While the traditional love story structure begins when the romantic leads first encounter each other, How I Met Your Mother does not introduce Ted’s wife (Cristin Milioti) until the eighth-season finale and only announces her name (Tracy McConnell) during the series finale. The show instead focuses on Ted’s prior relationships and his dissatisfaction with those women, thus setting the stage for his eventual happiness with Tracy. Finally in present 2030, six years after Tracy’s death, Ted gets back with Robin, which viewers may have assumed at the series finale when Ted is standing outside Robin’s window. Ted’s children were the ones to realize first that Ted was still in love with Robin, through the stories he told.
How I Met Your Mother was inspired by Carter Bays and Craig Thomas’ idea to “write about our friends and the stupid stuff we did in New York”, where they previously worked as writers for Late Show with David Letterman, among others. The two drew from their friendship in creating the characters. Ted is based loosely on Bays, and Marshall and Lily are based loosely on Thomas and his wife. Thomas’ wife Rebecca was initially reluctant to have a character based on her but agreed if they could get Alyson Hannigan to play her. Hannigan was looking to do more comedy work and was available. Josh Radnor and Jason Segel, who were cast as Ted and Marshall, respectively, were not well known, although Segel had been a cast member on the short-lived Freaks and Geeks and a recurring guest star on Judd Apatow’s follow-up show, Undeclared.
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The role of Barney was initially envisioned as a “John Belushi-type character” before Neil Patrick Harris won the role after being invited to an audition by the show’s casting director Megan Branman. Pamela Fryman invited Bob Saget to be the voiceover narrator, Future Ted, explaining to him that the show would be like The Wonder Years but “kind of into the future”. Saget either went to the television studio and recorded the narration while watching the episode, or did so separately and rerecorded with the episode if necessary. He normally did not attend table readings but did so for the last episode.
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