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6 TV Shows like How I Met Your Mother: from Familiar Fare to More Edgy Offerings

Eileen O'Sullivan itcherHow I Met Your Mother (Bays Thomas Productions, 2005), is about a bunch of young friends living in an apartment in New York and the central romances that develop, die, redevelop and typically, die again. Sound familiar? Friends, The Big Bang Theory and New Girl are all clear comparisons, but there are other less obvious TV shows too. ~ Eileen O’Sullivan

Will They/Won’t They Find Love Ever After?

TV shows like How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) are basically TV shows like Friends, because well, it is Friends, but rewritten. Though to be fair, Carter Bays (‘Ted’) and Craig Thomas (‘Marshall’) did live together in their youth and according to Thomas, they based the show on ‘the stupid stuff we did in New York’.
 
So yeah, basically it’s Friends.
 
There’s a lot of fun and funny goings on, but really it’s all about friends as family and more crucially, whether any of them will actually become family. Though this time there’s a twist – just how did Ted meet the mother of his kids? He tells them all about it in 2030 and over nine seasons we all go along for the ride, flashback style.
 
HIMYM won fans, Emmy awards, several People’s Choice awards, then even more fans. There was a mixed reaction to the final show, but the title said it all: How did Ted meet their mother? That was some build up – and it wasn’t just his kids that wanted to know.
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TV Shows Similar to How I Met Your Mother

‘Friends’ (Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions; Warner Bros, 1994)

I’ve known people who’ve invited friends round for the evening to ….watch Friends. That’s how pervasive this TV show was and still is, via countless repeats around the globe.

Even a friendless Billy No-mates feels like the life and soul of the show when watching Friends, which aired from 1994 to 2004. Offering the warm familiarity of vicarious living, this and other series like How I Met Your Mother gives us life lessons when we’re still young and trying to get on in life, and reminds us of our youth when we’re getting on a bit. They’re also a good laugh.

Similarity Match: 95%
Is Friends like HIMYM? Well there’s Central Perk, the perennial coffee bar/meeting place in Friends, and HIMYM has Maclaren’s Bar. They’re both set in New York. The ‘Will they get together or won’t they?’ theme replaces Ross and Rachel with Ted and Robin – both men are nerds and both women are career girls. There’s a laugh track in both series. The similarities go on and on so…

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‘The Big Bang Theory’ (Warner Brothers TV/Chuck Lorre Productions, 2007)

The basic premise of The Big Bang Theory is four guys and a girl, living in close proximity. The guys are two physicists, an astrophysicist and an aeronautical engineer. One even gets to be an astronaut.

They have bags of brains, emotional hang ups and a fixation with comic books, super heroes, Star Wars and Star Trek. The girl is a waitress/ aspiring actress – with scary common sense. Throw in some more girls, mix with geeky humour and fantasy/sci-fi references.

The big bang theory, string theory, theoretical /actual romances, this show has it all and most of it is out of this world.

Similarity Match: 90%
So is The Big Bang Theory like How I Met Your Mother? Well it’s boy meets girl, in the plural, in an apartment (though sometimes in space). It’s funny, it’s adorable and we’re right there with them, longing for love. It’s a bit more niche/quirky than HIMYM.

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‘New Girl’ (20th Century Fox TV, 2011)

Three guys (Nick, Schmidt and Winston) and a girl (Jess) share an apartment. Conveniently Jess has a fashion model (CeCe) for a best friend, and there’s another guy, Coach who calls round a lot.

Cue romance, careers and comedy, this time all shot with one camera. So, basic fare if you are looking for TV series like How I met Your Mother. The major difference is in the focus of the show which was created by a woman (Elizabeth Meriweather).

It’s all about a single girl-about-town and her flatmates act as back up to her story, albeit funny and engaging in their own right.

Similarity Match: 85%
New Girl is like How I Met Your Mother because it deals with young people living together, their friendships, their relationships and their careers. For Schmidt, think Barney in HIMYM. It’s endearing and quickly becomes must-see TV. It’s unlike HIMYM as it is more female-focused.

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So Now You’ve Seen the Usual Suspects, Here Are 3 Less Obvious but No Less Worthy Candidates for TV Series Like How I Met Your Mother, All Created in the UK.

‘Not Going Out’ (Avalon Television, 2006)

Centred around the fictional life of real-life comedian Lee Mack, Not Going Out is a slightly off-beat version of the ‘friends as family’ genre. Lee fancies his landlady Kate, and in the second series he falls for his new landlady, Lucy.

His best mate Tim has a daft girlfriend, Daisy. Classic ‘will they/won’t they?’ storylines play out against the gags, puns and one-liners of Mack. When the BBC threatened to pull the plug in 2009, an online petition brought the show back for a fourth series.

Similarity Match: 75%
Not Going Out is similar to How I Met Your Mother as it is based on the lives of several male/female friends in one apartment. Sexual tension between the central characters is an ongoing theme. The differences lie in the fact it’s basically a vehicle for the comedy of Lee, the main character.

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‘Spaced’ (Paramount Comedy Channel/LWT, 1999)

Daisy (Jessica Stevenson) and Tom (Simon Pegg) pretend to be married in order to move into a flat owned by uptight nymphomaniac Marsha. Tom’s best mate Mike (Nick Frost) is a Territorial Army fanatic and they’re all Star Wars fans.

This doesn’t begin to describe how surreal, funny and just bonkers this cult show is. Shot with a single camera and interspersed with fantasy scenes and dance music Spaced takes the classic ‘friends as family’ theme and twists it all about.

Similarity Match: 70%
Is Spaced like How I Met Your Mother? Well yes, though it’s spiced with space dust, or just speed, so it’s also not.

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‘Fresh Meat’ (Lime Pictures/Objective Productions, 2011)

Six ‘Manchester Medlock University’ students, three boys and three girls, get together in a Manchester student let.

Mayhem ensues, mixed with angst, self loathing, comedy and pathos. Fresh Meat gave stand-up comedian Jack Whitehall his acting debut as an upper class twit (‘JP’). Think The Young Ones meets The Inbetweeners

Similarity Match: 70%
Is Fresh Meat like HIMYM? The basic premise is the same ie young singletons grapple with life – and love – for our on-screen entertainment. After that, all bets are off.

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Honourable Mentions – Six Classic Comedy Sitcoms Like How I Met Your Mother

Seinfeld (Castle Rock Entertainment, 1989)

The Young Ones (British Broadcasting Corporation, 1982)

The Golden Girls (Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions, 1985)

The Liver Birds (British Broadcasting Corporation, 1969/1996)

The Likely Lads (Dick Clement,1964)/ Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (Dick Clement, 1973)

Man About The House (Peter Frazer-Jones, 1973)

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Friends as Family – the Story of Our Lives

Everyone can relate to young people out in the big city, looking for love and desperate to make a success of life. I’ve focused on friends living together, rather than working together, in an office or a bookshop, say. (Hands up at the back!)
 
Oddballs, geeks, career girls, freaks –these shows give us the pick of the crop, though there are lots out there. Would you like to share your favourites?
 
We’d love to hear your candidates for series like How I Met Your Mother.
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