October 19th, 2009
So, this was pretty awesome, eh?
I don’t know if there’s many episodes of an American comedy series that likely work far better for Canadians than Americans, but I think this is probably one of those examples. Much of “Duel Citizenship” took the form of a pretty standard episode of the show, with Ted turning into an unwilling third wheel on a trip with Lily and Marshall, but the story of Robin’s need to consider becoming an American citizen turned into a love letter to Tim Hortons (which is a famous Canadian coffee chain, in case you weren’t aware) and in many ways another sign that this Robin’s character (and the show) has more of an appreciation for Canada than the jokes might initially indicate.
The result is a solid episode of How I Met Your Mother from the perspective of someone who finds the jokes to be at Canada’s expense, and a kind of fantastic episode for those of us who “get” the Canadian side of the storyline in a way that others cannot. All in all, it’s an episode I had a lot of fun with, albeit for the love of my country more than my love of the rest of the episode.
September 21st, 2009
How I Met Your Mother (How-Eye-Meh-Ett-Yo-Err-Mah-thur) Noun.
1. CBS Comedy Series.
2. Probably the most “anticipated” comedy return of the fall season for this particular critic.
While The Office might be more consistent, and 30 Rock might be more uproarious, I think that I find myself most honestly excited about How I Met Your Mother, a show that just a few years ago I didn’t even watch on a regular basis. I think it’s because while The Office thrives on awkward comedy, and 30 Rock plays the absurdist angle, HIMYM tends to operate most often by either charming us as viewers (something The Office can do but which 30 Rock rarely attempts) or by introducing some really interesting intermingling between serialization and concept episodes of unquestionable quality.
So heading into its fifth season, more successful than one could have imagined two years ago, How I Met Your Mother finds itself closer than ever (we presume) to the identity of the Mother, and finally pulling the trigger on a long-gestating relationship (Barney and Robin). This means that, quite similar to the Office’s premiere, “Definitions” is more about defining (Yeah, I went there) how the show is going to handle Ted’s new job and Barney and Robin’s relationship rather than surprising us with anything even remotely considering a twist.
But, done in typical HIMYM style with plenty of flair and a whole lot of laughs, one can’t really complain about the execution, although the evasion of definition and expectation is certainly a theme.
May 18th, 2009
“The trouble doesn’t seem so troubling”
As I was taking a look at a really enjoyable spec script for How I Met Your Mother last night, I was forced to consider the question of whether or not the show’s defining characteristics are necessary components of its success. The show is known, at this point, for its time-bending narratives, ridiculous life theories, and its continuity in regards to both tiny throwaway jokes and the eponymous question of the Mother’s identity, but are those qualities necessary to create a good episode of the series or, in the case of “The Leap,” a fitting season finale?
In many ways, “The Leap” isn’t an episode that relies heavily on HIMYM’s signature story-telling methods, but they’re all present in a way: it features some narrative shuffling designed to assist the dramatic end of its storyline, it uses the show’s own continuity to create another life theory, and the continuity of the four-legged farm animal mistakenly inserted into Ted’s Birthday last year makes an appearance. But, outside of a brief mention at episode’s end that promises yet again that we are closer than ever before to the identity of the Mother, the episode was not about Ted’s love life.
The result is, without question, a stronger finale than last season: Ted’s relationship with Stella was an element of the series that never quite worked, and I was worried a few weeks ago that it was going to rear its ugly head for the finale, creating drama where drama was not necessary. Instead, Ted ends up facing his dramatic arc of the season with a lady of another species, and the drama comes from the right place and, more importantly, at the right pace considering what has come before it. Combine with the return of Lily, and Marshall being Marshall, and this felt like vintage HIMYM without feeling as if they were relying too heavily on those broader signifiers.
They weren’t exactly stepping out on a ledge and leaping across a metaphorical alleyway with revolutionary plotting, but in many ways the finale felt more grounded as a result.
“As Fast as She Can”
May 11th, 2009
After “Right Place Right Time” was sold as a rather ‘epic’ episode in the grand scheme of things, evoking the titular story while providing one of those stories that separates itself amongst the various characters, “As Fast As She Can” was perhaps necessarily slower and less eventful. While it doesn’t directly connect the dots as to how these events relate to Ted’s discovery of the future mother of his children, it does provide events that feel like they put Ted into a particular location where those events could take place.
I just wish that it could have been a stronger episode overall: whereas last week was ostensibly about Ted but realistically more about Robin, Marshall and Barney, this week’s episode was primarily Ted and more Ted, and that’s problematic. I don’t mean to rag on poor Josh Radnor, who really wasn’t bad in thise episode in terms of acting like a total tool, but the character just isn’t that funny, and since we’ve already established Stella (Sarah Chalke) as a black hole of comedy it meant that the drama and the comedy were isolated within the episode.
So while I’m still excited for the finale, this didn’t do anything to build any momentum and, in actuality, probably slowed things down a bit too much.
“Right Place Right Time”
May 4th, 2009
[Spoiler Alert: Don't read the Episode Tags if you don't want to have the episode spoiled! - MM]
When it comes to the combination of comedy and mythology on How I Met Your Mother, the show has always operated on a tight rope of sorts as it relates to the identity of the eponymous mother. The reason for this is not that the mystery isn’t interesting (it is the very premise of the show, of course), but rather that the character at the center of the drama is the show’s least funny, often least interesting, and at times most frustrating. Ted Mosby is really only tolerable when he’s being sweet and romantic, and even then he’s rarely funny in those scenarios. He’s better when he is taking a supporting role, not so much the center of the drama than he is an observer who just happens to be our “lead” character.
What “Right Place Right Time” does is position itself as an episode about Ted but really spend almost all of its time with the characters that are more capable of being funny. Utilizing a traditionally unique structure (at what point does it become its own cliche? I remain unsure), the show lets Bob Saget take us through how a series of random and ridiculous events force Ted to end up at the right place at the right time where, holding the epic yellow umbrella we’ve seen in previous episodes, when a woman taps him on the shoulder.
I like this approach because it minimizes being repetitive with Ted’s various destiny speeches, but the show at this point is running a serious risk with its mythology. What happens in this episode appears to actually answer the titular question, but I don’t think it does: there is more than enough wiggle room for them to pull the rug out from under us yet again. Considering who ends up tapping him on the shoulder, I’ll be happy when I’m vindicated and they pull out the “Just kidding!” next week, but the more the show does this the less we’ll be able to trust them, and the mythology will only be getting in the way of the comedy.
And that’s the last thing the show needs.
“Old King Clancy”
March 23rd, 2009
As a Canadian, I’m kind of madly in love with the pastiche rendition of Canada that How I Met Your Mother has been propagating, in particular this season: between “Little Minnesota” and “Old King Clancy,” Canada has become something entirely unrealistic but, through the show’s sheer exuberance, a fairly powerful force within the show’s universe. When Barney, towards the end of this week’s episode, curses Canada for ruining what should have been a momentous story by making it as obscure and Canadian as possible, we fundamentally disagree: for us, it only makes it funnier.
That part of “Old King Clancy,” ostensibly the B-Story, was definitely its strongest, especially when combined with the latest viral website that the show has so wonderfully put together: CanadianSexActs.org. The rest of it wasn’t particularly inspired, but the show used its jokes to good effect, throwing enough of the show’s hallmarks into the equation that it never felt like a simple sitcom story, always maintaining something that makes the show distinct. The show was essentially doing its “economic downturn” storyline with this one, but it always felt like they were doing it in a way that only this show would do, and showing it to us in the most narratively interesting fashion.
Of course, considering that the Halifax Fudge Badger made it into the list of Canadian Sex Acts (I’m from outside of Halifax), I was going to love this episode regardless.
February 2nd, 2009
I feel at this point that Bays and Thomas have conditioned us long term viewers on how to watch an episode of HIMYM: the second Barney announces that he has an online video resume, I’m in Firefox typing in the address and making a note that the site is, of course, real. If the show had a resume, it would include many of these types of moments, the little throwaway lines built into entertaining side projects or the quirky facts we learn show up on each person’s resumes emerging as quick flashbacks.
“The Possimpible” doesn’t try to be overly sentimental, or even overly ambitious: it just looks back on its past, makes a reel of the various ways the show has been charming in the past (most related to Barney) and then crafting an episode around them. It’s something that doesn’t always work for the show, sometimes feeling more like a pastiche of its better episodes, but this one really worked for me. Between the invented words, the humorous websites (Barney’s Video Resume and Ted’s Mysterious Dr. X Website), the continued tension between Barney and Robin and the clever and humorous way of working Alyson Hannigan’s pregnancy into the episode, this one earned a spot on the show’s resume.
December 8th, 2008
After a season that got off to a bit of a slow start figuring out how to balance the arrival of Stella, and that has been much better in the aftermath of the broken off wedding than leading up to it, “The Fight” continues to demonstrate that the show is back in its sweet spot. Like “The Naked Man” before it, this week’s episode was democractic and monumental: this felt like one of those memories that the group would keep, it involved all of our major characters in some capacity, and it really hit some intriguing comic notes throughout.
The show is still content to play lip service to recurring storylines as opposed to really digging into them, but this feels like the right note for a show reaching its midseason break and heading into the second round metaphorically floating like a butterfly.
“Not a Father’s Day”
November 10th, 2008
If there was a checklist of HIMYM tropes, this episode tried to tick off every single one of them. You had a new Barney-ism (“The Cheerleader Effect”), a new egotistical celebration of bachelorhood from Barney (the titular “Not a Father’s Day”), Ted and Robin clashing over the value of having children, and our characters facing more realities of being 30+.
It isn’t breaking any new ground, no, but it’s a solid piece of comedy that feels distinctly HIMYM, instead of feeling distinctly like a traditional sitcom as it can sometimes do. There’s a certain pace that “Not a Father’s Day” keeps, helped mostly by Alyson Hannigan’s ability to play drunk with such wonderful abandon and Cobie Smulders being let loose as Robin to a degree that was almost too over the top, which really keeps things moving here: even though this was really a setup episode for two major plot shifts (one involving the living situation at the apartment, the other a life-changing decision for Marshall and Lily), it was a mighty fine concoction while it went down.