Hi, Mom! Goodbye, Mother.
Ted's first meeting with the mother of his two children will be part of How I Met Your Mother's one-hour series finale (CBS, Monday, 8 p.m. ET/PT). It follows the characters from 2013 to where this nine-season story got started, with future Ted (voiced by Bob Saget) talking to his kids in 2030.
Recent episodes have featured the wedding of Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), news of a second child on the way for Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and Marshall (Jason Segel), and a flash-forward conversation between Ted (Josh Radnor) and the still-unnamed Mother (Cristin Milioti) that led some fans to speculate that she may be dead by the time the story ends.
"The show is (about) growing up with friends," Harris says. "Barney said it best ... this season: 'Whatever you do in this life, it's not legendary unless your friends are there to see it.' That sentiment is the show."
In a final season framed by the wedding weekend, Mother has brought back guest stars from past years, including spouses of cast members, and offered callbacks to long-running gags, such as the infamous slap bet.
"There's been a bit of playing the bingo card of trying to hit all the beats we want to hit," says co-creator Carter Bays. But "the last two episodes are less about the running jokes of the show and more just about these characters and the reality of their lives."
The story of Ted and his friends' coming of age in New York premiered to good reviews in 2005, but it took some time to become a strong ratings performer. Britney Spears' 2008 guest appearance was a turning point, Bays says. HIMYM is averaging 9.8 million viewers this season (up 3%) and ranks second among CBS shows in young adults.
"Emotionally, I love these people so much, and it's hard to say goodbye, but I think it's good that we are ending on a high note," Hannigan says. "For the final scene with the (original) five of us, all the production office people came down. It was a packed house of everybody who had been on the show for so long."
Bays and co-creator Craig Thomas — who are working on a CBS pilot for a similar story, How I Met Your Dad, told from a woman's perspective and starring Greta Gerwig — have known how the series would conclude for years, shooting a future Ted finale scene in the second season, before the actors playing the kids grew up.
"This is the ending we've been heading toward," Bays says. "It says everything that we've wanted to say about showing the complete picture of what it means to love somebody."