How I Met Your Mother. Period.

Last week game night was canceled, so I had an extra night to work on schoolwork.

So of course I instead taught myself how to use iMovie† by fixing the final episode of How I Met Your Mother.

OK, here come mild spoilers for a series that ran 2005-2014. I’m going to keep this to a level that I don’t think ruins anything if you haven’t seen the series and now go watch it, but tolerance of spoilers varies, so if you’re super extra-special averse, just take my word for it that it’s excellent except the final episode, and if you’re that averse I can’t possibly explain to you how to fix it without including spoilers. But if you trust me, read on.

For those not in the know, How I Met Your Mother is one of the best sitcoms ever—it’s the only sitcom in my lifetime (well, let’s say since highschool, inclusive, and not counting things that I only saw in reruns) that was appointment TV for me. Some felt a couple of the later seasons (particularly 6 & 7) wore a bit thin, but I never tired of it. The story is framed as Ted telling his kids how he met their mother.

Their are hints, particularly later in the series, that there’s a bit more to this than simply a ridiculously extended meet-cute—that there’s some important reason that Ted is telling his kids now (and by “now” I mean the year 2030). I’m not going to go into that, because it’s not necessary, and either you’ll pick up some hints if you watch it, or you won’t.

What I will talk about is the final episode and the final season. There are 5 main characters—6 if you count the titular mother. Across the final 3 seasons, 2 of the characters undergo a gradual, hard-won, heartfelt, touching, and believable transformation. The final season caps that character development and also builds a beautiful relationship between Ted and the mother.

And then in the final episode, they throw away basically all the character development of the entire 9 years of the series for 3 of the characters, and give the mother short shrift to boot. It’s completely out of left field, and does major violence to two of the characters.

But the good news is, it’s entirely in that last episode. There are no real hints of it prior, so if you just skip the final episode, you’re good. Except that that makes for a lousy non-ending. The creators re-cut the final episode as a bonus for the DVD release, but in addition to cutting out the crap they also cut out the resolution of the story. Instead of being horrible, it’s just unsatisfying.*

So I decided to see if it was possible, with the existing footage, to just excise the crap and still have a coherent episode. Turns out it is. I mean, it’s not perfect—it would be much better if it were filmed with this in mind. But trimming out 24 carefully-chosen minutes leaves me with a taut episode that captures almost all the good of the finale, preserves the integrity of all the characters, and still has a solid ending.  And I only had to lose a small part of one otherwise-good scene in the process of eliminating references to the crap.

It’s frustrating to see how easy this is—if I can do this with the existing footage, it would’ve been super easy for the show’s creators to do it even better, and give everyone a solid ending to their story. Considering their version of an alternate ending, it’s clear to me that they don’t even understand what’s wrong with their original ending.

In case you want to do this yourself, here are my edits, based on a total runtime of 43:36, so you may need to adjust slightly depending on your source. All of these breaks except the short one around the 34-minute mark are scene transitions, so should be pretty easy to find.

  • 00:00-11:01: keep
  • 11:01-11:29: delete
  • 11:29-12:14: keep
  • 12:14-31:51: delete
  • 31:51-33:55: keep
  • 33:55-35:19: delete
  • 35:19-40:07: keep
  • 40:07-42:38: delete
  • 42:38-end: keep

† It has such a ridiculously steep learning curve‡ that “taught myself” really is self-aggrandizement. You can pretty much just sit down and start using it.

‡ When measuring facility with something over time, time is the independent access, so the steeper the curve, the faster it is being learned. Something that is extremely hard to learn would actually have a very shallow learning curve.

* If you decide to watch the final episode, probably the best stopping point is at 10m6s, when Lily says “Not like this; this is different”. It kinda leaves the end hanging, but if you go any farther, you encounter the crap.

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