He was America’s Dad for close to 40 years, and an unforgettable narrator beloved by nearly everyone he’s ever worked with. The late, great, Bob Saget touched the hearts and souls of people everywhere. Through his narration role as the Future Ted Mosby in How I Met Your Mother, he changed the way a nation thinks of the word Dad and proved to the world that being a man isn’t about being rugged or tough, but being vulnerable and present. He added a tangible commentary on parenthood throughout his brilliant narration of How I Met Your Mother and guided millions of people on nearly a decade of misadventures, tall tales, and hijinks that we can all relate to. His carefully curated words and retrospective opinions shaped the meaning behind each episode he narrated and made the audience feel as if they weren’t just being told a story, but part of it as well. He showed us that it’s ok to be misled by a narrator, just so long as the story is good. This is the legacy of America’s most beloved father figure, Bob Saget.
America’s Dad – The Legacy of Bob Saget
Bob Saget served as America’s Dad for nearly 40 years and helped to captivate a nation not just once, but twice in television history. 25 years before he was HIMYM’s Future Dad Ted, he had a whole other life – but almost 20 years before that, he was Danny Tanner.
As Future Ted, Bob Saget uses his narrative to pull the audience in and create a sense of intrigue that can add to the feeling of an all-knowing presence. He manages to provide viewers with an excess of detail, but keep them minimally informed at the same time by only throwing in the tiniest of clues and easter eggs. Funnily enough, by going through each story with a fine-tooth comb and regaling all of the minor details, narrator Ted adds a sense of clarity and sincerity that makes the audience care about the characters being shown. Marshal and Lily aren’t just Ted’s best friends, they’re Uncle Marshal and Aunt Lily; Barney isn’t The Barnicle, he’s Uncle Barney – and Robin is … well… Aunt Robin.
As Full House’s Danny Tanner, he formed the archetypal “single Dad” that was just trying to figure it all out, and as the Future Ted Mosby, he guided viewers through his journey to finding love and becoming a father. Redefining the concept of masculinity for a generation, Bob Saget acted as a positive role model for impressionable young men everywhere and demonstrated a very different side to being a man in a time when it wasn’t the norm. Through his roles on screen, Saget proved that there was a more loving, gentle, and paternal side to being a father that isn’t often illustrated in television or the media. He showed us that it’s possible to be a man who cares more about having a family – and finding the love of his life – than chasing a high-powered career or meaningless one-night stands. He added an almost social commentary that said, “Hey! That’s not what being a man is about – this is.”
Why Bob Saget Worked so Well as a Narrator
A father to three daughters in real life, Saget knew what he was doing on screen, and it showed.
By using a familiar and familial tone, Bob Saget established a cross-generational sense of endearment between new fans and old. The younger generations who tuned in could easily believe he was a parental figure, and anyone that grew up in the ’80s recognized his voice with or without realizing it and accepted him as a fatherly character. As a result, people gravitated towards the show because of the fact they felt like they already knew and trusted him as the character he’s voicing.
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Providing voiceover narration for 206 episodes of the cult-favorite sitcom, including one alternate finale, Bob Saget actually went totally uncredited for the show’s nine year run. Even though we didn’t know it at the time, that unconventional father persona we all came to know as “The Future Ted Mosby”, shone especially bright thanks to Saget’s time on Full House where he honed his Dad role to on-screen perfection for nearly a decade.
In a time when most TV shows used a narrator to comment, spectate or recap events as they unfolded, How I Met Your Mother took a different approach altogether and used narration to actually create and shape the story rather than observe it. Instead of using it to guide the premise, it was the premise orchestrated through an interactive, if not always reliable, narrator. Garnishing countless awards and accolades throughout its time on air, HIMYM managed to hold its mystique and keep the mystery alive in people’s hearts for nearly a decade.
An Interactive Narrator
“Like I said, it’s a long story…”
The voice of an older Ted doesn’t just tell a story – he is the story.
His narration punctuates the events of each episode and articulates them in ways that you wouldn’t typically expect from a narrator. Whether he’s defending his red cowboy boots or calling himself out for doing something impulsive and foolish, Future Ted won’t hesitate to mock or defend the choices of his younger self. He’s also a bit of an embellisher who isn’t afraid to give spoilers away but is just as likely to mislead and keep you guessing. After all, for a show called How I Met Your Mother, the person Ted has the least scenes with ends up as his future wife. But that’s by design – young Ted doesn’t have a relationship with her, narrator Ted does.
Remembering Bob Saget
Even though he was initially only brought aboard for the pilot episode, Saget wound up staying throughout the entirety of HIMYM because he just fit that well. Serving as more than just a pop-culture throwback, he was loved unanimously by producers and cast members alike. It’s just fortuitous that his character on Full House fit inside this voiceover role like a glove – especially given the finale reveal that “Future Ted” is, in fact, a widower; just like Danny Tanner of Full House. The creators later admit that they had written the ending at the show’s creation, which just goes to show that Bob Saget performed the narration for the entire series with that emotional range in mind, we just didn’t know it yet.
One of my fav memories of Bob was when I was babysitting his daughter. I was 15 & couldn’t get her to sleep/stop crying. Bob came home, took her in his arms, played a Tracy Chapman song & danced with her until she fell asleep. He was a wonderful Dad and human #RipBobSaget Love u pic.twitter.com/cYjb09AYV9
— alyson hannigan (@alydenisof) January 10, 2022
Going back to rewatch it with that insight in tow adds a whole new level of depth that we might have never considered listening for. The subtle ways he tells his stories and lingers on small, molecular details, paints the portrait of a heartbroken man, longing for the happy days of his youth when chasing love was an option.
On January 9th 2022, Saget’s abrupt passing rocked the world and nearly all of his former co-stars and colleagues reached out across social media to mourn him, but this tweet from his on-screen younger self, Josh Radnor, sums up our collective loss in the most loving way possible.
“Bob Saget was the older wiser ‘me’ for nine years on How I Met Your Mother. He was the kindest, loveliest, funniest, most supportive man. The easiest person to be around. A mensch among mensches.”
Kim Handysides is an award-winning voice artist, a coach and thought leader in her industry. Her narrations have been heard on Discovery, Netflix, and the major networks, in iMax, the White House and the Smithsonian.