The Ironic Viewer of HIMYM

By: Morgan Gruber

In David Foster Wallace’s E Unibus Pluram, the key question he poses is why do we watch as much television as we watch and what is it doing to us. This question is centered on the ironic viewer of television, a person that continues to watch and is continuously intrigued by television. Wallace suggests the idea that television is corrupting and the ironic viewer that it enables is the so-called “couch potato.” The couch potato community that Wallace believes television enables, is not an active community, however, because they are all watching alone. The question that Wallace continues to press throughout his essay is why people are so dedicated television. Why do people become obsessed with TV shows such as How I Met Your Mother?

In How I Met Your Mother, the show is basically set up from the very beginning to attract a long lasting audience. The main storyline begins with the opening quote from episode one, “ kids, I’m going to tell you and incredible story. The story of How I Met Your Mother.”

Season 1, Episode 1. 0:13
Season 1, Episode 1. 0:13

From that moment on, the show is continuously enticing in an audience because the audience wants to know HOW. This was an extremely strategic way of creating an ironic viewing audience because in every episode the audience is waiting to find out WHO the mother is, but the audience doesn’t find out until the ninth and final season. This type of curiosity  is why Wallace metaphorically compares television to alcoholism. Watching is like an addiction, because you feel as if you need to know what is going to happen, or else. But, there is no or else. It’s just the enticing qualities of a television show that brings this out in people.

Overall, David Foster Wallace’s review can be applied to How I Met Your Mother, but can also be applied to most television shows made today. Television is made with the sole purpose of enticing an audience and creating a fan base. People enjoying watching people, and they enjoy watching people that they can relate to, which is why television has become so popoular. People are dedicated to watching television because of this pure enjoyment.



Works Cited

Wallace, David Foster, E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S Fiction, Review of Contemporary Fiction, 13:2 (1993: Summer)p. 151


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