In a nutshell the series is about a man named Ted Mosby telling his kids how he and their mother met...over the course of nine years. The series focuses on Ted and his friends; Barney Stinson the womanizer, Ted's best friend Marshall Eriksen, Marshall's girlfriend and later wife Lily Aldren, and Ted's former love interest Robin Scherbatsky.
Ted's story begins when Ted decides to stop dating and settle down with "the one". The first episode has you believe Ted will end up with Robin, until his kids interrupt the story out of shock. As the series continues we follow the gang through their lives and major milestones. For example in the early seasons Marshall and Lily date, break up, get back together, and eventually get married. All throughout the series everyone's careers also progress in a natural way rather than the exaggerated
trajectories we usually see on television. For example Robin moves to New York to be a newscaster, she starts off as the late night field reporter, then gets a job on an early morning talk show, then moves to a national news team, and eventually she becomes the number one newscaster in the country.
As the series goes on we see a large, possibly inappropriate number of women Ted dated before the titular mother, I say inappropriate because he is telling his children about all the women he slept with before their mom. Some of these women we are led to believe Ted will end up with, particularly Stella. Stella not only lasted the longest, besides Robin, but they were even engaged until she left him at the alter.
One of the biggest things I liked about this series was how jokes often came back. For example their is a joke where Ted tells his kids how he got his dates mixed up once and as he's explaining the event happened later on, he bursts into the bar in a dress proclaiming "Now we're even". Two seasons later we finally learn what he was talking about, and why he was in the dress in the first place. Another ongoing joke was Barney's job. For the first 8 seasons Barney made ridiculous amounts of money and when anyone asked what he did he would answer simply "please". Then in the final season we learn his job is to sign forms without looking at them, which is highly illegal, but it's okay because it was all part of a long revenge plot and Barney was actually a whistle blower. Other notable recurring jokes include; the dopplegangers, Robin Sparkles, and my personal favorite: Barney's history lessons.
Another thing this show did really well was the tone. Unlike most television comedies, were everything is funny, always works out, and even the bad times are hilarious. How I Met Your Mother manages to balance comedy and drama flawlessly, making us laugh as well as cry. The ending is the best example here, but I want to cover it separately later. Another example is the episode "How I Met Your Father", in this episode after a pregnancy scare Robin is telling her future children how she and their father got together. The episode is full of jokes but ends with a very sad note, Robin cannot have kids, and the future children don't exist.
Now for a negative of the show, Bob Sagat. Personally I have nothing against Bob Sagat, however he plays the voice of future Ted, a character who is seen a few times throughout the series, however whenever future Ted makes a screen appearance he is always plays and voiced by Josh Radnor. Basically it's an inconsistency that always bugged me.
The Final Episode
If you have ignored my earlier warning about spoilers, this is your last warning, I am going into detail on the series' final episode so if you haven't seen it; avoid this section like the kid on the playground with lice.
The final episode covers multiple decades. Ted meets his wife in the first ten minutes of the episode and decides to stay in New York. After that we get to see what happens to the gang between when they meet and when Ted starts the story. Three years later Barney and Robin get divorced, forever altering the gang. Robin leaves after the realization that her friends are all moving on in their lives, and nobody sees her again for more than a few minutes every few years. Ted, who starts the series obsessed with getting married, lives with the mother of his children for years before finally tying the knot. After a year in Italy Marshall goes back to corporate law, something he hates, until he gets the opportunity to be a judge again, eventually even becoming a state supreme court judge. Barney finally reforms after having his own child with a one night stand.
Overall the series finale was perfect...until the last 2-4 minutes. Personally I was fine with the mother's death, sure it was really sad, but it gave Ted a reason to tell the story. What I had the problem with is everything after the story ended. Turns out Ted never got over Robin, and the whole story was his way of asking his kids if they were okay with him dating her. After 9 years of amazing television, and not a single bad episode, it's understandable that the series makes a mistake. But the very end of the series was like watching your team play the perfect game, only to have the other team score at the buzzer. Sure it doesn't matter and your team still wins, but it changes how you feel about the game.
In the end How I Met Your Mother is my favorite sitcom to date, and considering I grew up on shows like Friends, Fraiser, Everybody Loves Raymond, and King of Queens this is quite the statement. Now that it's over there is a huge hole in my life, but at least I got the closure I needed out of the finale. I give the show a solid A.