It's no secret Friends and How I Met Your Mother share a familiar premise. The characters also embody similar roles (if you think Joey Tribbiani isn't a less-damaged version of Barney Stinson, we're at a loss). Though Friends managed to rack up more awards than How I Met Your Mother, let's be real: HIMYM is the better series.
HIMYM has a dedicated following and numerous fan theories based on the show's long-running mystery of who the titular mother is. The series flips the format of a sitcom on its head and manages to craft a show where viewers can enjoy out-of-sequence episodes, yet still need to watch from start-to-finish to fully appreciate the story. Conversely, Friends has short story arcs and stagnant character growth. HIMYM doles out more life lessons than an after-school special, teaching millennials across the globe the importance of male tenderness and adult friendship.
Friends is a classic - and "Smelly Cat" will forever hold a special place in all of our hearts - but no one grows up wishing to find a love like Ross and Rachel (unless you'd prefer a life of deleted answering machine messages and entitlement). And we're going to guess we can't hack the rent in a comparably giant apartment either. In fact, we're willing to slap-bet on it.
Friends has some comedic moments for sure. Smelly Cat is an absolute classic (so much so Taylor Swift covered it during her 1989 tour). It still can't hold a candle to HIMYM's long-running inside jokes, though.
The writers of HIMYM use season call-backs and in-jokes to make viewers feel like they're hanging out with the characters at MacLaren's. From the slap-bet and replacing all instances of weed with eating sandwiches to the ducky tie, Xing Hai Shi Bu Xing, and the Pineapple Incident, you can't fully appreciate the series without watching the whole thing.
Barney is one of the most captivating characters on modern television - after all, Neil Patrick Harris received both Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for his role. Barney is a wholly unlikeable character; he's one of those friends you can't figure out why you ever befriended in the first place.
Throughout the series, Barney struggles with his selfishness, but we don't figure out the source until HIMYM peels back the layers. His hard-partying ways turn from hysterical to sad by the time "The Drunk Train" and "Now We're Even" roll around, but then something changes.
We watch as Barney mends things with his father, stops lying to his mother, and eventually abandons the Bro Bible and his apartment to settle down with Robin. Despite his temporary lapse into his old ways after their divorce, the minute he meets his daughter, he instantly becomes a protective father.
It's also worth mentioning Barney is simultaneously a feminist while being a womanizer. He supports his stripping wife-to-be, as well as Robin's penchant for cigars and a good glass of scotch. He is a flawed - but fundamentally good - human, while the characters on Friends lack the same kind of depth.
Friends never has any flash-forwards. We don't see what happens to the characters after Rachel exits the plane. It leaves the show feeling relatively incomplete and unmoved.
The writers could have dived into Monica's childhood trauma or Rachel's spoiled upbringing, and used these to flesh out the characters; instead, they focus flashbacks on moronic Flock of Seagulls haircuts.
HIMYM uses flashbacks and flash-forwards to deeply develop their characters - whether it's comedic or not. We learn Marshall becomes a lawyer before he passes the bar, which gives us more perspective; and Ted eventually remodels the house he impulsively buys to start a family. In Friends, we have less sympathy for the characters because we aren't as aware of their lives.
Friends deals with a few real-life issues, like Rachel's struggle as a single mother, but for the most part, it remains lighthearted. HIMYM takes the sitcom format and makes it a host for some of the most gutting scenes on network TV.
The death of Marshall's father is heart-wrenching, especially the last bit of the voicemail, which we only discover at the end. It's almost matched by the scene when Lily abruptly leaves. The way Marshall heals from both his father's death and his first breakup appears extraordinarily fleshed-out and realistic.
HIMYM also deals with the sensitive topic of infertility, and how it feels when you can't have children despite not wanting them in the first place. It grapples with the realities of cancer, and what it means being a widow. Meanwhile, on Friends, Joey walks around with a turkey on his head.