Saturday, February 19, 2011

Guest Post: The How I Met Your Mother Consistency Conundrum

Like many people, I have friends who enjoy similar things as I do, and therefore similar topics as the ones I sometimes talk about on this blog. Sometimes, they have things to say, and so I will let them write guest posts here. This post is by Brett Alazraki. If you like it, feel free to follow him on Twitter.

How I Met Your Mother has easily been my favorite show since I started watching it at the beginning of season 3.  I rushed to get the first two seasons on DVDs and I have been hooked ever since.  But lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the continuity of the show.  For a long, long time the show was very good with continuity; it had to be, the show is an entire flashback, with plenty of flashbacks in each episode.  Or at least I, someone who has seen every episode of the show way too many times, hadn’t noticed any blatant errors.  And then over the past 6 months I’ve notice three continuity errors and I’m sure I will keep finding more. (And just for the record I am completely ignoring Lily’s hair for this post, I know they’re not perfect with that, but I just don’t care very much about it)

The first major problem that stood out in my mind, and I realized it the second it happened, was Marshall’s band, revealed in the third episode of season 6, “Unfinished.”  Marshall says that he was in an all lawyer band (the awesomely named “The Funk, the Whole Funk and Nothing but the Funk”) and Robin states that they had performed once four years ago.

Timewise, that would be in season 2, where Marshall was still in law school.  So it would not really be an all lawyer band.  A small error, just say “my law school band” or he was in an all lawyer band as a law student, fine.  But as it comes off, that’s a small continuity error.  Did it hurt my enjoyment of the episode? No, not really- actually “The Funk, the Whole Funk and Nothing but the Funk” was probably one of the funniest bits of the episode- but the point remains a show based on someone telling someone a story, messed up something. 

The next continuity error I realized was something much more serious.  In the season 5 ep, “Perfect Week,” Marshall and Lily’s story line is based on the fact that for years they have been sharing the same toothbrush, and at some point Ted and even Robin shared this toothbrush.  Ok, fine, didn’t think anything of it.  Then I happened to rewatch the first season episode “Zip, Zip, Zip,” in which Marshall and Lily are stuck in the bathroom while Ted and, his girlfriend at the time, Victoria are “talking.”  Very early on we see very clearly Marshall and Lily brushing their teeth at the same time.  Well there goes the whole one toothbrush thing.  Just like that, a major point in “Perfect Week” was undercut; Nick Swisher’s whole bit (outside of being a cameo) was pointless, because they hadn’t been sharing the same toothbrush for such a long time.  Another oversight by the writers.

The third and final continuity error I realized only within the past week.  It happened in the season 5 episode “Dual Citizenship.” Marshall and Ted reminisce about their road trips in the Fiero to a crappy Chicago pizza place.  “We ate nothing but jerky, drank nothing but Tantrum.”  That’s what Ted and Marshall did on those 22 hour road trips, and peed in soda bottles and had a bong made out of a cantaloupe.  We all, of course, know about the no food in the Fiero rule- the flashback in “Arrivederci, Fiero,” stated all the things, like water, that Marshall threw out- but apparently that doesn’t apply to jerky or Tantrum. This one for some reason bothered me more than the other two.  The no food in the Fiero rule is classic and to just blatantly break it like that; besides I think it would’ve been funnier to describe a 22hour road trip with no food or drink because of Marshall’s insane rule.

Those three errors, are the biggest ones I have noticed so far and it raises the question, how important is this continuity, or am I just nitpicking?  Well the show is based on a flashback so continuity is incredibly important. Sure these aren’t major plot points, and sure none of this involved the mother, but still.  In certain shows it doesn’t matter what happened three seasons ago, but here in a show based on telling the past, it’s incredibly important.  Now of course the writers could use the “unreliable narrator” idea, that future Ted can’t remember everything 20+ years ago and makes errors in telling the story, but that’s too easy an excuse for the writers to take to me.  Besides, shouldn’t the writers know the story of the show, shouldn’t they have seen every episode, so they can develop character and other things a show gets as it goes along for seasons.  I understand there are going to be errors, and some of them, like Marshall’s band are understandable, but the others, no matter how little they hurt the overall story, are inexcusable.  To me these mistakes really bother me, I will still love the show, but it irks me just enough to write this long rant about it. 

*This is leading me to want to start a campaign for HIMYM to hire me as continuity consultant.  They could send me scripts and I could just be responsible for making sure there are no errors like the one above.  Who’s with me? No one? Ok.  Just an idea. 


  1. Love the attention to detail dude. The food one was a huge one for me as well. Also...the article I link to as my url...I point out that the awesomeness poster from Season 1 wasn't actually there until Season 3... there are lots of little details like that they miss.
    As you point out, it's the big one's that really get ya.

  2. How has no one on the Internet seemed to mention the blue French horn? They're forced to give it back in season 2 after they have the break up talk, yet fast forward three years, Ted shows up at Don's apartment with it to win her back and she later leaves it in the empty room when she moves out.

    1. That one didn't bother me. I'm pretty sure you're talking about Twin Beds. Ted goes and steals it again.

  3. Season 1, episode three, Marshall almost gets into a fight with a gay guy. When the misunderstanding is resolved, he replies "Oh, thank God, I've never been in a fight before." Season 4, episode ten, Marshall tells the others that he had been in "plenty of fights with his brothers" before.

    Season 1, episode 6, Robin tells ted that she never played team sports in high school because she could not stand playing with other people. Season 1 episode 20 and season 4 episode 6 refer to her exploits playing hockey, which is a team sport.

    Season 3, episode 16, Ted tells Punchy "I'm sorry to hear about your dad" to which Punchy replies "Yeah it was a real surprise". (implying that Punchy's dad has died). Season 7, episode 1, Punchy's dad is at Punchy's wedding and sticks up for him when the bride's father calls him a "piece of garbage".

    Season 2, episode 10, Barney's Brother James' fiancee, Tom, is a white man. Season 7, episode 11, Tom is played by a Hispanic man.

  4. Ted says Robin hates nick names in some episode. Bagpipes I think. But when Robin and Ted first start dating she calls him teddy bear. Pretty sure in the first episode of season 2 is when she says it.

  5. One that has always bugged me: Barney uses the picture of a sports reporter to make the fake online dating profile, because Ted wouldn't know who she is because he doesn't watch sports. However, Ted says all he talks about with his Dad is baseball. Ted also makes references to the Cleveland Indians and Browns in various episodes.


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