This will be How I Met Your Mother's final season, unless it's not, in which case next season will be the final season, unless it's not

This will be How I Met Your Mother's final season, unless it's not, in which case next season will be the final season, unless it's not

Hey, were you hoping that the upcoming eighth season of How I Met Your Mother might be the final season, since the show has no deal in place for a ninth year? It sounds like show creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays might sort of, kind of share your sentiment, unless CBS and 20th Century Fox (the studio that produces the show) want to make a ninth season and the actors are all willing to come back, in which case, they’d totally be cool doing another year in which various random facts about the titular woman are teased, and the show’s most disappointed, loudest fans grow ever louder and more disappointed.

In a brief discussion with reporters after a screening of the show’s eighth season premiére (which is a solid late-period episode of the series and sure seems like the start of a show’s final season), Bays and Thomas admitted they wrote the premiére as the start of a final season and are currently writing the season at hand with their staff as if it were the final one. However, neither Bays nor Thomas can make the ultimate call about whether the show comes back or not. That decision lies with CBS and 20th Century Fox. (Presumably, Bays and Thomas could end the show on their terms and leave at the end of season eight, while it continued on without them, but this seems unlikely to happen.) Thus, the creators have come up with a plan A and a plan B, one of which leads to the show’s planned ending—an ending they say they’ve had in mind from the very first season—and one of which leads to… another season of television.

How I Met Your Mother has reached the point where it’s now old enough that it will soon become unprofitable for both the network that airs it and the studio that produces it, even if the ratings keep going up. (Last season was the show’s highest rated so far.) As shows get older, the salaries for all involved in them increase accordingly, and since all five of the series’ main cast members’ deals would expire at the end of season eight, contract renegotiations with the actors could force the hands of all involved. (There’s also nothing saying that Bays and Thomas couldn’t pull off their planned endgame, then be forced into doing a sort of “lame duck” season by a surprise last-minute renewal, though this sort of thing happens less in the modern TV landscape.) HIMYM does well enough in syndication that it’s likely still profitable for Fox, but it’s almost certainly at the point where bringing it back would increasingly lead to diminishing returns in a monetary sense.

For their part, Bays and Thomas indicated that an eight-year run was far more than they’d ever have expected, but they also think they could come up with a ninth season if really forced to. They promised a final installment of the Robin Sparkles saga and said they’d like to bring back as many guest characters from the show’s past as they could as the final season—whichever one it ends up being—plays out (though Bays admitted this might be prohibitively expensive). They also plugged the show’s soundtrack, available Monday on iTunes, tied to the season premiére, and a new Bro Code book.

So, to recap: How I Met Your Mother is beginning its final season, unless it isn’t, in which case, it will begin its final season a year from now, unless CBS gets a wild hair up its ass and brings the show back for another 15 seasons, in which case it will never end, and Bays and Thomas can give in to one of the weirdest fan castings they’ve heard for the Mother: Lyndsy Fonseca, who plays Future Ted’s daughter. Then the final episode could feature Bob Saget attempting to explain the complexities of the series’ time stream with a chalkboard, just like the final episode of M*A*S*H.