Is Friends Better Than How I Met Your Mother? Let's Debate

In honor of the Friends reunion on HBO Max, we felt it was only right to compare it to another NYC-centric series, How I Met Your Mother. Check out the different stances.

By Alyssa Ray, Samantha Bergeson May 29, 2021 2:00 PMTags

Friends vs. How I Met Your Mother: Which is the superior show?

On Thursday, May 27, HBO Max released the highly-anticipated Friends reunion, which made us all nostalgic for the many sitcoms of the '90s and '00s. While Friends wasn't the only show to dominate the era, airing alongside Frasier, Will & Grace and Seinfeld, it's certainly had a lasting legacy. Of course, with all the excitement surrounding the reunion, we found ourselves thinking about the sitcom's successor.

No, not Joey. Sorry. We're, of course, talking about How I Met Your Mother. Over a year after the beloved NBC series went off the air, CBS debuted a new sitcom that featured a different ensemble cast bopping around New York City in their twenties creating many quotable moments

Many were quick to dub the show the "new Friends," as the parallels between the two were undeniable. However, did HIMYM eventually surpass Friends in storytelling and character development?

While devoted Friends fans would argue that the David Crane and Marta Kauffman-created series gave HIMYM the formula to be successful, HIMYM fans would counter that the Carter Bays and Craig Thomas-created series' unique storytelling style actually made it a hit.

So, we here at E! News felt it was only right that we add our two cents into the mix and share two very different stances on the Friends vs. How I Met Your Mother debate.

The Friends Cast Through the Years

Friends Is the Better Show - Alyssa Ray

It's safe to say I found my lobster in Friends. The beloved sitcom, which aired on NBC between 1994 and 2004, was a cultural phenomenon. Case in point: Over 52 million viewers tuned in for its final episode. Why? Because Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer felt like our actual, well, friends.

For 10 years, the cast and crew built a world where BFFs could fall in love, a waitress could afford a fabulous two-bedroom apartment and a nobody from Queens could achieve his Soap star dream. Not only was the tone optimistic and inspirational, but the story about 20- and 30-somethings trying to find themselves was wildly relatable. Yes, anything was possible on Friends, but the characters had to work for it.

Rachel Green (Aniston) wasn't just handed her dream job in fashion. The runaway bride first learned how to stand on her two feet by working in a café. Over time, Rachel landed jobs more centered around her interests and eventually found herself being offered a killer position in Paris.

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Now let's take a moment to talk about Ross (Schwimmer). Although Ross prided himself on his intellect and pragmatism, the proud paleontologist was actually a romantic at heart. And, like many of us in our young adult years, Ross jumped from relationship to relationship. (Though, I've yet to find myself divorced three times.) Still, Ross' unwavering dedication to find his lobster made us root for him when he professed his love to Rachel in the final episode.

And, no offense to How I Met Your Mother, but they totally copied this will-they-or-won't-they formula when it came to Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Ted (Josh Radnor). Furthermore, unlike Ted, Ross' whole identity wasn't wrapped up on whether he was in a relationship. He was a proud father, academic and more.

As for Chandler (Perry), he routinely offered up a sarcastic comment, but, in actuality, he was just hopeless, and awkward, and desperate for love like the rest of us. So, we felt fulfilled when he found his other half in best friend Monica (Cox). Oftentimes, HIMYM couple Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and Marshall (Jason Segel) are compared to Friends' Monica and Chandler, and we don't feel that's an accurate analogy. Specifically, Lily and Marshall met and fell in love in college. So, later in life, they found themselves struggling in their relationship before committing to forever.

Watch: "Friends" Star Judy Geller Settles Ross & Rachel's Break Dispute

Chandler and Monica on the other hand, they were best friends turned lovers turned soulmates. They truly knew each other before getting married, and really meant it when they said for better or worse.

Then there was Joey (LeBlanc) and Phoebe (Kudrow), who brought much of the light and humor to the series. HIMYM tried to offer up something similar with Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), but he was, in reality, a pretty problematic character.

The best part about Friends is that was an ensemble show where each character played an important part to the overall story. We mean, there's a reason why people around the world identify as "a Monica," "a Phoebe," etc.

And, after 100 billion streams across platforms, it's abundantly clear that people have resonated with the stories on Friends. So, how could any other show compare?

Ron P. Jaffe/ CBS

How I Met Your Mother Is the Better Show - Samantha Bergeson

OK, don't freak out, folks, but I'm going to just say it: How I Met Your Mother is a superior show to Friends. Granted, HIMYM probably wouldn't exist without Friends' fame but dear God can we stop pretending Friends was the gold standard of TV?

The highly-anticipated Friends reunion only further proved that the series' magic wasn't in its writing, love triangles or head-scratching plot points: It was simply due to the natural chemistry and offscreen friendship of its core cast. Does that make a show? No, no it doesn't.

If you want to talk about the perfect sitcom (Frasier) or even a better TV rom-com series, Friends isn't in the conversation. Rather, it's HIMYM that kept me most engaged in trying to decipher who Ted Mosby was eventually going to fall for. The comfort of knowing that he did end up with someone was the guiding beacon throughout the series.

Unlike Friends' Ross who had a slew of ex-wives and a decades-long crush on his childhood sweetheart, Ted was just like the rest of us: Out in the wild, looking for someone to connect and hopefully grow old with.

Ted had a certain desperation that was more endearing than Ross' annoyingly neurotic nature; the character of Ted felt like a natural evolution of the lonely and sometimes cringey man-child that you were most likely to encounter in the early 2000s. HIMYM also had the excitement of not knowing what to expect. While others may nostalgically idolize watching Ross and Rachel get together, break up and ultimately find their way back to one another, the clues of whose yellow umbrella Ted kept seeing and where he might have brushed past his anonymous soulmate added a mystery element to what could have been a mindless sitcom.


A revolving door of crushes and lovers for Ted gave the series a fresh twist almost every episode and felt more realistic than a very insular group of Friends. Come on, we know they'd be clique-y in real life. 

Speaking of friend groups, it was the supporting characters of HIMYM that also bolstered the series with an array of uniquely realistic situations. Lily and Marshall challenged viewers to witness the honest ins and outs of a married couple's love life, struggle to conceive and Lily later trying to find herself—and her purpose—outside of the role of wife and mother. Did we get to see that level of depth on Friends? Not a chance.

Behind the Scenes of How I Met Your Mother's Emotional Finale

Robin was a career-focused, cigar-smoking broadcast reporter that dated Ted on and off before marrying bachelor party boy Barney. While Ted and Robin's "Ross and Rachel" parallel was forced, Robin's personal struggles made her far more intriguing than Rachel. Her destructive relationship with Barney and realization that she can't have children (spoiler, she's not the future biological mother of Ted's two kids), made Robin the most heartbreaking aspect of the series. While Ted eventually weds a near-widowed Tracy (Cristin Milioti) in a divisive series finale, it seems clear Robin is not Ted's grand soulmate—but she just might have been the love of his life.

There is also a reason why HIMYM can be rebooted starring the lovable Hilary DuffFriends never will be—or should be. HIMYM is the relatable story of a person living in the big city, looking for love in seemingly all the wrong places and eventually telling their children how they met their spouse. It's beautiful, it's simple and it's universal. And that's why HIMYM is truly the more legend-wait for it-dary show once and for all.

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