Disclaimer: this post contains spoilers.
In Tina Fey’s brilliant Bossypants, she gives insight about the worn-down paths countless shows insist upon taking:
For years networks have tried to re-create the success of Friends by making pilot after pilot about beautiful twenty-somethings living together in New York. Beautiful twenty-somethings living in Los Angeles. Beautiful twenty-somethings investigating sexy child murders in Miami.
This template never works, because executives refuse to realize that Friends was the exception, not the rule. The stars of beloved shows like Cheers, Frasier, Seinfeld, Newhart, and The Dick Van Dyke Show had normal human faces.
CBS’ How I Met Your Mother (affectionately nicknamed HIMYM) is guilty of succumbing to this offense. It draws excruciatingly close parallels to the hit NBC sticom that have raised many an eyebrow. Here are 8 of those most prominent parallels:
1. Same City, AKA: The Greatest Place On Earth or We Ran Out of Ideas
In 1994, Monica’s apartment in New York City became everyone’s favorite hang-out spot. Not only was it questionably spacious, but it thrived in the heart of NYC, the greatest place on earth, right? Eleven years later, HIMYM tried to replicate that cozy relationship between viewers and the show through — you guessed it — a questionably spacious New York City apartment.
2. Similar Characters Pt. I: Rachel and Robin
Rachel Green was the fresh addition to the gang (Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Ross and Joey) during the pilot episode of Friends, rekindling an old friendship with Monica. Similarly, Robin Scherbatsky was Ted’s love interest introduced in the first episode and quickly earned her spot in the gang (Lily, Marshall, Ted and Barney). Both Rachel and Robin go through rocky romances — some eerily similar, like Rachel’s relationship with the Italian Paolo and Robin’s with the Argentinian Gael — with Rachel always seeming to fall back to Ross, and Robin to Ted. Their careers line up even more: Rachel works in fashion, Robin in broadcast TV, both ladies desperately aspiring for promotions. They both make the decision to quit their jobs, struggle to find work, scrape by with the help of their friends — of course — and are conflicted when receiving offers in other cities.
3. Similar Characters Pt. II: Ross and Ted
Ross Geller and Ted Mosby are more alike than they’d like to admit. They’re both very average, plain, beautiful twenty-somethings who have really unfortunate things happen to them. They’re both in love with their best friends but hardly ever get the timing right. They’re both extremely nerdy about their occupations — Ross a paleontologist and Ted an architect — often boring their friends (though that joke is only so funny after ten years).
4. Similar Characters Pt. III: Monica and Lily
Monica and Lily are another pair of weirdly similar characters. Monica is a fabulous chef, Lily a less-fabulous artist, and both are extremely dedicated to their passions. Both marry another member of the gang, in near-perfect relationships. Both are obsessed with becoming mothers. Both are very best friends with the Rachel/Robin character. They’re essentially one in the same — down to way-too-alike plot lines (see below).
5. Similar Characters Pt. IV: Chandler and Barney
Chandler and Barney are the characters to look forward to in both shows. They bring the best comedy, look best in suits and make the most money. But more specifically — no one knows the careers of either character. And though it’s questioned a few times, it doesn’t really matter. They just bring home fat checks and deliver the punchiest catch phrases.
6. Punchy Catch Phrases
7. Déjà Vu
Three strikingly familiar scenes:
Same injury, same pirate-wear.
- – -
Identical characters, identical endings. All four characters share a sort of victory in the last minutes of the series when they realize that they finally got the timing right with each other.
- – -
In college, Chandler and Ross roomed together and became best friends, just like how Marshall and Ted roomed together and became best friends. Coincidence? (Note: Ross and Ted are even sporting the same hairstyles…about a decade apart).
8. Couch vs. Booth
Probably the strongest similarity lies with the groups’ typical hangout spot: for the 1994 New Yorkers, Central Perk, a homey coffee shop that draws their attention, and for the 2005 twenty-somethings, MacLaren’s Pub is their favorite place to be. The Central Perk couch is a symbol of Friends, and the booth at MacLaren’s follows suit. Much of both shows are filmed in these spots, which, if you ask me, is a little too closely tied.
Like Tina Fey said, Friends is the rule-breaker, not the rule. So please, network television, drop the twenty-somethings-big-city template.