Words by Cole Mañalac
Sitcoms are almost always some of the best entertainment that the media has to offer. They give you amazing characters, gripping story arcs, and more often than not, relatable situations that will always leave you laughing, crying, or both. It’s no secret that both Friends and How I Met Your Mother are two of the most influential sitcoms for their time. Though, with that, people are bound to pit the two shows against each other.
The thing is, both Friends and HIMYM follow the same template. Both of them have riveting humor that keeps you wanting more alongside individual episodes that give you time to breathe if you’re not the type to fully binge a show. Despite not having a fully-cohesive storyline (in the case of Friends), the individual arcs of almost every character are satisfying and worthwhile to watch. Alongside that, the banter and interaction between the entire group feel natural and smooth. Does that sound familiar at all?
The central setting in Friends is a taste of the daily lives of six tightly-knit individuals. Chandler, Joey, Ross, Monica, Phoebe, and Rachel set the scene, with each Friend being a specific character archetype. The first episode (Pilot) gives us a look into who each person is and introduces us to the main squad of the series. First, we see Rachel bursting into Central Perk, still dressed in her wedding gown. Then we see Ross lamenting on his divorce, consoling himself after finding out that his wife was actually a lesbian. Then, we are introduced to what will be a recurring thing in the series, which is Chandler cracking jokes and being sarcastic, Joey being the ‘dumb one,’ Phoebe being the ‘strange one,’ and Monica being the ‘clean and tidy one.’
How I Met Your Mother, however, has an entirely different method of starting the series. In it, we are introduced to an older Ted Moseby, telling his kids the story of… well, how he met their mother. Contrasting to Friends, the setting where the group mostly meets is in MacLaren’s bar, a far stretch from a coffeehouse. Marshall proposes to his long-time girlfriend and kindergarten teacher, Lily. While Barney flirts and hits on women. Though on the similar side, we are introduced to Robin Scherbatsky, who is fresh in New York City due to her job as a news reporter for Metro News One. One main difference in this pilot compared to Friends is that many subplots and recurring themes begin here. From the Blue French Horn, to ‘Have you met Ted?’ to Barney’s different quirks. However, despite these oddities with both shows, every character fulfills the same archetype, which is why we should compare both to help understand them as people.
COMPARING THE CHARACTERS
Ross Geller vs. Ted Moseby
Ross is a kind, caring, and polite man. Despite all of this, he is a clumsy and socially-awkward character. Though his intentions are good-willed, he has a penchant to always be right, which stems from him boasting that he is the only one with a doctorate. While in the earlier seasons he seems to be quite well off with himself, he begins to have more outbursts of anger, jealousy, and immaturity which come from the fact that his wife left him, and that he lost his job in the museum he loved. Even though these situations present themselves before him (like being divorced thrice,) he truly cares about his friends. An example of this is when he bought Phoebe a bike after learning she never had one as a child.
Ted, unlike Ross, is somewhat of a romantic. He sees himself being with ‘The One,’ where he believes that there is one person truly meant for him. This, of course, leads to many difficulties with every relationship in the show (the one exception being The Mother). Easily the most mature and grown-up of their group, he has a lack of foresight regarding many of his wishes and seems to only look at his mistakes in retrospect, rather than during. Like Ross, he has a tendency to correct the ideas and grammar of people. Alongside that, he is equally passionate about architecture, with his love for it is comparable to Ross’ love of dinosaurs and paleontology. However, unlike Ross, he was only left at the altar and never needed a divorce.
Joey Tribbiani vs. Barney Stinson
Of all the playboys, Joey seems to be more good-natured as compared to Barney. With loyalty to his friends comparable to that of a dog, it’s astounding that he is the moral compass of the group when it comes to relationships from within. Barney, on the flip side, is somewhat of a wild card. He’s not entirely predictable in his motives, but he definitely cares for his friends, with one of his famous wingman techniques being, ‘have you met Ted?’
One key difference between the two men is their intelligence. Honestly, the prime similarity between Joey and Barney is that they’re both playboys. Other than that, the way they go about with their lives is entirely different. Joey pursues being an actor, showing sheer determination and dedication to being an amazing one. Barney’s position, however, puts him in a situation where he signs potentially illegal documents (however, it is shown he was working with the police to stop this activity). Though Barney’s ethics is heavily questionable at times, he is fiercely loyal to those he trusts. One important thing to note is that Barney wasn’t always a playboy, with his view on life radically changing only after his girlfriend cheated on him.
Chandler Bing vs. Marshall Eriksen
Despite filling the role of the best friend to both the ‘main’ men, they are relatively different in terms of personality and nature. Chandler is, in his own words, the funny one, while Marshall is the polite, caring and emotional one. Despite this, a recurring joke within the both of the series is Chandler’s femininity and Marshall’s overly-emotional reactions. What adds to this is that both their eventual spouses (Monica Geller and Lily Aldrin respectively), are more domineering than both the men. With that, their prime differences rest in their demeanor towards people, whereas Chandler prides himself in sarcasm, while Marshall is sometimes overly polite and kind to others.
Monica Geller vs. Lily Aldrin
From this point onward, comparing the characters become more difficult to do. However, similarities still exist between the next three characters. Both Monica and Lily are more or less the somewhat bossy, yet well-meaning and ‘innocent’ characters. This is obviously evidenced in Monica’s obsession with cleaning and with Lily being a kindergarten teacher (thereby being forced to have a degree of order and authority). Besides that, they both successfully fill the role of being somewhat of a mom to the group while being the better half of their spouses (most of the time).
Phoebe Buffay vs. Tracy McConnell
Here’s a funny thing, they’re pretty different characters but when you look closer they do possess some similar traits. First, they’re both musically-inclined. This can be shown with Smelly Cat, Phoebe’s most popular song. It was popular enough to be included as a jingle for cat litter. On the other hand, there’s Tracy (or the Mother) with her prowess on the bass. It’s also important to note that her rendition of La Vie en Rose captivated Ted, and it’s even stated that out of all the times he’s heard her sing it, the first time she sang it was magical. Another common trait between the two is their activism and wish to see people just be better.
Rachel Green vs. Robin Scherbatsky
Finally, we reach the two kinda ‘main‘ female characters. Take this section with a grain of salt, because some comparisons might be a stretch. Both the two characters are set-up in a way that leads them to be involved romantically with Ross and Ted at one point. The thing is, they’re both KINDA successful in doing so, with both Rachel and Ross + Robin + Ted happening at the end of their respective shows. Besides that, they both come from rich families and are introduced as the ‘foreigner’ during the first episode of both shows. With all of that, their character arcs seem to relate at some points, like the brief time Joey and Rachel dated and how Robin and Barney got married. In my honest opinion, they’re almost the same character with different quirks.
In The End?
It all comes down to what you like more. If short, non-linear and brief moments of comedy excite you compared to a long-standing narrative that keeps you guessing, then that’s perfectly fine. Both shows, while having tons of similarities between the characters and setting, have radically different central plot lines, with similarities only stemming from many sub-plots. Honestly, they’re practically the same things. It’s safe to say that both shows are equally as amazing as the other, but we all know that Friends is the better show.
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