I considered keeping my review of HIMYM as a single entry. Splitting a sitcom up into seasons almost feels a little pointless as, if they do their job correctly, it shouldn't matter. The story should incrementally move forward but each episode, ideally, will be pretty self-contained and uniform. You don't look to a sitcom to change the way television is written or created; you look to a sitcom to make you laugh, create enjoyable characters and have just enough depth so that you care about them. For these reasons, How I Met Your Mother is one of my all-time favourite sitcoms. What started as a slightly gimmicky, catchphrase laden update to the Friends formula ultimately managed nine seasons of gradual maturation and consistently clever humour. HIMYM was never going to break any boundaries or push the envelope, but it has always been well written, enjoyable and laugh out loud funny. Personally, I'd taken a fairly long hiatus from the show, but we decided to revisit it from roughly where both Alison and I left off at university, and plumped for season six. I was not disappointed.
It's worth diving a little further into the (already noted) parallels between Friends and HIMYM, because I think they're a large part of the latter's appeal and success. The core construct of the will-they-won't-they relationship between two characters in a tightly knit friend group is something which just works. The characters have been updated from their 90's counterparts to feel a little more natural in a 21st-century environment, but otherwise the two shows are practically identical. A coffee shop has been swapped for a bar, personalities have been reshuffled a little (Ross -> Ted, Chandler -> Marshall, Joey -> Barney whilst the three female Friends become fused into two composites, with Monica + kinky/quirky Phoebe -> Lily and Rachel + kickass/neurotic Phoebe -> Robin) and fashions updated but each episode is still a self-contained story about a group of twenty-somethings in New York.
Less obvious but equally present are the influences of sitcoms such as Scrubs, which lend HIMYM their skit based humour and meta ability to inherently mess with the TV format. As with Scrubs this leads to some standout episodes featuring musical numbers, impossible events and the ever-present ridiculousness of Barney's "plays" to pick up women. Also much like Scrubs, the show gets away with this by having a central gimmick that ties everything together, in this case the fact that everything we see is just the retelling of events by a future version of Ted. That's why the show revolves much more tightly around a single character than other, earlier sitcoms like Friends did, and why the boundaries of reality can be pushed at will. As with the use of JD's imagination in Scrubs, Ted's embellishments as he describes his past to his future children allow the show some breathing room that results in some brilliant sketch-based comedy.
If this blend of humour is why the show works then, much like Scrubs, it is also why the show ends up treading a fine line between the hilarious and the inane. For the most part I would say HIMYM walks this line in style and is the reason I think it is one of the finest sitcoms ever, let alone of more recent years. That isn't to say it is perfect. There are still some filler episodes and more than a few moments where Ted acts like a prat and you're just left thinking "well that elongated the story by at least a half dozen episodes", but for the most part these are short-lived or minor niggles easily set aside when viewing the show as a whole.
The writers' have managed to balance the show's humour and heart perfectly, with almost every episode feeling like it has advanced at least one character arc whilst containing multiple moments of laughter-inducing humour. It's incredibly moreish, but not because you're wanting answers or are constantly left with contrived cliff hangers, but because you find yourself having an immense amount of fun.