Over the course of its nine-season run, How I Met Your Mother repeated the same subplot with all five of its main characters. Sitcoms are known for relying on a series of tropes or recycled plot points for their storylines, and HIMYM is likely considered to be one of the last traditional American sitcoms. But a television show repeating the same storyline for all characters is something of a rarity.
How I Met Your Mother followed future Ted Mosby as he relives stories that led to meeting the mother of his children. Most of these tales involve his four best friends — Marshall, Barney, Lily, and Robin. As the show progressed, it included more storylines focused on Ted’s friends. Some of those plot points dove deeper into the backstories of the group, revealing that each member had one oddly specific thing in common.
In some shape or form, Ted, Barney, Robin, Marshall, and Lily all had issues surrounding their fathers. Sometimes the plot point was used as the butt of a joke, and in other instances, it was the basis of a fleshed-out storyline in a given season of How I Met Your Mother. On the surface, this repeated subplot may seem like lazy writing but in reality, those shared issues might subconsciously be what brought the group together in the first place.
Some of the characters’ father issues ran a little deeper than others. Robin’s father, for example, never fully accepted that she was a girl and not a boy, so Robin always desperately fought for his approval. Barney spent most of his life believing the father who walked out on him was Bob Barker and then initially rejected his real biological father. Lily had a strained relationship with her own dad for most of her life, as he was never around. Ted simply just wasn’t close to his father or stepdad. Marshall, on the other hand, was incredibly close to his father. When Marshall’s dad suddenly died it made for one of HIMYM’s most memorable episodes, and it was understandably extremely hard for him to process.
Each character’s relationship with their father in HIMYM shaped who they were as a person, influencing their motivations and mindsets. For example, Robin was overly competitive due because of the quest to win her father’s approval, while Ted dated so many women because he was determined to find a wife and create the family unit his own father never gave him. Characteristics like these are core parts of their personalities and this allowed every member of the group to find each other. All of How I Met Your Mother’s main characters were lacking something because of their fathers, so meeting and becoming friends allowed them to become each other’s family.