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Moments in HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER Copied from FRIENDS

The similarities between Friends and HIMYM are evident in their plot descriptions, which has led to accusations of plagiarism against the creators of How I Met Your Mother.

Przemysław Mudlaff

7 August 2023

Friends (1994–2004) and How I Met Your Mother (2005–2014) are likely the most popular sitcoms in the history of television. Each of these comedic series focuses on a group of friends living in New York City who are navigating the threshold of adulthood, primarily defined by emotional stability, starting a family, or finding a stable job. This threshold is filled with dozens of potential life partners and spouses, small victories and defeats, and a plethora of funny situations. The similarities between Friends and HIMYM are evident in their plot descriptions, which has led to accusations of plagiarism against the creators of How I Met Your Mother. There have also been wild and interesting fan theories suggesting that Friends is an imagination or a book written by Tracy (Cristin Milioti) in Bays and Thomas’s production, where she appears as Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow) [sic!].

As a viewer who thoroughly enjoys both Friends and HIMYM, I prefer to see the basic similarities, which are inevitable in the younger show, as inspiration. However, this doesn’t change the fact that I do notice moments in Bays and Thomas’s series that are clear copies of ideas from Friends. It’s important to distinguish between similarity and copying. Take, for example, the recurring meeting place motif for the groups in both shows, which is one of the many accusations made against How I Met Your Mother for supposedly plagiarizing Friends. This is an absurd claim, as most real-life groups of friends have such places. MacLaren’s Bar in HIMYM is merely a similar recurring location to Central Perk in Friends, and it should be treated as such. Let’s focus on the moments where How I Met Your Mother truly copied Friends.

Rachel and Robin Join the Crew

Both Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) and Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders) were not part of their respective friend groups before the series started. I mean that the first episodes of both shows (HIMYM‘s pilot) include the plot of introducing these characters to already formed friend groups. Rachel, dressed in a wedding gown, unexpectedly appears in Central Perk at the moment Ross (David Schwimmer) confesses that he wants to get married again. Meanwhile, Robin and Ted’s (Josh Radnor) relationship begins in MacLaren’s Pub. After their conversation, Ted turns to Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and says that he will marry her someday.

Lack of Culinary Skills for Rachel and Robin

Since we’re already talking about the newest members of their groups, it’s worth mentioning that besides their character traits, both women also share a motif of lacking culinary skills. Let’s agree, this is not a plot point that should absolutely appear in HIMYM, so it should be considered a copy from Friends. Rachel’s inability to cook and lack of culinary sense were showcased when she attempted to make a traditional English trifle for Thanksgiving. This elaborate dessert consists of repeated layers: sponge cake, jam, English custard, and fruit. While preparing the dish, the recipe pages got stuck together, leading her to include sautéed beef with peas and onions as one of the dessert’s layers. In How I Met Your Mother, Robin confuses Fahrenheit with Celsius, resulting in her burning the entire dinner she was preparing.

College Friendship

Both HIMYM and Friends enjoy revisiting their characters’ pasts. Through flashbacks, we get to know the youthful years of Ross, Chandler (Matthew Perry), Monica (Courteney Cox), and Rachel in Friends, while in How I Met Your Mother, we explore the college escapades of Ted, Marshall (Jason Segel), and Lily (Alyson Hannigan). Both shows portray friends from their college days who remain best friends after graduation. It’s worth noting that both productions depict students as complete oddballs whose minds are focused on parties and relationships.

Professor Geller and Mosby

Although Ross and Ted’s college years were primarily filled with fun and indulgence, both characters continued their careers in academia. Ross had it easier, as he was a medical prodigy, effortlessly earning his doctorate and giving lectures on dinosaurs (paleontology). Ted, on the other hand, had a stroke of luck. Teaching architecture at the prestigious Columbia University was thanks to his ex-girlfriend Stella’s fiancé. However, the copying of Friends doesn’t end there in this aspect. The teaching habits of both men also transferred to their friends, whom they frequently corrected when they made grammatical errors. Following Ross’s example, Ted also dated one of his students, who later turned out to be a roommate of Mosby’s future children’s mother. Furthermore, both relationships ended after only a few weeks of dating.

Where do they work?

Critics of HIMYM see Barney Stinson primarily as a copy of womanizer Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc). It’s obvious that both characters have a weakness for women and tend to leave them after a one-night stand, but that’s where the similarities between the two mostly end. It’s difficult, therefore, to consider this a direct copy from Friends. The copying of Crane and Kauffman’s show in relation to Barney’s character is actually something else and is related to Chandler, specifically his job. Even though we occasionally catch glimpses of Chandler at his workplace in Friends, truth be told, I’m unable to name his position or describe what he actually does. The question about Chandler’s job in a quiz hosted by Ross even led Monica and Rachel to lose their apartment, because the answer “transponster” turned out to be incorrect. The same goes for Barney’s profession. Here, however, we’re dealing with a mystery, as whenever someone asks Stinson what he does for a living, he responds with a simple “Please!”

Naked Approaches

Remember the Friends episode where the characters reminisce about what happened in their lives about three years earlier? We learn, among other things, how Heckles caused Joey to become Chandler’s roommate. In that episode, we also see how Tribbiani misinterpreted Monica’s invitation for lemonade, and while she was making the drink, he undressed, expecting sex. In How I Met Your Mother, we also encounter a few naked approachers. In the ninth episode of the fourth season of HIMYM, we meet Mitch, who informs Ted that getting naked in front of a partner while they’re temporarily absent can lead to intimacy. This approach supposedly works two out of three times. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for Barney.

Strange Photos of Marshall and Chandler

Marshall and Chandler are quite similar. Both are very funny and are in long-term relationships. However, this doesn’t mean that the creators of HIMYM copied Chandler into the character of Marshall. There is, however, one thing that clearly connects both characters, and it was directly borrowed from Friends. It’s the issue of looking bad in photographs. Just recall Monica and Chandler’s engagement photoshoot and Lily’s birthday photo album.

Since we’re on the topic of these two happy couples, let’s also mention the similarities between them. Both Monica and Chandler and Lily and Marshall attempted unsuccessfully to get married in chapels located in famous casinos (Las Vegas and Atlantic City), and when they eventually got married, it was officiated by their friend (Joey and Barney). Moreover, both couples moved to the suburbs and faced challenges when trying to have a baby (Marshall and Lily initially).

Breaking Up on Birthdays

Now, it’s time for my favorite motif copied from Friends to How I Met Your Mother, even using the same actress. Ann Dudek, in this case, played Mike’s girlfriend, Precious, in Friends, whom he (actually Phoebe) breaks up with on her birthday. The same actress has her heart broken by Ted Mosby in HIMYM. Interestingly, he also does it on her birthday. Unfortunately for Ted, the character Natalie, played by Dudek here, knows Krav Maga.


Lastly, a nice touch that I would consider more as a nod/inspiration rather than a direct copy. It’s about the umbrella, which becomes a significant prop in How I Met Your Mother in unraveling the mystery of the show’s title. The choice of this object could be purely coincidental or a reference to the umbrellas in the opening sequence of Friends.

Have you noticed other moments where How I Met Your Mother copied Friends? What are your thoughts on the examples presented above? Feel free to let us know in the comments!

Przemysław Mudlaff

Przemysław Mudlaff

He appreciates the truth and sincerity of the intentions of its creators in cinema. He loves to be emotionally kicked and abused by the film, but also happy and amused. A hunter of film curiosities, references and connections. A fan of the works of PTA, von Trier, Kieślowski, Lantimos and Villeneuve. What he likes the most is talking about the cinema over a beer, and the beer has to be cold and thick, you know what.

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