In the year 2030, Ted Mosby recounts to his kids the story of how he and their mother met and fell in love. Although each episode is ostensibly an important step on the way to Ted meeting "The Mother," it seems Ted is the kind of person who uses this basic premise as an excuse to ramble off onto hundreds of other, completely unrelated anecdotes. Beginning in the year 2005, it presents the modern day in a nostalgic way and emphasizes the strong bond between Ted and his group of friends.The series focuses on Ted's closest friends and the hijinks that ensue as they traverse through their dating lives and friendships. At this point in time, Ted (Josh Radnor) is an architect and hopeless romantic who has realized that he's done with the single life and would like nothing more than to get married and settle down. He's best friends with his college roommate, Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel), an idealistic lawyer with a child-like streak. Marshall is initially engaged to, and later marries, his college sweetheart Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan), a surprisingly dirty kindergarten teacher and artist who acts as the mother for the group. Also in the gang is Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders), a TV news reporter from Canada who meets Ted in the pilot as the first potential "Mother" and whose friendship with Ted becomes a key element in finding the right girl for him. Lastly, there's Barney Stinson, a serial womanizer played by Neil Patrick Harris who is bound and determined to give his friends a memorable night every night.This sitcom uses its framing device to surprisingly good effect, admitting to parts where the narrator honestly had no first-hand recollection of the events, doing very swift flashbacks to build up to a punchline or events are recalled out-of-order in order to create twists and surprises that achieve maximum impact (every method can be seen in the memorable episode "The Pineapple Incident"). In other episodes, the framing device allowed Ted to retell stories involving foul curse words or drugs by substituting each with an Unusual Euphemism for his children's benefit.The show at first feels very similar to a regular sitcom but it is actually a mixture of both single camera and three cameras, there is extensive outdoor location filming in addition to the regular sitcom-style sets. The narrative gimmick gives the show an edge in allowing them to portray a wonderfully complex universe of seemingly unimportant events and myriad callbacks. Besides the concept itself, there is one other unusual element: the resident Wacky Guy is the best groomed and best dressed person in the show.The uncredited Narrator for the show is Bob Saget.The show was renewed for a ninth and final season on December 21st, 2012. We're sure it's not coincidence, but feel free to dope smack us if we're wrong.
Get ready for the series' tropes cause they're LEGEN—wait for it...
A sparkling wine flute containing a ring was delivered to Ted and Robin's table while they were on the first anniversary date, rather than the table next to theirs. When Robin sees it she yells "Noo, no no no no no no no, No! No, no no no, no, no, No!"
And it's Played With when Barney "proposes" to Abby, who was in on the plan, to show Ted how annoying he can be with girls. Abby isn't the sharpest nail in the box and thinks it's a real proposal, telling her dad "It finally happened, daddy!", Barney believing her to be 'doing a bit'.
A Day in the Limelight: Despite Ted being the main character and narrator, the show is generally more of an ensemble instead of focusing solely on Ted. Despite this, several episodes are structured slightly different to highlight other characters narrating the story in some fashion. Season 5 had "Perfect Week" where Barney imagines an interview with a sports commentator on his attempts at 7 for 7 one-night stands. Season 6 had "Oh, Honey" where Marshall is learning about Ted's complicated situation with Zoey via multiple phone calls while staying with his Mom (and ultimately gathers all the pieces of the puzzle). Season 7 had "Symphony of Illumination" where Robin takes over narrating the story from the future, though it does have future Ted take over at the end.
Ambiguously Bisexual: Lily. Robin's starred in a few of Lily's dreams that remind her "a woman's sexuality is a moving target". Her secret crush is Mila Kunis. One of her unfulfilled ambitions in life was to have a lesbian experience. And when Marshall says that he can't stop thinking about her and Robin during sex (meaning the fact that they gossip), she says it happens to her too occasionally. Not to mention what happens when she drinks martinis.
Marshall and Barney. The two spent some time arguing who Ted was having gay dreams about and then realized they were accidentally trying to seduce him. Barney otherwise averts the trope neatly, though: he's comfortable enough with his own absolute straightness to snog Marshall in the very first episode.
Amusing Injuries: Barney has a tendency to suffer some of these as a result of his schemes and self-imposed challenges. He's usually fine by the next episode.
Anachronic Order: A very common trope on this show, where a scene will happen, and then cut back to it later to show the scene from some other perspective. For example, "Swarley," "Zip, Zip, Zip", the whole storyline involving the goat. Also, in a twist, "Three Days of Snow" and "The Leap".
Bad Omen Anecdote: Inverted in an episode in which the gang tell anecdotes within anecdotes within anecdotes all trying to convince Ted not to do something. All of them have bad endings except for one. Barney's. Because he's crazy.
Batman Gambit: The Scuba Diver. Barney introduces the gang to his Playbook, a book of schemes he's invented to pick up women. He then uses a scheme from the Playbook to hit on Lily's coworker, making her angry enough to steal it. Barney arrives at the apartment later, wearing a scuba suit, and announces to the gang that he's going to pull one more scam called the Scuba Diver. A scam not found in the Playbook. They follow him to the bar, he doesn't elaborate but points out his target, a hot girl standing at the counter. This causes Lily to go and warn the girl about him and his Playbook, and the girl listens as Barney's friends explain his many schemes and tricks to her. Eventually they all go to Barney and demand to know what the scheme is. Barney starts to explain the trick, but then launches into an explanation about his deep insecurities, causing the gang to feel bad for him. Together, they convince the girl that beneath the tricks he's a great guy, and she leaves the bar with Barney. After they leave, he sends Lily a text, revealing the page explaining the Scuba Diver to them, and revealing that he played them all to make him look good for the girl.
Beta Couple: Marshall and Lily, the often boringly perfect couple.
The Big Board: Used by Barney a few times, sometimes to plan out a prank and other times to figure out how to best score in a specific circumstance. Ted managed to see the key to their dilemma in "The Drunk Train" by highlighting a line of letters in the chaos on the board, specifically that they needed to "GET DRUNK."
Big "NO!": Barney has a habit of doing this to close episodes.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: A handful of women of the week, but Lily is a rare example that gets portrayed in a positive light.
Boggles the Mind: Invoked by Ted, who tries to use a Scrabble game to broach the subject of whether Robin has ever been married.
Robin: There's no 'P' in 'husband'
Ted: Hmm... you seem to know a lot about husbands...
Bowdlerise: Future!Ted does this during his narration, which he lampshades;
When Lily discovered an old answering machine message about her;
Ted: *Answer-machine* You should forget about that Grinch!
Future!Ted: But I didn't call her "Grinch". I said a bad word.
Ted: Oh Fudge!
Future!Ted: But I didn't say "Fudge".
Later subverted in the same episode;
Ted: She stole all the christmas presents! What a Grinch!
Brick Joke: There's one or two in nearly every episode, not to mention several that span the seasons.
Broken Aesop: Marshall explaining the reason why Ted doesn't see Karen's self-centred and jerkass qualities because she was his first real girlfriend in college. Er, care to remind us again of who you married, Marshall?
Pete, Marshall's college-buddy who drunkenly plays Edward Fortyhands, is actually a highly skilled surgeon.
Speaking of Marshall's school buddies, his friend Brad from law school passed the bar on the first try, is very skilled at controlling a jury, and wound up being hired by Marshall's firm very quickly despite having an intentionally atrocious interview and betraying Marshall while working for a rival firm.
The Bus Came Back: Happens twice with Ted's first serious girlfriend in the series, Victoria. She's put on a bus to Germany towards the end of season 1. They break up over the phone shortly after, and that's the last we see of her for years. In season seven, she returned early and then for the season finale.
But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Barney invokes this when telling Marshall about his first time sleeping with Robin, though strangely but not surprisingly, the invocation has nothing to do with Robin.
Marshall: I'm fairly certain that if these contracts aren't executed precisely, we will be at war with Portugal.
Barney: Forget that! That's a Tuesday for me.
Also a running theme of third season episode "The Bracket." Interestingly, averted for one of the finalists since you would think that it would apply (from Barney's perspective, it's very standard procedure... it's only interesting from the audience's perspective).
Butt Monkey: Ted takes a fair amount of abuse, mostly in dating or being mocked for his dating skills.
Barney - Full episodes have revolved around him getting slapped in the face.
Robin too, especially with regards to her frustrating news anchor jobs and past career as a teen pop star.
Caretaker Reversal: In one episode, Robin is sick and Ted takes care of her. When he goes to kiss her, she tries to refuse, but he goes ahead anyway. Immediately after, we see Ted in bed, Robin taking care of him.
The Cast Show Off: All of the leads (with the sole possible exception of Alyson Hannigan) are pretty accomplished singers, which has been showcased in various ways. Additionally:
Neil Patrick Harris is a magician. He serves on the Board of Directors of Hollywood's Magic Castle. As such, Barney is also a fan of magic, and he uses his tricks to impress girls and set an 'INTERVENTION' banner on fire. It was an intervention to try and stop him doing so many magic tricks. Specifically, those involving fire.
Both Jason Segel and NPH are very talented pianists.
He uses his plaintive "Please don't" enough times that it probably counts.
... but I'll get to that later.
You see kids, if (I had not done X)/(X had not happened), I never would have got to meet your mother.
Also referenced and played with in "The Stinsons", where the actor playing Barney's son tried to give his character the catch phrase "Tyler no likey".
The TV Guidance column of the Canadian Maclean's magazine has pointed out that the show has also indulged in single-episode catchphrases, which may or not be referenced later on but are otherwise contained only to that episode (many Barneyisms fall into this category).
Celebrity Paradox: In the summer of 2011, it was discovered that reruns of the show contained retroactive product placement - ads for timely 2011 products inserted into old episodes. This included a scene where Jason Segel stood in front of an ad for Bad Teacher, a film starring Jason Segel.
The Chain of Harm: This is known as the Chain of Screaming. When someone screams at a subordinate, the subordinate must scream at someone lower, who in turn screams at someone else, and so on until someone screams at the original screamer and the cycle is complete. Marshall's attempts to break the chain do not go as well as he hoped.
Characterization Marches On: Barney was always an unrepentant womanizer, but in the earlier seasons he was more of a "date a woman for a few weeks, then dump them" instead of priding himself on being the master of the one night stand. Women still hated him, but the group knew a few of his brief girlfriends. He constantly bemoaned the concept of doing anything other than seducing and bedding women and it becomes very significant in later seasons that he has next to no experience with relationships of any sort, however brief they may have been.
Cigarette Of Anxiety: A fifth season episode revealed that all the main characters would relapse into smoking at various times but due to Ted being an Unreliable Narrator he never mentioned it until then (Robin was shown smoking once in the second season, implying it was a regular thing for her). Robin is going through a very rough time and is on the roof smoking. The implication is that it was such an important and stressful moment that Ted clearly remembered the cigarette and found it worth mentioning years later. After this, smoking is shown erratically.
Cleveland: Ted hails from the city of Shaker Heights, Ohio: a real-life first-ring suburb of Cleveland (also the hometown of series creator Carter Bays).
Cloudcuckoolander: Barney at times seems to be a more grounded version of one of these. He's perfectly capable of functioning in the world, but occasionally displays a brand of logic that wouldn't make sense to anyone else but him.
Also Marshall, who believes in, among other things, the Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster.
Complexity Addiction: Barney often inexplicably comes up with incredibly elaborate and complicated schemes and solutions, completely overlooking the fact that there's a far simpler solution right in front of him.
When he and Ted are trying to determine which of them is better with women, he suggests a several month multi-round international championship with a panel of judges. Ted suggests they pick one woman and see who she goes for.
In "Something Borrowed" when Marshall shaves part of his head right before his wedding, Barney and Ted's best idea to cover it is an "authentic Native American headdress." When Lily is informed of the problem, she finds Marshall a hat.
Marshall: "HAT. We thought of authentic Native American headdress before we thought of HAT."
Compressed Vice: Frequent. The episodes "Intervention" and "Spoiler Alert" establish at least one of these for every character (though notably, "Spoiler Alert" mostly called out existing flaws for most of the characters).
Continuity Lockout: Given the amount of continuity, callbacks, references and plotlines the show has have over its run it's all but inevitable for this to occur on some level. However, steps are taken to simplify things and catch new viewers up. The framing device allows for a lot of concessions for this take, such as Ted specifically reminding his children about past events ("Remember when I said..." is frequently used).
On the whole, the episodes are self-contained and don't run together very tightly even with seasonal subplots running along. The built-in narrator prevents the need for "Previously On" segments and sometimes even the "As You Know" info-dump includes information that hadn't been revealed in a previous episode anyway (such as in "Nothing Good Happens After 2AM" regarding what happened to Robin during the previous episode). Longtime viewers are rewarded with subtle details that they can catch while newer viewers aren't completely oblivious to what is going on.
Continuity Nod: All the time, as the creators do a lot of planning ahead due to the multiple flashback nature of the show. In an interview, they revealed that while shooting Season Two, they also shot a scene that they don't plan to use until the series finale.
Continuity Porn: So, so, so much. Pretty much every single episode has at least a few callbacks to previous episodes, the show is rife with unlampshaded running jokes, and sometimes events in an episode will explain or go into detail about a scene or line of dialogue from a previous one (e.g., pretty much everything involving Marshall, Ted, and Lily's college years). Word Of God tells us that their greatest regret was Narrator!Ted saying they never learned where the pineapple came from.
Continuity Snarl: The unique storytelling format of the show comes in handy since it is easily possible that episodes overlap or may not even be in complete chronological order. After all, "old Ted" is just telling his kids a story and it is shown that he alters the story (how he got over Robin's rebound boyfriend Gael) or leaves out details (the dirty joke, Victoria's story in "Game Night"). Sometimes he even makes mistakes, as he was close to telling the story of the goat at the wrong point of the actual story.
Cool Teacher: Ted's students are really fond of him. Well, once he finds the right room. Ted possibly stops being a cool teacher when Zoey turns his students against him and he delivers the ultimatum of failing anyone who skips class.
The Couch: Both in Ted and Marshall's apartment and in the bar downstairs.
Since Marshall and Lily bought their apartment, an increasing number of episodes play there as well.
Couch Gag: In syndication, every episode ends with a different rule from the Bro Code.
Deconstructed Trope: Runaway Bride / Disposable Fiancée is beautifully deconstructed through Ted being left at the alter by Stella with the groom doing nothing to deserve the bride disappearing on the day of the wedding with only a note to explain her actions. He was left with serious emotional baggage that would affect his future relationships.
The show deconstructs Amicable Exes with Ted unconsciously pining after Robin after their amicable breakup and it has been pointed out by others how part of the reason why his relationships with other women fails because part of Ted still wants to get together with Robin. It is likewise with Barney and this comes back to bite him when he slept with Robin while dating Nora.
The show also appears to be deconstructing True Companions. While the gang undeniably care for each other and go to great lengths for each other, they are becoming more dysfunctional because they are meddling too much into each other's affairs. In fact, it's been pointed out to Ted that since he has such a close group of friends, it's near impossible to find someone to enter that bubble and many of his relationships has failed because of that reason.
Disappeared Dad: Barney's father abandoned him when he was very young, and his mother doesn't seem to know who his father is either. She tells Barney his dad is Bob Barker, former host of the Price is Right, which he deludes himself into believing is true. His friends go along with it in order to spare his feelings.
Do It Yourself Theme Tune: The opening theme is the very end of "Hey Beautiful" by the Solids; two creators of the show are members of the band.
There are also two episodes where the theme tune is performed by members of the cast. In "Hopeless", as part of Barney's attempt to make his friends seem more interesting to his dad, he tells Jerry that he and his friends are in a band, cutting to the whole group performing the theme tune together. Then, in "46 Minutes", when Marshall and Lily briefly leave the group, Barney takes command of the group, performing an altered form of the theme tune called "How I Met Your Barney". Later in the same episode, this happens again when Stripper Lily and Not Marshall join the group, but this time it's a Russian version of the tune.
Double Standard: In Season 3 Ted is bitter over Robin appearing to move on from their relationship, and the jealousy is generally shown in a humorous light, with the rest of the gang not really having any sympathy and it being clear that the audience isn't expected to. In Season 5 when Robin is upset by how quickly Barney's moved on from their relationship, she becomes the centre of attention with everyone treating Barney like a complete jerk, and the flashbacks to Robin crying over it are one of the show's few sincere, joke-free moments.
In the 4th episode, Ted dates a girl who, it transpires, studies Krav Maga. Granted, he acts like a jerk towards her, but the public beating she doles out to him at the episode's end - during which no one in the crowded restaurant attempts to help or intervene - is hardly justified. To make matters worse, when he tells his friends, and his children, what happened, all any of them do is laugh because he 'got beat [sic] up by a girl'. Even worse, in a later episode, Ted reveals that the crowd in the restaurant cheered her on. Furthermore, for anyone who knows a little about Krav Maga, it is an Israeli martial art. The premise behind it is that, in a real fight, no quarter is given to the enemy. You fight to inflict maximum pain and damage in order to accomplish your goal and ensure your safety. Everything is permitted, including eye-gouching and Groin Attacks.
In a seventh season episode, Robin tells Barney that she is pregnant (so she thought at the time). He then responds with several insensitive questions or statements. After each one, Robin punches Barney hard, in the face, knocking him to the floor. This is played for laughs.
Dramatic Pause: Barney is a big fan of these, whether it's as part of his catchphrase, or just when he's announcing something to the group.
The Driver: Ranjit, the cab driver in the pilot, who pops back up every once in a while.
DVD Commentary: Season 2's "Arrivederci, Fiero" had its writer Chris Harris and star Jason Segel doing a commentary, which involved them stripping to their underwear. For season 3's "The Chain of Screaming", Segel demanded to do the commentary with Harris, who hadn't even written the episode. Before recording, Segel had done shots. During recording, he continued to drink vodka (with Harris) and also produced twelve condoms. For season 4, they went further and recorded a commentary in the personas of "David Ellis Duncan" and "Evan Rock".
Early Installment Weirdness: The first few seasons would have a few quirks that worked themselves out, including some odd musical cues for scene changes similar to Seinfeld and the fact they regularly rotated to different spots in MacLarens instead of being bound and determined at their favorite booth.
Also in the first episode, Ted mentions his perfect woman would be able to quote lines from Ghostbusters, but he doesn't mention anything about Star Wars, which would soon after be established as his all time favourite film.
Easily Forgiven: Averted after Stella leaves Ted at the altar. The gang actively encouraged Ted to let her have it afterwards.
Also averted with Zoey when it was revealed she lied when she said she erased a recording of Ted praising the Arcadian and almost ruined both Ted and Barney's careers. Barney and Robin actually went to tackle Ted in the streets to prevent him when he was reconsidering getting back with Zoey.
At first played completely straight with Lily after she breaks off her engagement and goes to San Francisco. Ted, Robin, and Barney seem to completely take her back immediately, and even she and Marshall are awkward but mostly amicable. Midway through the season, however, it's revealed that Ted still harbors some resentment about it.
Inverted for Barney, who never looks bad in photos.
Lily's naked painting of Marshall may count.
Emotional Regression: A running gag throughout the series. In "Sandcastles in the Sand" they discuss the phenomenon and Marshall tries dubbing it "Revertigo," as Robin met her old boyfriend and despite being a loser she became a giddy teenager again.
Epic Fail: Barney's schemes tend to alternate between this and unbelievable successes, with very little middle ground. For example, the entire bachelor party he tries to throw Marshall, in which absolutely everything goes wrong; attempting to pull off the "Naked Man" and getting thrown onto the streets in the middle of the night with no clothes; his attempts at completing the Murtaugh List; and also when he tries to get out of a speeding ticket in "As Fast As She Can" and ends up in a holding cell.
Played with in the episode where he runs he marathon with no training, in which he combines both unbelievable success and unmitigated failure.
The Mother of course. Her face is always hidden, usually by a yellow umbrella.
Failure Is the Only Option: Basically Marshall and Lily are the only two of the five who have a Romantic Relationship and stay that way. Ted and Robin (and Barney) have had seemingly well developed romances that have failed in the end, which sometimes seem to make the show flirt with Status Quo Is God. But still, they seem to only be really fortunate in getting one night stands.
Note that the entire show is told in flashback by Future-Ted, and as of the "present day" all three of Ted, Robin and Barney have gotten married. Thus, it is a Foregone Conclusion that this trope will eventually be subverted.
Fake Mixed Race: Dark-skinned Wayne Brady plays white Barney's half-brother.
Falling in Love Montage: Ted has a stock montage where he gives a girl a flower, feeds her sauce while she sits on his counter, and they go for a walk (or jog!) in the park. This has been used with at least three different women.
False Cause: The premise of the show is that Ted's telling his kids how he met their mother, but we're seven seasons in and nothing of relevance has occurred. An episode in the second season was built around this fallacy.
First Girl Wins: Marshall and Lily met as they were moving into their college dorms. They are also each others' first and only sexual partners (though for Lily, this may be a technicality), a point of pride for the couple.
This is also averted for Robin.
Five-Man Band: Despite it being a sitcom, the group fits this trope.
Food Slap: Drinks to the face are an occupational hazard for Barney Stinson. "Eventually, you'll be able to anticipate it, and when you do... free drink!"
Foregone Conclusion: Most women are identified as "Not the mother" to the audience well before their relationship with Ted ends. Other times, Future!Ted simply tells the viewer how things will end and the story is how they will get there.
Foreshadowing: Future Ted will often explicitly say "More on that later" when it comes to various plot points brought up. As well, the writers purposefully foreshadow something in the next season (or even several years with regards to the goat incident) and DON'T have plans on it at the time, used as a fun exercise to keep things interesting. Ted in the green dress was apparently the most difficult, as the context of him saying "Now we're even!" sounded victorious rather than merely a bet or blackmail.
In season six they introduce Michael Trucco as Nick, a crush Robin had from years prior, who was stated to show up later on. Trucco had schedule conflicts in the following season and so they introduced Kal Penn as Kevin to fill in as Robin's love interest for that season (with the assumption that Kevin's story arc was adapted from the intended arc for Nick). Trucco's schedule cleared up and they brought him back in the eighth season, but it is noticeably less story-heavy than originally implied.
Framing Device: First off there is the 2030 narration by Future Ted, but within the show there is sometimes internal framing devices such as a character(s) recounting a story in the "present" to the rest of the group. Notable instances include "The Pineapple Incident," "Drumroll, Please," "Lucky Penny," "How I Met Everyone Else" and "The Playbook."
While Ted and Marshall's apartment is of a reasonable size and Ted has always had a solid job as an architect, Marshall spent the first few seasons as just a law student. As Marshall explains it, he earns "negative $200 dollars a week.". It later becomes somewhat more plausible when Lily moves in (thus adding another source of income) and eventually Marshall graduates and begins earning money. This apartment is explicitly referred to as "a rent-controlled apartment on the Upper East Side."
Robin lives by herself in a roomy place initially as a cable news reporter doing fluff pieces, but she does later become head anchor. She might have money leftover from her Robin Sparkles career.
Averted by Barney, who has some undefined corporate job and seems to be the most financially secure of the group, so his very spacious apartment is quite reasonable.
Also strongly averted by Lily's apartment early in season two. Lily, with no job and her credit shot, could only get an apartment that was at best 10' x 10' with an exposed toilet, a Murphy's Bed that hits the wall and a combination oven/stove/sink.
Played with when Marshall and Lily inherit a nice house in the suburbs and initially decide to sell it so they can stick to the inner city. Upon returning to their apartment (which was supposed to be exceptionally nice and outside their price range) they found it incredibly cramped and barely big enough for their couch, complete with a reorganization of the original set. As they complain about how small it feels the others try to convince them otherwise, the implication being that they've lived in the city for so long they see their apartments as being bigger than they really are.
In late high school/early college Marshall had very flat, matted hair.
Ted had slightly longer hair but it was very curly, almost to the point of looking permed.
Everyone's hair except for Barney changes in the flash forwards, to more conservative "parent" haircuts. In particular Ted has a more businesslike combed and parted hair (unlike his "bedhead" look of the present), Marshall is balding and Lily has short, frizzy blonde-ish hair.
Heh Heh, You Said X: Occurs sometimes with the characters, especially between Barney and Marshall.
Held Gaze: This is one of Barney's "moves" to invoke intimacy and seduce women (And Ted).
Heterosexual Life Partners: Ted, Marshall and Barney. So freaking much. Although Ted and Barney deserve a special mention - considering the number of times they hug, tell each other "I love you", and how some scenes between them seem to be played as a couple getting back together (in "Something Blue" and "Miracles"), it's no wonder no one buys Marshall is Ted's best friend anymore.
Barney: His mom mentions the fact that she both drank coffee and smoked cigarettes constantly whilst she was pregnant with both James and Barney. She also used to leave him home alone when he was a little kid for days at a time, later left him with a babysitter for three weeks while she slept around and "got passed around like a bong" and finally told Barney his father was Bob Barker, which he has deluded himself into believing is true, because his real father abandoned him.
Robin has a Canadian version of this. Her father clearly wanted a son (her middle name is "Charles"), and treated her accordingly. On top of that, his standard for raising a boy included a week where Robin was abandoned in the deep, cold woods, Rambo-style. However, she seems to have no idea that she's messed up and - in fact - thinks her childhood is perfectly normal and that everybody has these kinds of experiences.
Honor Before Reason: Marshall quits his high-paying corporate job because he feels like he's compromising his principles, despite being in considerable debt and having a huge mortgage. Twice.
This extends to their children, as Marshall and Lily's son is referred to as the cousin of Ted's children (which makes the aforementioned Epileptic Trees even more unlikely).
Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Pairing the 6'4" (193cm) Jason Segel with 5'4" (163cm) Alyson Hannigan. Lampshaded in "Three Days of Snow" when Lily is imagining Marshall dumping her for someone "more height-appropriate." Also played for all it's worth in "Belly Full of Turkey" when Lily and Marshall visit Marshall's family in Minnesota and she discovers that he is the "runt of the family," even his mom and sister are over 6 feet tall and Lily looks positively tiny and fragile in comparison.
Later played with when Marshall refers to Robin (5'9"/175cm) as "freakishly tall."
Hypocritical Humor: In "Belly Full of Turkey," Robin mocks Ted by claiming that America is the world's leader in handgun violence. However, Ted Doesn't Like Guns while Robin owns several of them, subscribes to Guns and Ammo, and goes to the firing range when she needs to blow off steam. In addition, she's actually threatened people with guns at least twice that we've seen (Gael's friends and a pair of thieves who tried to steal her TV) and suggested that Marshall do the same when he's afraid his boss will fire him.
Identical Stranger: Each of the gang has a doppelganger living in New York and one of their favorite things is to find them. This becomes a plot device of season 5. They are as follows:
Mexican Wrestler Ted ("I know, mine was the coolest")
Fertility specialist Barney
Inconvenient Itch: Marshall realizes he has head-lice halfway through a job interview, and starts "discreetly" trying to scratch it. Eventually, it's too much for him and he screams out "I HAVE LICE!" Suffice to say, he did not get the job.
Incredibly Lame Pun: entire scenes are constructed around them. Typically, one is thrown into conversation at the bar, which leads to the entire gang brainstorming a series of them.
This is the reason Robin left her job at Metro News 1, because there was at least one lame pun in every other headline.
Inner Monologue Conversation: Almost all of the characters will have "telepathic" conversations many times, consisting of them making eye contact and a voice over of what they are "saying" with a tight shot on their faces as they convey the tone. In general they get extremely accurate with specifics, with Lily catching on to what Marshall was saying while asleep. Ted and Barney doing this in "Three Days of Snow" is rather hilarious, in that all of Barney's thoughts is the Beach Boy's "Kokomo." In one notable instance, Marshall, Lily, Robin and Barney all have one around Ted (who is struggling to pick up what they are doing), where they coordinate a verbal wraparound to convince Ted to dye his hair blonde.
Irony as She Is Cast: Neil Patrick Harris didn't officially come out as gay until a few years into the show (it was sort of an open secret beforehand). This made Barney's aggressive heterosexuality and his issues with his gay brother James even funnier. There is a whole ordeal with Barney opposing James' marriage, not because it would be a gay marriage but he was opposed to marriage in general.
Joke Exhaustion: Barney does this occasionally, such as when he finds out that Marshall wears a nightshirt to bed.
Karma Houdini: Lily breaks Ted up with numerous girlfriends, and the most she gets is a telling off. Tends to happen whenever she does something wrong.
Kent Brockman News: Robin is a magnet for this. The bad puns, the dares, the awkward dancing around the Super Bowl results, the sports guy's on-air bitterness after their failed relationship — and that's just on Metro News One; Japan and the morning show have their own indignities.
King Kong Climb: On Robin's TV show, a monkey from the Central Park Zoo escapes from his cage, grabs a doll and climbs a scale model Empire State Building. The cameraman tries to get it down by tossing paper airplanes at it. This may not have actually happened.
The Lad-ette: Robin, enthusiast of drinking, hockey and guns, and Lily, perpetual winner of drinking contests and hot-dog eating competitions.
Ted ends up being one for a girl he dated briefly, and she even thanked him for making her re-examine her life.
Late Arrival Spoiler: So many. Any new viewer will unavoidably be spoiled about one of, if not all of the following if they go online:
Robin is not the mother. She and Ted will not end up together. This was revealed at the end of the pilot, but it can be lost on a viewer who starts watching with a Season 2 episode with them as a couple where Future!Ted doesn't refer to her as "your Aunt Robin."
Ted breaks up with every recurring girlfriend (including those teased as a potential mother) up to the current season:
Ted and Victoria break up towards the end of season one.
Stella leaves Ted at the altar early in season four.
Lily leaves at the end of season one and breaks up with Marshall, but comes back in the next season and they get back together.
Barney and Robin sleep together in season three and he falls in love with her. Eventually, they get together in season five.
Laugh Track: Averted, then used straight. Early seasons taped episodes without a Studio Audience, then screened the completed episode to an audience and recorded the natural laughter (thus, not technically a Laugh Track, which is pre-recorded laughter). As of season six (and possibly earlier), Neil Patrick Harris has stated they've switched to canned laughter. In any case, the show is one of the few critically acclaimed TV comedies of its era to contain audible audience laughter (as opposed to the entirely canned-laughter-free critics' favorites like The Office, 30 Rock, Scrubs, Arrested Development and so on).
Leaving Food For Santa: Marshall talks about leaving lutefisk instead of cookies, "cause that's what Santa needs at 3:00 AM while battling a snowstorm over the Rockies, a sugar crash. Santa needs protein!"
Ted: I'm not going to give up on her. Future Ted: I should have given up on her. Ted: This girl is special. Future Ted: She was the devil. Ted: Things are going to work out with Tiffany. Future Ted:No they're not, dumbass.
Magic Realism: Telepathic conversations, a burger so good that other burgers will forever after taste like feet, a long list of improbable coincidences etc. etc.
Making Love in All the Wrong Places: All of the characters, but Marshall and Lily take it to the point of absurdity, including (but not limited to) Barney's childhood bedroom when they're visiting his mother for the first time, and their fertility doctor's waiting room.
Man Hug: Barney, Marshall and Ted have quite a few of these, though they usually aren't overly concerned about appearing oversensitive, since they're Heterosexual Life Partners.
Manipulative Bastard: Barney, who has a whole book with way to seduce woman and regularly manipulates his friends.
Also, Lily, who sabotaged several of Ted's former relationships and tried to manipulate Barney and Robin.
Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: So much. The five main characters are: a man who dreams of getting swept off his feet and starting a family, and is ruled by irrational emotional impulses; a man who is gentle, sensitive, prone to hysteria, and committed to the point of clinginess; a man who glorifies stylish clothing and personal appearance to semi-religious levels; a woman who is crude, loud, and often complains that her husband doesn't put out enough; and a woman who is commitment-phobic, hates expressing feelings, loves hard liquor and guns, is uncomfortable with kids, and has the emotional sensitivity of a frat boy.
Robin: "You tried to make it rain for me." Ted: "I DID make it rain." Robin: "It was a coincidence."
Metaphorgotten: Occurs often with Barney, lampshaded in "The Platinum Rule"
Barney: Remember the old Barney? He was a lion. The king of the jungle. Stalking whatever prey he chose, going in for the kill. Now look at me; de-clawed, neutered. What was once my jungle is now my zoo. And I am forced to mate with the same old lioness, again and again and again and again, while families PAY to watch.'''
Ted: Yeah, this metaphor's really fallin' apart.
Minnesota Nice: Marshall is the embodiment of this, minus the accent (presumably from having lived in New York for several years). Lampshaded by Lily and Robin in "The Wedding Bride."
Monochrome Casting: Given this is NYC, the sheer whiteness of the main cast and most of their supporting cast is rather glaring. Ted's lack of diversity in the girls he dates is somewhat necessitated by the fact that his children are obviously white.
Mundane Utility: Barney is shown to be a talented hairdresser and hibachi chef among many other things and uses his myriad of skills to either get laid or win bets with the main cast. If you were to look at the list of skills he's picked up over the years for these reasons you'd quickly realize he could literally be anything he wanted to and is arguably one of the smarter characters on the show.
Played with as Future Ted frequently will start to explain something bizarre that's happening, decide that he'll go back to it later, leading to the audience only learn the full story a series or two later.
We're never told exactly why GNB gets frequently attacked by Ninjas?
In one episode Robin is into Barney because she thinks he and Ted were in a fight. She asks him out, but then when she finds out he wasn't, she tries to think of a reason she can't go out with him.
Robin:(backing out of the room) Oh, I just remembered, I've got that uh... that uh... that... uh... (closes the door)
When Robin is wondering if her friends have watched her early morning news show, Barney repeatedly says that he hasn't seen it, while Lily, Marshall and Ted are trying to convince her that they watch it.
Not in Front of the Kid: This is played with all the time, as Older Ted keeps censoring parts of the story for the sake of his kids. Thus we get things like the guys getting high on "sandwiches", Barney shocking a crowd by saying "kiss her" instead of the F-word (and then telling security to "Kiss off! Who the kiss are you?"), and Roger Murtaugh's Catch Phrase:
"Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Done solely In-Universe when Robin was trying to prove a point to Barney that she could tolerate any guy for an evening and not have to resort to cheap "get out of a bad date" tricks that he would use. In the middle of the (admittedly bad) date, she got a phone call that Lily was in the hospital after being stabbed with a sword. Her date didn't believe her.
Old Shame: An in-character example for Robin, as "Canadian Teen Popstar" Robin Sparkles, and her hit songs "Let's Go To The Mall" and "Sandcastles In The Sand", as well as staring in a Canadian edutainment show. She's so humiliated by this that she would admit to being married & doing porn before admitting to being Robin Sparkles.
Inverted with Marshall. When Ted points out that in college, Marshall wore a beanie, grew a soul patch & requested everyone refer to him by some ridiculous alias. Marshall immediately retorts that he doesn't regret that for one second.
Barney's video to Shannon begging her to come back to him (and serenading her) when he was still a hippie definitely goes here.
Future Ted is often embarrassed by Modern Ted's role in some of the stories. Similarly, Modern Ted is embarrassed about College Ted.
One episode even revolves around one of the old shames of each character (such as Ted's rereturn).
Pottery Barn Poor: Marshall and Lily after they move into an expensive apartment, are revealed to be in serious debt, and have a huge mortgage. Marshall is unemployed for a good portion of this stretch, but their financial difficulties are mentioned very rarely.
The Producers Think Of Everything: Because they're Not Allowed to Grow Up, the same shot of the kids has been used every time they appear since the second season premiere. To avert a case of real life Off Model, footage of the kids was shot during the second season with the express purpose of using it when Ted finally meets the Mother.
A fake placement for Goliath National Bank... member FDIC.
The computer screen with map and Bing search engine logo displayed in "Subway Wars", as well as Maury Povich (again) with an X-Box and Kinect.
The whole show is full of very recognizable cell phones. The fact that both Ted and Robin had the same silver Motorola RAZR was a plot point late in season 1. Also, most of the cast has iPhones. They are incredibly aware of the details though - Ted had a Verizon LG phone when they found his alterego, so they gave him a Droid 2 in "Bad News".
Also applies to Lily as she is deceitful and manipulative yet again nobody calls her on it.
Ted actually does call her on this during one episode over her obvious attempts to break him up with Karen. Of course, it kind of falls flat considering that he ends up breaking up with Karen anyway. One wonders if she planned it that way.
Also, note that while the most Barney ever gets from the gang is mild ribbing and vague disapproval (mixed in with a fair helping of them being genuinely impressed by some of the lies he's convinced girls to believe), anyone who breaks the heart of any of them gets instantly hated by them all. In fairness, treating your friends' pain as more urgent than a stranger's isTruth in Television for most people.
Okay, so you wouldn't expect a character like Barney to sincerely give the 'puppy dog eyes' look, but since he's played by NPH, he is REALLY effective at it. For example, in "Stuff" when he wants everyone to stay for his awful play; and also the ending of "Benefits" during the scene with Robin.
Lily, especially when she regrets breaking up with Marshall in early season two. The fact that Alyson Hannigan is an absolute master of that look almost makes the idea that Marshall wasn't interested in getting back with her a plot hole.
This is a major component of the second episode, where Ted is trying to recapture the magic he had with Robin. She repeatedly says she is not looking for anything too serious and can just tell Ted is enamored with her because he has that look in his eyes.
Purely Aesthetic Glasses: Ted gets very upset when his "spectacles" break during a road trip with Marshall, but later confesses that they were just decorative.
Marshall Eriksen dreamt of being a lawyer so that he could help the environment. He had several well-paying corporate jobs, but ultimately decided to pursue his ideal job.
Lily's dream career is Played With. She's a kindergarten teacher and fairly satisfied with her job. However, she would love to become a professional artist. Her work is quite nice, but only on amateur level. She goes to have professional classes in a selective art programme and later tries selling some paintings, with mixed success. One episode was based on her trying to figure out what she would love to do with her career, and finally, she says she did figure it out: she starts her old-new job as a kindergarten teacher.
Real Men Hate Sugar: Subverted in the character of Marshall - he's a good boyfriend and a dependable mate, but also fond of brunch, pink drinks with fruit in them, and a class of activities often considered feminine. This bothers his friends.
This trope is ultimately defied later in season 8 when Barney burns The Playbook and proposes to Robin to show that he's ready for actual, honest-to-God, commitment (while still being a master manipulator).
Retail Riot: One episode referred to a particular shoe sale as a "feeding frenzy." A flashback shows women literally fighting over the shoes, and upon losing a pair Lily tells the other women that "she'd made the list, bitch."
Rule of Perception: Frequently used, this became one of the hallmarks of the show. They constantly play with the use of the narrator in how the story unfolds and in how the characters perceive a situation. One notable episode "Three Days of Snow" has Ted explain "This is a three day story" and we see three different plots going on simultaneously, only for a twist in that each story takes place on a different day. In another episode "No Tomorrow," Ted believes himself to be experimenting with the unusually fortuitous night he was having at a bar, but when Marshall shows him an accidental audio recording made of the evening it replays the evening where Ted's dialogue is the same but changed from curious and respectable to sleazy.
Runaway Bride: Deconstructed, as it is shown from the perspective of the groom who is abandoned. Ted tried to do right by everyone and ended up the one burned and single. The fact he was left at the altar gave him a good deal of emotional baggage that he struggled to hide in developing any new relationships.
Marshall slapping Barney periodically due to him winning the Slap Bet.
Robin being a former Canadian pop star.
Ted constantly correcting people if they say something wrong.
Ted or Marshall being called a woman.
Barney never saying what his actual job is. ("Heh, please.")
Ted and Robin automatically saluting phrases like "private thing", "major concept", and "general idea."
Marshall's obsession with the supernatural and constant belief that mundane events have supernatural explanations. This includes him pulling out a big book of mundane things written by crazies and, very dramatically, saying a date followed by this ridiculous thing. Ex. "November 15, 1843, a young couple looks out to the mountains and sees a bright white light floating around. They took a photograph of it, but the light didn't show in the picture. They deleted that picture (shown here) and agreed never to speak of it again.
Barney referencing his blog, which none of the others read.
Barney's many high-five variations, including Relapse-Five ("That's when we High-Five... then it's awkward for a bit... Then we high-five AGAIN!") and Hypothetical-Five. He doesn't seem to mind when people ignore his five-invitations, but it is played with in "I Heart NJ" when he won't put his fist down until it is bumped.
Members of the group singing a catchy tune annoying another member of the group who cuts them off... then begrudgingly allows them to finish the final note.
Barney thinking Wendy the Waitress wants to kill him because he broke up with her. Despite the fact she obviously holds no ill will toward him
Barney's fake "historical" stories.
The Foreskins' song "Murder Train" playing in the background of violent scenes.
Show Within a Show: The different shows Robin has hosted (Metro News One, briefly that show in Japan, now a pre-morning talk show at Channel 12). See seasons 4, 5, and 6 below for more examples.
Single-Target Sexuality: Marshall, toward Lily. For the most part. Marshall can't even fantasize about another woman without feeling wrong ... unless he goes through an elaborate fantasy in which Lily dies and he grieves but eventually makes good on her dying wish, which is for him to sleep with whomever it was he is fantasizing about.
Six Is Nine: In the episode "Bad News", the numbers 50 to 1 are hidden in the episode as a countdown until Marshall receives the news of his father's death. A file folder Barney is holding is marked with the number 9, and later the folder is picked up upside down, now representing the number 6 in the countdown.
Slut Shaming: The show plays this straight most of the time. Though it is played in the following examples:
Barney is a serial-user man-whore, and his friends tend to treat him as disgusting more often than heroic.
Ted: You should be proud. You should be tested, but you should be proud.
Lily is Marshall's My Girl Is a Slut, with the pair of them having an incredibly active sex life, but Marshall makes a huge fuss about the possibility that he wasn't the one to take her virginity. At the same time, part of his problem was that he gave her his.
Ted's generally after true love and not one night stands. The show tends not to heap abuse on him when he does go for one night stands, but it's usually either not shown (as when he and Robin broke up) or shown in a negative light (as when Marshall spends a morning shaming Ted for a litany of bad decisions, including hooking up with a married woman).
Robin has fewer conquests than Ted, but she's had a one night stand with Mitch, inventor of The Naked Man!. After the gang spends a few minutes admiring Mitch's ingenuity, Marshall says, "I call slut!" And Robin spends the majority of the episode trying to justify what she did so she doesn't feel bad.
Examined (shallowly) in a first-season episode where Ted goes to an awards ceremony with a prostitute who really is a paralegal from Barney's apartment building, just like Barney described her; the rest of the group assume she's a prostitute based on when Barney called her to introduce her to Ted and his deliberately evasive answers to questions about her. The cast generally treats her pretty poorly when she's not around, at least until they find out the truth. Then they treat Barney poorly.
Something Completely Different: "The Stinson Missile Crisis" is Robin telling the story of how she assaulted a woman to her court-ordered therapist, instead of the usual kids. The therapist keeps lampshading how she keeps talking about Marshall and Lilly and Ted, but she insists it's all connected.
The second Robin Episode also "Symphony of Illumination"
Special Guest: So far includes: Wayne Brady, Bob Odenkirk, Bryan Cranston, Danica McKellar, Britney Spears, Heidi Klum, Mandy Moore, Enrique Iglesias, Regis Philbin, Tim Gunn, Nicole Scherzinger, Ben Vereen, Jennifer Lopez, Sarah Chalke, Alan Thicke, Alex Trebek, Maury Povitch, (the voice of) Harvey Fierstein, Alexis Denisof, Jorge Garcia and Katy Perry.
Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Once Barney became the Breakout Character he started getting more and more focus in the plot. This actually ends actually getting worked into the plot, turning it into a Justified Trope: Ted meets the mother at Barney's wedding, so in order for the story to move forward, Barney's relationships have to be focused on.
Spit Take: Taken to new levels in the season seven episode "Mystery Vs History", where this is something of a Running Gag.
Team Dad: In one episode, they specifically mention that Ted is the "group dad". This is followed by a montage of Ted doing very dad-like things: telling bad jokes, lecturing the others, and embarrassing them at a restaurant. When Robin tells him this, Ted responds with a stern, "I don't think I like your tone, young lady."
Marshall sometimes counts, especially when paired with Lily; they're occasionally referred to as the "parents" of the group.
Tender Tears: Occurs a number of times with, surprisingly, Barney. It's never full-on crying, but he tears up while marrying Marshall and Lily (though he tries to hide it and fails spectacularly); not to mention when he thinks Marshall and Lily are getting a divorce; when Bob Barker says he's proud of him on The Price is Right; while discussing Field Of Dreams with the guys; whenever Robin mentions Ted (who was temporarily done with their friendship) in "Rebound Bro"; when Robin and Ted start sleeping together in "Benefits" (Lily points out that he's "weeping openly"); after Marshall slaps him in "Slapsgiving"; and when Stan suggests what to text to Ted as Holly in "The Three Days Rule". There may be more.
Marshall has a notable crying scene as well after he gets chewed out by Artillery Arthur at his high-paying lawyer job.
Third Person Flashback: Lampshaded in an episode. While Barney and Robin are discussing something within a closed room, Robin says how hard it is to measure any men since she and Ted broke up. Future Ted then says "I wasn't there but this is how I imagine it happened."
Trope Overdosed: Read the page. When you're done, feed yourself, because it will have been days.
True Companions: The core five, obviously. They're all very different from each other, but they love one another more than anything else in the entire world and are pretty much Friendship Moment personified.
It's mildly deconstructed by Victoria in the seventh season, they are such a close-knit group of friends, with Ted at the center of it, that it became almost impossible for Ted to find someone who can enter that bubble. Many of his relationships have failed specifically because of it.
All the characters except Marshall are this once in a while, but Barney is a straighter example: usually, he's a despicable (though entertaining) dick who the viewers are never sorry to see get royally screwed over due to his own arrogance or stupidity, which makes the rare times where he is legitimately sympathetic all the more poignant.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The gang gets into some very loud, very bizarre arguments in their booth at McLaren's. Nobody else in the bar ever so much as looks up from their beer to glance at them.
Unreliable Voiceover: While you can generally trust what Bob Saget says (per the show's creators), Future Ted usually edits his story to his kids, cutting out some of the stuff he did, or adding parts that weren't there before.
Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Robin just loves switching it up. She spends the first half of season 1 being the object of Ted's affection, then they switch, then they switch again when she discovers he hadn't broken up with Victoria. Then she spends pretty much all of season 7 and 8 switching with Barney. Foregone Conclusion We know they do wind up getting married.
Unresolved Sexual Tension: Typical given the very blatant romantic focus the series has always had, but also addressed in some fresh ways. Ted and Robin's relationship is ultimately a centerpiece of the show, starting from their initial date in the pilot, to when Ted gets his first serious girlfriend and all the way to finally getting together in the season one finale. When Ted is engaged to Stella, Robin doesn't claim to want him back but admits that those feelings they had for each other don't dissipate easily. They later agree to a "40 and unmarried" pact, a back-up in case neither find luck in romance. This all comes to a head in the seventh season, as Ted learns a hard truth that he isn't going to find "the one" if he's always wondering if things might work out with Robin.
The Unreveal: Played with a couple times a season when it is hinted that Ted is close to meeting the mother.
Verbal Tic: Robin's excessive use of "but... umm" on her pre-morning news show served as the basis for a Drinking Game in "Jenkins."
Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Carter Bays and Craig Thomas created the series from the idea "let's write about our friends and the stupid stuff we did in New York". Ted is based on Bays, Marshall is based on Thomas, and Lily is based on Thomas' wife Rebecca.
The male version also most definitely applies to Barney, most noticeably in the episode "Showdown", with Bob Barker.
What, Exactly, Is His Job?: Barney's exact job has still not been explicitly revealed. "Heh, please." It's known that he works for "the company" that bought out GNB, and hints dropped throughout the series suggest that he's involved in some highly illegal activities, which by his own admission may lead to him "washing up onshore with no teeth or fingerprints".
He once mentions that he should be in jail for perjury, since he covered up something his company was involved in.
What the Hell, Hero?: Given often to Barney and especially Ted. Occasionally given to Lily, though hers are far less in the foreground.
Wolverine Publicity: If you've seen advertisements for the show but not the show itself, you could be forgiven for thinking that Barney is the main character.
Lampshaded by Jason Segel in the Season 4 blooper reel. Segel and Neil Patrick Harris pretend to pose for a TV Guide cover and Segel jokes that Harris will be the only one who actually ends up on the cover.
You Are Better Than You Think You Are: This seems to be Lily's intent with Barney. She believes he has boyfriend/husband potential in him. Barney, at this point, disagrees, but he isn't quite as insufferably smug about "remaining awesome" as in earlier seasons.
Zany Scheme: Occurs fairly often, with the most insane and elaborate schemes coming from Barney, who has a tendency to go way over the top with every one, as well as having an inability to back down from a challenge. In one episode, it's revealed he hired actors to play his fake wife and son for years so that his mother would be proud of him.