Eric McCandless/CBS Entertainment
How I Met Your Mother's Ted (Josh Radnor), seen here with one of his many love interests (Judy Greer), is probably the least popular character on the show. We dissent.
Eric McCandless/CBS Entertainment
While traveling the entertainment world as a fan of How I Met Your Mother (uneven at times, yes, but loving and warm and silly in a way that continues to delight me), I've learned something about myself: I think I'm just about the only person who doesn't hate Ted.
This is concerning.
It was while reading the A.V. Club list of showblockers that it struck me again: What do I see in Ted (Josh Radnor) that others don't — or is it the other way around?
It's true that Ted is the one most likely to do stupid things. He broke up with one of his old girlfriends via answering machine ... on her birthday ... during her party. He got mad at (his friend) Barney for sleeping with (his ex-girlfriend) Robin, even though he and Robin had been broken up for quite some time. When Robin put the moves on him while he was long-distance dating the cupcake-making Victoria, he told Robin he'd already broken up with Victoria, when in fact he had decided to break up with her but hadn't actually done it yet. Thus, he came very close to sleeping with Robin under emphatically false pretenses.
It's impossible to deny: the guy can screw up.
But I forgive him.
The thing is ... he's the one telling the story. If I sat down and told the story of my youth — the youth I spent with my friends — you can bet the person who would look like the biggest idiot would be me. (And perhaps in reality it was me, but: eye on the ball, people. NOT THE POINT.) The reason it would be me either way is that, like most people, I tend to take out my own stupid mistakes and fondle them all the time. I obsess over what I did wrong, I remember myself being awkward and foolish, and just like Ted, I frequently find myself thinking things like, "If I'd been smart, I'd have Done This. Instead [slam cut to me Doing That], I Did That." Many of my memories work that way. The half-life of your memories of the stupid behavior of the people you love is measured in weeks; the half-life of your memories of your own stupid behavior is generally measured in decades.
And so, by contrast, if I told you about my friends, I'd tell you how sweet they were, how funny they were, how they made me laugh and wrote me letters and spray-painted the rock in Tappan Square for my birthday. Yes, I'd tell you about this thing they did or that thing they did that made me crazy or didn't make any sense or hurt my feelings, but mostly, if I were telling a couple of kids the story of my friends from, say, college, I'd go on about them like they were superheroes. My dorm would be the Hall Of Justice. I would be the only mortal.
Honestly, what kind of a show would it be if Ted weren't the target of a lot of the show's most withering humor? What kind of a show would it be if the voice-over consisted of a guy telling the story of how he was always sweet, like Marshall, or was always funny, like Barney? What kind of a dry-witted narrator is also the hero? I've always thought this came through particularly strongly in Radnor's performance, which is always so broad and goofy when Ted is being an idiot — he's so cringe-inducingly awkward that it can only be a man's agonizing vision of his own youth.
I don't think you ever develop warm, forgiving nostalgia about yourself, do you? Not the way you do about your friends — the ones you knew when you were young and dumb. Whenever I watch that show, it seems clear to me that everything didn't necessarily happen exactly and literally that way. It just feels that way to Ted, because it's Ted's story.
So I nervously embrace my position as The One Person Who Likes Ted. Dumb Ted. Fool Ted. Sloppy Ted. Unrealistically romantic Ted. I forgive you, Ted. I think you might have lived in my dorm.