- Deviation: Let’s talk about all the ways that Ted breaks the rules: He’s a stick in the mud, he’s an everyman, he’s not surrounded by people who lack his most valuable quality. (As I see it, Barney and Marshall form a nice polarized pair: single lothario vs. loving husband, but Ted’s defining quality is that he’s neither one nor the other.) It’s the ultimate “bitch role”: he vacillates with the wind, loses almost every argument, and mostly does whatever he’s told, after complaining about it for a while. Finally, his interior doesn’t contrast with his exterior: everyone can read him like a book.
- The Problem: All of these things should make a character impossible to care for.
- Does the Show Get Away With It? No and yes. Even fans of the show love to complain about Ted, and loudly proclaim that he’s their least favorite character. Clearly one of the secrets of the show’s success has been its willingness to let Barney steal the spotlight, not only because he’s funnier, more charming and more active, but because, as he slowly starts to grow, he turns out to have more emotional depth than Ted, too. But let’s not give all of the credit for the show’s success to Barney (or, more pointedly, Neal Patrick Harris). Clearly, millions of people are still rooting for Ted, nine years later, so he must have something, even though he’s so lacking in the checklist department. So let’s try to figure that out...
Ultimately, I think that some were necessary and some weren’t:
- First and foremost, I think it had to be “a bitch role”. In fact, this show could be called “The Bitch Role”. I’m pretty sure that everybody on the show has actually called Ted a bitch, especially his love interest Robin. The show is sort of a direct attack on this misogynist concept, so this is clearly a feature, not a bug.
- He shouldn’t be a stick in the mud, just saying no to Marshall and Barney’s flights of fancy. He should have something else he wants to do instead. He needs more hobbies. Let him be a music geek who always wants to go to shows or go record shopping or something…
- Did he have to be the most moderate member of the ensemble? Couldn’t his romantic nature have made him into an extreme character, instead of the middle ground between the other two? What if Marshall had been less sweet, leaving Ted clear to be the only sweet one? That way, we could have appreciated his role as counterweight to Barney, instead of just a midpoint between Barney and Marshall. I’m not sure...
- Should there be more contrast between inner and outer Ted? Or is his open-bookness part of his appeal? (Or at least part of his irreconcilable flaw?) Would he be more appealing if he was a pretend-cad who was secret a romantic?
My initial read of Ted was that they set him up as a little too much of an everyman, perhaps so others would feel inclined to identify more readily with his struggle. Unfortunately, his lack of other characteristics made what he did have, his almost pathological neediness for love, his defining trait. I think as time went on they realized this, and how it wasn't exactly flattering for old Teddy, so they gave him a little more, and made him more of a pompous dork. He was still not the cool guy of the group by any stretch, but at least he had something. It's easier, for me at least, to identify with someone who's charmingly lame than with someone whose all-consuming goal can make them come across as a pathetic creep at times.
I've only ever been a very casual watcher of the show, catcher the odd rerun here and there. One of the many complaints I have against Ted is does he ever actually grow?
At times it seems the show falls into the trap of Ted rejecting an endless parade of women without ever growing. Are there ever points where he learns something about himself and it changes the way he goes about his quest?
Geek: Yeah, they made his pomposity more extreme over the years to try to give him more comic business, but that didn't seem to make him any more likable. I look at the "charmingly lame" aspect tomorrow.
QED: Yes and no. Like most TV characters, he frequently seemed to grow only to constantly reset to zero. Part of the problem is that the showrunners became convinced that he couldn't meet the mother until the final episode and she would meet all of his criteria he had in the first episode, so he was basically predestined to be rewarded for not changing.
I haven't seen the show, but wouldn't the real challenge have been to have the mother meet all Ted's initial criteria -- but ironically, not at all in the way he originally meant them. And then the moving target of his own standards could serve as a reflection of the way he's changed.
They've played with that notion (You have to play with every notion if you want to fill 200 episodes!) but they never committed to it.
Ted's standards haven't been an issue in a long time; it became about "finding the right fit." He meets woman after woman, and they kind of mesh, but there's a fundamental disconnect that hoses everything up eventually. Part of the advantage of Ted's pomposity is that it gives him a thousand quirks that can thwart connection with anyone. That's not what splits him from his love interests, but it serves as a marker for the mismatches.
Per an earlier post on this very blog, romance in drama revolves around mutual understanding, especially in the face of wider incomprehension. The "you get me and nobody else does" bit.
They've set up The Mother in the final season not as "the woman who finally meets Ted's standards" as "the woman who will finally understand Ted." Her interests match his closely, while she is a different kind of person. Despite the commonalities, she isn't "Ted in a dress," which was a risk. The still-nameless character is kind, decent, humane, so we'll like her; romantic in a similar way to Ted but manifested differently, so we can see that they'll bond tightly; and filled with almost identical interests and quirks, to indicate that she will truly "get" him.
Now for the big question: what is her name?
I agree that they did a wonderful job with the mom, casting a cute-but-not-that-beautiful girl who is simply super-charming and relatable...in other words another Lily. In the flashforwards we've seen of them together, they have had many wonderful "I understand you" moments, which are good examples of how you to do those scenes right...
But they nevertheless have things they already established in earlier seasons about how she meets his exacting standards (she plays bass in a band, she paints robot paintings, etc.) so it's not like he had to learn his lesson there.
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