In the 1990’s sitcoms were it. They were TV. “Seinfeld”, “Friends”, “Cheers”. The top-rated, most beloved shows were traditional, three-camera sitcoms with ensemble casts. Then, as the new millennium approached, reality TV arrived and changed the whole face of the medium. Sitcoms have since faded from glory and are now overwhelmingly outnumbered by procedural dramas, serials, and the aforementioned reality shows. Sitcoms had grown stagnant. But now there is hope and it comes in the form of CBS’s How I Met Your Mother.
At first glance, How I Met Your Mother feels typical: a group of friends in their late twenties, living in New York. However, typical is the one thing it is not. How I Met Your Mother has begun pushing the boundaries and conventions of the ensemble comedy, experimenting in new and exciting ways. It is extremely rare to be able to refer to an aspect of a sitcom as exciting, but, given that the sitcom hasn’t changed much in decades, any new development is a welcome one. Last night’s episode, â€œTed Moseby, Architectâ€?, was a fearless foray into unconventional pacing, chronology and storytelling. The episode was told in alternating flashbacks, with cut backs to present, to the future and, in the end, a re-telling of the entire episode that punctured the reality of everything we had previously seen. Cool stuff for a sitcom. How I Met Your Mother isn’t the greatest thing on television; that’s not what I’m getting at. Its fun and always pleasant, if not consistently laugh-inducing. The writers are still finding the characters and exactly where their laughs will come from. I also hope that, by mid-season, the relationship story line will go away and leave room for more diverse plots. But the writers have time to perfect it; How I Met Your Mother is still early in its sophomore season. There’s a lot of room to improve. I’m really just happy that someone out there is willing to experiment with the genre. Will How I Met Your Mother be the catalyst for a sitcom Renaissance? I hope so. TV needs to make us laugh more. Its easy to have good-looking investigators solve crimes. What’s hard is finding new ways to make people laugh. At least now we know one show that’s trying. -Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer