The Mother of all Good-Byes | EW.com

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The Mother of all Good-Byes

Kids, it was the fall of 2013, and a complex, delightfully outlandish sitcom called ''How I Met Your Mother'' was about to enter its final season; did we ever tell you the story of how it went from prime-time afterthought to beloved comedy iconoclast? Settle in...

Stage 22 on the Twentieth Century Fox lot has been the home of some horrific violence. This is where simians took over the earth in Planet of the Apes and again in a 1972 sequel. It’s also where Lee Majors and his rad two-tone truck nabbed the country’s worst felons on The Fall Guy. But all that brutality is tame compared with what’s occurring on a soundstage dressed up as a Long Island Rail Road train where two women — a redhead and a brunette — are rolling on the floor, locked in a vicious death match over…a cell phone.

The action breaks: ”She’s real, folks, she’s real!” exclaims Alyson Hannigan.

And that, kids, is how Lily met The Mother.

Yes, that Mother (Cristin Milioti) — the title character of CBS’ How I Met Your Mother and the woman we saw briefly in the train station at the end of season 8 holding the telltale yellow umbrella and asking for a ticket to Farhampton.

As with the best episodes of HIMYM (pronounced Him-Yim), let’s start with the end: By the series finale this spring, Ted will meet The Mother. She will have a real name, instead of being known by a word that is usually followed by Earth, Teresa, or Jones. We will discover whether Robin and Barney get married. The mystery of the pineapple from season 1 will be addressed. (”We managed to book the pineapple after some intense negotiations,” says co-creator Craig Thomas.) The final slaps will be doled out in a miraculous fashion. There will be plenty of jokes abooot Canada. The show might even birth a spin-off. In sum, it will be legen — wait five pages for it —

WHOOSH! It’s the fall of 2005. The biggest sitcoms on the air — Will & Grace, Malcolm in the Middle — are long in the tooth, and TV execs are searching for the next Lost or Apprentice (hey there, Martha Stewart!), not the next big comedy. ”We came along in an era where people were starting to question if the sitcom was even relevant anymore,” recalls Jason Segel. Starring two relative unknowns (Josh Radnor as Ted, the protagonist; Cobie Smulders as Robin, the object of Ted’s affection) and a trio of actors who were looking to expand beyond the roles that had defined them (Freaks and Geeks’ Segel as Marshall, Ted’s best friend; Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Alyson Hannigan as his fiancée, Lily; and Doogie Howser’s Neil Patrick Harris as Barney, a guy who never met an Italian suit or a C-cup he didn’t covet), the comedy looked like nothing else on the air. It was a multicamera show that didn’t shoot before a live audience. It crammed 50 to 60 scenes into an episode instead of the standard 15. And the pilot kind of spoiled the ending of the series when the narrator, Future Ted (voiced by Bob Saget), declared that Robin, the beauty we had watched Ted pine for, was not The Mother. It was as if The Sopranos had aired its final fade-to-black scene first and then asked you to watch the whole series.

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