Sunday, October 04, 2009

HIMYM is Seinfeld

In honor of my brother Mike, who is celebrating a birthday today, I take some time to investigate the connections between one of my favorite TV shows (How I Met Your Mother) and one of his favorite TV shows (Seinfeld).

Happy Birthday Mike! And happy birthday to Virginia as well! I hope you both had a great day.


So, last Monday I taped How I Met Your Mother as I usually do. (Because it comes on at 8 and I'm usually involved with bedtime duties, I always tape it.) Once they were in bed, I came down, rewound the tape, and realized that the local CBS network had some weird malfunction so that the laugh track and the music track were operating . . . but the dialogue track was not.

Oddly enough, at first I thought it was some sort of thematic silent film episode. But after it continued for about two minutes with no dialogue cards between pantomimes, I began to cotton on to the fact that it wasn't intentional.

So, I gave up. Until the next day when I watched the show on the Internet. And then, on Wednesday as I was getting ready for work, I had a revelation. I was thinking about how in this past Monday's HIMYM episode, it was reveled that the gang has been cataloging the appearances of their look alike doppelgangers around New York City over the years . . . and this plot thread made me think of how there was the Bizarro Seinfeld episode.

And that was when I realized that HIMYM and Seinfeld are the same.

You see it, right?

You don't?

Well, then let me lay it out for you.

Obviously, both shows are set in New York City. That ain't nothing interesting because that happens in almost every show. But it gets better. Let's break down the cast, so that you can acknowledge that I am right.

Jerry Seinfeld was the titular character and the other characters revolved around him. On HIMYM, that character is Ted Moseby. But there's more. Jerry was famous for being incapable of holding onto a female relationship. He was always going to find something wrong with each girl--she was a close talker, had man hands, was unattractive when he saw her during "bad naked" times, etc. While Ted isn't quite as neurotic as Jerry, it can't be denied that he has yet to find the right woman. In fact, the entire show is hung on the fact that he is describing how he went through the dating scene again and again and again while looking for the titular mother. Additionally (though, admittedly, less importantly) the show takes place largely in two places--Ted's apartment and McClaren's Pub (which is close to Ted's apartment. Where did almost every episode of Seinfeld take place? In Jerry's apartment . . . or in Monk's Diner--which (presumably) is close to Jerry's apartment.

Jerry's neighbor is Cosmo Kramer. Kramer is a bit of a nutcase. He's always guaranteed to have some crazy scheme up his sleeve and he seems to know lots about odd things. He doesn't have any sort of job and yet he is always finding ways to pay his bills and get mixed up in some new sort of shenanigans week after week. He was a minor character that became a major character. He set the 1990s era standard for wacky neighbor and he transformed the show from something that was kind of interesting to appointment tv, because (at least at first) you always wanted to see what he was going to do next--whether it was trying to sell a coffee table book that was shaped like a coffee table, becoming obsessed with Kenny Rogers Roasters, or devising some insane scheme for collecting the deposits on glass bottles with Newman.

So, who is the Kramer of HIMYM? Well, here is where the show's creators tried to confuse us from their obvious plot homages by dividing the character of Kramer into different pieces. Kramer is represented by a combination of Marshall & Lilly.

Don't believe me at face value? Let's make some comparisons. Marshall (of M & L) is well known for having some pretty weird, Krameresque, beliefs. Marshall made Lilly plan their honeymoon for Scotland so that he could try and catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster. Additionally, Marshall concocted the Slap Bet with Barney (something that Kramer would certainly have excelled at. Can you image how Kramer would have gotten all whimpery as a slap became imminent? And the pratfall that would have occurred if he had been slapped? And let's not forget Lilly . . . who once felt sorry for a goat in her kindergarten class and bought it and brought it to Ted's rather than let it get killed. (Don't you think Kramer would have rescued a goat if given the chance?) And remember how I mentioned the Roasters obsession that Kramer went through? Well, Lilly is a well known credit card fiend. She has been known for going on shopping binges. Plus, Marshall has spend a long time obsessing over whether or not he would jump from the top of Ted's apartment building to the one next door. And, remember that time that Lilly skipped New York altogether and fled to San Francisco for a while? Well, do you remember when Kramer left New York and went to Los Angeles?

There are two Seinfeld characters left and two HIMYM characters left as well. Who should go next? Why not handle the single women.

Elaine Benes is the single woman in the main cast of Seinfeld. That statement has a double meaning because she is the only female AND she has no romantic attachments through almost all of the series. Sure, boyfriends come and go, but they never stick. Though she did have an old relationship with Jerry once upon a time, but they don't talk about it that much and they've seemingly moved past it and are doing other things. Elaine often stands apart from the shenanigans of the rest of the gang and she sometimes wonders how she got mixed up in this whole affair. But she also has a dark side. She's reluctant to share some secrets from her past--like her horrible inability to dance.

Obviously, Robin Shabotsky is the HIMYM equivalent of Elaine. First, she's the only single lady in the regular cast. She's had boyfriends come and go over the show's run, but they never stick for very long. She did have an old relationship with Ted (during season 1), but they don't talk about it much anymore and they've seemingly moved past it. Robin (because of her Canadian upbringing) is often talked about as standing apart from the others. But she also has a dark side. She's reluctant to share some secrets from her past--like her horrible career as a Canadian teen singing sensation . . . Robin Sparkles.

And then there are George Costanza and Barney Stinson. George is Jerry's best friend and Barney (thinks he's Ted's best friend) is Ted's long-standing wingman. George is guaranteed to come up with some convoluted theory on why one of Jerry's dates flamed out on him again--especially is he is abstaining from sex and is thinking clearly. Barney can quote chapter and verse of his Bro Code whenever he has to explain some theory on dating women to Ted. George's family life is (to say the least) colorful. His parents are borderline insane. Barney's parentage is somewhat up in the air, but he grew up thinking that The Price is Right's Bob Barker was his dad and that (actor Wayne Brady) was his biological brother. That's . . . colorful. Nobody ever seemed to know what George did for a living for a long time. And even when he was working for the Yankees or working for that toy company, he never seemed to understand what he was up to most of the time. It was a running joke for a while that nobody knew what Barney did either; he was paying for those suits somehow . . . but it wasn't clear for a while what that something was.

When you take the time to break it all down, I think it is pretty clear that HIMYM is nothing more than a 2000s clone of Seinfeld. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!) Most show's should do a better job of copying a successful show rather than throw out mindless junk that isn't funny and has no sense of character connection. I loved Seinfeld and I love HIMYM too.

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