There is one television sitcom that consistently provides character development for main characters and their endgame relationships. Sitcoms like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and How I Met Your Mother have used in-universe competitions to bring out the best and worst in their characters. These rivalries allow for unique episodes that keep the audience guessing.
The competitions can be an annual celebration that Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Halloween Heist or series long arcs like How I Met Your Mother’s Slap Bet. What begins as a fun and simple game evolves into the catalyst for an important plot, often involving the show’s central couple. Together with Brooklyn Nine-Nine and How I Met Your Mother, New girl exemplified this concept.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Halloween prank brought out the characters’ ugly sides
One of the reasons Brooklyn Nine-Nine was a favorite among streaming and TV viewers was Halloween Heists. They brought out the worst in Jake Peralta and Captain Holt, who were pitted against each other for eight seasons while the rest of the 99th Precinct joined in on the action. It all started in Season 1, Episode 6, “Halloween” after Jake claimed he would make a good criminal and Holt disagreed. The Halloween Heists subsequently pitted friends, colleagues and even lovers against each other. Flashbacks often reveal how the winner carefully planned their strategy all year leading up to Halloween.
The Halloween Heists were never just fun season episodes; they were vehicles for great character development. Season 5, Episode 4, “HalloVeen” revealed that Jake planned this year’s Halloween Heist as an elaborate proposal to his longtime love interest Amy Santiago. Jake went so far as to change the inscription on the winner’s cummerbund to “Amy Santiago, will you marry me?” The proposal was a milestone in the couple’s relationship that fans were waiting for. It was touching that Jake made the Halloween Heist – a tradition that meant so much to him – his way of finally popping the question.
New Girl’s Drinking Game paved the way for Jess and Nick’s romance
New girl also used their competition to further develop an important plot line. The fictional drinking game “True American” was created by the male members of Apartment 4D before Jessica “Jess” Day moved into the loft. The rules of the game were very elaborate, unclear and never fully explained over six seasons. But “True American” was an annual tradition that became the catalyst for Jess and Nick Miller’s romantic relationship.
Jess and Nick were in a will-they-wont-they relationship for two seasons until Season 2, Episode 15, “Cooler,” when a heated game of “True American” forced them into a room together for to divorce. They spent most of the episode adamantly against the idea of kissing each other. However, a heartfelt conversation made it clear that there were major unresolved feelings between them. The impromptu game “True American” is a huge turning point in Jess and Nick’s relationship as Nick, annoyed by the incessant peer pressure, says he won’t kiss Jess, at least “not like this” – confirming his feelings for her. The episode ended with Nick kissing Jess in private, leaving Jess completely shocked. While New girlends up disappointing viewers, this episode didn’t.
How I Met Your Mother’s Slap Bet bookended Barney’s relationship with Robin
How I Met Your Mother‘s Slap Bet was the ultimate television sitcom competition. It started in Season 2, Episode 9, “Slap Bet” when Barney Stinson and Marshall Erickson bet why Robin Scherbatsky hated malls. Marshall was adamant that Robin get married in a strip mall, and Barney suggested that Robin make adult films. Robin lied and said Marshall was right. But Barney did more digging and tracked down an old video that revealed Robin’s secret: she was briefly a Canadian pop star under the alias Robin Sparkles.
Marshall won the bet, giving Barney the option of taking 10 straight hits or five hands at any time in the future. Barney chose the latter so for the rest of the series Marshall would beat Barney whenever he did something to deserve it. Sometimes the bangs were random, but the bangs also played a small but important role in Barney’s character development. The final slap was poetically delivered by Marshall to calm Barney down as he began to freak out over his wedding to Robin in season 9. The competition was another HIMYM running gag that started early in Barney’s friendship with Robin and ended just before he married her. It’s also the best example of how sitcoms have evolved the concept of a competition to move their characters forward in interesting ways.