This debate between the classic sitcom Friends and the more recent How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) has been a very common topic of discussion in our class. Some (read: most) prefer Friends while others tend to like HIMYM. In this post, I am hoping to equivocate about both the shows so that you can decide if one of them is actually better and if yes, which one. I say hoping because though I like both, I have a preference for Friends, mostly because I have watched it more than HIMYM (I have explained why later).
It is impossible to say which show is better from their cast. Both the shows have amazing cast, that gained their fame after their respective shows. So, we cannot judge them by their cast.
About characters, while both the shows have somewhat similar characters, there are some differences. In Friends, we have Ross (the nerd, the romantic), Rachel (the pretty one), Joey (the dumb one, the playboy, the bro), Monica (the caretaker), Chandler (the funny one) and Phoebe (the weird one). In HIMYM, we have Ted (the nerd, the romantic), Marshall (the one whose purpose I am not sure about), Lily (the caretaker), Robin (the pretty one) and Barney (the weird one, the dumb one, the playboy, the bro). You might notice that HIMYM, lacks a particular funny one. Thisay be because, all of them have their own jokes that are funny in the respective situations while Friends’ jokes mostly come from Chandler. Obviously, all others have their funny moments but they are mostly their antics that are funny, rather than what they say. In HIMYM, everyone is equally funny and sarcastic, however the major part of the jokes are overtly sexual, which makes the humor sometimes tasteless.
The plot of both the show begin very similarly. The pretty one comes into the life of the ensemble and the romantic or the nerd falls in love with her. He tries to woo her and finally succeeds by some stroke of luck and dates her for sometime, before some misunderstanding causes them to break up. Then they become friends and stay just friends till the end of the show when they finally come together and live happily ever after. However, in HIMYM, there is a twist. The romantic does not end up with the pretty one and rather ends up with, well, the mother.
Friends advocates often say that apart from the little plot twist, HIMYM is a rip-off of Friends. However, I did not see many things that could be considered as copied. Yes, there were a few jokes that were present in both the shows and there is a similarity in the basic plot structure, these jokes are present in almost all sitcoms and this is the basic structure of all sitcoms.
HIMYM advocates claim that HIMYM is more realistic than Friends. Again, if we see the characters, Barney is definitely not real. However, all the characters from Friends are very realistic although a little dumber. In fact, HIMYM overdid every character and put them to a superlative. However, all of it can be managed by simply claiming that HIMYM is a personal narrative of Ted and hence are his own exaggerations and probably the real characters were different. The situation in Friends is pretty unrealistic, though. Every character had a very good job and rarely seemed to work. It was as if they were paid for drinking coffee at the Central Perk. On the contrary, in HIMYM, many of them did not have an ideal situation. They hung out mostly at night at the McLaren’s and they had either job satisfaction or money but never actually had both. Moreover the depiction of relationships is more realistic too. More often than not people tend not to end up with the person they are infatuated with.
One more thing that I noted was that the plot of Friends is also very disconnected. The episodes are often not related. There is usually a big thing going on but the smaller things are usually limited to one episode. The story does not seem as well planned. There are often tiny mistakes that may go unnoticed by the viewer. HIMYM is very well connected. Often, if you see the previous episodes, you can find Easter eggs about later episodes. This greatly increases the re-watch value. However, if you are bored and want to watch a random episode, the disconnectedness of Friends often make the joke funnier, which is entirely possible in HIMYM, as jokes there may require context (this is why I have watched more Friends than HIMYM).
Personally, I think both of them are great shows. I do not usually try to compare them but I just thought why would someone prefer one of these over other. So, I listed out all positives and negatives of both the shows that I am aware of and put them out there, for debate.
Feel free to leave a comment and tell me if you think both are equally good or if you would prefer one, if yes, which one and why.