Tonight my pick for television’s most consistently funny sitcom begins its final season. The 9th season of CBS’s How I Met Your Mother will see vast changes to the storytelling structure of the show. The entire season will take place over one weekend with various jumps forwards and backwards in time. Adding to the changes, we now have the Mother cast and ready to win the hearts of the HIMYM fan base and Ted.
It’s going to be sad to see HIMYM take its final bow, but it’s also a time to celebrate. In honor of tonight’s premiere, I have compiled a list of my favorite HIMYM episodes. I was originally going to confine myself to a ten-episode list but after 8 seasons that is just impossible. Instead, I’ve chosen two episodes from each season to put into the pantheon of great sitcom episodes.
You can read my list below. It would have been far too difficult to rank these episodes, so for the sake of my sanity I’m presenting them in chronological order.
Let me know what episodes you would include and why in the comments below or on Twitter @ObsessiveViewer. You can also like the blog on Facebook and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
The Pineapple Incident weaves an intricate cautionary tale that demonstrates what happens when Ted Mosby turns off his brain and throws back shots. It features guest star Danica McKellar as Trudy, a girl Ted meets at the bar before blacking out.
The episode is one of my favorites due to the narrative structure and the way the writers play with the audience. We get bits and pieces of Ted’s story before he blacks out. By the end of the episode we see the full scope of the damage he’s done himself. It’s well-written, well guest casted and, well, it’s awesome.
While watching season 1 for the first time, I was just a guy who was out $30 or $40 after blind buying seasons 1 and 2 on DVD at Best Buy one day. I thought it was a good sitcom, but I wasn’t sure if I regretted the purchase or not.
Then I watched Drumroll, Please. By the end credits, I was in love with this series. Somewhat similar to The Pineapple Incident, this episode recounts a night of Ted’s life. He tells his friends about meeting a mysterious woman the previous night at a wedding. The pair shares an instant connection but decide to stay anonymous. Ted and Victoria enjoy each other’s company, getting wrapped up in the romance of the evening before parting ways, presumably never to see each other again. The gang then tries to track down Victoria.
Drumroll, Please was the first example of How I Met Your Mother taking romcom-style scenarios and pitting them into a half hour sitcom. The plot of this episode could very easily sustain itself as a 90-minute movie with a Spring release and a respectable box office return. But here it is on the small screen with characters who are actually developed and it works incredibly well.
Firefly’s Morena Baccarin guest stars as a barista with the hots for Marshall and a touch of the “Crazy Eyes” in this great season 2 episode. The running gag of the gang tormenting Barney by calling him Swarley was a clever b-plot to the main story of Marshall’s funny attempt to start dating again.
The best and most memorable part of the episode is, of course, the way it reunites Marshall and Lily. Marshall’s realization that Lily has crazy eyes is touching and leads to a sweet moment of rekindled romance between the two characters we all knew were bound to find each other again soon.
Of course, I can’t make a “Best of” list without including Slap Bet! It’s one of the most monumental episodes in the How I Met Your Mother canon. It features not only the introduction of the series-long “slap bet” wager between Barney and Marshall, but it also features the first ever Robin Sparkles video!
Over the years the slap bet and Robin Sparkles stories suffered, but here they are on fire. All of the actors’ chemistry is on full display in this episode as well. Slap Bet also features the hilarious attempt by Ted to “lawyer” Robin. What’s not to love about it?
I don’t know what it says about me that No Tomorrow is the 3rd episode on this list that features Ted remembering (or misremembering) an important night out. Regardless, this is one of the best episodes to come out of the show’s (in parts clunky) Writer’s Strike shortened third season.
The first half of season 3 featured a newly single Ted on the prowl for random hookups with his wingman Barney. It led to some memorable plotlines (the butterfly tattoo) but ultimately it felt like the writers were trying to convert Ted into a Barney-like character solely because people love Barney more.
Then No Tomorrow aired and we said goodbye to the Barneyification of Ted Mosby. This episode saw Ted testing the laws of the universe as he sought rewards from his bad behavior at a bar on St. Paddy’s Day. He left with the realization that he was an ass and gained vital perspective on who he is as well as a nice, new yellow umbrella.
Elsewhere in the episode, Marshall and Lily hosted Robin in a night of board games at the couple’s new apartment they soon realize has a crooked floor. The big where Marshall and Robin try to convince Lily that the apartment is haunted is one of my favorite gags of the season.
A woman from Barney’s past is sabotaging his hook up attempts. In an effort to find who the woman is, the gang uses bracketology to figure out who out of the top 64 woman Barney has slept with, has the most cause to sabotage him.
Using flashbacks and nonchalant dialogue in detailing the sexual conquests of Barney Stinson really makes this episode for me. We get a glimpse of some of the horrible things Barney has done and we’re treated to Lily guiding him toward a genuine apology.
The Naked Man is a legendary episode! Robin is on a blind date that ends with the man naked in the apartment. The gang learns this is his signature “move” for when a date doesn’t go well. He pledges that it works “2 out of 3 times.” The gang sets out on a quest to test this theory with hilarious circumstances.
According to the episode DVD commentary, this dating tactic was something employed by one of the writers in their college days. This gives a sense of truth to the ridiculous proceedings of the episode and makes for a genuine and fun episode.
One of my favorite things HIMYM does is play with the storytelling. The show plays with ordinary sitcom conventions by utilizing its unreliable narrator to play with the audience’s perception of the story being told. Here, Future Ted tells three stories in one that take place during a very heavy snowstorm.
Barney and Ted live out their dream of owning a bar (“Dude, we should totally buy a bar”). Marshall and Robin race to the airport to preserve the adorable traditions of Marshall and Lily while Lily frantically tries to find a six-pack of beer to do the same.
The three stories are told concurrently until it’s revealed they actually span three different days. This twist in the episode’s plot leads the three stories to intersect at the end in a touching moment for two of the characters. I love it.
Joanna Garcia guest starts as the “perfect girl next door” Maggie Wilkes. She is only ever single for brief windows of opportunity due to the fact that men instantly fall in love with her. The episode features Ted attempting to speed through an architecture lecture while the gang works to “keep Maggie single” until he gets back.
The episode is another example of the series taking a plot with a very romcom feel and making it an entertaining and hilarious half hour of television. The episode concludes with “the second greatest love story” Ted has ever heard. What sets this ending apart is that we are delivered Maggie’s love story visually in the form of a short montage. It works very well.
I’m cheating a bit, here. I struggled with choosing between these two episodes. Admittedly, they are very similar, Barney-centric episodes. The series has had many of these types of episodes but these two are the best.
I love “The Playbook” for its absurdity and long con with the “Scuba Diver” play. The episode revolves around a book of plays that Barney uses to pick up women. He brings it out as a way to “reintroduce” himself to the dating world and the world of picking up women after his break up with Robin. It’s hilarious and showcases the Barney character at his peak.
Likewise, “Perfect Week” has Barney attempting to sleep with 7 girls in 7 consecutive days. “The Playbook” takes a dramatic turn at the end that proves to still be a ploy to get women. On the other hand, “Perfect Week” has an undercurrent of drama as the threat of Barney losing his job drives his actions through the episode.
“Perfect Week” uses its sports analogy to illustrate why people love sports. The gang uses Barney’s potential achievement as a distraction from the hardships they are facing in their lives. It’s not as poignant as a lot of the show’s other memorable moments, but it serves the episode well.
“Subway Wars” is such a fun episode. It’s slightly reminiscent of one of my favorite (though just barely off the list) season 4 episodes “Best Burger in New York.” This episode has the gang racing to reach a steakhouse where Marshall’s colleague is eating near Woody Allen. The race comes about when the gang argues over whose route to the steakhouse is faster.
Random Maury Povich cameos and Marshall’s catchy theme song scattered throughout the episode help make it more than a run of the mill installment.
“Bad News” was a big episode in the series’ history. As numbers in every scene countdown from 50 throughout the episode, Marshall and Lily see a fertility doctor who looks exactly like Barney to figure out why they’re having so much trouble getting pregnant.
The end of the episode (and the end of the countdown) delivers a gut punch that instantly became one of the series’ absolute best scenes. Jason Segel’s heart wrenching delivery of his “I’m not ready for this” line is made all the more impressive when you learn he performed it in one take.
“Symphony of Illumination” is another example of the series playing with its narrative structure and the audience’s perception of the story. Robin experiences a pregnancy scare that leads her toward some surprising news. The episode opens with Robin’s voice speaking to two kids, telling them the story of how she met their father.
From there, the episode follows an emotional trajectory that ends with a slightly depressing moment of defeat for Robin and a touching attempt by Ted to cheer her up.
“Trilogy Time” is a great example of the show charting the evolution of the characters and, more importantly, the characters’ dreams and expectations for their future. The episode jumps from a sad, depressed Ted to a look at happy, new dad Ted three years in the future. It’s a touching reminder that he’s nearing the end of his journey.
I had many problems with season 8. The Autumn of Breakups played out as if the writers were dumping the established storylines to make way for the main arcs of the season and Barney’s proposal midway through the season had way too much manipulation to it to be heartwarming.
But the season premiere nailed it. Honestly, most of the reason for the inclusion of “Farhampton” in this list is due to the end montage featuring the song “The Funeral” by Band of Horses really secures this episode’s place on this list. It culminates with a view of Ted mere feet away from his future wife, completely oblivious to the fact that he’s about to meet his “Lebenslanger Schicksalsschatz.”
I’m watching this episode as I type this. Not only is it the best episode of season 8, it’s one of the series’ best episodes. Furthermore, it’s got what is quite possibly the best “Ted scene” of the series thus far. Ted Mosby is a guy who’s been hopelessly in love with a woman he hasn’t met yet. The pursuit of “the one” has been his central journey throughout the entire series.
With Ted’s journey nearing its end, he spends the episode in a sort of subtle introspection as the (somewhat bottle episode-esque) plot line runs its course. He watches as a woman he met in season 1 (and never called) enters the bar and receives a sobering, subconscious warning to stay away from her.
“The Time Travelers” takes a look at the series’ central character and puts him under the microscope, shedding the façade of contentment he’s created for himself and reveals the truth about our narrator. He’s a lonely man, waiting for his “One.” The episode culminates in one of the series’ greatest moments as Ted hypothetically visits his future wife and tells her what they are going to eventually mean to each other.
After watching the episode again, I have to call it. Despite it’s chronological placement on this list, “The Time Travelers” is my favorite episode of the series thus far.
What’s your favorite episode? How do you think the final season will play out? Let me know below and make sure you follow me around the internets.