- Neil Patrick Harris. The former child star of Doogie Howser, M. D. is easily the most notable and outspoken actor on the show, as evidenced by his perfect portrayal of the womanizing Barney Stinson. His many mannerisms capture the essence of the character, and hilarity always ensues.
- It’s more subtle. On Friends, most of the humor is clearly out there, pandering to a less intelligent office. HIMYM creates subtle and clever humor by hiding many of its jokes beneath the surface in double entendres and background humor (writing on posters, text on Internet sites) that can be found by the observant eye.
- It’s more romantic. Apart from sheer comedy, the convoluted story driving HIMYM provides more emotional twists, touching moments, and overall emotion than its counterpart in Friends.
- The music is better. One of the biggest underlying strengths of HIMYM is its relatively unknown, often solemn and brooding music, which always creates an apt background setting for some of the funny and emotional moments in the show’s run.
- It’s less played out. The exaggerated hysteria on Friends (for example, when Ross is hit with a hockey puck that makes a whirring sound as the camera focuses in on its path–I mean, COME ON) creates an overly melodramatic effect that sure gives the impression of corny humor as a result of uncreative writing. In contrast, HIMYM relies on misdirection to get many of its jokes across, hardly ever being predictable enough to be cliched.
- It’s more current. By no fault of its own, Friends’ jokes and cultural references are outdated and not prevalent in our society when compared with those of HIMYM. Though this is naturally due to the order in which the shows premiered, (Friends ran from 1994-2004, HIMYM from 2005-2014) this truly detracts from the impression Friends makes on its many viewers.
- Its storyline is better. HIMYM is all about “a starry-eyed romantic on a noble quest for true love,” as protagonist Ted Mosby himself explains. Ted explains the emotional and long story of meeting his future wife to his teenaged kids from the year 2030. Such a unique perspective is far better than what Friends has to offer. Oh cool, it’s a bunch of friends who hang out. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
- Its characters are deeper. On HIMYM, the five central characters are all multifaceted with multiple aspects to their personalities (Except Lily, who remains annoying and conniving). They change over the course of the seasons; for example, the horribly misogynistic Barney in Season 1 grows to be far more honest and respectful by the series finale. From what I’ve seen of Friends, most of the characters are very shallow, caring only for themselves, and don’t appear to change much (granted, they may as the series continues).
- It’s just…funnier. HIMYM’s clever and subtle humor definitely trumps the contrived jokes of Friends, which are clearly indicated by overdone acting. The whole point of a sitcom is to make people laugh, of which HIMYM certainly does a better job.
- It feels more real. Jokes told in HIMYM are punctuated by the obvious amusement of the characters themselves, giving the show far more verisimilitude than Friends, which has stilted jokes for the benefit of purely the audience (the characters don’t react viscerally, and just stand there waiting for the laugh-track to conclude).
- It’s more well-made. Though a lot of the variation is simply due to the stylistic elements and the difference in time period, it shouldn’t be hard to see that HIMYM has a clear advantage in its production. Many are nostalgic for Friends because they saw it first or remember it from their childhood, but it’s clear that when compared, HIMYM wins sitcom gold.