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Guilty pleasures: How I Met Your Mother is more than just another raunchy sitcom

Behind the laugh track are heavy realities that mirror real life
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FIONA TUNG/THE VARSITY
FIONA TUNG/THE VARSITY

I first discovered How I Met Your Mother when I was 12. It was the mid-2000s and I was in middle school, at an age entirely too young to be watching that type of show. 

A few times a year, I’d peruse our family Netflix account. This was not leisurely scrolling, but a carefully strategized act to convince my mother that I wasn’t watching a vulgar sitcom.

Eventually, she’d retire upstairs to sleep, and my victory rang out in stifled laughter.

In short, sitcoms are fun. They’re short snippets that run in the background of life when you need a quick laugh — something mindless to pass the time. They’re easy, simple stories that are ensured to be entertaining no matter what.

Indeed, these stories are classically stupid. They’re not meant to be substantial, but they sometimes subvert this norm. And it’s that marriage of intellect and humour that keeps viewers coming back for more.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a time in my life when I wasn’t in the middle of watching How I Met Your Mother. If it’s a rainy afternoon, it’s Christmas Eve, or I’m sick with the flu, I’ll be watching How I Met Your Mother. I watch it in sickness and in health, in good times and bad, and all times in between.

Sure, it’s another one of those mindless, raunchy sitcoms at first glance — the type that is littered with less than tasteful jokes and endless plotlines that drive you mad. And maybe it isn’t remembered in sitcom history like other popular shows, but it’s filled with some phenomenal thought-provoking moments.

“Listen to what the world is telling you to do, and take the leap,” Lily Aldrin tells Ted Mosby when he is facing a difficult decision.

At the same moment in time, a determined Marshall Eriksen is about to jump from the roof of one building to the other, in an attempt to prove to himself that he can still do legendary things.

In the middle of a classic, lighthearted moment — a goofy character attempting to do something comedically dangerous — we’re faced with an important lesson. And though it’s a long and often intricate story, the nine seasons recalling how Ted Mosby met his wife lend themselves to rich character development, life lessons, and an understanding of how mundane moments can really be pivotal.

It’s a show that resonates with me because of how relatable the characters are. Despite their uniquely wild adventures — see season one, episode three — each member of the group is terribly flawed at their core in a way that viewers can easily understand. Whether it’s Robin Scherbatsky’s inescapable choice between her career and her personal life, Ted Mosby’s endless search for ‘The One,’ or Lily Aldrin’s attempts to find herself, each character has their own set of problems — ones that mirror real life. The show does an excellent job of sprinkling humour into heavy realities.

Admittedly, I’ve watched and rewatched the characters live through the motions of their lives more times than I can count. It’s been nearly seven years of rewatching; as I age, I see the nuance in something that may appear to be nothing more than a laugh track.

When reality rears its head, there’s no doubt about it: a sitcom like How I Met Your Mother is chicken soup for the soul.