How I Met Your Mother

Barney Stinson is never shy about using superlatives on How I Met Your Mother, but the man who writes those lines, creator/executive producer Carter Bays, exercises greater restraint.

Except when describing the upcoming sixth season.

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"Honestly, I never say stuff like this, but I think this is will be our best season yet," Bays tells TVGuide.com. "I'm going to call my shot and say that. At the end of last season, I think we were all feeling really old, and there's been kind of a rejuvenation around here. I think a lot of it has to do with the stories of the season."

After two seasons primarily of stand-alone episodes, the time-jumping sitcom will return to form in Season 6, focusing on the unraveling saga of the mother and long-running character arcs that were calling cards of the earlier seasons.

"Season 2 is my favorite and we're going back to what we love about that," Bays says. "Our goal is to do both, where you can come in at any moment, and luckily, there are no hatches or Smoke Monsters, so it's pretty easy. While it was fun doing the stand-alones, there's a bit of amnesia every week. You keep hitting the reset button. This year, we won't do that as much. If you only see one episode, it'll be funny and you'll totally enjoy it, but if you stick with it, you'll be rewarded for it."

It all starts in the premiere, which features a wedding and creates a new mystery about Ted's future wife. Bays and co-creator/co-executive producer Craig Thomas mapped out the season, and what occurs in the premiere will lead to a bigger reveal about the mother in the finale. "In ways that won't even be apparent until the end of the season, it tells you a lot about the year to come. And we've definitely had our share of weddings," Bays says.

Whose wedding is it? "I can't say. I can't even say if it's a nice day because that would be giving away too much."

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It'd be easy to guess (and hope) that the big day is for Ted (Josh Radnor), especially since Cindy (Rachel Bilson), the mother's roommate, returns. Bilson was only attached for the opener, but Bays hopes she comes back, as Cindy will prove to be even more "indispensible" in Ted's meeting of the mother. But the main woman in Ted's life this year will be Zooey (Jennifer Morrison), whom he meets when he gets pulled back into architecture for a "long work-related saga."

While Ted makes strides in his search for the missus, Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) will commence a quest to find his father. "Barney will slowly start to suspect that maybe his dad isn't game-show legend Bob Barker. He'll widen the pool to include Chuck Woolery, Pat Sajak," Bays quips, adding they haven't decided if he finds his pops. "We've had discussions about [who to cast] if we were to do that. Our first choice is Bill Clinton, but I don't know if he acts. We'll put feelers out."

The Barnacle's other drive this year? To grow up and find true love. Is that Robin (Cobie Smulders)? The perennial singletons abruptly split last season, but Bays insists there's a bigger, better story for them. "Their relationship is not over," he promises. "[Barney's searches for his dad and for love] will criss-cross and it'll end up being two sides of the same story."

But Robin's relationship with Don (Ben Koldyke) is definitely over after he chose a job over her last season — the same job she rejected for him. "The first part of the season is a lot of her getting over Don," Bays says. "This was the biggest relationship of her life. She learned to share her life with someone. Don not only left her as a boyfriend, but as a co-anchor too, so Laura Bell Bundy joins her show and it's a bumpy transition. She's become a new Robin from all this."

Fans will get to see the old Robin as well — Robin Sparkles. Billed as the bubblegum pop star's origin story, the long-awaited Canadian variety show is happening with a new mid-tempo Robin Sparkles tune, Nicole Scherzinger and hopefully Alan Thicke ("There's always room for Alan Thicke"). Scherzinger plays Jessica Glitter, Robin Sparkles' BFF and co-star.

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"It's funny, I'm such a crusty old man. I know nothing about Eden's Crush or Pussycat Dolls," Bays, 35, says. "This is just totally from going on Nicole's Wikipedia page. I don't know how I missed Popstars. But I saw Rent, directed by Neil, and Craig and I — we're both old men — had the same reaction, like, 'Who is this girl? She could be famous!' Everyone was like, 'Uh, she already is.' 'Oh.'"

As for Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan), they will try to start a family, as they planned in last season's finale, but will encounter problems along the way. Bays says he and Thomas have not decided when to write in a pregnancy yet, but will not shy away from it. "If what we're doing is reporting on what it's like to be that age, living in America in 2010, that's the next step for them," he says. "Even though there are the old sitcom rules of 'Don't have a baby, it'll ruin the show,' we don't follow those rules."

One thing they have decided is how to end the series. "We've had an idea before, but this year, especially, we took time to figure out specifically how we will end. It's been exciting to write now that we know where we're going. It allows us to commit to things we want to commit to," Bays says.

When the show will end is another story. The cast is currently contracted through eight seasons.

"Eight seasons will be great. If it's more than that, it'll be great too," he says. "We'll definitely do this for as long as we're having fun. I do think, to some degree, that will determine how long we'll go, but ultimately, we know where we will end up, and this year will kick-start that eventual final chapter. It will be a fun ride."

Season 6 of How I Met Your Mother premieres Monday at 8/7c on CBS.