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Change the Structure, Change the Story

Change the Structure, Change the Story

How I Met your Mother and the Reformulation of the Television Romance

(p.232) 16 Change the Structure, Change the Story
Time in Television Narrative
Molly Brost
University Press of Mississippi

This chapter examines how romantic storylines are affected by strategic alterations in temporal flow. How I Met Your Mother began with a unique premise: in a flashback from the year 2030, a middle-aged man tells his teenage children the story of how he met their mother. From the very beginning of the series, viewers were told who the mother was not: Robin Scherbatsky, the journalist who would be protagonist Ted Mosby’s love interest for the show’s first two seasons, and intermittently thereafter. Though some critics believed that this allowed the show to sidestep the “will-they-or-won’t-they” relationship drama that plagues many sitcoms, others dismissed it as merely a gimmick. It is argued that the show’ unique narrative structure allows the series to reimagine the traditional romantic comedy formula, within which the audience’s expectations for both televisual romantic relationships and traditional gender roles are challenged and subverted.

Keywords:   television shows, television programs, temporal flow, flashback, sitcoms, narrative structure, time, romantic comedy

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