Press Tour: ‘How I Met Your Mother’ creators have a plan for series finale

PASADENA – “We feel like jerks. We get asked that question a lot”

This was “How I Met Your Mother” co-creator Craig Thomas, addressing a handful of critics and reporters (including me) at a press tour lunch with co-creator Carter Bays. The question in particular was a familiar one about whether they’ll introduce Ted to the Mother at the end of the series or make her a character much sooner(*), but “HIMYM” is structured in such a way that there are many questions the duo can’t answer, even as they repeatedly apologize for their inability to do so.

(*) As I’ve written before, I think taking the title literally and waiting until the series finale to meet her would be a mistake – not because I’m that invested in who she is at this point, but because at this point the show’s best stories (the Marshall/Lily material in particular) takes place in the present and doesn’t rely on narrative sleight-of-hand. If “who is the Mother?” is no longer a factor, then you tell the best stories possible, not the stories best designed to prolong that reveal. Your mileage may vary.

And because of that, any interview with the guys inevitably reaches many dead ends. At one point during the group discussion, Bays even said he was glad they were telling the story of Lily’s pregnancy “because we can say ‘a baby will be born'” without any equivocation.

So this particular conversation went back and forth between things Bays and Thomas could discuss – some involving past events, some involving upcoming stories unrelated to the conception of Future Ted’s children (and at this point I should insert the obligatory spoiler warning, though my view is that most of the stuff was fairly mild, and/or tied into things Future Ted has already told us were coming) – and things they couldn’t. The discussion ran nearly 90 minutes – and took many non-“HIMYM” digressions(**) – so I’m not going to transcribe it all, but rather offer you highlights by topic.

(**) Bays and Thomas are both big fans of “Homeland,” for instance, with Thomas exclaiming, “Talk about a show that redefines itself every week. Other shows would have milked that idea for five episodes; they just did it in one little ending, and they come back, and it’s still amazing!” I am now trying to imagine a version of “HIMYM” that is as breakneck with its plotting as “Homeland” was. That would be a very, very different show.

The pros and cons of late in life success

A while back, CBS renewed “HIMYM” through its eighth season, and everyone assumed that would be the end of the show. Jason Segel has said he felt eight years was the right amount of time to play Marshall, and Bays and Thomas told us yesterday that they had an eight-year plan for the series early on, whether or not they ever got to execute it.(***) But the show is getting its best ratings ever this season, and now there’s a very good chance that CBS could order at least a ninth season, if not more beyond that.