Episode 1.1 - Pilot
Updated: Jun 16
This week, we're talking about episode 1.1, the pilot for How I Met Your Mother.
If you've watched the show before, you know they experiment with form and boundaries of the 30-minute sitcom. This first episode, though, is mostly straightforward. Yes, we have the framing device of Ted telling his kids in the year 2030 a story. Yes, we have some non-linear storytelling, but all of it is happening within the confines of the time surrounding Ted & Robin's first date.
Pilots are tricky things. You've got 22 minutes of airtime to introduce all your main characters, your setting, the main plot, and the overall tone of the show. You've got to be funny and fresh without being too weird. You've got to get people to fall in love with your characters right away.
And that's what this pilot does: it makes you fall in love with these characters. More specifically, it makes you fall in love with Ted.
Later on, if you've seen the show before, we know that Ted is ... less than perfect. He's a pretty average dude in his late 20s/early 30s. But in this episode, this pilot, you feel for him. He's a little bone-headed, but in an endearing way. A sweet way.
His monologue at the end of the episode, where he tells Robin that he'd make a great husband is heart-rending. It's authentic and sweet.
But beyond just Ted, the writers demonstrate all five major characters and demonstrate their fatal flaw right from the start:
Marshall is a smart idiot. He's scared and a little immature.
Lily is a bossy know-it-all who gossips.
Barney is a douchebag.
Robin will put her career before everything else, romance or friendships or anything.
And Ted wants to skip to the end. He wants to fast-forward his life.
All these flaws are relatable, realistic.
But all these people also have good characteristics that you wish you had.
Marshall is sweet and devoted.
Lily is smart and assertive.
Barney is the push you need when you're too scared to jump for yourself.
Robin is cool and confident.
Ted is romantic and the right amount of vulnerable.
You don't need to know EVERYTHING about your characters for this to work. You need to know the most important thing about them. Their fatal flaw, their greatest strength. And, more importantly, how those two things intertwine with your plot. Genre conventions will vary, of course, but your hero's greatest strength should be part of his journey, as well as his fatal flaw. His friends' strengths should help him to reach his goals when he falls short on his own.
So this week, we're asking you to focus on your characters and how they're introduced in the your opening pages. Look at your first ten pages. Which characters do we meet? What characteristics are on the page? What's the subtext behind those characteristics?
Polish up those first page character introductions. If you want to share anything, tag us on social media. We're @pineappleppod on twitter, instagram, and facebook, and you can use #pineapplepod on all social media.