There was a story published in New York magazine earlier this year that asked if Friends is still the most popular show on television. “Between its various syndicated airings, the show still draws a weekly audience of 16 million in the U.S., a big enough viewership to make it a viable hit on current network TV,” Adam Sternbergh wrote, “and that’s not even including streaming.” He makes a solid argument: Friends, a show that premiered over 20 years ago, is wish fulfillment for current 20-somethings; it’s the ultimate pre-9/11 sitcom, where people could sit in coffee shops all day and still afford deluxe apartments.
In another 20 years, I bet we’ll look at How I Met Your Mother the same way.
Yes, the series finale was a dud — so was Friends‘ — but How I Met was really good and really clever for a long time; it was the last must-watch laugh track comedy. Multi-camera comedies with canned laughter are on the way out, if they’re not there already — last season, only five of the 15 half-hour live-action comedies on the five major networks used a laugh track, compared to 10 years prior, when “the TV season started with 34 live-action comedies on air, archived scheduling shows. Ten years prior to that, there were 55 comedies on television — and all featured an audience’s laughter.” Eventually, it will be cool, in an ironic, I-prefer-the-prequels-to-the-original-trilogy kind of way, to prefer multi-cam sitcoms to single-cam, and when that day arrives, How I Met will be there waiting. Assuming a reunion doesn’t happen first.