The popular sitcom How I Met Your Mother is now in its seventh season, with an eighth season already announced. But the very idea of a show called How I Met Your Mother running for seven or eight years just seems absurd. How can you sustain a narrative around a single meeting? How can you maintain interest in a show where the most anticipated and promised even is pushed back by years? And of course, has he met the mother yet?
The main character (and the titular “I”) is Ted Moseby. The show follows him and his closest friends – Marshall, Lily, Barney, and Robin – as they go through life in New York City. We see the daily ups and downs of life and the romantic adventures of the group. Through it all, however, we still have (probably) not met the mother. We do know, however, a lot of details about her; Ted meets her at Barney’s wedding, Ted has dated her roommate, Ted accidentally stole her yellow umbrella once, etc. This exemplifies most of the audience’s interaction with the mother; we are periodically given subtle hints about the mother and the audience loves to guess what these hints mean.
These hints actually illustrate how the show has maintained interest over the past seven years. Just as How I Met Your Mother develops the storyline of the mother through subtle clues, it uses them to open up new storylines; How I Met Your Mother is chock full of clues and references for the audience to pore over, even in areas completely unrelated to how Ted meets the mother. And through these hints, the show can develop new and just as interesting storylines: the possibility of Barney, a serial womanizer, getting married before Ted or the idea of Robin, a workaholic who hates family, becoming a mother. Combined with incredible acting and a hilarious script, How I Met Your Mother has thereby been able to thrive for the past seven years without introducing one of the titular characters.