In order to disconnect from any personal problems, I spend a great deal of time thinking about the arts (popular or otherwise), as if weighing my mind down with more lofty things would save me from myself stepping on toes (literally and figuratively). In doing so, I find myself saying things like, "It makes me sad that 'How I Met Your Mother' is sliding downhill," which, really, is a pretty lame thing to feel sadness over. With all the things in my life that I could feel badly about, I opt to feel badly about a comedy that, even in it's third season, is past it's prime. Good for me; I'm sure that they'll name hospitals after me for my gift of empathy.
Nevertheless, this is my critique, and it starts with my key point: Barney is the best character in the series. The other four main characters are flat both in comparison with Barney and standing alone. I can't quite tell if this is the fault of the actors or the writers, though I suspect that it's the actors. The actor playing Ted seems to think he's cooler than he is, the actor playing Robin seems to have relied too much on her looks and not enough on learning how to deliver lines, the actor playing Marshall is sometimes funny though generally tries too hard, and I'm not convinced that the actress playing Lily can play a different type of part. Nevertheless, the flatness worked when Robin and Ted were in a dating relationship, because, even if they were flat individually, they were cute together. Lily and Marshall were still flat, and not as cute as Robin and Ted, but they were planning their wedding, so at least they did things to advance plots.
Now, with Robin and Ted having broken up, they are back to being flat characters, which, in a roundabout way, brings me back to the character of Barney. Barney is a great character because he is as unapologetically amoral. Because of this, when Barney shows his sensitive side, it's very funny, because we, as the audience, know who Barney is supposed to be, and when he's sensitive, it's compelling because it's over the top. When he is his normal amoral self, he's funny because he does things that many of us secretly wish we could live with ourselves for having done.
However, with Ted and Robin broken up, the writers are trying to turn Ted into a Barney character, spending all of his time eagerly pursuing one night stands, threesomes, and generally all the sex he can handle. While this is amusing when Barney does it, to have two characters with the same M.O. is too much; it is overkill. Further, this just leaves Robin being awkward, which is not really enjoyable to watch the "pretty girl" of the show doing. Marshall and Lily are now married, so they're not even really pushing towards something anymore.
Further, everyone seems to be cheering Ted's sexual escapades on, which makes the show lose the cuteness factor that, in my opinion, was critical to its success. Season 1 had Ted pining for Robin, and season 2 featured Ted with Robin. Both of these scenarios were great to watch because you could see how in love with Robin Ted was, and that was endearing. Now it's just Ted with random girls, which is neither cute nor endearing, clever nor amusing. But I guess he's got to fill his empty life with something, right?
While there are still funny points to the show, overall, I'm just sad about it, because I think it has such potential. And that probably tells you more about me than I could ever write.
15 hours ago