How I Met Your Mother





Paul Asay
Marcus Yoars
PluggedIn Staff

TV Series Review

After nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother, several false positives and countless sex-and-suds jokes, we’ve finally met the mother. Not that we care. CBS’ sitcom warhorse has been on the air for nearly a decade now, and it’s time to put the ol’ Betty out to pasture. Past time, actually.

The show’s center is, technically, Ted Mosby, who every episode regales his children (circa 2030) with another story of his long-distant but still fondly remembered past. He talks about married pals Marshall and Lily. He talks about Robin, who might’ve at one time been “your mother.” But he especially seems to relish the recalling of bud Barney’s strange, sordid exploits.

Barney is for most of the series an unapologetically shallow young professional, a schmoozer who hounds his friends to join him at strip clubs, lingerie-modeling parties and sexed-up soirees. Entertainment Weekly was so impressed with Barney’s presence that in 2005, during the sitcom’s first season, the mag dubbed actor Neil Patrick Harris “the No. 1 scene-stealer on any new television show this fall.” But not everyone has fallen for Barney’s problematic charm. In 2009, Common Sense Media ranked him No. 10 on its “10 Worst TV Role Models” list, saying, “He’s extremely cavalier about dating and rarely sees women as anything besides the next notch in his belt.”

Note that when he finally gave his heart to Robin, he didn’t really become a changed man, but at least he slowed down a little.

While the show has earned praise for its creativity (winning nine Emmys over the years), and despite this being a “children’s story” (wink-wink), it’s utterly obsessed with strippers, sex, alcohol and demeaning gags. A lifestyle of drinking, partying and meaningless hookups gets treated about as flippantly as the next transvestite hooker jest. And as hinted at while we were talking about Barney, getting married and having kids doesn’t cause these hip professionals to suddenly turn their lives around: They just have to be more sneaky about things.

Mushy and romantic scenes do join those sneaky moments. And of course Barney, for all his scene-stealing, is the immoral stooge here. It’s the somewhat more restrained Marshall that we can sympathize with. But the show never lets us forget, even for a moment, that in today’s torrid TV world, tender moments and mature contemplation are given screen time solely to set up another bawdy wisecrack.

So while How I Met Your Mother would like us to believe it has the heart of Marshall, it really has the soul of Barney.

Episode Reviews

HowIMetYourMother: 2-24-2014


The day before his wedding, Barney is found in a hallway, drunk and unconscious. His buds try to figure out how to make his famous “Hangover Fixer Elixir” for him. But when they finally revive him long enough to say the secret ingredient, he confesses that the elixir was all a lie to help his friends feel better during the worst moments of their lives. They return the favor later by lying to him to protect his ego.

So it’s drunken escapades, not love, that are the theme for the episode. Each character vows to never get as drunk as Barney. “We’re seriously too old to keep doing this to ourselves!” Marshall says. But we soon see how they all break their vows.

Lily and Robin talk about making out and nearly kiss. They accidentally send Barney crashing down a flight of stairs. We hear he was kicked in the crotch. It’s suggested that he wets himself. References are made to unhinged parents and drunken presidents. When Ted tries bacon for the first time, he says he has “seen the face of God” and condemns his mother to a bacon-less hell. We hear “b‑‑ch,” “d‑‑n,” “h‑‑‑” and “p‑‑‑ed.” God’s name is misused.

HowIMetYourMother: 122012


Ted and Barney open a bar in their apartment, and Barney turns Ted’s room into a “VIP” chamber where he can have sex with revelers. Meanwhile, personal heartbreak (for Sandy), triggers drinking and the solicitation of a three-way. (We see him begin to undo his robe.) The book Enigmas of the Mystical prompts Marshall and Lily to snipe about faith, with Marshall saying it “gives life shape and meaning! And if there aren’t leprechauns and Yetis, what’s the point of ever getting up in the morning?” Lily regrets that her uninvolved father never taught her to believe in anything. Later, Marshall and his brother lob spiritual-themed putdowns over who gets to spend solo time at their father’s gravesite. An example: “I’m trying to feel Dad’s spirit flow through my soul, butt-breath!”

Marshall embraces a spirit of generosity. But most of this material is thick with references to casual sex. Sandy masturbates (offscreen) in an apartment hallway, and it’s suggested that he considers urination and/or defecation a turn-on. Robin’s boyfriend suggests they make a sex tape. Barney talks about getting girls drunk so he can sleep with them. A reference is made to prostitution.

We see people punch each other and throw up. They drink beer and wine. They say “b‑‑ch” and “a‑‑” once or twice each, misusing God’s name a few times.

HowIMetYourMother: 11152010


Lily’s quest to become pregnant drives a wedge into her relationship with Robin, and tensions rise when Lily mistakenly believes that if she does have a baby Robin will stop being friends with her. Barney, meanwhile, shows a DVD of a kids’ program called Space Teens, which Robin and Jessica starred in years earlier. It’s packed with intentionally unintentional sexual double entendres, and many minutes are devoted to smirking over them: Oral sex, ménage à trois, lesbianism and masturbation are all implied in Space Teens, as are slang terms for female genitalia.

Lascivious Barney wears a boutonniere, saying it means “booty is near.” Punchy, Ted’s high school friend, visits, bringing more foul humor and immaturity. He shows his genitalia to Ted as a gag, jokes about having sex with Ted’s mom, says he’s collecting his urine in a jar and laughs about the time Ted soiled his pants as a teen. But it turns out that seemingly insensitive Punchy is actually concerned about Ted, and he’s visiting to be sure his friend isn’t as depressed as he sounded during their last (ridiculous) phone call.

There are three or four misuses of God’s name in the episode, and one somewhat muffled “d–n.”

PluggedIn Podcast

Parents, get practical information from a biblical worldview to help guide media decisions for your kids!
Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Marcus Yoars
PluggedIn Staff

Reviews from previous PluggedIn Staff members

Latest Reviews

The Sandman s1

The Sandman

Morpheus is the master of dreams in this Netflix series. But the content is nightmarish.

Amber Brown s1

Amber Brown

This coming-of-age story based on a children’s book series teaches kids about making friends, fitting in and navigating divorce.

Big Tree City s1

Big Tree City

Cartoon animals band together to support each other, solve problems for the citizens—and entertain preschoolers.