Shows Like How I Met Your Mother Comedy Fans Should Check Out

Nothing good happens after 2 a.m. — unless you're finishing a "How I Met Your Mother" marathon. The series remains laugh-until-you-cry binge-able years after its final episode and I'm not surprised. "HIMYM" helped redefine the sitcom with its flexible storytelling, deep comedic tool chest, and ability to define the undefinable moments of our lives. The show dove head first into woo girls, the bro code, the lemon law, and the sexless innkeeper. We've all had notions of concepts like these but had never seen them brought to life quite as "HIMYM" did it.  

As soon as you hit play, the opening theme delivers a bubbly warmth. Bob Saget settles you in with his familiar voice. The antics kick off immediately and don't let up until Marshall (Jason Segel) forgives Lily (Alyson Hannigan) or Robin (Cobie Smulders) forgives Ted (Josh Radnor) or Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) roams the streets naked looking for a suit. It's all so endearing it gives you, like, a (read in Barney's voice and no one else's voice) soul boner.

I don't expect to see full-on new adventures from the gang, but other sitcoms share some of the comedic aspects I love that made "HIMYM" a classic. This list skips the most obvious comparisons like "Friends," "New Girl," "Scrubs," and, of course, "How I Met Your Father." Do we really need another hangout show list? Nope. Instead, here are 14 shows with attributes that made "HIMYM" legen — (I'm contractually obligated to finish this word) — dary.

Arrested Development (2003-2019)

The Running Jokes

The next slap is coming. You know it. Marshall knows it. Barney certainly knows it. This is the kind of running gag or bit that keeps "How I Met Your Mother" fans on their toes, ready for any callback or self-referential Easter egg. Speaking of recurring bits, haaaave you seen "Arrested Development"? It is jam-packed with running jokes like Tobias (David Cross) the never-nude, G.O.B.'s "Magic!" tricks, Bluth family banners, and "Boyfights" videos.

Running gags and recurring jokes are clever devices that writers use to make us laugh, and they work best on shows that run for several seasons. Our laugh receptors (that's not a thing but stay with me) are open as we watch these shows, ready to spot and collect recurring jokes; because those receptors are wide open, they keep us on alert to receive all comedic material, and just as we're laughing at something Barney says — SLAP! — the recurring joke hits us. Like Barney waiting for that slap, "Arrested Development" fans are eagerly trying to look for blue handprints or listen for softly spoken side comments like "Marry me" or "Her?" You laugh every time you spot running jokes because, after you've noticed one or two, you're suddenly in on the joke.

Cheers (1982-1993)

The Bar

"Hey, kid. Do you know what happened in this bar? Just ... all kinds of stuff." He's not eloquent, but Marshall is correct — all kinds of stuff happened at MacLaren's Pub. Cheers is a more refined establishment (barely) but it's the kind of bar that makes the perpetually insatiable Sam Malone (Ted Danson) say, "I'm the luckiest son of a b***h on Earth." They're both big-city downstairs pubs where anyone, regardless of their strata, can feel comfortable sipping a brew. Of course, what's the point of blasting Cheap Trick on the jukebox without friends nearby? Both bars are comforting because of the people inside.

Barney is up for whatever at the counter of MacLaren's. He's the kind of guy who will occasionally bail on his own hookup, telling you, "No bro left behind." The denizens of the titular bar on "Cheers" will squawk out your name, perched from their bar-side stools. While enjoying suds, you can also imbibe Norm's wisdom, Frasier's wit, and Cliff's encyclopedic knowledge. Behind the bar, Sam, Carla, Woody, Coach, Diane, and sometimes Rebecca are more than paid servers. They're a part of your life. They become your family when your real family becomes too much to bear.

The one main difference is the gang in MacLaren's is chasing their dreams while the Cheers crew is reflecting on their lost opportunities. Either way, when you walk down those stairs, you know you'll be in a place where everyone knows your name (Swarley!).

Community (2009-2015)

The Flexible Storytelling

"How I Met Your Mother" employs non-linear storytelling, told in flashbacks. The format allows the show to embellish moments and play with themes without ever feeling too fantastical. "Community" is linear, but the show often dabbles in fantastical formatting that remains firmly grounded.

The first notes of both shows' opening intros hit you like a Pavlovian ring — getting you in the mindset for a sitcom journey that veers off the beaten path — and they both go way off the path. For instance, in "The Bracket," Barney creates an NCAA tournament-style bracket to determine which ex-girlfriend is sabotaging him. The bracket becomes the show's template, allowing Barney to flash back to memories on the fly while the show's story remains coherent. The "Community" episode "Remedial Chaos Theory" uses a Yahtzee graphic to show six possible timelines of what could happen at a small party when each person leaves to get pizza. Each timeline has constants, such as Britta (Gillian Jacobs) discreetly smoking a joint or Jeff (Joel McHale) banging his head on a ceiling fan, but also variables, like when a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" opening scene replica is bumped, dropping a small boulder on the ground that leads to a disastrous but tearfully hilarious moment.

In both cases, these surreal storytelling techniques work because the shows have strong character ensembles that colorfully represent familiar archetypes and actors who are game for whatever the writers come up with. Those levels of commitment and trust pay off for us viewers. It paid off so much with "Community" fans that a reunion movie is in the works.

The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)

The Apartment

MacLaren's may be the heart of "HIMYM," but the apartment is its soul. That's where the slap bet is made, where Ted and Marshall duel for its fate, where Ted wakes up next to a pineapple, and where we meet Robin Sparkles. To outsiders, those moments have no major impact (salute). To us "HIMYM" fans, those moments -– those little nuggets of joy -– make the series memorable. The same can be said for the apartment on "The Dick Van Dyke Show." It's where Rob (Dick Van Dyke) and Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) dye their hands black, where Rob and Laura use a toy to eavesdrop on their neighbors before a dinner party, and where Laura slides out of the closet on a pile of walnuts.

Our homes are where we live, where life's minutiae transpire. Sure, you can't lick the Liberty Bell or get stuck in an elevator with a crook (played by Don Rickles) at home, but it's where you host parties to woo a new woman or try to impress a sponsor. Watching episodes of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" today does expose moments that are dated and a tad cringeworthy, but the writing is crisp and the actors play the roles thoughtfully — always in pursuit of your laughter. After you've experienced a season or two, the apartment starts to feel like a second home, with its familiar living room and kitchen -– just like apartment 4C.

Don't Trust the B---- in Apt 23 (2012-2014)

The Barney Clones

Barney has a critical role in "HIMYM." He needs to push Ted into unfamiliar territory in dating, career, and overall life experience. Neil Patrick Harris is fantastic because his presence on screen remains bright despite his dark ambitions. Krysten Ritter does the same in "Don't Trust the B—- in Apt 23." Her character, Chloe, helps June (Dreama Walker) break free of her anxiety, and just when we think the show will stay grounded with Chloe, a second Barney clone walks in: James Van Der Beek as — wait for it — James Van Der Beek.

Barney and Chloe put their shows at risk of being too farcical. They're a bit extreme, but thanks to the grounded characters Ted and June, who care about them, their antics remain tethered to the story. We tolerate the absurdity. A second Barney, though? That's a lot. Yet, Van Der Beek doesn't threaten his show's balance. Writers use him to open doors to new plot lines, character development, and funny gags and the real-life Van Der Beek is in on the joke. 

It's not surprising "Don't Trust the B—- in Apt 23" only lasted three seasons. The show tries too hard to be edgy with some over-the-top gags and jokes that linger a little too long. That said, if you like double-dipping on Barney, check it out — you get a little extra steak sauce on the side.

Grand Crew (2021-present)

The Hub

When you have a cast of rich characters, you need a hub where they can meet up to reestablish their bonds, catch you up on their individual motivations, and find the inspiration that will propel them out into the world with storylines in tow. In "How I Met Your Mother," the group has MacLaren's, where the gang sips on pints. In "Grand Crew," the crew has a more developed palate, opting for wines at their bar, "Cru."

As they savor the notes of Pinots and measure the legs of Cabernets, these well-paired characters discuss the notes of their friendships and measure their success in love, work, and family. Despite the show's refined hangout spot, "Grand Crew" isn't afraid to get a little wacky — like the time Nicky (Nicole Byer) digs into her purse to pull out nunchucks and a power drill while looking for a phone charger. Much like "HIMYM," absurdity works here because the characters are balanced and the script's pace moves you along before you can think twice about a joke or gag. If you miss your weekly MacLaren's hangouts, give Cru a taste — you may be surprised to find it has a similarly pleasing flavor.

Happy Endings (2011-2013)

The Quality Rip-off

Can we just call "Happy Endings" what it is? — "How I Met These Familiar Characters." It appears ABC wanted to emulate the CBS hit and brought in "HIMYM" consulting producer Jonathan Groff to co-executive produce. Groff cast his Ted (Alex), his Marshall and Lily (Jane and Brad), his Robin (Dave), and his Barney (Penny and Max). "Happy Endings" feels like a rip-off from the moment you hear the familiar opening intro, but somehow the show stands on its own.

One big difference is the joke writing. "HIMYM" sets up and delivers phrases like "Smurf penis" with a steady setup and delivery. "Happy Endings" constantly fires out jokes that reference things like female therapists who look like Scott Bakula, driving a burgundy Windstar through a farmer's market, or finding Ricki Lake's missing wallet. Some of the jokes are worth a rewind to hear again because they're layered with innuendo and references that zero in on a specific tone or mood. "Happy Endings" may wear the DNA of "HIMYM" on its sleeve (ick!) but that sleeve is on a mauve suit coat once worn by Harry Shearer in an unaired "Saturday Night Live" sketch about a Reno lounge singer (Groff, call my agent!). "Happy Endings" only lasted three seasons, but if you miss the "HIMYM" characters you came to love, you'll get a taste of them here – just don't expect to have the same time to internalize and relish every line.

Living Single (1993-1998)

The Template

People always credit "Friends" as being a template for "How I Met Your Mother," but another series that debuted a full year before "Friends" actually started laying the groundwork. "Living Single" features an ensemble cast that's balanced with archetypal characters who are well-developed because of their shared storylines. Each is armed with punchlines that match their characters — and these actors know how to make their roles distinct. For instance, pilots are notorious for trying to force big moments on us. In the "Living Single" pilot, Khadijah (Queen Latifah), Max (Erika Alexander), Synclaire (Kim Coles), and Regine (Kim Fields) deliver a rendition of "My Girl" while getting ready in the bathroom. In most series, it's a forced mess, but in this scene, each woman shows off her dynamic and unique personality, be it through voice style, dance style, or belting into a toilet scrubber.

Similar to "How I Met Your Mother," these characters care about their friends so much that they aren't afraid to rip into one another. Insults are delivered like a slap. Also, "Living Single" can confidently take jokes to the next level. Cleverly structured bits push characters to the extreme, yet never cross the line into the surreal. "Living Single" is not structured around how the characters met their child's mother or father, but like "HIMYM," the show is about the deeply intertwined relationships of brightly drawn characters whom you want to spend time with while they pursue life's loftiest goals.

Married (2014-2015)

The 'Burbs

What if a spinoff show focused on Lily and Marshall's move to the suburbs? That's how "Married" feels at times. The neighbors, the kids, the bills, and declining sex lives are all themes we'd love to see Lily and Marshall navigate after their move to Long Island. Russ (Nat Faxon) and Lina Bowman (Judy Greer) do exactly that — with Russ being Marshall, steady but charmingly eccentric, and Lina being Lily, the worrier who shakes things up.

The shows are different in style. "HIMYM" uses various camera angles to tell stories that don't fit into traditional formats, while "Married" relies on a single Steadicam that's reminiscent of shows like "Modern Family" and "The Office," but without the mockumentary-style interviews or fourth-wall-breaking. Most importantly, "Married" shows you that the suburbs aren't as boring as Barney, Ted, and Robin think they'll be. Many of the situations are the same — there are brunch incidents, social misunderstandings caused by wine abstinence, and conflicts stoked by extensive porn searching — and that's all in just one episode.

My Boys (2006-2010)

The Balanced Group

If the friends in your gang all have the same personalities, career goals, income levels, and relationship needs, then your gang is boring. You may hang out for several years (seasons) but your gang won't stay together unless you have friends (characters) who pull you in different directions and help you experience new things. Former TBS series "My Boys" has the kind of balanced crew, similar to "How I Met Your Mother," that helped keep the show and its characters constantly moving forward beyond Season 1 — in this case, about three seasons longer than I originally expected. Watching "My Boys" today, you understand why.

P.J. (Jordana Spiro) kept the show balanced as a sports writer whose steady presence (and income) made sure all characters were included and cared for. It allowed others, like her brother Andy (Jim Gaffigan), who is always suited up, and roommate Brendan (Reid Scott), who is never suited up, to safely explore the antics that make the show fun. "My Boys" is not perfect; the script sometimes feels like it's written by a Men's Health columnist, but if you're looking for a "HIMYM" clone with a fantastic cast, it's worth a try. Just expect a slower pace, chiller antics, moodier lighting, and Chicago as the backdrop.

The Newsroom (1996-2005)

The Canadian Journalist

When Robin Scherbatsky arrives in New York City, she is a battle-tested journalist. She knows she's ready for the top news market in the country because she survived Canadian television in the early 2000s. What does that mean? It would be impossible to know if Canadian television wasn't so thoroughly (faux) documented in the hilarious series "The Newsroom." No, not that ridiculous HBO take on television news journalism (trust me, I produced 5,000 hours of television news). I'm talking about the award-winning mockumentary series that aired on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television in two short runs.

The series focuses on the kind of grossly misogynistic and somewhat incompetent newsroom that Robin would have had to cut her teeth in while she worked as a fledgling journalist in Red Deer, Alberta. The television news industry has been historically driven by men but women like Robin are changing it for the better. In "The Newsroom," you'll see characters who remind you of Sandy Rivers; they're gross and unprofessional. Yet, you can't look away — like when news director George Findlay (Ken Finkleman) compares his BMW dealership employees to Nazis or main anchor Jim Walcott (Peter Keleghan) gets hair anorexia. I'll be honest, "The Newsroom" is almost nothing like "How I Met Your Mother," but the show does expertly dissect and satirize the industry in which Robin has flourished and it does so in ways that will make you laugh out loud.

That '70s Show (1998-2006)

The Moments

Capable actors can turn sharp writing into moments that endure –- and it doesn't matter if the show is about drunk twenty-somethings in Manhattan or high teenagers in Point Place, Wisconsin. "HIMYM" and "That '70s Show" both feature charismatic groups of friends who navigate love, work, and family as one. Some of the funny moments aren't substantial; they're about Ted re-returning to the bar or Eric (Topher Grace) walking in on his parents (🎶Tell me something good!🎶). They're about Ted being unable to spell P-R-O-F-E-S-S-O-R or Jackie (Mila Kunis) telling the group that Kelso's (Ashton Kutcher) "Apollo rocket of love blew up all over the launch pad." These are comedic moments that stay with you, though they do more than make you laugh.

These shows feature rich storylines that draw and release tension to create big moments. I'm talking Lily leaving Marshall, Ted telling Robin he loves her, and the gang saying goodbye at MacLaren's. "That 70s Show" meets those moments, like when Donna (Laura Prepon) leans in to kiss Eric or years later when Eric pulls away from her kiss. Then there are the heavy, real moments that sitcoms are not supposed to execute with such deftness. It's hard to not be emotionally shaken when Marshall hears his father's real final phone message or when temperamental Red Forman, played by Kurtwood Smith, hugs Hyde (Danny Masterson). You care about these characters so much that when the tension finally releases, you're not surprised if tears follow your laughter. Most of the cast, including Kutcher, will be returning in guest spots for the spin-off, "That '90s Show," and hopefully they can recapture the spirit of the original series and create equally memorable moments.

Undeclared (2001-2002)

The College Years

The flashbacks in "How I Met Your Mother” help develop a sense of history between Ted, Marshall, and Lily. They establish a foundation for the gang's friendship (Ted reminding Marshall he's more than Lily's boyfriend), introduce recurring jokes (sharing a sandwich), and set up some hilarious present-day plot points (🎶I would walk 500 miles🎶). "Undeclared" is an entire series that feels like those flashbacks, except Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen replace Josh Radnor and Jason Segel (who is actually in "Undeclared" but nothing like Marshall).

We only get 17 episodes of "Undeclared," but they're pieced together by industry craftspeople like Judd Apatow and Paul Feig. There's also remarkable talent on camera. Apatow trots out several comedy legends every episode, though you don't watch just to see them. A  fantastic ensemble of recurring characters elevates the comedic aspects of a story that shares a vibe with the "HIMYM" flashbacks. It's about a nerdy college freshman who falls for a girl and befriends a pot-smoking roommate. Sounds familiar, right? Baruchel usually plays a goofy side character but in "Undeclared" he shows he's capable of being an effective leading guy who makes us feel the wonder he's feeling as a freshman in college. I'm stunned and disappointed that "Undeclared" dropped out after just one season — though, like "HIMYM," it opened the doors for a lot of talented people who we recognize years later off campus.

Will & Grace (1998-2020)

The Loving Disrespect

Let's get the most obvious comparison out of the way: Karen Walker (Megan Mullally) is a Barney. She is a social climber, obsessed with pursuing the best, and a proud maneater. Also, she loves her friends more than anything –- and we, the viewers, see that clearly. It's why her constant barrage of insults targeting Eric McCormack's Will and Debra Messing's Grace ("They are like Siamese twins who are joined at their boring personalities.") are always welcome, as are her digs at Jack (Sean Hayes). That's how Karen, like Barney, shows love.

Don't think Will ("Jack, blind and deaf people know you're gay.") and Grace ("Will, my love for you is like this scar, ugly and permanent.") are just victims; they fire back. Rosario (Shelley Morrison) is usually the Lily, like a referee, but she has some of the harshest lines ("This year I'm making your figgy pudding with rat poison and Ajax"), often directed at Karen. On Karen's wedding day, Rosario and Karen get into it again, but hug one another, nearly in tears. In both shows, the insults may seem outwardly cold but they're actually warm reminders that someone you care about is with you on your journey. It's why we watch "HIMYM," "Will & Grace," and these other shows; we feel like we're a part of their lives, except on our side of the screen we're safe from Karen's fierce tongue lashings (insert Jack joke here).