In May 2004, millions of people around the world tuned in for the final episode of the beloved sitcom Friends. The show's unique cast of characters had become like family to its large fanbase and it was uncertain at the time if there would ever be another show quite like it. As it turns out, there would be.
How I Met Your Mother made its debut in September 2005, just over a year later. For viewers, it was immediately obvious that there were several similarities, but if you pay close attention to each show, you'll find that the resemblance is truly uncanny.
Let's start with the obvious: both shows take place in New York City. Now, this is a common setting for sitcoms, I know, but the city isn't the only thing the two shows have in common. Each show includes a regular hangout that the characters can be found in at least once in pretty much every episode. Friends has Central Perk, while How I Met Your Mother has MacLaren's Pub. To take it even further, each show has at least one main character who lives directly above their respective hangouts. Now, two shows being set in the same large US city I can understand, but that's going a little too far, don't you think?
There are also many similarities between the main characters of both shows. In Friends, you have Ross, the nerdy hopeless romantic who falls for the new girl in town. In How I Met Your Mother, you have Ted, the nerdy hopeless romantic who falls for the new girl in town. Both characters spend the entire series in an on-again/off-again relationship with the aforementioned new girl. The characters also have very similar career paths, with each ending up as a college professor in their field.
Each show also has what I like to call "the happy couple". While Monica and Chandler weren't a couple from the beginning of the series, their continually solid relationship served as a foil to Ross and Rachel's lack of commitment. The same could be said for Lily and Marshall from How I Met Your Mother. While they had their moments, they generally stayed solid as a couple. There are many similarities between the individual characters as well. Chandler and Marshall have very similar career trajectories, and Lily and Monica each serve as a headstrong leader that holds the friend group together.
Finally, we have what I think is the most obvious character similarity: Joey Tribbiani and Barney Stinson. Both serve as the ladies' man of the friend group, notorious for spending one night with a woman and never contacting her again. Both also eventually fall in love with another member of the group, albeit with varying results. They are also both known for being loyal to the group, and possibly the most dependable friend the group has.
I'm aware that the general concept of a group of friends in a big city who hang out together all the time is nothing new, and I do think that the popularity of Friends has a lot to do with that. However, as someone who watches both shows religiously, it's extremely hard to believe that some of the parallels between these two are purely coincidental.