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How I Met Your Mother – “Right Place Right Time”

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“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.

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How I Met Your Mother – “Old King Clancy”

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“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.

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How I Met Your Mother – “Little Minnesota”

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“Little Minnesota”

December 15th, 2008

For those of you who don’t know, I am from Canada. So is Cobie Smulders, who plays Robin Cherbotsky, who is also from Canada. This has made us the butt of many jokes in the span of How I Met Your Mother’s four seasons. The show has never really strived for accuracy, of course, but its skewering has been quite adept: I had recent HIMYM addict Angie Han send me a YouTube link the other night that she viewed as proof that the 80s hadn’t, in fact, come to Canada until 1993, which I won’t share here because it was actually quite damning for the state of popular music in the mid to late 90s in Canada.

If they had created an image of Canada in the past though, the final episode of HIMYM before its Christmas break proved that they are willing to go one step further. In an episode that would make Baudrillard proud (and by proud, I mean roll over in his grave while proud that he was right all along), Marshall invites a homesick Robin to “Little Minnesota” (aka the Walleye Saloon) a version of Marshall’s home state (which offers similar weather patterns to Canada) where everyone knows your name, everyone laments the Vikings’ loss in the 1999 NFC Championship, and where they believe that Canadians are afraid of the dark.

What followed was an episode that, despite the episode’s other storyline being a simulation of a mediocre sitcom, brought new life to the show’s version of Canada: sure, it’s not the truth, but it’s a well constructed enough exaggeration that I believe the show deserves credit for its-AHHH WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LIGHTS?!

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How I Met Your Mother – “Woooo!”

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“Woooo!”

November 17th, 2008

Scoring its highest ratings since the season premiere, which were close to its series high levels, How I Met Your Mother has grown from a niche success to a bona fide comedy hit, scoring extremely impressive numbers in key demographics in particular. Whether it is the result of the recent stuntcasting trends, or just based on the show’s undeniable quality, How I Met Your Mother has in the span of only a year gone from a show fighting for its life to a show that CBS will be keeping around as long as possible to allow it to expand into syndication.

When that happens, I don’t really know if “Woooo!” is going to resonate very well as an episode of the series in terms of its broad strokes. While the titular expressions of happiness are, as the episode cleverly shows, veiled cries for help amidst a pool of self-pity, this episode lacks a certain level of depth that could help elevate it. The episode returns to the Barney and Marshall battle for Ted’s best friendship, but after last week delved into the question of parenthood this week we see very little on that level of character building.

Instead, what we get is an office in the head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a Strip Club in the Letter “N,” and let’s be clear: on that level, this was a very sharp and (when it repeats in syndication) thoroughly entertaining half hour.

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