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What to do when you don't like Friends

By Matt Fowler

Section: Arts

March 21, 2008

diverse-city-3-21-08-final_page_2_image_0002.jpgThere is a theory that I’ve been kicking around in my head for a few years now. I’ve never mentioned said theory for fear of losing credibility as a person and for fear of losing an appendage to some rabid fans. The theory is as follows: when it comes to television sitcoms there are two poles. There are those people who love watching the wacky humor of Friends, and then there are those who love the nonsensical humor of Seinfeld. The television viewers who enjoy both of those shows either enjoy everything on television, including reruns of I Love New York, or don’t really like the sitcom format at all.

I offer this theory now because for a long time there was an anomaly that just didn’t make sense to me. What about those people who did not like Seinfeld or Friends? I ask this question because I am one of those people. Sorry, Brandeis tour guides. The fact that Chums may have been the inspiration for the Friends’ coffee shop is not the reason I attend Brandeis.

I’ve watched bad sitcoms like Two and a Half Men (According to Jim was too easy), and I’ve watched good sitcoms like The Office, but I have not fallen in love with a sitcom in a long time (never forget Arrested Development). It was always easier for me to turn on an hour-long drama than it was to sit through a half-hour comedy. I did not buy the laugh tracks (Everybody Loves Raymond), and I did not buy the so-quirky-it-hurts characters. Even the shows that were clever and seemed in on the joke, I didn’t find myself missing throughout the week (Scrubs). There was no answer to be found. Until one day, I happened to be channel surfing and flipped to CBS to find a grownup Doogie Howser.

How I Met Your Mother is the midpoint in the Friends and Seinfeld line. The story unfolds as narrator Bob Saget tells his children how he came to meet their mother, the woman he married. Though three seasons have passed and there is still no sign of a wife for the lovelorn Ted Mobsy, the real joy of the show is watching the characters interact with one another. The actors on How I Met Your Mother legitimately seem to like each other and this translates well on screen. There is real chemistry. Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser or NPH) is a scene-stealing, woman chaser and at times can make a viewer ache with laughter. The rest of the cast conjures up the wacky comedy of Friends while never failing to remain just as witty and as well written as Seinfeld. So what if there is a laugh track? (Do not be a television snob). Did that stop The Cosby Show and Boy Meets World from being great? (Do not be an uninformed television snob).

Perhaps I have been overly complimentary with regard to How I Met Your Mother because I dislike the favorite sitcoms that my friends enjoy. It is also possible that the return of How I Met Your Mother after its hiatus due to the writers’ strike has made it easy for my heart to love it. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

Either way, the show is a gem and it deserves to be watched. Maybe How I Met Your Mother is the answer to all the Seinfeld and Friends-related gang fights that take place in cafeterias everywhere. Of course, they don’t happen, but wouldn’t it be awesome? Maybe not. But, to steal a line from Barney Stinson, the show is “legend…wait for it…and I hope you’re not lactose intolerant because the second half of the word is dairy.”

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