May 5th, 2008
After last week’s breakup of Barney and Ted, it’s not easy being Barney…or Ted. Or Stella, the delightful girlfriend we’ve seen too little of since only now was Sarah Chalke able to make her return. And really, it’s a spiral for all of them, as they struggle with various hangups.
They’re realistic hangups – whether it’s Barney’s search for a wingman who isn’t married or taken, Ted struggling with two months of no sex with Stella, and Stella attempting to overcome her concerns over not having sex for five YEARS. The first certainly provides the most humour, in a traditional sense, but the others provide a less neurotic but more charming/dramatic turn.
It might not quite be comparable to next week, but who can complain about Virginity 2: Electric Bugaloo and an unexpected number of testacles?
The Barney side, which gets the episode title, was honestly fairly boring. Assistant Undersecretary of Only Okay (Upgraded to Wingman) Randy, played by Will Forte (SNL), is our window into Barney’s struggle, an absolute failure of a wingman who idolizes Barney’s blog but isn’t quite…with it. Admittedly, I’m a fan of Forte’s work on SNL, especially in these types of purely neurotic roles. However, here it just felt a bit too one-note, like the character was pathetic and unfortunate and little else. Luckily, the episode finds a way for Barney to do right by him and his klutzy police past, but I wasn’t feeling the character as I could have.
There was some really charming moments, whether it was the various Bro-calls Barney makes (I liked the one that had Cranium, since I just played a game tonight) or at the very least seeing some of Barney’s techniques being tested by someone totally inept at social interaction. I liked, also, seeing a bit of Robin and Barney’s new dynamic, which I think needs to be fleshed out a little more. I know that a lot of us were presuming that we would be seeing at least some semblance of a relationship from them, so this distant yet somewhat closer interaction may have to do until the show decides to pull the trigger on that one.
I just felt like NPH is odd playing a straight man, not quite serious enough to pull it off – there are just some characters who shouldn’t be put in that position, and perhaps Barney is one of them. It’s great for a one-off joke or two, but as it dragged on I wanted to spend more time with Barney being funny and less with his reactions being funny. I think all parties did a good job with the storyline, but I did think by episode’s end that we were spending a LOT of time to get across a fairly simple point: Barney missed Ted, Barney rushes into a Rebound Bro who isn’t up to his standards, he has to make it work. I would have been fine with this, except that I really liked the other storyline and felt it needed a bit more time.
Because the dramatic core of the episode was certainly the fantastic work of Josh Radnor and Sarah Chalke at our usual stage of Ted’s relationships: things are going great, and then something happens to screw things up. Normally this would be a rinse/repeat situation, but I really like how this plays out – it’s something that too often happens with Ted (His full disclosure to Marshall/Lily/Robin, and thus to us as the audience), and I don’t think we really realize how unfortunate that might be.
Part of me still feels that Sarah Chalke is channeling the normal sides of Eliot Reid (Her character on Scrubs) as opposed to creating a new character, but she is so great with these dramatic moments that I can’t complain – Ted isn’t really right that she was looking for a reason, but at the same time she certainly did need to stop to think about things briefly. It’s a realistic, if a tad bit cliched, development: it’s a little bit too idealistic for everything to come together so smoothly in their relationship, but I’m willing to accept a little bit of T.V. magic when it’s this charming.
And it all works because of the great chemistry between these two actors – perhaps it is all of her time spent laughing at the jokes from other characters (Braff and McGinley, mainly) on Scrubs, but her reactions to Ted’s one-liners (Particularly the “This is awkward, I have a girl here” and “I need to call Marshall and Lily” lines) are spot-on. There is just something about the way they interact that makes Ted more charming, that makes Stella more endearing, and that makes their relationship seem real even when we skipped a majority of their two months together. That Chalke and Radnor were able to pick up this chemistry so quickly, with Chalke juggling both jobs, is a testament to their efforts.
- Joe Lieberbro or Geraldine Ferrabro – I don’t know which is best, but I do not that both are totally unacceptable under Barney’s rule of no use of the term Bro in relation to failed democratic candidates.
- Lily and Marshall were relegated to sideplayers here, and I wonder whether they will get a chance to return to the forefront of the storyline considering that Britney is back next week, and we’re heading towards the season finale. After last season was their big wedding, this time around it is Ted and Barney who have the dramatic weight flying around (Of course, Ted had it last season, but we really didn’t know about it until the finale).
- Seriously, Bill Lawrence, write Eliot off of Scrubs a few episodes into the totally unnecessary 8th Season of Scrubs so that she can stay on HIMYM permanently. I beg of you.