It’s no secret that supporting characters on comedies are often the highlights of their respective series. Kramer and George on Seinfeld. The bar flies on Cheers. Dwight on The Office. Ari on Entourage. If How I Met Your Mother has done one thing, it’s reintroduce us to Neil Patrick Harris in a completely new light. For that, the world is a better place. He is unequivocally the best part of How I Met Your Mother, and I say this with absolutely no disrespect to the four other main characters. Josh Radnor’s Ted is ostensibly the focal point of the show (the show is Ted’s first person narrative, after all), but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who calls Ted their favorite character. And that’s fine; Ted is the straight man, the most normal and accessible of the characters. He serves a specific purpose, both for tone and for story. Barney, on the other hand, is far more extreme, and the writers have created an expansive canvas in which they can tell Barney’s tale. As season 4 approaches for How I Met Your Mother, Barney is in a time of transition. He’s on the precipice of maturation. Is this good for the show?
Season three of How I Met Your Mother ended with a significant moment: Barney, in the hospital, all his friends visiting him, gives Robin a telling look. He does legitimately care for her, a feeling Barney has rarely felt towards the opposite sex. By all indications, season 4 will explore the Barney-Robin relationship. I’m rooting for them, as I think that any scene Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders shares has the potential for greatness. They are my two favorite characters on the series. Smulders was finally utilized to her full effect by the writers during season three, and they discovered that Robin is a piercing comic weapon and a great foil for the bravado of Barney.
The worry is that, if Barney and Robin do enter into some sort of adult relationship, that it will water down Barney’s former persona and lessen his comedic arsenal. I suppose character evolution is good, but there is precedent for supporting characters on comedies remaining static while retaining their comic bite. Kramer never matured. The hedonistic crew on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia have, if anything, regressed emotionally and have only become funnier as a result. Character growth is not a prerequisite for sustained success on a comedy.
Barney and Robin’s relationship, depending on how it goes down, has shark jumping potential. I have too much faith in the How I Met Your Mother writers to be overly worried, but it’s not going to be easy. I am excited to see how it all plays out. It’ll be fun to see Robin and Barney spar, whatever shape their relationship ends up taking. Still, it’s something worth thinking about. How much growth are we, as an audience, willing to stomach from Barney? Will his emotional maturity hurt the series? We shall see.
-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of CBS)