New sitcom ‘How I Met Your Mother’ a love story in reverse

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On the surface, “How I Met Your Mother” looks like yet another show about a goup of “20-somethings” looking for love in all the wrong places.

The plot focuses on Ted (Josh Radnor), an architect who gets anxious to discover the love of his life when his best friend Marshall (Jason Segel), a law student, announces his engagement to kindergarten teacher Lily (Alison Hannigan from “Buffy” and the “American Pie” series). However, there is more than meets the eye, because as the tagline states, this is a “love story in reverse.”

The story is told in flashback from the year 2030, as a grown-up Ted (voice of Bob Saget), heard, but never seen, relates his romantic-comedy misadventures to his two teenaged children. The story of that meeting unfolds in what will ultimately be the longest flashback in television history. And it raises many questions. Where is their mother? And why does Ted feel the need to tell his story now?

These questions are not answered in the episodes that have already aired. Instead, we have gotten to know the characters, as well as Ted’s desire for love when he meets news reporter Robin (Cobie Smulders). Ted immediately decides that Robin will become his wife. Opposing Ted’s quest is his friend Barney (Neil Patrick Harris in a hilarious return to television), who previously made him promise not to settle down until he’s 30, still a good three years away.

At the end of the pilot, as Ted’s undying love for Robin and his overwhelming desire to marry her are established, it flashes back to the year 2030. As his children wait for Ted to say, “And that’s how I met your mother,” he surprises them, and the audience, by saying, “And that’s how I met your Aunt Robin.”

This intriguing twist is brilliantly played with in future episodes, as we wait to see who Ted’s wife will be, and how they will eventually meet. Each woman he comes across is a potential, and each episode plays with this in hilarious and unexpected ways, raising plenty more questions as the series goes along.

Why is Robin an aunt to Ted’s kids? Does Ted marry Robin’s sister? Does Robin marry someone else in the group? Will Ted and Robin have a relationship that’ll go sour? This is possibly the only sitcom to be centered around mystery and the unknown. It works amazingly well.

“How I Met Your Mother” fills the post-“Friends” void, but it is funnier than that show ever was in its first two seasons.

The second episode had Ted continuing to pursue Robin, after he scared her off in the pilot by expressing his love for her on their first date. By the end of that episode, Ted has given up on pursuing Robin, a smart choice considering we know she isn’t going to be his wife, and she just becomes part of the group.

Fresh, endearing, and laugh out loud funny, the show surrounds a sympathetic lead with hilarious breakout characters, most notably Harris (a far cry from Doogie Howser) as an incorrigible bad influence and Hannigan (almost playing a grown up version of her “American Pie” character) as an earthy bride-to-be.

This is an addicting and wonderfully written show, quite possibly the best sitcom I have seen in years. It deserves its place amongst some of the most inventive sitcoms on television and is the perfect replacement for the “Everybody Loves Raymond” time slot.

The show premiered Sept. 19 on CBS and airs Monday nights at 8:30. The show just received a full season order by CBS and I have no doubt it will continue to get better as it goes along. It is definitely worth your half-hour on Monday nights.

Sahag Gureghian can be reached at ane@sundial.csun.edu.