Can HIMYM survive without Segel?

Long-time fans of How I Met Your Mother must be in a tizz right now, with news that Jason Segel (Marshall) is planning to quit the show at the conclusion of its eighth season. The star was interviewed by an Austrian website, and was quoted as saying "I've been playing the nice guy for quite a long time now. That's why I'm gonna quit How I Met Your Mother after the eighth season." The report on Stuff mentions that Alyson Hannigan (Lily) is likely to quit the show too.

You can't blame Segel for wanting to move on: eight years is a long time to be pretending you're somebody else, and he's now an in-demand Hollywood star following the recent critical success of The Muppets (which Segel also co-wrote) and The Five Year Engagement. Plus, he's a smart guy - he probably knows, just as well as we do, that HIMYM has been in sharp decline for the past few years. He wants out before it hits rock bottom.

But the news that Segel and Hannigan might be leaving the show forces me to ask the question: Could the show survive without them? Would it actually be a watchable show without Marshall and Lily involved?

It's true that Segel and Hannigan are two of the show's three biggest stars right now (alongside Neil Patrick Harris), but I think the show could work without them - and history proves that successful shows can maintain quality after the loss of a major character or two.

I nearly had a heart attack after Ned Stark (Sean Bean) and Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) were killed off in consecutive episodes of Game of Thrones, but the story has been just as good since they departed. Likewise, as a massive CSI fan, I was concerned when Grissom (William Petersen) left the show, but the past season - led by Ted Danson as new character DB Russell - occasionally hit the high standard of those golden Grissom years.

Sure, the dynamic between the remaining characters would change and, unless head writers Carter Bays and Craig Thomas decided to introduce a pair of replacement characters, the kinds of stories being told on HIMYM would be mostly different. It would take a little time and some clever story development. It could be done. History proves it.

But therein lies the problem: recovering from the loss of Segel & Hannigan would all come down to the writing - and Bays, Thomas and the rest of the writers on How I Met Your Mother haven't done anything really exciting with the show in years. As viewers and fans, we have no reason to think they could do it.

In fact, you could make a decent case that they've spent the past couple of years infuriating fans by refusing to reveal who the mother is (c'mon guys, it's time) and spending a season making us wait to find out who Barney Stinson was marrying (the disappointing Season 7 finale predictably revealed it was Robin, not girlfriend Quinn).

If you ask me, Marshall & Lily are consistently the best part of HIMYM, giving us a chance to get away from Ted (who is now a completely unlikable wuss; just lower your standards and give the relationship a second to develop, idiot) and the yawnfest of Robin and Barney's will-they-won't-they relationship. Any attempt to do HIMYM without Marshall & Lily would be like trying to recreate a Rembrandt without using green or blue paint.

Thoughhistory proves that How I Met Your Mother could survive without Segel & Hannigan, it's also full of shows that failed in the wake of a major character departure*. And while it's possible that HIMYM could survive, I think the latter is much more likely. The show is already in decline. Losing Segel and/or Hannigan would simply accelerate it.

What do you think: Can How I Met Your Mother survive without Jason Segel and/or Alyson Hannigan? Will it be as good as it is now? If you're a HIMYM fan, will you stop watching the show if these two aren't involved?

(*) One of my favourite shows, The X Files, is a perfect example.

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