Posted by Brian Cochrane
Since its debut four seasons ago, CBS's "How I Met Your Mother" has been distinguished by its ability to meld witty characters, biting wordplay and genuine romantic touches with a storytelling style that routinely whips from present to past and into the future. Now, with Ted's marriage plans to Stella having gone belly up on the Jersey shore, the series again ponders who'll be "the one" for Ted Mosby, future dad.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg as Season Pass readers posed their questions to "HIMYM" creators-showrunners Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, right. Topics ranged from the Barney-Robin prospects to the recollection of Victoria, one of Ted's earlier loves, who still seems to hold a warm spot in the hearts of "HIMYM" fans. And, not surprisingly, there were plenty of questions that delved into the show's intricacies, its timeline and the trail of clues laid out so far.
Reflecting the banter that characterizes the show's writing, Bays and Thomas clearly relished the chance to have some fun with this Q&A session. Read on for their answers, revelations and their favorite question:
Q. What does Barney do, exactly? Will you ever actually state it in the show? — Jeremiah
A. We love never quite saying what Barney does -- although, as of episode 2 of season 4, we now know his mega-corporation, Altrucel, has merged or somehow overtaken Goliath National Bank (and now Barney and Marshall work together, or at least in the same building). That’s probably the most specific thing we’ve ever said about it. We just like maintaining the mysterious world that Barney inhabits. We had a friend in NYC who, if you asked him a question he didn’t wanna answer, would dismissively say, “Please,” and move on. That’s what Barney says if you ask him about what he actually does. This vagueness allows us to make weird intimations that his company is involved with very, very bad things, which often seem to involve the North Koreans. Remaining vague throughout the series about what Barney does is part of our master plan, in the very last "HIMYM" episode, to reveal that Barney is an international spy, and then spin that off into its own hour-long action drama. Cha-ching! You know where to reach us, networks!
Q. Have you been influenced by a show like “Lost” in terms of the time-jumping that the series does? — Anup
A. Absolutely. So many of our favorite movies and TV shows play with time and structure. I guess our thesis statement when writing this pilot was, “Why can’t a multi-cam sitcom play with form in the same way?” The answer is, well great, but it’s hard to produce. That’s why we designed a different way of making a multi-cam sitcom. We don’t shoot in front of a live audience. We’d never be able to shoot the show the way we like to in front of a live audience. On our sound stage, we need the space where the bleachers would go to build more sets! We shoot over the course of three days, not one evening (more like a single-cam comedy or an hour drama would do). That allows us to do more flashbacks, shoot more scenes, and tell the story in a more intricate way than we would if we were a more traditional multi-cam show. With our flashbacks, time-jumping and series-long mystery, we sometimes like to fancy ourselves a sitcom version of “Lost,” set on the mysterious island of Manhattan.
Q. What is the thing you most enjoy about writing for "HIMYM"? — Becca Hallows
A. My favorite thing is the feeling of this happy, shared hallucination with the 120 people who work on this show. It’s like when you’re a little kid and you get together you’re your best friends to play with your action figures — you all kind of agree on the “rules of the universe” (this guy can fly, this guy can’t, this guy’s a bad guy) Each week, we all add to the universe of the show, piece by piece, until it feels kind of…well, real. For instance, in the writer’s room, someone will go, “Hey, what have we said about Robin’s father?” And we’ll recall that in Season One, in the episode “Zip, Zip, Zip,” we said that her dad was cold and taught her about cigars and scotch. So then this season — three years later — that led to a whole storyline about Robin and her Dad, a really funny series of flashbacks that sprang from that one comment Robin uttered three years ago (it’s in episode 407, “Happily Ever After”). I love that. I love creating the “facts” of this little world and then — by sticking to these facts as though they’re real — getting entire scenes, or even entire episodes out of them later on. Everyone who works here cares so much about the characters and the universe of the show that it comes to feel like we’re writing a little world into actual existence … (Actually, it’s very often better than the real world!)
Q. Will we be seeing the yellow umbrella at all this season? Even just in passing? It's one of my favorite plot elements in the show, and from my favorite episode. I just find it very clever. — Jim (Jim's question was selected by Carter and Craig as their favorite, so he'll receive the boxed set of "HIMYM" DVDs. Congratulations, Jim!)
A. You have not seen the last of the yellow umbrella, I assure you. When we first mentioned the yellow umbrella, we implied that, when Ted finally meets the Mom, she will be a woman with a yellow umbrella. But then in our St. Patty’s Day episode last season, Ted goes to a big party at a bar and the Narrator tells us that, unbeknownst to both parties at the time, Ted and His Future Wife were both there (On a side note, I find that you hear this phenomenon in life a lot…where a husband and wife realize they were at the exact same place at the exact same time years before they ever met. I even heard a story in our writer’s room about a couple who figured out that the husband was in the background of some party photo the wife had in an old photo album…there’s something very touching and cool and tinged with destiny about that…) Anyway, at the end of the St. Patty’s Day ep, we see that Ted winds up with the umbrella (even though they don’t meet that night). Now that Ted’s the owner of the umbrella, does that mean that The Mother will be a woman who stops Ted on the street to say, “Hey, I think that’s my umbrella, dude!”? Sorry, I can’t answer that question (Wow, what a jerk move! I just posed a fair question to myself and then refused to answer it … It’s like I’m my very own press corps and White House Press Secretary, all rolled up into one!)
Q. Is there any chance that Victoria from season 1 comes back? — Courtney Anthony
A. No plans in the works right now, but we had a lot of fun writing that storyline, so ya never know. We like to keep all possibilities open as to who the Mom will be. HIMYM is like a B-level horror movie: no one ever dies.
Q. First of all, brilliant show. It must be a near-impossible feat to keep track of every single running plot thread and time continuity. Do you have some sort of gigantic bible with all that has occurred and will occur on the show? How many people do you have running that end? Also, how much longer can you see “How I Met Your Mother” lasting? (As much as I'd love to see it go on for the next 10+ years, there's a finite timeline because frankly, at some point, we have to find out who the mother is. It'd be so cool if you guys came up with a bro-tastic way to extend the show's life without ruining the premise. Maybe slow down the show so it isn't always in sync with current time?) — Jason, and Anup
A. Thanks for the kind words! Yes, our Writer’s Assistants keep a kind of Show Bible, complete with character dossiers, with rundowns of all the vital info we’ve said about each character. But honestly, we don’t have to look at that as often as you might think. Almost never, actually. Over time, you just kind of memorize everything we’ve said about each character as if they’re real friends or family members – you just kind of know their backstory like they’re real people! (Oh, and sometimes we’ll look back at the exact wording of a line in a given script we’re referencing, to make sure we’ve stayed true to it). And as much as this show is about the capital-M mystery of who the Mom is, I also think the show could be called, “Kids, Here Are A Bunch Of Really Cool, Funny And/Or Emotionally Significant Stories That Happened To Me And My Friends In Our Late Twenties And Early Thirties.” Actually, that’s pretty catchy. If we find the right logo and look, I think we’ll change the title to that.
Q. I know someone asked this before, but I want to ask again, because I'm really hoping for an answer: How long do you see the show lasting? … My question concerns the revelation of the mother. You've said you could go several ways with revealing it but I read in an interview that you shot a scene with Ted's kids that you plan to place in the series finale that directly ties to the identity of the mother. Does that mean we won't know who the mother is until the last episode? I think part of the payoff to this big mystery should be getting to see Ted interact with her and eventually marry her. — Jason
A.The reason we pre-shot that scene with kids had more to do with the fact that that young actor and actress are aging, and less to do with revealing who the Mom is … I can’t say how or when we’ll reveal that, I’m sorry! But I will give you three hints: The Mother is definitely someone we’ve already met on the show in Season 3, the actress’s initials are “B.S.” and in real life she is the most famous pop star in the world. To avoid spoilers, I really can’t go any further than that, I’m sorry.
Q. Any chance we'll ever see Bob Saget on the show in front of the camera? Even a cameo of him walking by Josh Radnor would be hilarious. — Anup
A. Great minds think alike: in the writers’ room, we’ve played around with the same idea, we just haven’t pulled the trigger on it. I wouldn’t be opposed. On a side note, Bob Saget is a super swell fellow!
Q. You've spoken a lot on Barney's feelings for Robin, but how do think Robin feels about Barney? Is the Barney-Robin plot something that has been planned since Season One? Is there a master plan? Will we see more of the Robin+Barney romance? By the end of season 4 will Barney and Robin be together or will you drag it out more ? Will Robin ever get a serious job? — Dionne, Becca
A. To reference my earlier answer to question 3, the idea of Robin and Barney hooking up was another one of those things that came out of an episode that aired years earlier. In Season One, Robin and Barney (in that same ep, “Zip, Zip, Zip”) hang out as wingman and wingwoman for the night. In writing that, we discovered how similar these characters truly are. They both have a thing about commitment. They both love cigars and scotch, and Barney introduces her to the awesomeness of Laser Tag. We knew right then that we’d want to do more with this dynamic. And part of that has to do with what fantastic actors Neil and Cobie are, and what great chemistry they had. That was the first time we had them together significantly in a story and it was a revelation to us how well they worked together.
Even though we didn’t take it any further at that point, we knew we wanted to play some romance and drama between the two of them. Then, last year, coming out of the writer’s strike, we had to do 9 new episodes in about ten and a half weeks, with zero scripts (we hadn’t been writing for three months, obviously). At that point, we decided to break glass in case of emergency and dive into that storyline, and I’m very glad we did. It was the rocket fuel that launched us through those 9 eps and it made them surprisingly easy to write. I’m glad we waited until then, though.
Q. What influence has Wesleyan had on the show's creators and will we see more scenes from the characters’ college days in the show? — Anonymous
A.I met my wife at Wesleyan, as well as my writing partner, so I always think of it fondly. It was fun shooting flashback scenes that took place “at” Wesleyan. I bet we’ll do it again. Carter and I were in a 9-man soul band when we went to school there (it’s how we started working together), so when our set decorators were decorating the “Wesleyan” set for a flashback in the episode “How I Met Everyone Else”, we had them photocopy an actual flier for a show that we played at Wesleyan in our junior year. How’s that for verisimilitude?! (Sweet, I’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence! I hope I spelled it right…crap, now I’m feeling paranoid about it).