How I Met Your Mother was a staple show for audiences for nine seasons. Premiering in September 2005, it filled the friendship based sitcom hole that Friends left when it ended in the spring of 2004. We were introduced to a completely new set of New York twenty-somethings trying to balance their friendships, careers, and love lives; most notably Ted Mosby who was telling the story leading up to when he met his wife, and the mother of his children.
While people had many questions, like why Bob Saget was narrating the series even though the lead protagonist was a grown man, audiences still loved the show. Set through a series of flashbacks, we all grew to love Marshall, Lily, Robin, and even Barney, and almost sympathize with whiny Ted (maybe that was just me).
After spending almost a decade with these characters, they became so much more than one-liners, although slap bet is still one of my all-time favourite reoccurring arcs, and developed some complexities that made it even harder to say goodbye when the show ended. Here is an intimate look, behind the scenes at the building of five fantastic characters, and the influence of the actors behind them.
15. Three Main Characters Are Based On Real People
Carter Bays and Craig Thomas had been friends since college. They also went on to become writers for the Late Show with David Letterman. When they were asked to pitch a network series, the first ever How I Met Your Mother flashback was born. They returned to 1997, When Carter Bays was spending most of his time at Craig Thomas’ apartment, the one that he shared with his long-term girlfriend (who’s now his wife) named Rebecca. Bays spent most of this time hanging out and griping about how much it sucked to be single to the happy couple. In the pilot script Bays would be played by Ted, Thomas was Marshall, and Rebecca was the basis for Lilly. Real-life stories, like the time Bays called Rebecca a b-tch during a short breakup with his BFF, all made it into the scripts.
14. It Was Always About Robin
If you haven’t already finished watching the series, why are you reading an article that is literally riddled with spoilers? Whether you’ve watched the series all the way through or just saw it once in a while, it wouldn’t take you long to surmise that for Ted it was always all about Robin. Robin Charles Scherbatsky Jr. was the show’s token Canadian. Since Cobie Smulders is also Canadian, they decided to give her own personal biography a little “Robin Sparkles” directly from the actor that played her. Robin grew up in Vancouver, as did Smulders (she was originally was supposed to be from Toronto but this was updated when Cobie was cast). The role of Robin was originally offered to Jennifer Love Hewitt, which we’re sure would have made for a very different show dynamic, as would have, if Scott Foley had accepted the role of Ted when it was offered to him.
13. Hannigan’s Kid Was Fired From The Show
Most HIMYM fans will know that the show used traditional show business tricks to hide Alyson Hannigan‘s first pregnancy, since Lily was not pregnant. Her second pregnancy was timed perfectly, since she was expecting at the same time as her character Lily which made things much easier on set. It looked like Hannigan was going to even have an opportunity to work with one of her children on the show. Hannigan’s child was all set to play Lily and Marshall’s second kid, unfortunately Hannigan received some news to the contrary. Hannigan said, “They fired my kid from that role. She was gonna be the baby, but [producer] Carter Bays was like, ‘Nope. She’s too old,’ and she got replaced,” and has joked, “I was like, ‘You fired my child. First of all that’s ageism. I don’t think you’re allowed to fire her because she’s too old.’”
12. Robin’s Dogs Nearly Killed Ted
People may remember that one of the fewer soft spots of character Robin Scherbatsky was her love of dogs. Despite living in a New York City apartment, Robin had several dogs; five to be exact. What viewers didn’t know was that Josh Radnor (Ted) was very allergic to dogs; creators didn’t even know about the allergy until after Radnor was already cast to be on the show. His allergies were so bad that paramedics were constantly on call because of the close proximity of Radnor to the dogs when they were shooting. This led to the decision to write the dogs off the show in season two. It was written that Robin made Ted get rid of a number of items in his apartment that were associated with exes, Ted found out that all of Robin’s dogs are from a number of her ex-boyfriends. When Ted asks Robin to get rid of the dogs, she sends them to live with her aunt on a farm.
11. Neil Patrick Harris Wants You To Know He’s Not Like That IRL
Even though Neil Patrick Harris does a great job convincing audiences that he’s womanizing Barney Stinson, he also works really hard to let viewers know that he’s nothing like the characters he plays on screen. In addition to not being like Barney Stinson, with the exception of both of their talents towards magic, he isn’t even like the version of himself he plays in movies like the Harold & Kumar movie franchise. When most actors play themselves on film, they are listed as “himself” or “herself” in the film’s credits. NPH requested that his credit simply say “Neil Patrick Harris” since the character he played was nothing near an accurate representation of himself. In 2009, NPH was honoured with The Trevor Life Award, which is an annual celebration of an “individual who, through his or her example, support, volunteerism and/or occupation, is an inspiration to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Questioning youth.”
10. Who Kept The French Horn & The Bar Booth?
When a show is as iconic as How I Met Your Mother, and goes on for years, cast and crew members are bound to want to keep souvenirs of their time on the show. When it came to the iconic blue French horn, creators Bays and Thomas were going to split custody of the prop. Their plan was foiled when Josh Radnor asked them very sweetly if he could have it. Thomas has said, “when Ted Mosby comes and asks for the blue French horn, ya give him the blue French horn,” because it feels right. Neil Patrick Harris kept Barney’s legend–wait for it–ary playbook and the tabletop from the gang’s favourite booth at MacLaren’s. Cobie Smulders kept Robin Sparkles’ jean jacket, and Hannigan kept the small British phone booth.
9. Cobie Smulders Was Diagnosed With Cancer During Season Three
Thankfully for Cobie, her personal life ended up with a much happier ending than Robin’s did. During season three of the show, when Cobie was just 25 years old she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Over several years she had several surgeries to help remove any cancerous tissue from her body. After she was cancer free, only one third of an ovary was left, and she was told that she’d never be able to have children naturally – much like Robin. Thankfully, the doctors were wrong. Since that diagnosis, Cobie has had two children. Although she kept her illness out of the public eye at the time, she has since opened up about it to help create awareness about cancer in young women.
8. The Birth Of A Hangout Spot & A Pick-up Line
The bar where the gang hung out, MacLaren’s, was based on a New York City Bar called McGee’s. McGee’s was the hang-out spot for creators Bays and Thomas during their tenure writing for The Late Show with David Letterman. Often hanging out with them was co-head writer for Letterman, Justin Stangel. One of their go to activities at this bar, was trying to pick up women. Stangel liked to stop a woman who was passing by their table and ask, “Have you met Carter?” This is the basis of Barney Stinson’s ultimate wing man line, “Have you met Ted?” The name for the favourite bar was selected after Carl MacLaren, who was an assistant to the producers working with the gang for two years before he was promoted to associate producer.
7. Victoria Was The Most Difficult Girlfriend To Write Out
Fans definitely had their favourite, and least favourite choices for who Ted would end up with at the end of the series. Plans were, especially if the show were cancelled early, Victoria would have been the mother. Victoria was everyone’s favourite ex-girlfriend of Ted’s. Craig Thomas has said, “It was hard to say goodbye to Victoria, she and Ted had such chemistry.” The most hated of Ted’s exes was Zooey. Over the course of the show Ted has five serious relationships (including Robin and the mother, Tracy), “dated” another dozen or so, and went on one to two dates with another 50 women. Fans weren’t happy with who Ted ended up with and how the show ended (even though he didn’t end up with Zooey) and even sent petitions to the network asking them to change the last episode. Liked or disliked, the final episode had the most viewers, with the most watched runner up episode being “The Pineapple Incident”.
6. Alyson Hannigan Is Too Scared To Sing
Music and musical numbers have been a part of some of the well-received episodes of How I Met Your Mother. Over the course of the series each main cast member had a musical number, with one exception. You might notice that Lily (Alyson Hannigan) never sings in any of her roles. Hannigan said, “I begged them not to make me”. It turns out this is a fear that has followed Hannigan throughout her career. She said, “Yeah, singing has never been something that I wanted to do publicly. It’s actually like a phobia. I know it sounds weird, but it has always been that way. And then I find myself in these shows that want to do musicals, and I’m like, ‘Noooooo!’” Although Hannigan has said that she’s gotten more comfortable singing, don’t expect her to break into song.
5. Bob Saget Was A Cryptic Clue To The Series’ End
For years, audiences wondered aloud why Bob Saget was selected to voice “Future Ted Mosby”, especially since the character Ted was a grown adult when the story of HIMYM began. It’s definitely strange, but oddly comforting. Turns out that the disappointing finale was in the can at the time that creators Bays and Thomas knew that Ted would be telling the story to his kids about how he met his dead wife from the very beginning. Casting Saget as narrator turned out to be a clue to the ending of the show, since Bob Saget portrayed one of TVs most famous widowers of the 1980s and 1990s. Some people theorize that the entire series was a sort of homage to Full House, with Barney Stinson being another version of Jesse Katsopolis (naturally). Carter Bays has said, “We always liked making the distinction that who Ted is in the present day is different from who he eventually becomes. This series is a journey of transformation. Using two different actors helped key the viewer in to that right off the bat.”
4. And The Show’s Biggest Star Was…
Even though the entire show was about how Ted Mosby met his wife, Josh Radner was not the biggest star on the show, Barney Stinson was. The character, who was named after a character in the James Elroy book LA Confidential (a heroin dealer) was everyone’s favourite. Maybe it’s the mystery around how no one ever found out what his job was, or how he invented the “Bro-Code” (seriously the phrase did not exist until Barney Stinson first said it in 2008). As the show’s biggest star he made more money than any other cast member, bringing in $210K per episode, which was nearly double the $120K per episode that the rest of the main characters made. Wanting to expand his horizons, NPH made his directorial debut in the episode where Marshall’s co-worker Jenkins hits on him.
3. It’s Really Important To Suit Up
We all remember Barney’s favourite catchphrase, “Suit up”. For most of the show Barney Stinson wore the suits he was famous for. His Halloween costume was a flight suit, and he even owned ‘suitjamas’, because even bed time is a suit-worthy event. There were only 12 instances in the entire series when the character wasn’t “suited-up” (some say 21, but we think things like flight suits should count towards real suits). Some examples of Barney’s non-suit attire include: a shirt that Lilly describes as “shining like a mirror”, when he refused to wear a suit to a funeral because suits are meant to be full of joy, when pretending to be a tourist, and of course in flashbacks when young Barney is wearing a hooded poncho. Usually pairing his suit with classic ties, Barney is forced to wear the ugly ducky tie for 11 episodes after losing a bet to Marshall.
2. Mad Actor Traits Were Worked Into The Series
Some might remember Marshall constantly mentioning how he won a slam dunk contest when he was in high school, this was also true in real life, since Jason Segel is a child slam dunk contest champion. Perhaps Lilly’s job choice as a kindergarten teacher was because she’s a natural fit to work with children. When she was younger, she used to babysit, and in fact one of her clients was Bob Saget’s family. Other character traits from the actors worked into the show’s characters were the importance that Ted placed on intellectualism, and Jason Segel’s love of silly songs. Something fun to note is that Neil Patrick Harris could not use chopsticks, and it wasn’t until season seven that he was able to successfully operate a pair of chopsticks on screen, after a significant amount of practise.
1. A Real Intervention, From Puns
Interventions are a popular tool used by the HIMYM gang to confront each other about things they don’t like about members of their group. The first intervention happened to help their friend Stuart quit drinking. Since the intervention with Stuart was such a success the gang began giving each other interventions to “help” quite frequently. Interventions happen for things such as Marshall’s terrible taste in hats to Robin becoming obsessed with Barney. Alyson Hannigan says that the only intervention needed on the set of the show was from puns, since the cast and crew would all pun for hours and hours. Hannigan has said they all thought, “We might have a problem, but we enjoyed it.” Everyone started punning when a show guest star brought up the magazine Cat Fancy, with everyone punning everything about cats and then saying, “Fancy that!”
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