Netflix just got the best alternative to 'Friends' — and you’ve got 9 seasons to watch now

The cast of "How I Met Your Mother"
(Image credit: CBS / Collection Christophel / Alamy Stock Photo)

Let's not mince words: "How I Met Your Mother” is a pretty shameless riff on the juggernaut '90s sitcom “Friends." Both are set in New York City and follow a group of tight-knit pals as they navigate relationships and growing old (but not necessarily growing up) across a variety of humorous situations. The similarities are clear. 

“Friends” celebrates the 20th anniversary of its final episode this year, and even decades later remains a binge-watching favorite. However, there are only so many times you can watch Rachel and Ross almost get together, Chandler make a sarcastic quip or Joey declare that he “doesn’t share food” before you can quote practically every episode by heart and yearn for something else. 

So, if you need a slight change of pace, “How I Met Your Mother” is a great substitute, and it’s just returned to Netflix U.S. after being removed from the streaming service back in 2017. 

All nine seasons, comprised of 208 episodes, are available now, and here’s why this show is worth watching, even if it’s not quite at the level of its clear inspiration.

What is “How I Met Your Mother” about? 

(L-R) Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson and Josh Radnor as Ted Mosby in "How I Met Your Mother" now on Netflix

(Image credit: CBS / Maximum Film / Alamy Stock Photo)

“How I Met Your Mother” follows an affable singleton named Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) as he attempts to find his soulmates in the hectic New York dating scene. Along for the ride are his best friend Marshall (Jason Segel), and his fiancee Lily (Alyson Hannigan), and his other close buddy, Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), a serial womanizer with commitment issues. 

The series opens on the day that Ted meets Robin (Cobie Smulders), a glamorous news reporter who’s just moved to the U.S. from Canada. Ted is instantly smitten with Robin and believes that she might be the one, but his journey to finding the mother of his children ends up being quite a long one. And there are plenty of bumps on this lengthy road.  

What really makes “How I Met Your Mother” stand out compared to its sitcom contemporaries is that the whole show is framed as a series of flashbacks as an older Ted tells his two teenage children the story of how he met their mother. The more senior Ted doesn't appear on screen and is voiced by Bob Saget, with his narration used to great comedic and storytelling impact.  

I can’t help but love “How I Met Your Mother” 

I was a huge “How I Met Your Mother” fan back in the day when it was first airing on CBS between 2005 and 2014, and during its first couple of seasons, I'd set my weekly schedule around each new episode making sure I didn't miss a single one. 

I’m definitely not quite as big a fan now, but the show still holds a special place in my heart. Its biggest strength is its loveable characters with the whole cast doing a great job of making you care about their plights. Although, the character of Barney was questionable during the original run, and has aged pretty poorly. 

My favorite thing about “How I Met Your Mother” is how creatively the writers use the narrative framing of an older Ted telling his kids his life story. His narration is used to drip-feed clues about the mother’s identity (which I won’t spoil here), and some episodes also play up Ted being an unreliable narrator to craft fun plotlines. “How I Met Your Mother” is a compelling easy-watch sitcom that also packs a pleasant core mystery, which sets it apart from its very apparent inspiration. 

The show’s humor can be a little dorky, and the quality dips considerably in the last couple of seasons (and the finale is "Game of Thrones"-level bad), but “How I Met Your Mother” is still a charming little sitcom that makes for great viewing when you’re doing household chores or menial office tasks. And with nine seasons to binge, it’ll keep you entertained for several weeks.

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Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.