How We Met Their Friends: 35 Similarities Between Two Sitcoms Across Two DecadesBy Ridwan S
The CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) was a massive hit, and its consistently positive reviews earned it eight renewals. Over the nine seasons, fans watched the antics of Ted Mosby and his friends as the New York bachelor searched for his future wife. Season one aired in 2005, a little over a year after the Friends finale. Unsurprisingly, there was a big overlap between fans of HIMYM and Friends, with many seeing the former as a way to fill the hole that Friends left behind. In fact, fans had a hard time ignoring the similarities between the two shows, more than just the basic sitcom equation. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, read on to discover 35 times Friends must have been an inspiration to HIMYM.
It’s unlikely that you’ll find someone with better playboy moves than Barney Stinson. He would say anything romantic and sweet just to get a woman into bed with him. With his frequent change-up of romantic partners, fans thought he’d never settle down.
The self-proclaimed “lone-wolf” known as Joey Tribbiani would give Barney a run for his money when it comes to playing with any woman’s heart. While Joey wasn’t as cunning and suave as Barney, the former’s use of an alias to cover his tracks — a classic Barney move.
Ross and Ted have more in common than just being the protagonists. Unlike the friends (no pun intended) we just mentioned, these two are pure monogamists that are almost obsessed with finding the perfect partner. Despite their finesse, they have trouble finding “the one.”
When they eventually man up and choose to settle down, things go sideways for both characters. Admittedly, such a character is not unusual in comedy series; however, there is no denying that Ross and Ted shared considerable similarities in their actions and approaches.
Each Other’s Wedding Officiants
Sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother and Friends often center around relationships, so it’s no surprise that weddings occur in both of them. But, for whatever reason, the tight cast doesn’t bring new faces in for these big moments.
It could be argued that Friends started the trend of having their friends officiate their weddings. After all, Joey was the one that made the union between Chandler and Monica legal. Years later, HIMYM did the same, with Barney officiating Marshal and Lily’s wedding.
Of Relationships And Birthdays
Get used to seeing a lot of topics about relationships in this list. After all, HIMYM is literally about one man’s journey on his way to finding his wife. But one unfortunate woman, actress Anne Dudek, suffered relationship drama in both series.
Anne plays Precious in “The One After Joey and Rachel Kiss,” during which Mike breaks up with her on her birthday. Two years later, Anne appears as one of Ted’s many past girlfriends. Once again, she gets dumped on her birthday!
One of the many, many running gags in How I Met Your Mother was the joke about doppelgängers. In fact, it even played into Lily and Marshall’s decision to have a baby! Doppelgängers make for an easy punchline, and we love seeing all-star actors embody new personalities.
However, Friends made an impression with some premium doppelgänger jokes with Russ, Ross’ “replacement.” Of course, it’s not just the names. Russ and Ross share a face — literally! David Schwimmer was acting for two in that episode, though the second credit went to the fictional “Snaro.”
An exotic stranger
Sitcoms love having a foreigner in the mix for some easy comic relief. This didn’t even start with Friends, as you can see such gags in Fawlty Towers. However, Friends definitely provided inspiration for its successors by using the exotic stranger as a love interest.
Friends had Paolo from Italy, who was equally seductive and annoying — depending on who you ask. In How I Met Your Mother, Gael is Robin’s Argentinian boyfriend with whom she rebounded after her breakup with Ted. Even if they were only on the show for a brief period of time, the resemblance is uncanny.
Exes’ invitation to the wedding
The two classic shows taught us that inviting exes to your wedding could be a bad idea. Ross invited Rachel to his wedding, only for his ex to talk about her love for him. Ross ended up saying the wrong name at his wedding and ruined the big day.
In a more dramatic version, Ted convinced Stella that inviting exes is really not an issue — until he learned his lesson the hard way. There was still chemistry between Stella and her ex-boyfriend Tony, whom Ted invited to the wedding. So much so that the two eloped the same evening.
The story of infertility
While sitcoms often exaggerate real-life problems, they also cover topics that their fans can relate to. For example, in real life, couples have to discuss whether or not to have a baby. Sadly, even when the two agree, that’s not always possible…
Chandler and Monica struggled with infertility; something Marshall and Lily experienced years later. However, How I Met Your Mother had to outdo their predecessor and they showed Robin having the same struggle. We can’t tell if this is art copying art, or just art imitating life.
Lack of culinary skills
Sitcoms both lean into and fight against stereotypes. One female stereotype is being a good cook, which Friends and HIMYM subverted with Rachel and Robin, making them both absolute disasters in the kitchen. This isn’t anything unique to these series, but there are eerie similarities.
The two single ladies living it up in the city had a wide range of skills, even though that didn’t extend to the stovetop range. However, at least Rachel could put together a decent trifle for Thanksgiving, while Robin couldn’t even scramble eggs properly.
A cheap wedding dress
Weddings are expensive affairs, and one of the big money drains is the wedding dress. Women are truly torn as they want elegance without expense. Luckily, these two famous sitcoms taught us a way to have the best of both worlds.
In Friends, Rachel, Phoebe, and Monica go on an excursion to find the latter’s dream dress. How I Met Your Mother showed Robin being a great friend and sitting with Lily as the two waited all night for an upcoming dress sale.
Star Wars influence
No one can dispute the cultural influence Star Wars has had over the years — and continues to have, by the way. There was no escaping the franchise in the 1990s, just as it’s found everywhere today. Let’s look at how both shows covered Star Wars.
Both series used it as part of a romance plotline. In Friends, Rachel dresses up for Ross to fulfill his fantasy. Meanwhile, Ted used it as a test to see if Stella was “the one.” She might not have liked it, but we give her props for faking it.
Loss of Health Insurance
This is another common storyline among classic sitcoms. Friends was the first to do it when Joey lost his health insurance. To stay in shape, Joey started weightlifting. However, it ended in a hernia, and without health insurance to cover medical expenses, it did the exact opposite of what he set out to do.
In HIMYM, it was Marshall that lost his health insurance. Similar to Joey, he lost it once he became unemployed. While this is a problem many Americans unfortunately face, Marshall took it too far and was overly cautious in an attempt not to need medical assistance.
A strange appearance of a TV
Do you remember the episode of Friends where Chandler had to refurnish the apartment? We do. And apparently so did the writers of How I Met Your Mother. While there was no remodeling in HIMYM, there was one notable line connecting the two shows…
Excited about the goings on in the apartment, and fantasizing about futuristic furniture, Joey exclaims “That’s the dream.” It may only have been uttered once in Friends, but How I Met Your Mother turned it into one of Barney’s catchphrases. Now that’s the dream.
Westchester – the fancy neighborhood
In New York, Westchester County is considered a fancy neighborhood that’s great to raise a family in. This is a sentiment shared by the makers of both HIMYM and Friends. The series featured different characters choosing to stay in the popular county.
In one of the episodes of Friends, Monica and Chandler relocated to a house in Westchester County. Likewise, Ted purchased a house in the neighborhood and eventually had a family there. In fact, that’s where he’s recounting the story to his kids!
Sacrifice for love
In both series, the main male character suffered for their romantic interests. Ted and Ross gave up career opportunities to help their long-term crush. Ross bailed on a TV appearance in order to help Rachel after she injured her ribs.
Meanwhile, Ted canceled an important business meeting in favor of helping Robin recover her locket. Ted took more of a blow, because this happened while Robin was already engaged. However, Ted still made sacrifices for Robin out of his genuine feelings for her.
The relationship between Ross and Rachel is so iconic that the term has become a shorthand for an on and off again relationship. Since it was so well-known, we’re not surprised that it made an appearance in How I Met Your Mother.
Ted and Robin had a seemingly endless fling. Though, because of the narrative structure of the show, fans knew since episode one that it was always destined to be a lifelong friendship. Though that didn’t make it less intriguing to watch.
The “lone wolf” found love
We already talked about the womanizer characters — Joey and Barney. They have more in common than their frequent flings. They both eventually found love and settled down with the love of their life. Oh, and did we mention that they both fell for their best friend’s ex?
In both cases, the bro-code plays a key role in maintaining friendships despite whatever feelings they may have for one another. In Friends, Joey pursues his crush on Rachel after he spots Ross breaking the bro-code first. HIMYM took it one step further with Barney and Robin.
Couple in a stable relationship
We mentioned the on-and-off relationship earlier, but there’s the other end of the spectrum — a healthy, stable relationship. After all, part of the reason people watch TV is to live vicariously through fictional characters. And who doesn’t want a reliable companion?
Monica and Chandler were the ideal couple that we couldn’t take our eyes off of in Friends. Since HIMYM focused more on relationships, it would’ve been illogical to not have one of Ted’s friends in a healthy, long-term relationship. Even though they had drama, they stuck together!
We’ve talked a lot about the similarities between Ted and Ross, and we’re back with another one. The two hopeless romantics are both professors. Outside of The Big Bang Theory, it’s not a common profession in sitcoms, especially in the 1990s-2000s.
And they both took it one step further. Ted and Ross both had a romantic fling with a student! Ross dated his student Elizabeth, and Ted his Ph.D. student Cindy. At least the latter was more wholesome as the relationship led Ted to his future wife.
Ted and Ross were well-established characters, both with explicit careers. But that wasn’t true for every character. In Friends, Rachel was more than a little confused about what Chandler did for a living. She called him a “transpondster,” which was most definitely not the right answer.
HIMYM made it a series-long running gag. Barney was often seen wearing suits, both at work and in his off time. We even see him in an office setting. However, no one actually knows what he does to make enough money to afford those fancy suits.
Men with feminine names
Technically, any name can be unisex, but there are some that are purely associated with women. Both series gave one of their male leads a female middle name. Ted’s full name is supposedly Ted Evelyn Mosby, and Friends had Chandler Muriel Bing.
Gender stereotypes were more prevalent in the time of Friends, and we saw the same happening throughout How I Met Your Mother. We bet that if these shows premiered today, they wouldn’t have jokes like this included. What do you think?
Even though the sweet, loving, predictable relationship between Lily and Marshall survived the group’s mishaps, there were a few snags. In the episode “Jenkins,” Marshall shares a kiss with an attractive co-worker. Even though nothing happened between them, Marshall was torn after the encounter.
Years earlier, a similar thing happened to Chandler in Friends. Many believe that this storyline could have inspired the same storyline in How I Met Your Mother. Well, no one knows for sure, but with all these similarities, we bet that there’s a connection.
Both series are set in the US, which is unsurprising given that the creators and cast are all American. As such, introducing an attractive British woman to the show as a recurring character would certainly stand out. What is it with Americans and British accents?
Emily is the Brit in Friends, and the connection is a bit roundabout. Emily is Rachel’s boss’ niece. Oddly enough, HIMYM used the work connection when they introduced Nora. Barney fell for Nora, Robin’s co-worker, just as Ross fell for Emily.
Poor in photography
In Friends, one of the funny episodes showed Monica and Chandler taking engagement pictures. But Chandler messed things up with his goofy facial expressions. And that’s not all. The couple eventually used the picture of Joey to announce their engagement — one of the funniest scenes in the sitcom.
As we’ve seen a few times already, Marshall is Chandler’s How I Met Your Mother counterpart. Hence, you shouldn’t be surprised to know that Marshall couldn’t take a good picture either. The evidence of his poor photography skill littered throughout the whole series.
Have you heard about men waiting, without clothes on, for ladies to enter the apartment, in an attempt to get her into bed? Well, if not, you could have seen such cases in Friends and How I Met Your Mother.
Joey pulled this dirty trick first, and Barney and Ted took note. Joey was trying to get intimate with Monica, although the interaction was entirely a misunderstanding on his part. Again, this isn’t something we’d expect to see in a show today.
Meeting with Mrs. Robinson
Before How I Met Your Mother and Friends, The Graduate brought us the seductive mother figure. It was one of the most iconic lines in the movie, after all. In Friends, Ross shared a kiss with his “Mrs. Robinson,” Mrs. Bing.
Of course, the same thing happened in How I Met Your Mother. And, unsurprisingly, it was Barney that broke the bro-code. His “sin” was kissing Ted’s mother. Though Barney leaned into it and led Ted to think that it was a bigger affair than what actually happened.
Crazy College Days
This is a very common theme in both series, albeit not an unusual one in sitcoms in general. After all, many of us had an embarrassing moment(s) in college. It’s all part of growing up. College is a time of exploration, even if that sometimes ends in disaster.
Friends had Ross and Chandler being goofy, awkward, and basically everything apart from cool. How I Met Your Mother had the same with Ted and Marshall. Just look at this picture! If that isn’t the definition of college blackmail photos, we don’t know what is.
Pub turned coffee shop
Friend groups taking time to hang out in sitcoms is a common thing. Hence, one cannot claim that HIMYM copied Friends in this regard alone. However, when you consider how it was set up in How I Met Your Mother and compared with the setup in Friends, you may think otherwise.
They’d all sit in the same place at a coffee shop in Central Park in Friends — we wonder if any other customer ever had an interest in their seat. That aside, you would see the same situation in HIMYM with the group hanging out at Maclaren’s Pub, using the same table over and over.
The embarrassing job
This is something we can all relate to. Many of us have had to take up an embarrassing job in order to make some money and keep the lights on. And, if there’s one thing that sitcoms do, it’s portray relatable situations.
In Friends, it was Monica, and in HIMYM, it was Lily. Both of them had a job as a waitress and had to wear a ridiculous outfit at work. They even had to dance to welcome the customers to the restaurant.
Ride around town in a car
If your income is close to the average, you can save some money by taking public transportation. We know, this isn’t anything new. Well, maybe it would be a revelation for the characters in Friends and How I Met Your Mother.
Both shows took place in a big city — the one place you shouldn’t need a car. It’s expensive, traffic is terrible, and there’s usually public transportation so you won’t need to walk or bike. Yet, both shows had characters with cars, with no regard for the financial burden.
The Grammar teacher
In the two series, Ted and Ross are not only obsessed with romance but grammar, too. They can’t help but correct people using improper English. A good example was the case of Ross correcting Rachel about the difference between “You’re” and “Your.”
Ted, in HIMYM, would also annoy people, like Robin. He couldn’t help but call her out for mixing up the use of figuratively and literally. In her defense, these are often interchanged in colloquial phrasing. And don’t get us started on his obsession with pronunciation.
Adult Film Stars
Finding out that one of the gangs is an adult film actor or actress is a common theme in the two sitcoms. However, one was more memorable than the other. In Friends, the group was astounded to learn that Phoebe belonged to the adult film industry.
In reality, though, her twin sister had only used her name in one of her series. As for HIMYM, Ted turned out to be an adult film star, a fact revealed by Barney. While the scenes were quite hilarious, it’s difficult not to see the semblance of a similar occasion in Friends.
The cat person versus dog person debate is everywhere, including Friends. Though, Chandler went so far as to fake a dog allergy just to avoid having to explain that he didn’t like dogs. We can’t tell if that’s genius or idiotic.
Lily must have seen Friends, because she had a dog allergy that only acted up when it was a convenient excuse. For example, it helped her get out of living with Robin. Then again, we’d see Lily petting one of Robin’s dogs. Weird.
We know the secret
One of the funny twists in How I Met Your Mother happened when Ted met Holli and got her contact. However, Marshall and Barney felt Ted could lose the girl by rushing things and decided to switch her contact with Barney’s contact. Robin eventually saved Ted and revealed that he was texting Barney and Marshall.
In another twist, Ted actually knew what was going on and played along. And, you won’t be surprised to learn that a similar thing happened in Friends. Although texting wasn’t as prevalent in the ’90s, Monica and Chandler messed with their friends, too.
Almost gone for good
We will sometimes joke about “almost dying,” when in reality, it was something utterly mundane that occurred and we were in no real danger. Ross had such an experience, but he read it as the universe telling him to get back together with his ex.
As for Ted, he had an actual car accident in which he almost died. Like Ross, he also felt that perhaps, he shouldn’t have closed the relationship chapter with Stella. As a result, he returned to her and made things work out. Is that hard to see the semblance? Definitely, not!