Dear anyone who has never seen an episode of How I Met Your Mother: Watch the very first episode. Then watch the very last episode. You will think it's the most brilliant comedy series ever to air on television.
Dear anyone who watched all nine seasons and 200+ episodes of the CBS hit comedy, we would like to send our condolences to you during this very difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your loved ones. We know you have suffered a great loss, and we grieve with you. You will never get those hours of your life back.
Here's the thing about How I Met Your Mother's ending: It was specifically designed in a way that people who watched every episode would haaaaaaaaaaate the ever-loving crap out of it. Because they were compelled to care far too deeply about major plot points that ultimately didn't matter, and about couples who ultimately did not end up together. They had the rug pulled out from under them in the last five minutes with a gut-wrenching bait and switch. No one likes to be made a fool.
(Speaking of. That wig that Cobie Smulders wore in the very end? Was not OK. We're pretty sure a dustbroom landed on her head and there's a janitor somewhere who is pissed. But we digress.)
Betrayal is the worst kind of emotion when it comes to TV. And viewers don't easily forgive it.
Just ask the fans of Lost. I remain steadfast in my personal opinion that the ending of Lost was beautiful, soul-piercing and emotionally satisfying, and who cared about the rest? Sorry, but the damn polar bears just don't keep me up at night. And yet, of course, there is an incredibly large portion of fans who wish they had never watched the series in the first place. They felt the show had lead them down a rabbit hole with a promise to answers to mysteries that never came.
HIMYM and Lost may go down as the most controversial TV series finales of all time—53% of you hated the Lost ending and 63% of you hated the HIMYM one. And interesting enough: Lost and HIMYM actually shared nearly the exact same problems.
Think about it. How much less pissed would you have been if Lost and HIMYM had wrapped up after season two or three? Before all the meandering plot lines caused you to care about crap that didn't matter at all?
It's the curse of American network television. If something is successful, it must be milked for every last morsel of ad-revenue-generating programming, domestically and overseas. And the clear, concise, slap-your-momma-it's-so-good creative vision that these TV producers had in the very beginning? It gets lost. And viewers get screwed. And angry. And might have a hard time investing in a spinoff. (Sorry, HIMYD. Things are not looking up for you, dear friend.)
Let the lesson be learned: Less is always, always, always more. (See: True Detective.)
ABC insiders will tell you that Lost went on far longer than Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse wanted it to—because the network had already sold additional seasons overseas. The showrunners almost quit the show over it at one point, telling execs there simply wasn't enough left to the story. (They compromised somewhat with shorter seasons of 18 instead of 22.) Still, that all lead to the unfortunate and tragicaly unnecessary fifth and sixth seasons. (There were a few stellar moments, but think how much more we would have loved the ending if it came way earlier? Without that weird Flash-Sideways world?)
And CBS of course kept hiking up the salaries of the HIMYM stars—the show was a bonafide hit, after all—luring them to stay, and convincing all the main cast members to sign on for a surprising ninth season. It's hard to walk away, we get it. But after seeing the trainwreck that was the final year, I think we can all agree that HIMYM should have ended last year. The finale would have been so much more palatable if we hadn't just spent an entire season wrapped up in Barney and Robin's wedding weekend (they got divorced five minutes/"three years" later! Are you effing kidding me?!), and Ted meeting The Mother. (Who, ultimately, was so relatively insignificant I honestly can't even remember the character's name now as I write this. Oh yeah. And spoiler alert. She's dead. Sorry, "T.M,", and RIP. And by the way, we're pissed we were right.)
Stefanie Keenan/WireImage; Ron Wolfson/WireImage; John Sciulli/WireImage.com
And yet, the stupid timing of it all aside (curse you, network model), we should take a moment to appreciate the beauty and the brilliance of the HIMYM creators' concept: In the very first episode, nine years ago, we saw a guy meet a girl, feel an instant connection, and then decide they couldn't be together because he wanted kids and she didn't. She wanted to travel the world. Remember how long we rooted for Ted and Robin to be together? Well...ultimately they got everything they had wanted in that very first episode. Kids for him. Travel for her. And to be together in the end.
Also, it's kind of a cool message that you can have more than one great love. (Ted had The Mother, and then Robin.) Right?
Lost, ultimately, was all about that we all need one true love, one "constant" to help us find our way—in this world, and in the afterlife. (And if they look like any of the guys pictured above, hey, more power to you.) And it was pretty damn poignant, too.
The best TV should make us feel something. And perhaps no other shows have done that more than Lost and HIMYM.
So HIMYM fans, my hope for you is the same as it was for Lost fans back in 2011: Perhaps once the anger and rage over spending far too many episodes getting invested in storylines that didn't matter wears of, the clear vision of what the show was supposed to be at its very core will come through, and you will find some peace.
If not, I'll meet you at MacLaren's to drown our sorrows in Grape Scotch.