Skip to main content

How I Met Your Mother: 10 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About The Comedy Series

How I Met Your Mother cast
(Image credit: CBS)

Kids, I don’t know about you - and I do not mean this as a criticism on the new series - but Hulu’s new sitcom spin-off, How I Met Your Father, has put me in the mood to revisit its predecessor. However, instead of just binging all 208 episodes - or, perhaps, maybe just the best How I Met Your Mother episodes - all over again, I want go a bit deeper than that and learn about some of the stories that we did not hear from the late Bob Saget’s narration as Future Ted.

Thus, I have accepted the challenge of compiling a list of legen- wait for it… DARY behind-the-scenes facts about one of the most romantic, clever, and (mostly) beloved TV comedies of all time. This is, sort of, the story of how How I Met Your Mother met us, starting with some fun trivia about the easily singable theme song. 

How I Met Your Mother cast as a band

(Image credit: CBS)

HIMYM Creators’ Band Wrote And Performed The Theme Song

The key as to why the theme song to How I Met Your Mother is so memorable is that the lyrics consist of 10 “pa’s” and a “da-da da-da-da-da da-da da.” However, in truth, during the show’s opening credits sequence, you are only hearing the tail-end portion of a full length song, called “Hey, Beautiful,” which has a special connection to the masterminds behind the series.

The song was written and performed by The Solids - a band that HIMYM creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas formed with their friends Patrick Butler and C.C. DePhil in 1996. Before Bays and Thomas hit it big with their own sitcom, they and the band found success with songs that could be heard on other acclaimed series like Fox’s Oliver Beane (which the duo also wrote for and produced) and Ed on NBC.

Neil Patrick Harris on How I Met Your Mother

(Image credit: CBS)

Neil Patrick Harris Does Not Resemble The Creators’ Original Visualization For Barney Stinson 

Whenever Carter Bays and Craig Thomas were first developing How I Met Your Mother they had written the fan favorite character of Barney Stinson a certain way that changed dramatically once Neil Patrick Harris was cast in the role. In 2008, the actor told The A.V. Club the following about his now iconic role's evolution from script-to-screen:

The character was written as a Jack Black, John Belushi type, so I thought, at 6 feet tall and 160 pounds, I probably would not be thought of as that guy… As it turns out, they just didn't have a real strong visual opinion of what the character should look like. I think they were fans of things I had done in the past, and I went at it with reckless abandon, which is what they were looking for more than a physical type.

I actually kind of love imagining how Jack Black could have handled playing the charming, conniving womanizer, but it’s impossible to think of anybody else but NPH as the role that earned him four Emmy Award nominations.

Lyndsy Fonseca and David Henrie on How I Met Your Mother

(Image credit: CBS)

Almost All Scenes Featuring Ted’s Children Were Filmed During HIMYM Season 1

To the naked eye, it would seem that Lyndsy Fonseca and David Henrie (who played Ted’s daughter and son) deserve awards for staying the same age over the course of nine seasons - save one funny Season 9 promo in which the grown-up actors urge their dad to wrap his story up after nine years. However, their apparent agelessness on the series is not magic, but the result of some really clever planning.

Most of Fonseca and Henrie’s scenes, which are meant to take place over the course of one sitting in the year 2030, were filmed when How I Met Your Mother first went into production in 2005, including their scene in the series finale that aired in 2014. That year, Henrie, also known for Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place, revealed to The Insider (via Us Magazine) that he and his onscreen sister had to sign non-disclosure agreements to keep the ending a secret, despite receiving a few bribes from people wanting the scoop.

Timothy Russo proposing to Jana Rugan on How I Met Your Mother

(Image credit: CBS)

A Real Marriage Proposal Took Place On Set During A Season 2 Scene

Remember that scene in the How I Met Your Mother Season 2 finale, “Something Blue,” when Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders) mistakes another man’s engagement ring found in her champagne for Ted Mosby’s (Josh Radnor) own proposal to her? The real proposal in question that happens a moment later is, in fact, more real than you may have realized.

According to the New York Daily News, Timothy Russo appeared on the episode with his then-girlfriend and HIMYM fan, Jana Rugan, as extras with help from his comedy writer brother, who suggested Russo pop the question on the show instead of them using regular actors, as originally planned. When Robin asks whose ring was in her champagne glass, the gentleman who claims it as his is Russo, who then proposes to Rugan, whose tender reaction is genuine.

Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka on How I Met Your Mother

(Image credit: CBS)

Some HIMYM Cast Members Have Appeared On The Show With Their Real-Life Spouses

Timothy Russo and Jana Rugan’s engagement is not the only real-life love story from the set of the sitcom - just not quite in the same way, of course. To be more accurate, three members of the How I Met Your Mother cast have shared the screen with their actual spouses in some recognizable recurring roles.

Lily Aldrin’s (Alyson Hannigan) high school boyfriend, Scooter, is played Neil Patrick Harris’ husband, David Burtka; slimy news anchor Sandy Rivers is played by Hannigan’s husband, Alexis Denisof; and Cobie Smulders’ husband, SNL alum Taran Killam, appeared in several episodes as GNB lawyer Gary Blauman. All three reprised their roles in a Season 9 episode named after Killam’s character, as noted by The Hollywood Reporter in 2014.

Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, and Alyson Hannigan on How I Met Your Mother

(Image credit: CBS)

Most Of The Websites Mentioned On HIMYM Actually Exist

There are a few other ways that How I Met Your Mother has strangely woven itself into reality. One of the most amusing is how the series pokes fun at the internet with mentions of various websites that you might assume are nothing more than a joke.

On the contrary, every one of the ridiculous websites featured on the show by name - such as TheSlapBetCountdown.com or NotAFathersDay.com or even GuyForcesHisWifeToDressInAGarbagebagforTheNextThreeYears.com - are existing urls, many of which you can still visit today. There is even a website for the faux movie The Wedding Bride - a hit rom-com based on Ted’s ill-fated romance with Stella Zinman (Sarah Chalke) - that redirects you to the 20th Century Studios official page.

Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz in Clueless, classroom monologue

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Alicia Silverstone Was Originally Cast As Stella Zinman 

Speaking of Stella Zinman, the former Scrubs and future Rick and Morty star Sarah Chalke almost did not play the woman who would leave Ted at the alter in Season 4. According to a report by TV Guide, How I Met Your Mother originally cast Alicia Silverstone.

The article goes on to suggest that the Clueless cast member and one-time Batgirl actress was urged to drop out of the role after Britney Spears was cast as Stella’s receptionist, Abby, out of fear of being overshadowed by the pop star. However, this tip comes from an amateur celebrity news site called Pink Is the New Blog, so I think we will, at least, take that specific detail with a grain of salt.

Jason Segel on How I Met Your Mother

(Image credit: CBS)

Jason Segel Ad-Libbed The Scene When Marshall Learns His Father Passed

We can, however, confirm this bit of trivia that comes straight from the mouth of How I Met Your Mother co-creator Carter Bays. It regards the ending of a Season 6 episode in which Lily tells Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel) that his father (Bill Fagerbakke) has died. In the following excerpt from a piece he wrote for Entertainment Weekly, Bays explains how the former Freaks and Geeks cast member made the scene more heartbreaking than originally written:

Jason wanted to feel Marshall’s shock as palpably as possible, so he chose not to read Lily’s dialogue beforehand… As the last words of Lily’s line — ‘he didn’t make it’ — left Alyson’s mouth, I had to look away, as did our director Pamela Fryman. It’s our job to watch what happens, but in this case, what Jason and Alyson were going through was so unbearably real… we just had to trust that when we got back to the edit room it would all be in focus. (It was.) The last line in the scene was something Jason came up with in the moment. He said, ‘I’m not ready for this.’ None of us were.

Viewers were certainly not ready either for what would be remembered as, just about, the most devastating moment in the series’ history, but also one of the finest moments of Segel’s acting career

Alyson Hannigan on How I Met Your Mother

(Image credit: CBS)

HIMYM Found Fun Ways To “Hide” Alyson Hannigan And Cobie Smulders Pregnancies During Season 4 

Another time “improvising” was involved on the set of How I Met Your Mother was how the show runners reacted to both Alyson Hannigan and Cobie Smulders announcing they were with child during production of Season 4. Because such an event was not in the books for either Lily or Robin at that point of the series, they needed to figure out ways to keep their respective pregnancies hidden from the camera, which resulted in a few fun moments.

For instance, as the Chicago Tribune points out, in a flashback in which Lily wins an eating contest and shows off a visibly full stomach, that is actually Hannigan’s baby bump. She and Smulders would also use the likes of basketballs, globes, and really big purses to keep up the illusion.

Josh Radnor and a pineapple on How I Met Your Mother

(Image credit: CBS)

A Deleted Scene Provides Closure To The Pineapple Incident 

Outside of the identity of the “Mother” (later revealed to be Cristin Milioti as Tracy McConnell), the mystery that most titillated HIMYM fans throughout the series’ run was how the titular fruit from Season 1’s “The Pineapple Incident” ended up in Ted’s bedroom. Well, that conundrum was almost solved.

As The Huffington Post reported in September 2014, a deleted scene found on the How I Met Your Mother Complete Series DVD reveals that Ted actually stole the pineapple from his ex-girlfriends’s former husband, The Captain. The eccentric aristocrat, played by Twin Peaks cast member Kyle Maclachlan, was apparently keeping it on the front porch of his New York City home as part of an old sea captain’s tradition to symbolize hospitality.

I, for one, am glad the explanation was cut, considering how the original Season 1 episode ends with Future Ted saying that the gang “never found out where that pineapple came from, but it was delicious.” Learning the secrets behind the rest of the How I Met Your Mother behind-the-scenes-facts above, however, is also quite a treat.

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.