In the world of sitcoms, "Friends" is pretty much the king. Every sitcom is pretty much held to the show's standard of success, so naturally few shows come across as good enough. "How I Met Your Mother" is probably the strongest example of a show paling in comparison to the almighty "Friends." "HIMYM" premiered shortly after "Friends" ended and is often regarded as a copycat version of its predecessor.
I don't see it that way though. I believe "HIMYM" took a vague, general concept from "Friends" and modified it into something significantly better. Yes, you read that right: "HIMYM" is better than "Friends" in these 8 ways.
The writers and producers of "HIMYM" made active efforts to maintain even the minor elements of the storyline, such as the Slap Bet and Ducky Tie. "Friends," on the other hand, rotated through actors in multiple recurring roles and completely wrote out Ross' son by the end of the series.
2. Developed characters
Each "Friends" character fits into an easily identified stereotype without much variance. While Rachel does grow into an independent woman throughout the show's 10 seasons, her character arc does not begin to compare to Barney's. He turns from a legen-wait for it-dary playboy to a man who cannot even begin to imagine life without his true love, Robin (disregarding the last few minutes of the season finale of course).
3. More happens at MacLaren's than Central Perk
MacLaren's is an intentional part of who the "HIMYM" gang is as a group and how Barney becomes the man who marries Robin. "Friends" doesn't rely on Central Perk to determine much about any of the 6 characters. Rather, it's just a backdrop for a story that happens on its own.
4. The premise is more compelling
With "HIMYM," the viewer knows exactly what they're getting into: Ted is going to tell the audience (his kids) a story about how he met the kids' mother. With "Friends," however, the main plot is so open it's almost nonexistent. "Friends" solely provides characters, while "HIMYM" presents a full story.
5. The symbols!!
Blue French horn, yellow umbrella, red cowboy boots...need I say more? Yes, "Friends" has symbols too, but those symbols were selected by the audience not the characters in the story itself.
6. Robin Sparkles
Yes, Phoebe Buffay is a star in her own right and "Smelly Cat" is iconic. However, Robin Sparkles was a completely unpredictable side to Robin's character. Robin Sparkles never consumed the whole Robin narrative but was fleshed out enough that this element of Robin is integral to the way she fits into the story as a whole. Phoebe could've easily existed without her music, especially because it becomes less important to who she turns out to be as the show progresses.
7. The end wasn't as predictable
C'mon, you can't tell me you were actually shocked that Ross and Rachel ended up together. In the "HIMYM" universe, it's apparent from the first episode that Robin isn't the mother of Ted's children. That makes it all the more exciting and plot-twisty when Ted and Robin end up together in the end. This is about as interesting as sitcom endings get, so I'm pretty satisfied.
"HIMYM" treats its characters like real people who, just like all people, had lives before they met the people they spend their lives with. Each of the five main characters has an elaborate backstory that influences their day-to-day life just like any other person. The characters on "Friends" are simply there in the moment. While we have funny memories like Fat Monica and Ross in a band, nothing compares to the histories of the "HIMYM" crew.