Series: How I Met Your Mother
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. For nine seasons' worth of episodes, Ted discusses the modern day in a nostalgic way
and describes the strong bond between Ted and his group of friends.
In the year 2005, Ted (Josh Radnor
) is an architect living in New York with his best friend, aspiring lawyer Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel
). When Marshall announces that he is getting engaged to his college sweetheart, Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan
), it prompts Ted to take an introspective look at his life and decide that he is finally ready to settle down and start searching for "The One", much to the disgust of his "best friend" and serial womanizer
Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris
Enter Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders
), a TV news reporter from Canada with whom Ted falls in love at first sight
and manages to scare off just as quickly. Though she is affirmatively not
the destined Mother of Ted's future children, she befriends Lily and goes on to become an integral part of the group. Over the next decade, the five friends struggle with romance, careers, lost dreams and lives that did not turn out the way they expected, but in retrospect led them all to the ending they hoped for.
uses its Framing Device
and narrator (Bob Saget
, uncredited) 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 allows 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 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 fairly complex universe of seemingly unimportant events and myriad callbacks. The show went 9 seasons, covering the years 2005-2013. The first eight seasons were contemporary and in approximate Real Time
. The last season centered around the weekend Ted and the Mother met, although utilizing plenty of the shows standard Anachronic Order
A spinoff named How I Met Your Dad
was announced as a gender-flipped version of the show fall of 2013, following unrelated characters and produced by the same people. A pilot was shot, but was not picked up.
Now with a Ho Yay
, Hey, It's That Guy!
, and recap
pages (which could use some Wiki Magic
right about now). You can also vote for best episodes here
Get ready for the series' tropes cause they're LEGEN—wait for it...
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- Accidental Innuendo: Deliberately invoked.
- The project headed by Hammond Druthers that Ted worked on in season two - Druthers was the only one who didn't realize that his design (an unusually phallic skyscraper) looked like a giant penis and testicles, and somehow kept invoking this trope when talking about the building. The rest of the gang deliberately used innuendoes when talking about the building to rib Ted.
- The Show Within a Show Space Teens that starred a teenage Robin is rife with these. It's meant to be an educational kids' show to teach math - and involves math problems about things like pet beavers eating wood. The rest of the HIMYM cast quickly start to point this out and crack jokes as they watch.
- Accidental Proposal: Several times:
- Ted accidentally takes the best man's jacket before a wedding. When he goes to break it off with a girl, he accidentally drops the ring he didn't know was in the jacket. As he picks it up, the girl answers the door to see Ted, kneeling in a tuxedo, holding a ring.
- 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!"
- Barney and Robin later attempt to weaponize it, tricking a woman into thinking her boy friend proposed to her, to get them to break up. It backfires.
- 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 mom "It finally happened, momma!", Barney believing her to be 'doing a bit'.
- Actually Pretty Funny: All the time. No issue is so serious that they won't occasionally stop to laugh at an Accidental Innuendo before resuming seriousness.
- 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.
- The final season has an episode devoted to the titular Mother, although again, Ted does take over right at the end (other than that one scene with Ted, and a setup shot with Ted and Barney, none of the regular cast show up at all)
- Aesop Amnesia:
- Lampshaded in "Murtaugh," where Lily says that they collectively learn the same lesson (in this case, that they're not getting any younger) every couple of years.
- Ted and Robin's need to let each other go. As early as Season 1, Marshall was saying that Ted never learns his lesson about Robin. It gets dropped somewhat after they breakup in season 2, but it seems that late in season 5 it becomes a Yoyo Plot Point.
- All Women Are Lustful: Lily and Robin certainly are (particularly the former).
- 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. 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. She's more attracted to a hot bartender than Marshall is. Not to mention what happens when she drinks martinis.
- Given the flashback of Lily and Marshall meeting—where she opens two doors, one with a shirtless man and one with a girl wearing a shirt that read 'vagitarian'—and seemingly equally tempted by both, Lily might just be an unspoken Bi the Way.
- 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.
- Robin actually gets turned on watching herself do the news, so much so that she will wink at her future self during the broadcast, although since she finds herself attractive, it's more narcissism than anything it seems. Possibly leaning a little bit further towards bisexuality when imaginary Vacation Robin revisits Robin in her dreams ("that chick knows what I like"). In the final season Robin discovers something about herself when she makes out with Lily.
- 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".
- One interesting story arc is the beginning of "Ten Sessions" actually begins several episodes earlier with "The Platinum Rule." The inciting event for "The Platinum Rule" (Ted's mistaken date with Stella) is left as a Noodle Incident, until "Ten Sessions" which takes place over ten weeks and thus likely overlaps with other episodes.
- An Aesop: The show justifies this because a sizable chunk of the premise is Future!Ted lecturing his kids about his mistakes when he was young. However, they're frequently spoof, family unfriendly, broken, space whale (i.e., "I won't bother telling you not to fight, but don't fight with Uncle Marshall. He's insane."), lost, lampshaded Do Not Do This Cool Thing, or otherwise humorously subverted, usually with Future Ted giving an Aesop, but admitting that in real life, back when the events actually took place, he and his friends didn't learn their lesson right away. However, when one of the characters gives an Aesop in the present, it's more often played straight.
- And Starring: With Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan.
- Anger Montage: "Murderrrrrrr! Climb aboard the murder traiiiiiiiiin!"
- Another Story for Another Time: Used very much, but it was once subverted when it comes to the story with the security guard and his band.
"They had one song, it didn't suck, the end."
- Anti-Climactic Unmasking: After 8 seasons, The Mother was bound to be this.
- Arc Symbol: An item usually symbolizes and represents a character or the bond/relationship between two characters:
- The Yellow Umbrella for Ted and The Mother.
- The Blue French Horn for Ted and Robin.
- The two Broadswords for Ted and Marshall.
- The Ducky Tie for Barney and his Love Interests.
- Arc Welding: The 200th episode of the series, "How Your Mother Met Me," in spades. The same night Marshall and Lily got engaged and Ted met Robin, the Mother's first love died; Her first night out afterwards was St Patrick's Day in 2008, where she ran into Mitch, A.K.A the Naked Man, who was her teacher at Orchestra Camp and attempted the Naked Man on her that night, when she became the first one in three to reject it after leaving with him to retrieve a Cello; Darren weaseled his way into her band by responding to her ad for a new room mate after Cindy moved out; she met Louis, her first boyfriend after Max's death following a gig and passed Ted (In the green dress) on her way out of McLarens, which Louis had last been in when Barney and Ted ran it as "Puzzles" for a night.
- Artistic License – Geography: The portrayals of Argentina in Robin's flashbacks at the beginning of season 3, big time. It seems the creators see Argentina as a mix between Hawaii, Philippines and Mexico, inhabited by a white tribe of sub-Saharan Africans with a Mexican accent. The show portrays what looks like a Caribbean island more reminiscent of Hawaii, or Southeast Asia, full of hippies, nature lovers, and the like, living in communal shacks or tents, in the wilderness, having sex in public (with a Mexican accent, which sounds extremely different to an Argentinian accent).In real life, there are very small towns, but there are no tribal villages. While there are beaches on the ocean shore, most of them are too far south, making it quite cold, even in summer. Not to mention that the water is barely above the 10ºC (even in summer). There are mountains, but nowhere near the ocean: as a matter of fact, they're at the other side of the country. And both recreational and medicinal drug use is illegal as is female nudity (both of which the show portrays as a normal, everyday occurrence). Some of the hippies, nudity, and drug use could be explained by Robin only visiting a wild tourist resort, but this was not explicit, and to say that Argentinian fans were pissed at the implication that this portrayal represented their entire country is a major understatement.
- Artistic License – Law: Marshall's trial of a corrupt pharmaceutical company doesn't really bear much resemblance to actual trials. Both lawyers make impromptu speeches to the jury, only one (comically unqualified) witness is called and blatantly silly non-evidence is admitted and accepted without protest. Some of it is Hand Waved by the defense attorney's good looks and excellent body (the judge and jury are in love with him), but mostly the trial is run in the way the writers find most amusing.
- As You Know: Future Ted utters this line almost Once an Episode, either recapping one of the many Call Backs from a previous episode or referencing some piece of info the kids really should know but the audience wouldn't.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Barney has "AD... something. Can we have class outside?" He's actually a surprisingly realistic portrayal of it.
- Author Appeal: The creators have their own band and they wrote the opening theme. Thus it starts to make sense why so many of the characters like obscure indie music.
- Babies Make Everything Better:
- In Season 2, Barney and James are having a tiff over James getting married and leaving Barney behind. Barney refuses to support James, until James reveals that he's adopting a baby as well. And, well, everything's better.
- In the season 6 finale, Marshall is going through a pretty serious rough spot (his father died recently, he's unemployed, he botched a job interview). But when Lily tells him she's pregnant, all that is forgotten and he's happy again.
- In "Daisy" in season 9, Marshall and Lily are having one of the worst fights of their lives and are disagreeing whether to go to Rome or stay in New York. The Reveal that Lily is pregnant again prompts Marshall to stop fighting and insist they go with Lily's suggestion, Rome.
- In the series finale, after the Snap Back reverts his Character Development, the one thing to make Barney mature and have a fulfilling life is having a new daughter, instantly giving him a great deal of maturity and fulfillment.
- Back for the Finale: Almost every character who interacted with the five main characters has come back for at least a cameo.
- Bad Date: Ted's dates often end badly.
- 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 with the explanation of the Scuba Diver - the events of the episode.
- Similarly, epically, The Robin.
- Beta Couple: Marshall and Lily, the often boringly perfect couple.
- Subverted in that there are occasional cracks in the "perfect" exterior. Lily's abandoning Marshall to go to San Francisco, and his admission years later that it still ate at him underneath that he and their son Marvin might be Lily's second choice- what she settled for after her art plans didn't work out, underlies their relationship through the series.
- Big Applesauce
- 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.
- Bittersweet Ending: Ted winds up meeting the mother, and Robin becomes a very successful journalist, Barney becomes a proud father and Marshall and Lily are happy enough. However, the mother died six years before the present and Robin and Barney divorced three years after getting married. This just paves the way for Ted and Robin to get together in the finale.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Lily and Robin fill the redhead and brunette roles respectively, with the blonde role filled by several of Ted or Barney's love interests (Stella, Zoey, Quinn.)
- 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...
- A Boy, a Girl, and a Baby Family: Marshall and Lily have Marvin, Daisy and an unknown/unseen baby, probably a girl (from Marshall's line about putting "her crib in the shower.")
- 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 gotta get over that Grinch!
Future!Ted: But I didn't say "Grinch". I said a bad word. A very, very bad word.
Ted: Oh Fudge!
- Later subverted in the same episode;
Ted: She stole all the christmas presents! What a Grinch!
—> Future!Ted: That time I really did say Grinch.
- On another occasion, Lily asks Marshall to watch his language in telling a story from work, because their unborn child has just developed ears. Barney is the lampshader in this case.
Marshall: I'm gonna grab those corporate employees by their sweaty dangling hands and squeeze, until those greedy sons of parents realize I'm the baddest mother nature lover around.
- A Running Gag is that marijuana is censored out to be "sandwiches"
- Book Ends: Many seasons ended this way.
- Borrowed Catch Phrase: Mildly lampshaded:
Ted: Permission to say "Lawyered"?
Marshall: I'll allow it.
- Brand X: Glen McKenna scotch shows up frequently.
- Break Up Make Up Scenario: Between Lily and Marshall in the first seasons. Also several with Ted, Barney and Robin.
- Brick Joke: There's one or two in nearly every episode, not to mention several that span the seasons.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer:
- Barney is very good at... whatever he does.
- Will we ever learn what he does? In the final season we learn that he does PLEASE. His job is to Provide Legal Exculpation And Sign Everything. He's the company fall guy. So he's very good at that. Also, he's been colluding with the feds since day one, so he's also very good at that. Explains why he has so much free time for scams.
- 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. And he was hit by a bus, for crying out loud.
- Robin too, especially with regards to her frustrating news anchor jobs and past career as a teen pop star.
- And if the above three aren't the butt monkeys, chances are, Marshall is one as he freaks out about random things or receives Amusing Injuries in strange accidents.
- Canadian Equals Hockey Fan: Robin is Canadian, so of course she's a hockey fan. When she gets drunk and turns "Super-Canadian", she puts on a Vancouver Canucks jersey.
- Calling Your Bathroom Breaks: Lily does this from time to time, probably as a result of spending every day with kindergarteners.
- 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.
Ted: So worth it.
- The Casanova: Barney
- 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.
- And of course, Robin Sparkles.
- The Mother herself. Cristin Milioti is a Tony-nominated Broadway actress and part of the reason she was cast was for her musical abilities.
- Proven in "How Your Mother Met Me," when she shows off her ukulele skills and gorgeous voice in a cover of Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose."
- Catch Phrase:
- "Legen — wait for it — DARY"
- "Challenge accepted."
- "True story."
- "SUIT UP!"
- "Hey, haaaave you met (insert name here)?"
- (After being asked about his job) "Heh, please".
- (When someone, usually Ted, doesn't go along with one of his schemes/stories)" *huff* (name), just... Okay?"
- "(Something) five!"
- "What up?!"
- (After advising how someone should have sex) "Have sex with her, crazy monkey style...! (someone interrupts)"
- "Come again for Big Fudge?"
- "You sonuvabitch!"
- Season 9: "Thank you, Linus."
- "Fun fact" followed by an architecture fact that people usually ignore.
- (Anytime before Marshall and Lily starts getting kinky with each other) "Please don't..."
- Future Ted:
- ...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.
- "But um...."
- "NOBODY ASKED YOU PATRICE!!!"
- "To the (insert vehicle here)."
- One for the whole group:
- "I am not a (Something)!...And what is that?!"
- 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).
- The Blitz:
- 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 Marshall stood in front of an ad for Bad Teacher, a film starring Jason Segel.
- Lily is revealed to have a celebrity crush on Mila Kunis. It's not mentioned if she's ever seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a movie where Kunis plays opposite to an actor who looks exactly like Marshall. Also Ted's On-Again, Off-Again Girlfriend Karen, whom Lily despises so much, is played by Kunis' That '70s Show co-star Laura Prepon.
- In one episode, Jerome Whitaker makes a reference to his actor John Lithgow's character from Footloose. ("I'm sorry, Mr. Small-Town Preacher, is there a law against dancing?")
- In a sixth season episode, a gullible character talks about getting a part on LOST, yet a few episodes earlier, we met a friend of the group nicknamed "The Blitz" played by Jorge Garcia.
- In the season 2 finale, Marshall mentions he finds bald guys cool like Britney Spears. Britney plays Stella's assistant for two episodes in Season 3.
- During the show's fifth season, Ted and his Girl of the Week played by Judy Greer watches a movie titled The Wedding Bride. Said film stars Malin Åkerman, whom co-starred with Greer in 27 Dresses about two years before and co-starred with Josh Radnor himself in Happythankyoumoreplease just a few months earlier.
- The show also had Tim Gunn As Himself playing Barney's personal tailor. Neil Patrick Harris headlines The Smurfs movie which also included Gunn. Further, Harris' wife in said film is played by Jayma Mays, while Smurfette is voiced by Katy Perry. Both women guested as a Girl of the Week in seasons one and six respectively.
- In a season 8 episode, Mickey Aldrin mentions his plans to watch Breaking Bad. The main character from the show, Bryan Cranston, appeared as Ted's boss in Season 2. Bob Odenkirk, who played Saul Goodman on the show, also appeared as Marshall's boss a few seasons earlier.
- In Season 9, Marshall reveals that he's been arrested twice for tackling Russell Brand. One wonders if it's because of his rivalry with a guy that looks a lot like Marshall in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
- Celebrity Resemblance: It's actually brought up in the show that Ted (Josh Radnor) bears a strong resemblance to John Cusack.
- 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.
- Character Blog: Barney's Blog
- 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.
- This happens to Robin a lot as her personality didn't really get developed in the first season. For example, she doesn't seem to have any problems socializing with other women in the first episodes and she isn't that much of a tomboy.
- Character Shilling: For Don in season 5.
- Character Signature Song: All but Ted and Lily got one.
- "Let's Go To The Mall" for Robin.
- "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" for Marshall.
- "Barney Stinson, that Guy's Awesome", or alternatively, "Nothing Suits You Like A Suit" for Barney.
- "La Vie En rose" for The Mother.
- "Sandcastles In The Sand" for Robin and Barney.
- "You Just Got Slapped" for Marshall and Barney.
- The Chessmaster: Barney thinks of himself this way, concocting all sorts of plans with varying degrees of success. Lily Aldrin is a better example - even Barney acknowledges her amazing powers of manipulation.
- Christmas Carolers: To explain their sudden appearance on someone's doorstep on one occasion, Ted says he and the others are carolers and sing "Silent Night".
- 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.
- Comically Missing the Point: Barney makes hot, sweaty monkey love to this trope.
- In the Pilot episode:
Ted: So these guys think I chickened out. What do you think?
Barney: I...can't believe you're still not wearing a suit!
- Episode 2x03 "Brunch": When Barney shows a picture he took of Ted's dad having an affair with Wendy the Waitress, Ted is naturally mortified. Barney assumes this Angst is because Ted's dad violated his duties, not as a husband, but as Barney's wingman. He called dibs on Wendy first, dammit!
- Episode 3x11 "The Platinum Rule": Barney becomes convinced that an ex-girlfriend is trying to kill him.
Barney: I dump her, and she says, "no hard feelings." She's a psycho, what other explanation is there?!
- Episode 4x06 "Happily Ever After": Robin recounts her childhood in Canada, in which her father ignored her gender and tried to instill masculinity in his "son". (Her full name is Robin Charles Scherbatsky Jr.) This culminates with Scherbatsky Sr. witnessing Robin kiss a hockey teammate at age 14; he has an utterly pompous Heroic BSOD ("Oh my god ... I have no son.") This kind of thing really screwed up Robin's life. After the story is finished ...
Barney: You poor thing. You had to grow up in Canada. With America RIGHT THERE.
- Episode 4x13 "Three Days of Snow": Barney explains how he plays a game called "Party School Bingo" where he takes a list of the Top 25 party schools in the country, arranges them on a bingo card, and fills in a space every time he sleeps with a girl from that school.
Ted: So how many people are in on this Party School Bingo thing?
Barney: Oh, it's just me.
Ted: Then what's the point, then?
Barney: The point is to get five in a row.
Ted: And what do you get when you get five in a row?
Barney: I get Bingo.
- Episode 4x15 "The Stinsons": When Barney watches movies...
- The same episode has him revealing that he roots for Hans Gruber in Die Hard (believing him to be the title character), Principal Vernon in The Breakfast Club (the only one who wears a suit) and The Terminator (and proceeds to start crying over his death scene, saying "And she doesn't even help him!")
- That explains the life-size Imperial Stormtrooper armor in his living room.
- King Joffrey's parents were related, and he was a fair and wise leader. (s9e1)
- Coming-of-Age Story: For grown-ups.
- 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.
- Covert Pervert: Lily.
- Cradle of Loneliness: Lily is shown holding a pillow dressed in Marshall's clothes while he's away.
- Crazy Memory: Occurs with Barney at times.
- Cross Referenced Titles: Hoooooo doggy.
- The last two season 2 episodes "Something Borrowed" "Something Blue" and the last two season 8 episodes "Something Old" "Something New" are references to the famous tradition for weddings. The season 2 ends with the wedding of Marshall and Lily while season 8 ends with the preparations for the wedding of Barney and Robin.
- "Slapsgiving", "Slapsgiving 2: Revenge of the Slap" and "Slapsgiving 3: Slappointment in Slapmarra" all involve Marshall giving a slap to Barney because the latter lose a bet.
- Season one episode "The Slutty Pumpkin" and season 7 "The Slutty Pumpkin Returns" both has the girl who dresses as a sexy pumpkin for Halloween.
- Season 7 episode "Good Crazy" and season 8 episode "Bad Crazy".
- Season 2 episode "First Time in New York" and season 9 episode "Last Time In New York".
- The Gambling Addict: Barney. Apparently he used to think that gambling was for suckers, until Marshall convinced him to take a $1 bet on a play at the Super Bowl. Barney instantly becomes enraptured.
- Gay Bravado: a portion of the jokes rely on this.
- Gentle Giant: Marshall is a fairly big guy and based on that alone can be fairly intimidating, but he is one of the mildest and friendliest people you could imagine.
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In-Universe, autotune remixes of Ted's wedding speech meltdowns were surprisingly popular in Finland. A bunch of his "fans" even took the effort to come to Punchy's wedding to watch him in action.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: See Death Glare.
- Don't forget the Crazy Eyes.
- Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Robin, Lily and many female characters frequently wear purple outfits/dress. The Mother was also wearing one in her first official appearance.
- Grand Romantic Gesture: Ted is fond of these.
- Granola Guy: Barney was once one of these... until he suited up for the first time to deal with Shannon dumping him. Possibly lampshaded when Shannon said she was over "the whole granola thing."
- Marshal, Lily and especially Ted went through phases of this in college.
- Groin Attack: Lily comes up with the idea of a electric collar, or more appropriately, a shock ring to keep Barney in line.
- Hair Today Gone Tomorrow: Done by everyone at different points.
- Barney shed his longer, hippie-like locks in favor of a sleeker look when his girlfriend dumped him for a businessman.
- Lily had stark black hair in high school and college, while in the modern day it varies between red and dark brown.
- 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. In the flashforward to when Marshall wins the election to State Attorney General, Lily is wearing her hair in a typical "politican's wife" style.
- Handsome Lech: Barney.
- Hands-Off Parenting: Barney's childhood was apparently like this, with his mother leaving him alone for days at a time.
- Happily Married: Marshall and Lily, they go through some tough times, but theirs is the romance that is the most solid on the show.
- 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 believes Marshall is Ted's best friend anymore.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood:
- 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 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.
- Honorary Uncle: Future Ted refers to all his friends as "Uncle" or "Aunt" to his kids, which causes some viewers to believe that the mother is the sister of one of Ted's friends.
- This extends to their children, as Marshall and Lily's son Marvin is referred to as the cousin of Ted's children (which makes the aforementioned Epileptic Trees even more unlikely).
- Hope Spot: A major point of the series, no matter how many times Ted gets snubbed or dumped, or no matter how many times he does that to his girlfriends, he never stops looking for the perfect women or let destiny guide him to her.
- Ted's narration in the official alternative ending has been interpreted as one for Barney and Robin getting back together after their divorce in the finale.
- 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 its 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.
- I Uh You Too:
- When Robin realizes she's in love with Ted
- Lampshaded by Ted, who's teaching Barney about Robin 101
Ted: She doesn't say "I love you," like a normal person. Instead, she'll laugh, shake her head, give you a little smile, and say, "You're an idiot."
Barney: "You're an idiot"?
Ted: If she tells you you're an idiot, you're a lucky man.
- Identical Stranger: Each of the gang has a doppelgänger 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:
- Lesbian Robin
- Moustache Marshal
- Stripper Lily
- Mexican Wrestler Ted ("I know, mine was the coolest")
- Fertility Specialist Barney
- I'll Be in My Bunk: In "Last Cigarette Ever", Marshall imagines getting his teenaged self to quit smoking by showing him a picture of Lily. Teenage Marshall proceeds to quote this trope almost verbatim.
- Impossibly Awesome Magic Trick: Barney's tricks are often simple enough, but on occasion there are tricks that are frankly impossible. Most notably was his trick in "The Magician's Code" which involved him pulling a broadsword out of a 1x1 foot box (that had been scanned by airport security). And that was part of the SETUP.
- Inconvenient Itch: Marshall realizes he has head-lice halfway through begging to get his job back, 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 his job back.
- 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. Often Future!Ted will say "This went on for a while" and the scene fast-forwards to much later as one of the characters makes one last pun and then everyone pauses silently until someone admits they are finally all out of ideas.
- Inhuman Resources: Barney's company. At one point, Ted is hired to design them a dedicated "firing room."
- 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. Subverted during Lily's bridal shower when Robin telepathically pleads with her, to which Lily nods knowingly and then immediately turns out to have misunderstood everything.
- Out of the gang, Ted is the one who really wants to get married. However, all of the other four get married before him. Including two with huge aversions to getting married.
- On a smaller scale, Robin's relationship with Don was full of irony. She only meets him after committing fully to her career over her personal life. However when given the choice, she chose him over furthering her career. He chose his career when given the exact same opportunity.
- Similarly, Ted stated in "The Platinum Rule" that if he broke up with Stella it wouldn't be because of some stupid rule. At their wedding she left him at the altar to run off with her ex-husband and the father of her daughter, causing him to have the rule never invite an ex to a wedding.
- It Runs in the Family: Barney, his brother and mother are all into promiscuity. When we finally meets his father, he is a reformed party-animal.
- Magic Realism: Telepathic conversations, a burger so good that other burgers will forever after taste like feet, a long list of improbable coincidences, Barney's ability to take a good picture even when it should be physically impossible, a rain dance actually working, 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 Bro.
- Master of the Mixed Message: Robin is this a lot, with both Ted (in the earlier seasons), and later Barney in seasons 3 and 4.
- Maybe Ever After: In the finale, Ted is implied to get back together with Robin in 2030, but the series ends before we see Robin's reaction.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
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".
- The Missus and the Ex: It happens all the time as Robin and Ted broke up but remained very close friends, and later the same happened with Barney and Robin. Sometimes it's a Girl of the Week who's either friendly to Robin or frustrated with Ted/Barney, or she may be a steady girl-friend.
- 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 Made Awesome: "YOU'RE DEAD TO ME" Lily. Complete with Ominous Latin Chanting.
- 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.
- Musical World Hypotheses: When a musical number appears on the show, it always has an explanation.
- All in Their Heads: "Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit" from "Girls vs. Suits" is imagined by Barney.
- Diagetic: All of Marshall's songs ("You Just Got Slapped", played on the piano of the apartment; and the songs he recorded for personalized web sites). All of the Robin Sparkles music videos.
- Adaptation: Theoretically, Ted's "Perfect Date" song is just a spoken monologue told to Barney, turned into a dramatic musical number when the future Ted tells the story to his children.
- My Own Private "I Do": Lily and Marshall get married outside (with Barney officiating) while the wedding guests are inside waiting for the planned ceremony.
- My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Ted's younger sister Heather, to Barney. Robin's younger sister Katie to Katie's boyfriend at the time. Barney's younger half-sister Carly, to Ted.
- Myth Arc: The whole story revolves around all the things that happened to Ted that caused him to meet the future love of his life.
- Mythology Gag: In the Russian version, Robin’s equivalent’s ringtone is "Let’s Go to the Mall".
- Nightmare Fuel: In-universe example: the thought of Marshall slapping him is this to Barney.
- No New Fashions in the Future: In flash forwards, character's clothes wouldn't look out of place today. Most egregiously are the children, who are canonically the furthest forward the show can go (2030), but the son is wearing an American Eagle shirt that was sold in stores in 2006 (the year the actor started wearing it).
- Nostalgic Narrator: Ted, usually.
- Not Even Bothering with an Excuse:
- 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:
Murtaugh: I'm too old for this sh-
He said 'I'm too old for this stuff'!
- "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.
- Not Now, Kiddo: "NOT NOW, TED!"
- Not Staying for Breakfast: Modus Operandi of Barney.
- When Lily crashes at Barney's place for a while, he is in awe of her ability to make his previous night's date so uncomfortable that they can't leave his place fast enough.
- Odd Friendship: Barney and Lily are extremely tight, considering Barney is a womanizer and Lily is a nice kindergarten teacher. Or is she?
- Old Shame: A few In-Universe examples...
- For Robin, it's "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.
- 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).
- Omnidisciplinary Lawyer: Marshall is explicitly going to law school for the sake of becoming an environmental lawyer. However, he spends the majority of the series as a corporate lawyer for one evil Mega Corp. or another. He also acts as counsel for his friends whenever they get into a scrape with the law.
- Once More with Clarity: Used frequently on the show, usually due to Ted telling events out of sequence, or forgetting important details. The scene with him and Robin walking in covered in spaghetti sauce after Lily makes a fuss about some detail in her wedding is expanded on much later, for instance. Events occurring when characters are drunk (or having just eaten a sandwich) are also played this way, with the beer goggle actions happening first and what really occurred coming later.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In-Universe Robin's Canadian accent pops up outside of flashbacks a few times (one time it comes back when she was very drunk), at other times it may just be Cobie Smulders' actual Canadian background.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Lily's "You're dead to me" look.
- Also, one plays before the seventh slap
- On The Rebound: Occurs a few times:
- Gael, Robin's Latin Lover whom she picked up on a trip to Argentina. The relationship explicitly happened because Robin was so torn up by her breakup with Ted that she needed something.
- In response to Gael, Ted rebounds with a Hard-Drinking Party Girl named Amy, which results in him getting a butterfly trampstamp.
- Several of Barney's plays to pick up women involve targeting vulnerable women who have just broken up.
- Ted actively didn't pursue a girl until some time had passed after her breakup so that he wouldn't be the rebound guy.
- Parodied in the episode "Rebound Bro" where, after "breaking up" with Ted, Barney latches onto a new bro, only to break up eventually.
- Sad Clown: There's quite a few hints that Barney is one of these, particularly in later seasons.
- Secret Keeper:
- Averted by Lily most of the time but notably played straight when Barney tells her that he's love with Robin.
- And then averted later on when Marshall reveals she told him after exactly a day.
- Seduction-Proof Marriage: Frequently used by Marshall whenever the gang gets into strip clubs or gay bars. He is still flattered by the attention of gays, though.
- Seinfeldian Conversation: Constantly, one of the Running Gags of the show involve Future Ted fast-forwarding through some of their more long-winded discussions including Canadian themed sexual innuendo, candy as allusions to female body parts and, their most heated argument EVER, ducks vs. rabbits.
- Selective Obliviousness: Occurs sometimes with Barney, usually as a coping mechanism, (e.g., "Cleaning House").
- Self-Deprecation: In the Season Nine Comic-Con trailer, Ted's kids (who are all grown up) are incredibly pissed at their dad for dragging the story too long in eight years and wanted him to get to the point how he actually met their mother.
- Then there's future Ted himself who is so honest about the embarrassing things that happen to him you almost forget he's the narrator.
- Self-Imposed Challenge: Barney loves to do it. To himself.
- Sensei for Scoundrels: Barney is this in some of his more *ahem* altruistic moments.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Barney was the bleeding heart hippy and James was the closeted gay jock.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Ted does this all the time, 'cause he's pompous like that.
- Sex Dressed: Happens pretty frequently, but mostly to Lily and Marshall.
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: Marshall and Lily.
- Shaggy Frog Story: Barney's stories will allegedly illustrate a point, but inevitably end up merely highlighting his sexual prowess.
- Share Phrase: "Would you just... okay?" occurs very frequently (but subtly) between several characters, mostly Barney and Ted.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Barney, of course.
- Shipper on Deck: Marshall and Lily ship Barney and Robin. Also Barney and Ted.
- Ship Tease: Lily and Marshall demonstrate a decidedly threesome-esque vibe towards Ted during Seasons 1-4. This seems to fade in later seasons as they concentrate on starting a family.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Certain long-running story arcs came to an anticlimactic end:
- In season 4, Ted's wedding to Stella. All of the buildup, all of Ted pursuing Stella and winning her and her daughter over, and minutes before the finish line, Tony (Stella's ex-boyfriend who never appeared before the episode) sweeps Stella off her feet.
- After an entire season set during Barney and Robin's wedding weekend, they end up getting divorced minutes into the next episode. Additionally, Barney's character development is all but undone in the final episode. Barney began the show as a womanizer who was terrified of commitment, but over time he became less selfish and learned how to be in a relationship. But after his divorce from Robin it's shown that he has gone right back to his womanizing ways by trying to have a "perfect month" where he has sex with a different woman each night for 31 days in a row. He had gone through probably the most character development of any of the main cast, but the finale showed him approaching fatherhood with less maturity than he had during a pregnancy scare in the fourth season.
- After spending 9 seasons building up the Mother of Ted's children, it's revealed in the finale that she died six years ago.
- Also, throughout the series is has been illustrated time and time again that Ted and Robin are incompatible as a couple. In season 9 a big deal was made about Ted finally letting Robin go, and a little later on a big deal was made about Robin finally letting Ted go. Then in the final episode all this is undone; Robin divorces Barney and starts thinking that she should have married Ted instead, and Ted's lingering feelings for Robin are so obvious that his kids tell him they've known for a long time how he feels about her.
- Shout-Out: Has its own sub-page dedicated to intentional references and Shout Outs.
- 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.
- Sliding Scale of Continuity: Level 3 (Subtle Continuity).
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Waaayyy over on the idealistic side, albeit in a rather snarky way. The finale shifts it over to cynical through, see the Deconstruction trope above for details.....and the alternate ending slides it back to idealistic by not only keeping Tracy alive, but also implying that Barney and Robin may have gotten back together after breaking up twice.
- Slut Shaming: The show plays this straight most of the time. Though it is played in the following examples:
- SoCalization: Pops up from time to time. For example, characters frequently claim the age of consent to be 18, while it's actually 17 in New York.
- So Bad, It's Good: In-Universe, the Robin Sparkles videos. The gang is so happy to watch them on repeat.
- 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"
- Son of a Whore: Fits Barney to a tee.
- Special Guest: 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 Povich, (the voice of) Harvey Fierstein, Alexis Denisof, Jorge Garcia, Katy Perry, Boyz II Men, Orson Bean, Bob Barker and The Price Is Right set.
- Spoof Aesop: The narrator sometimes gives these out, e.g. "I won't bother telling you not to fight, because that's pointless, but don't fight Uncle Marshall." "And that's how we learned to forget what we had learned five seconds earlier." "Don't try to make your wife/husband jealous or he/she might beat the snot out of someone." etc etc.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Once Barney became the Breakout Character he started getting more and more focus in 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.
- Spiritual Successor: To Friends
- Spit Take: Taken to new levels in the season seven episode "Mystery Vs History", where this is something of a Running Gag. In fact throughout the series, characters will take a sip of a drink just to perform a spit take.
- Staging an Intervention: Has a whole series of funny interventions, dealing with behaviors from spray-tanning to fake British accents to organizing funny interventions. The following are a list of people the gang have held interventions for, and the reasons why (from Intervention Banner page):
Barney: frequent magic tricks, specifically those involving fire.
Barney: not taking off the old man suit.
Barney: give his father a second chance and have dinner with him.
Lily: use of fake British accents.
Marshall: refusing to take off a hat.
Marshall: constant use of charts.
Robin: obsession with spray tans.
Ted: marrying Stella before they knew each other.
Ted: for his pretentious pronunciations; for example: "encyclopÃ¦dia". (Not actually seen)
Ted: love for a married woman.
Stuart: for drinking. (This was done with other people)
The Gang: for hosting too many interventions. (Called the "Intervention" intervention.)
Barney: for his plan to move in with Quinn. (Called the Quin-ntervention.)
Robin: her obsession with Barney
- Stalker with a Crush: Scooter, sometimes Ted to Robin.
- Standard Snippet: Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 11, third movement is played whenever one of Barney's plays for getting women from his "playbook" is shown.
- Straight Gay: Barney's brother James, played by Wayne Brady.
- Standardized Sitcom Housing: Pretty much all of the apartments and houses that appear.
- The Stinger: Happens during every season finale:
- Season 1: While Ted and Robin finally get together, Lily leaves Marshall for her art program in San Francisco, and the season ends with the group comforting Marshall outside the apartment on a rainy night.
- Season 2: Marshall and Lily are married, while Ted and Robin announce that they've broken up.
- Season 3: His friendship with Barney restored, Ted proposes to Stella.
- Season 4: Future Ted reveals that he had taken the job as a professor, and The Mother was in his first class.
- Season 5: Marshall and Lily decide to have kids.
- Season 6: Barney is revealed to be the groom at the wedding where Ted meets the Mother.
- Season 7: Robin is revealed to be Barney's bride.
- Season 8: The Mother is seen purchasing a ticket to Farhampton, where she will perform at Barney and Robin's wedding.
- Season 9: Future!Ted, 6 years after The Mother's death, outside Robin's apartment with the blue French horn.
- Stylistic Suck: The Wedding Bride (and its sequel) are overacted, the dialogue is terrible, and Tony's character is an obvious Parody Sue, but remember that Ted — who has plenty of reasons to hate the movie — is the one telling us about it.
- Sugar And Ice Girl/Tsundere: Robin.
- Supporting Protagonist: This happens to some extent as Barney's emotional growth outpaces Ted's in the later seasons. See: Spotlight-Stealing Squad.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial (or brilliant double-bluff): In the season 8 finale script The Mother was described as "ABSOLUTELY NOT The Mother".
- 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 Lily 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.
- Team Mom: Lily, in many ways she's the emotional center of the show, with all of the others often coming to her for advice.
- 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 Holli 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.
- That Night Felt Like Months: The final season takes place mostly over just a few days leading up to Barney and Robin's wedding.
- 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."
- This Is Going To Be Huge: Or in this case, legen-WAITFORIT.
- Three Plus Two: Flashbacks of their college years shows Ted, Marshall and Lily having the Two Guys and a Girl dynamic. Ted met Barney in 2001, while he met Robin at the series premiere.
- Title Drop: Almost every episode title gets dropped at some point in it, and the show's name also gets dropped from time to time.
- Token Evil Teammate: Barney fits this role to a "T."
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Robin and Lily, respectively, mostly by their hobbies and interests.
- Tough Room: Averted because the creators hate this trope. Any time a character is intentionally telling a joke, the actor playing the character telling the joke will be the only actor in the scene who's been told the joke beforehand. This ensures that the rest of the characters will laugh, or at least smirk, at the joke because the rest of the actors haven't heard it before.
- Trope Overdosed: Considering that there is now a separate page for each season now, this shouldn't be a surprise.
- 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.
- Tsundere: Lily's a Type B.
- Twitchy Eye: Happens sometimes with Barney, generally when he's freaking out about something, such as receiving another slap from Marshall.
- Then happens to both Marshall and Robin when they try to hang out just the two of them.
- Two Guys and a Girl: Ted, Marshall and Lily in their college years.
- The Unfettered: In a strange sense, Barney. As soon as he utters the words "Challenge accepted!" he will do anything to make sure he wins. And I do mean anything...
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Ted has shown some Jerkass tendencies in certain episodes that make it hard to root for him at times.
- 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.
- Unusual Euphemism: "Grinch"; "eating a sandwich"; "playing the bagpipes"; "read a magazine."
- Also Lilly's "Catch Phrase", "You, Son-of-a-bitch!". She uses it with Marvin a couple of times, but modifies it to "You, Son-of-a-Me!".
- 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 Narrator:
- 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.
- Even when he is trying to tell the truth, he sometimes misremembers things. Future Ted will also admit when the events he recalls are questionable in their veracity, such as events he wasn't actually there for:
Future Ted: I wasn't there, but this is how Aunt Robin swears it happened.
*Robin riding on a bicycle does a flip ten feet in the air over a parked car
- The series finale explains the real reason why Ted is telling the story to his kids which explains why his narration tends to skew in certain directions. He is trying to explain to his kids why Robin is such a great person without making it seem that he regrets marrying the Mother instead of Robin.
- Unreliable Voiceover: Happens occasionally when he tells his children that something occurred, but the audience is shown the truth (such as Ted's last day with Victoria in season 1, where he says that they walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and various other romantic things, but the footage shows them just spending all day in bed.
- 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.
- Unreveal Angle: The narration refers to the Mother many times, yet her face is never seen and her voice is never heard. Her ankle is briefly glimpsed in "Girls vs. Suits", and a dark figure carrying a yellow umbrella (which signifies the Mother) is seen in "Wait for It" and "No Tomorrow".
- 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.
- Villain Song: Barney's "Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit", if you consider Barney a Villain Protagonist. Which you should.
- The Watson: Ted's kids. Also, Robin in seasons 1 and 2, and Kevin in season 7.
- Wedding Ring Defense: Inverted twice:
- Lily removes her engagement ring in an early episode, because she misses the attention she used to get from random men.
- Robin begins to resent her engagement ring after noticing that men don't treat her as well now that she's "taken".
- Well Done Daughter Guy: Robin Charles Scherbatsky... JUNIOR.
- 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.
- Season nine finally reveals that his job really is PLEASE - Provide Legal Exculpation And Sign Everything. He is essentially the company's Fall Guy for when they are investigated by the FBI.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Given often to Barney and especially Ted. Occasionally given to Lily, though hers are far less in the foreground.
- When All You Have Is a Hammer: Lily firmly believes every problem can be solved the same way she would deal with her kindergarten class.
- Whip Pan: Used all the time.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Marshall.
- 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.
- Yet Another Baby Panda: One of Robin's biggest career complaints.
- 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.
- Yoyo Plot Point:
- Ted and Robin's relationship. The first episode proved she wasn't the mother, but their relationship (or lack thereof) has become a major plot point many times.
- Robin's dissatisfaction with her career in Season 4. There was a pattern of Robin hating her current news reporter job, quitting it, discovering a supposedly-awesome job...and the cycle repeats with that job apparently being terrible too.
- Marshall's career follows a similar trend. Get a job doing environmental law, decide to go into soulless, corporate law for the money instead, get fed up and quit. Repeat. This happened in season 1 (turning down an internship with the NRDC for one at Altrucell), season 3 (turning down a job at the NRDC for one at a soulless law firm, then quitting), season 4 (giving in and getting a job at GNB, quitting), season 6 (get an internship at the NRDC, quitting to find something that pays more), and season 9 (getting a judgeship, turning it down to go to Italy and winds up going into soulless corporate law).
- Your Mom: It becomes a Running Gag where Barney keeps insisting in a vague way that he slept with Ted's mom and Ted keeps asking if he really slept with his mom.
- 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.