How “How I Met Your Mother” became a recent phenomenon

By Herb Scribner

Courtesy of MCT

Kids, this is the story of how I met … Wait, sorry, let’s backtrack a bit.

It was winter break, and things were slow on the Facebook newsfeed. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, a friend of mine posted on how he had begun watching “How I Met Your Mother.” I had no idea that such a post would change my life forever.

OK, sorry for the dramatics. It didn’t really change all that much, but let me continue. So my friend posted this status about watching “How I Met Your Mother” and I thought it was nothing. Not even a day later, another friend posted a similar status, saying he had gotten through the first few seasons. Lastly, on Twitter, another friend of mine – who both follows me and the first person that posted on Facebook – admitted to have been starting the show as well.

So with nothing left to lose, I plopped down on my leather chair, dressed in a warm, comforting pair of pajamas and embarked on the wonderful journey of learning how Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor), a young man living in New York City, met the mother of his children.

And as much as I love the show after beginning to watch it, it came to me rather quickly that so many people had caught onto the show. New viewers sprung up out of nowhere across the University of Massachusetts campus. Continuously I heard from people about how they started watching “HIMYM.”

It seems that among college kids the craze has really hit it off. People have returned from their hibernating times of winter break and expressed all the different episodes they watched and discussed. It’s like it caught fire and has yet to be extinguished across campus.

And on Dec. 28, “How I Met Your Mother” won the Monday night ratings with its new episodes, gathering a solid 5.93 million viewers. Its syndicated episodes that run on several different stations gathered over 3 million viewers, too. It’s got a pretty big following going right now. So it seems that the show is gathering a large audience not only across the University’s campus, but also across the nation in an era where people can pirate television shows or watch through several different outlets.

So what’s up with this recent craze?

I don’t know if I’d correlate the sudden craze with Kal Penn’s recent introduction to the show. Penn, who left “House” to take a spot in the Obama Administration, recently debuted on the show as Kevin. Penn simply doesn’t have enough of a fan following to gather support that has started the recent craze.

With Penn not being the cause of such a raucous craze – which included a recent increase of 200,000 viewers between its fifth and sixth seasons – a lot can be attributed to Jason Segel’s success, too. He starred in “The Muppets,” which came out during the fall and served as a revival of the Muppet characters that charmed audiences two generations ago.

But Segel is not the focal point of the show, and in recent seasons, is often held back and restrained to be the cutesy, sometimes flamboyant male that is all about love and emotions.

Some might suggest that a lot of people are just finding out about the show now, but the fact is that for years the show has floated between 8 and 9 million viewers – the most coming during its first season when it averaged 9.47 million viewers. So it’s not like the show hasn’t been running high since its inception.

What I believe it comes down to, more than anything else, is that the show says a lot about what we want out of life. I believe that a lot of us are coming to an age where we become the main character, Ted, and are searching for that love and emotion that he so excessively speaks about to his kids.

And even more importantly, it says about who we are as people in these collegiate times. We are all the characters wrapped into one. We search for that emotional connection that Ted also searches for; we long to have the long-standing relationship that Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and Marshall have had throughout the series (save for that second-season mishap); we want to have that further-progressing career that Robin (Cobie Smulders) has shot for and gained throughout the show; and we also want that fun and hip life filled with noble debauchery that Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) lives on. We’re all those characters wrapped into one.

We’re trying to find our place in the world. We’re trying to become something that all of the characters are still searching for. And like them, we will one day sit in those seats at MacLaren’s Pub and discover who we really are. The show allows us to get a head start on our lives and begin to develop.

When I first began testing the waters with “HIMYM,” I didn’t find it at all meaningful. It felt like a “Friends” knock-off to me. But as time beat on, and I grew older and matured, it came to me that the show is much more than just a show about friends who meet at a bar and discuss hilarious and meaningful tales. Rather, it’s a story about what it means to be young and how we grow, together and as individuals.

And that, kids, is how I met…sorry, I mean, How “How I Met Your Mother” became a craze.

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected].