Uncoupled stars Neil Patrick Harris as a forty-something dealing with an unwanted breakup, Michael, who is the exact opposite of HIMYM’s Barney.
Netflix’s Uncoupled stars Neil Patrick Harris as a newly single forty-something utterly out-of-tune with New York’s dating scene, making his character Michael a complete opposite of Barney in How I Met Your Mother – another iconic role portrayed by Harris. Co-created by Modern Family’s Jeffrey Richman and Sex and the City’s Darren Star, Uncoupled follows Michael as he gets blindsided by his partner of 17 years, Colin (Tuc Watkins), who breaks up with him and leaves their home without an explanation. Michael is then forced to relearn to live on his own, but is supported throughout by his friends Stanley (Brooks Ashmanskas), Billy (Emerson Brooks), and Suzanne (Tisha Campbell), who push him to get back into dating.
While Neil Patrick Harris’ other famous HIMYM Barney role got married eventually, a huge part of How I Met Your Mother revolved around Barney being a player; someone that didn’t look for love nor to settle down, and instead viewed that as the worst possible option ever. Whenever someone celebrated an upcoming wedding, Barney would equate marriage to a life sentence, considering the whole institution negatively. While he eventually got married to Robin (Cobie Smulders), happily swearing off his lifestyle of manipulating women into sleeping with him – although he did manipulate Robin into saying yes to his marriage proposal in season 9 – Barney was known as the Casanova of the group for the entirety of How I Met Your Mother.
Contrary to the approach of HIMYM’s Barney to treat potential sexual partners as challenges rather than people, with all of Barney’s ploys infamously cataloged in the Playbook, Uncoupled’s Michael isn’t longing to get back to the dating scene. Not only is Michael not a player, but he also spends a good half of Uncoupled season 1 trying to either get back together with Colin or understand what went wrong. In addition, all the qualities HIMYM’s Barney thought necessary for women to be viewed as attractive, like their youth, is something Uncoupled’s Michael lacks now that he re-enters the dating scene after a relationship that lasted 17 years.
Uncoupled’s Michael not only feels unequipped to navigate dating, he also genuinely doesn’t seem to want to. Michael appreciates the predictability of his stable relationship with Colin, despite it being the reason Colin gets spooked and leaves him – in the same manner that what usually prompted How I Met Your Mother’s Barney to leave was a relationship getting even remotely serious. Compared to Barney’s tendency to exclusively and often manipulatively look for sex, Neil Patrick Harris’ character in Uncoupled is the exact opposite, as he wishes more than once to just wake up in one or ten years when everything’s solved, and he’s not hurting because of Colin’s actions nor going through the challenges of dating.
The stark difference between HIMYM’s Barney and Uncoupled’s Michael can also be found in the type of stories the two TV shows tell. After all, How I Met Your Mother recounts the adventures of twenty-somethings at the beginning of season 1, and it centers Barney as a character offering comedy relief rather than being its focus like Ted was in How I Met Your Mother. Differently, Neil Patrick Harris’ character is the protagonist of Uncoupled, and the TV show works both as a story about a man regaining his footing after his long-term boyfriend unexpectedly left him and as one about navigating dating and romantic relationships later in life, with all the different challenges that it entails compared to doing the same as twenty years younger.
Uncoupled tells Michael’s story as someone fighting change at the beginning, just like Barney always did. Still, in the end, Michael matures and changes, not to please others but to get better and not feel angry and bitter all the time. While How I Met Your Mother developed Barney’s redemption arc, it was never the focus of the show, and it also came too late in the story. Neil Patrick Harris as Uncoupled’s Michael is an entertaining feat not only because he’s Barney’s opposite, but also because Uncoupled succeeds in what How I Met Your Mother failed with Barney, by making Barney be Ted’s basis for comparison, rather than a character in his own right.
Next: How Every HIMYM Character Can Cameo In How I Met Your Father Season 2
All episodes of Uncoupled are now streaming on Netflix.
Antonella Gugliersi (she/them) is a feature writer for Screen Rant. While studying for her bachelor’s in a completely unrelated subject, they started writing about movies and TV shows for an Italian online publication. After a brief internship at TPI, she decided she wanted to pursue journalism and graduated with a degree in International Journalism from Brunel University. They tends to like blockbuster movies and indie films alike, depending on the mood. Her all-time favorite TV shows are Sense8 and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, in which they find comfort when all else fails, and she believes sitcoms to be the cure for all ills. Star Wars and the MCU have dominated years of their life. When she’s not writing or working as a barista, she spends time with her cats, dining out or at the theatre, where they favor plays over musicals, although musicals won her over in the last couple of years.