You’ve probably heard me mention this on Remember When before, but it’s rare for me to pick up a TV show at its launch.   What can I say?  I love easily, and after having my heart broken by Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, Season 6 of LOST, Flashforward, and any number of other TV series, it’s tough for me to put my TV faith into new shows.  This invariably leads to me hearing things like “Dude, have you seen <show name>?  It’s SO great!  You have to watch it”.  In fact, for a lot of TV shows for which I consider myself a fan, I came into them late.  Firefly?  I saw it on DVD.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Reruns on FX.  Deep Space Nine?  Picked it up at the start of the third season (REALLY good call on my part).

Recently, I was looking for a good sitcom to pick up and add to my repertoire.  The Office, which used to be my “go to” show for a good laugh, has been a letdown for a season and a half. The only things making me laugh on a consistent basis are Modern Family, Chuck, and Parks & Recreation.  I decided it was time to test the sitcom waters again, and a few friends pointed me in the direction of How I Met Your Mother.

Now, I had a vague idea of what the show was about (hell, it tells you in the title!).  And I’d read a few articles about Slap Betting and the endless libido of Barney Stinson, as played by Neil Patrick Harris.  But I had no idea what this show was really about.  I mean, sure, this guy is telling a long, long, long story to his kids about how he met their mother.  But how do you sustain a show beyond that?

And so I figured, what the hell?  Neil Patrick Harris is awesome in just about anything he does, and I like Allyson Hannigan enough.  I added the first season into my Netflix queue, got the first disc, and sat down for an interesting ride.

(More after the break)

I nearly gave up after I finished the first DVD.

The first six or seven episodes did absolutely nothing for me.  They were like any other cookie cutter sitcom, with no real draw or hook for me.  I wasn’t laughing like I had hoped, and I didn’t feel any kind of connection with the show.  And that’s just with the first 25% of Season 1!  I was pretty disappointed, and commented on my Twitter feed that I wasn’t feeling the love for this show, and didn’t see the appeal.  So I asked my Twitter friends if it was worth going through the rest of the show.

Some of the comments I got supported my initial feelings, calling the show pedantic and saying that it was so similar to any other CBS show.  A small handful of people encouraged me to stick it out.  The reaction was mixed, and certainly didn’t help the apathy in my own heart.

And then I got a reply from DocAdams.  Yes, that Doc Adams from Sarcastic Gamer.  And he gave me the best piece of advice in the world, which I’m paraphrasing here since the Tweet’s not in my backlog anymore:  “Dude, Neil Patrick Harris is awesome as Barney Stinson!  You need to at least stick it out to The Pineapple Incident”.

(I’m not sure if he actually used “Dude”, but in my imagination, he’s a “Dude” kind of guy.)

Now, “The Pineapple Incident” was only four more episodes in.  I knew I could stick it out for another 4 episodes.  And if it didn’t work by then?  I could walk away with a clear conscience.  So with a modicum of expectation and a hefty dose of reluctance, I threw myself back into the show.  And Doc was right.  Once I hit “The Pineapple Incident”, everything just clicked into place.  That was the first laugh out loud episode for me. The jokes were just insane, the cast was working for me, and I was having a really good time with it.

And in a matter of weeks, I became ravenous for this show.  I went through the DVDs like Bobby Brown goes through crack (allegedly) and at some point, I became a die hard for this show.  I can’t even say when it happened, or what did it.

How I Met Your Mother is a special kind of sitcom, one that respects its viewership.

Take a show like Friends as an example.  Now, I’m not knocking it… it was a great sitcom, and I think it’ll still be important for many years.  But at most points during the run of the show, you could jump in and get the gist of things.  You’d have to wait a few minutes to find out if Ross and Rachel were “On Again” or “Off Again”, but beyond that and the occasional Smelly Cat riff, you didn’t have to have much knowledge of the show’s to understand all the jokes.  But How I Met Your Mother is a little more serialized than that.

No, that’s not even the right word for it.  It’s like the show’s writers intentionally plant clues for you to follow.  A throw-away line of dialog in Season 1 become an entire episode in a later season.  There are gags that are so long-running that they’ve become phenomenons in and of themselves.  If you’re a fan of the show, I can say “Slap Bet” or “Robin Sparkles” and you’ll probably smile and nod with me.  And hey, you know me.  I love a show with hidden clues.  That’s what got me through Season 2 of LOST.

The casting on the show is near-perfection.  Jason Segel is just kinda bleh, and at very few points in the show does he really wow me.  For most people, Neil Patrick Harris is the stand-out role.  The character of Barney Stinson is truly iconic (dare I say, Legen… dary) and his performance is so hilarious, you almost forget he’s gay in real life.  Almost.  But for me, my love sits with Robin Scherbatsky, the Canadian newscaster played by Cobie Smulders.  She carries a gun.  She smokes cigars.  And she’s a pop sensation.  You’ve probably never seen Cobie in anything before this.  Turns out she’s HILARIOUS.

So now, I’m done.  I finished the fifth season of How I Met Your Mother.  And truth be told, I’m kind of sad.

See, at one point, the DVDs were coming through my house like a revolving door.  I’d have one disc in my apartment while I was sending the other back, and I managed to make my way through five years of HIMYM in just under two months.  I was devouring the episodes with gusto, never relenting, never slowing down.  I didn’t even realize how fast I was moving through them.  And then I got to the end of Season Five, which just finished airing… and I realized that I’m caught up.  I had a twinge of regret.  The Binge Factor had led me to the stark absence of content, and I realized that I’ve got to wait another two months just to get the next episode.

Bah.

In truly criminal fashion, CBS doesn’t offer streaming versions of the series, and you can’t get them on Netflix Instant Watch.  You have to watch them the old fashioned way… on DVDs.  Or through less scrupulous outlets.  But if you want a good sitcom, give How I Met Your Mother a shot.  The damned thing’s awesome.  If you’re in your late 20’s or 30’s, you’ll get a kick out of this.  If you’ve ever stood in line for a Star Wars movie, or driven 30 hours straight for a pizza, you’ll get a lot out of this show.  It’s a real gem.  I’d even go so far as to say it’s legen….

… wait for it….

… dary.

(Oh, and thanks again, Doc. You saved me from a mistake I would have regretted)