On March 31, 2014, How I Met Your Mother will complete its nine season run and finish the long explanation protagonist Ted Mosby began in the first episode.
Future Ted (narrator Bob Saget) has been spinning a near decade-long yarn to his children in the year 2030 about his relationship with his children's mom (played by Christin Milioti), whose face wasn't seen until the final episode of the eighth season.
Although the writers remain cagey about the series finale, obvious clues dropped in the final season point to a tragic end for The Mother. As Future Ted recalls his first date with Mom, his interactions with her in memory seem grief-filled and regretful. Apart from an unlikely divorce, the narrative appears to be destined to reveal that Future Ted is talking about The Mother some time after her demise.
This website isn't a fan page for HIMYM, so rather than go into a lot of spoiler details and speculation about how or when The Mother perished in the series, let's focus on the critical question related to the topic of single dads: if Future Ted turns out to be single in 2030, does he count as a TV Single Dad?
If you've spent any time on this site, you know that not every character who is an unmarried father on television is a true TV Single Dad. There are long established rules, and one of the key qualifiers is Rule 3: The Mike Brady Clause, "The TV Single Dad must be single for the majority of the run of the series."
Without this rule, any dad on TV who was even briefly widowed or divorced would qualify as a TV Single Dad. There have been many temporary single dads on television: Danny Thomas on Make Room for Daddy, Dick Van Patten on Eight is Enough, and even the Clause Setter himself, Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch (for the first twenty minutes of the pilot episode, anyway).
Some dads on TV do become true TV Single Dads as their series progresses over the years. Archie on Archie Bunker's Place, for example, became a TV Single Dad during the second season of the show after his wife Edith died, leaving him to raise Edith's abandoned niece, Stephanie. Commander Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation becomes a TV Single Dad when his love K'Ehleyr is murdered during a diplomatic mission, leaving their young son, Alexander, in Worf's care.
All of these events, though, require the dad to be single and in charge of his children for the majority of the run of their series, which makes at least one recent candidate series a heartbreaking near-miss on TWO dads characters in one show.
Showtime's Dexter, an inverted police procedural drama about a serial killer / crime fighter presented not one but two potential TV Single Dads in the series. Dexter's adoptive father, Harry, was a police detective who recognized the amoral nature of his foster son. Harry raised Dexter to kill only the "right" people - - folks who were criminals and even other murderers in order to rid the streets of dangerous characters that the law couldn't catch.
Harry was shown as a single dad in flashbacks for the first three seasons of the series. In Season Four, though, Harry's character was no longer a flashback character, but a "ghost dad" visible only to Dexter in the present to guide Dexter in crime solving and planning executions.
As a ghost, Harry was no longer presented in the role of a TV Single Dad, but as a mentor to Dexter. This violates Rule 4 of TV Single Dads: "The TV Single Dad must be a true parent or guardian, not just a mentor."
Yet, there's another opportunity for Dexter to be a real TV Single Dad show, by virtue of the title character's sudden change of marital status at the end of Season Four. In the season finale, Dexter arrives home to find his son, Harrison, awash in the blood of Dexter's murdered wife, Rita. Dexter, therefore, begins his Mike Brady Clock on the final episode of Season Four.
Unfortunately, Dexter is forced to fake his own death in the final episode of Season Eight, leaving Harrison to be raised by Dexter's new girlfriend, Hannah. Because Hannah takes over custody of Harrison before the tie-breaking episode ends, Dexter is knocked out of the running just as the Mike Brady Clock would have been complete. Dexter, then, misses qualifying as a true TV Single Dad by a single episode.
If Future Ted is going to qualify as a true TV Single Dad, we have to establish where the Mike Brady Clock starts. The choices would be either the first episode of the series (when the audience was introduced to the kids), the final episode of the series (when Future Ted's marital status of "widower" is finally revealed), or perhaps from the time in the future when The Mom has died up to the time that Future Ted is relating the story in 2030.
The first option seems the most logical. If Future Ted is single and we've been aware of his children but not the state of The Mother's health, there's no reason to claim that Future Ted hasn't been a TV Single Dad during his narration for the past nine years. This is a key difference from the series end of MacGyver, where it was revealed to the title character during the final episode that he had a son he never knew. Dropping in kids at the last minute violates the Mike Brady Clause, because if the dad didn't know he was a TV Single Dad during the series, he couldn't possibly be considered acting as one because his actions were those of a childless man.
Option Two doesn't hold up because as mentioned earlier, this isn't a MacGyver situation. Both the kids and Future Ted know his martial and parental status, even if the audience doesn't.
The Final Option doesn't seem practical to apply, and overlaps the reasons Option One is the best answer. If Future Ted has been reminiscing about his late wife all these years to his kids, that's the most forthright reason to declare Future Ted a TV Single Dad.
Of course, it's always possible that none of these speculative forecasts will pan out on March 31. I think if it didn't, though, the show's finale will be less poignant and make the nine year journey seem a bit superficial for such an effort.
Based on the signals given in each episode this year, though, I wouldn't count on seeing a spinoff series of How I Met Your Father.