How I Met Your Mother's title sequence starts with a picture of Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan) holding a disposable camera, one of those antiquated device that impoverished college students and struggling yuppies used to record memories during the early 2000s.
It’s a charmingly dated image—what 20-something would bring a disposable camera to a bar in the iPhone era? But that datedness actually fits the show perfectly. HIMYM, which will end on Monday after nine seasons on CBS, has been the old soul of network comedy for the past decade, and that’s why it’s so beloved—even if critics often scoffed at it.
Since 2005, the year HIMYM premiered, sitcoms have gotten pretty innovative. 30 Rock infused the format with unprecedented levels of snarky dialogue and clever satire. Single-camera shows like The Office and Modern Family introduced new stylistic sensibilities and satirized reality TV tropes. Non-network comedies like Louie and Girls used stark realism to achieve biting poignancy.
Viewed alongside these creative breakthroughs, the multi-camera, laugh-tracked comedy of HIMYM often seemed like a throwback to the Cheers era. Or, even more specifically, it often seemed like a faster-paced version of Friends. The premise, after all, is awfully similar: Five young New Yorkers spend an inordinate amount of time in a neighborhood bar (rather than a neighborhood coffeehouse), enjoy sleeping with one another, and engage in various shenanigans as they navigate the space between adolescence and adulthood. The primary difference between the two shows is that while Friends usually attempted to suppress the cheesier aspects of its plot, HIMYM has always been unapologetically sentimental. From its title to its overarching narrative, HIMYM offered a schmaltzy celebration of a hapless romantic and the four friends who endlessly support him in his quest to find Mrs. Right.