Here’s How We Know that Television Writers Have Zero Fucking Integrity

7 Mar

It can certainly be said that I watch too much television. I’m an old hat at watching too much television, having put in four- and five-hour days of watching TV before I was in junior high school. You’ll never find me extolling television’s many virtues: truth be told, it has very few. However, when you want to be passively entertained, and you don’t mind being subtly mocked by the very thing that’s entertaining you, television is your best bet. Advanced television viewers can suffuse themselves in the hyper-irony of MTV reality programming, but most of us will have to do with the idiot box’s written offerings.


How I Met Your Mother on CBS is about one and a half notches better than your average moronic sitcom. The only thing that sets it apart from other programs, except for more recently-debuted shows which are ripping it off, is that we already know how the series ends: the main character meets the woman of his dreams and marries her. How I Met Your Mother is actually told in retrospect, a narrator relating the events which led up to meeting the mother of his children to his children. It’s a reasonably clever premise, one which demands continuity and therefore regular viewing. Often an episode will employ storytelling devices you don’t see too much of in prime time. Plus, Neil Patrick Harris is a very capable, funny actor: I dare say the show would be unwatchable without him.


So we’ve been going on for however many millions of seasons already, each episode getting closer and closer to the Mystery Woman that is the lead character’s future (or present?) wife. There have been hints throughout the series, points where the future married couple have brushed past each other at a party or whatever, but from the vantage point of the viewer, we haven’t met this woman yet. I assumed that, for the sake of keeping continuity and an overall story arc that wouldn’t just peter out and diminish the entire series, it was all coming to a preordained conclusion, hopefully sometime before I start collecting Medicaid. I mean, these television writers, they’re artists too, right? They got into the business because they had a bunch of great ideas to share with the public, they wouldn’t want to belittle their own talents by beating this thin premise into a dead horse? Right?


Wrong. I’ve just found out that How I Met Your Mother has been extended to the 2012-2013 season. What this means up front is that we’ve got at least another year and a half before we meet this invisible, fertile dream woman. But the implication is that the writers of this show have not devised a cohesive, finite storyline, but just a stupid premise, a lazy storytelling device which can be extended or shortened at will. This shouldn’t be a big surprise, but it’s sort of disheartening. The show isn’t How I Met Your Mother, it’s How I Milked Your Studio. It’s not the story of these characters, but the story of how the writers and producers can buy their fourth summer homes.


Most people reading this probably wonder why I am assailing a show like How I Met Your Mother in the first place. It doesn’t profess to be high art, it’s a diversion, a fictional story that impacts nothing real unless we allow it to. But I know that it isn’t like this everywhere. The best example I can think of is to compare the BBC and US versions of The Office. The BBC version is two seasons long and only becomes redundant by the end of the second season. The US version on NBC has been running for-fucking-ever and is painful to watch these days. We could demand more, and not even a lot more, just a little more. How about instead of pitching unending premises, people start pitching tight story lines? Three’s Company put the sitcom premise shit to bed thirty years ago.

One Response to “Here’s How We Know that Television Writers Have Zero Fucking Integrity”

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  1. Photogenic Memory « Defending Regicide - July 11, 2011

    […] for while no one with a modicum of personal standard would ever defend the artistic integrity of How I Met Your Mother, those familiar with the program will know that the entire story hinges on continuity, the […]

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