|Photos courtesy of nj.com and poptower.com.|
According to Entertainment Weekly, How I Met Your Mother has risen 19(!) percent in ratings over the last season and, in addition to just crushing every show that I love in terms of viewership, is also the youngest-skewing show on CBS. That second part shouldn't really be a surprise, given that the median viewer age for that network is somewhere between "old enough to join AARP" and "older than the combined ages of the entire HIMYM cast," but the incredible ratings increase is somewhat more surprising. It is also drawing comparisons to Lost.
There were really two types of Lost fans when the show was on the air: The ones who were there from day one and hung onto every clue, determined until the bitter end to unearth the island’s mysteries, and the ones who, despite enjoying the show at the beginning, simply couldn’t take on another unanswered question or Kate’s constant stream of awful ideas. I count myself in the former category, because no matter how many times the show had left me frustrated, disappointed, or utterly confused, I always had a place in my heart for it. That and I had to know how the damn thing was going to end.
So, why is [the ratings increase] so interesting? Well, for one, unlike Lost, we actually knew from the get-go that there’b s a happy ending in store on HIMYM. (Ted, in spite of being an insufferable goon, eventually finds the mother of his future children.) Which brings up another interesting thing about the rise of HIMYM‘s popularity: Are people tuning in for all the clues (we meet again, yellow umbrella) and drama (there’s been plenty over the past few seasons), or is it simply because it’s a dependable, no-frills sitcom? It wouldn’t be surprising if the answer is both: HIMYM has no doubt grown in popularity thanks to syndication and word of mouth, but there’s just as much can’t-miss cliff-hanger drama as there is TV equivalent of comfort food in every episode. (The rise in popularity of stars Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel throughout the course of the show probably hasn’t hurt much, either.)
The comparison between Lost, one of the great dramatic works of the history of television (if you ignore the ending, to which I say, "What ending? I don't remember that happening") and HIMYM, a fun show known mostly for making a womanizer out of Doogie Howser, strikes me as somewhat facile. It also doesn't explain the ratings rise, because if people were watching that show for the same reasons they watched Lost, there would have been a steady loss of viewers parallel to that experienced over the last three seasons of the Island-set head trip. And while there are probably people who watch HIMYM because they desperately want to know who the mother is (and if those kids are going to starve to death listening to Ted tell the longest story since the Odyssey), there were not, at least based on my experiences as a Lost fan, a lot of people who watched that show just to hang out with the characters. We wanted answers, dammit! And we never got any. (To your inevitable puzzled query, I repeat again: "What ending? I don't remember that happening. Ever.)