it and from which perspection. In relationships you will always have problems but how you handle them is the most important thing.

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