“The Best Burger in New York”
September 29th, 2008
Flashbacks? Check. HIMYM-specific terminology? Check. Self-created Lore? Check. If you’re looking for an episode of How I Met Your Mother that represents the show’s charms in a single half hour, this is perhaps one of the most pure examples. While it sidelines Barney, perhaps the show’s best character, the show remains an ensemble and Marshall (who gets the most focus) was in dire need of a wakeup call in more ways than one.
The search for the best burger in New York sends Marshall back into his past, but the episode follows just a single night in the lives of our five lead characters. With Regis Philbin weaving in and out of the narrative to mild success, and some really charming cyclical storylines, it feels like (more than last week’s premiere) an episode that fits into the show’s canon with ease, if not with pure triumph.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m the anti-foodie: my picky habits include not eating hamburgers, so the episode’s central quest is perhaps lost on me. But the show is always good at using Marshall to bring enthusiasm and near obsession into every one of these types of storylines: when he gets overly excited, we too become caught up in this whirlwind of sorts.
The result is a story that works better as a character piece for Marshall than it does as pure comedy: watching as he increases his underwear radius, or becomes less and less motivational in his self-esteem speeches to the mirror, you want him to find some sort of new path in life. I’m not convinced that working for one of Barney’s ventures, even the aptly lampooned Goliath National Bank, is a new and interesting direction for the character, but there was a lot of life in Marshall in this episode that I like to see from Jason Segel.
The episode’s other big element is Regis Philbin’s appearance, which is hit and miss. There are some fun moments where Regis hamming it up for the camera feels like something very fun and interesting, but making fun of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? feels like a joke that’s almost a decade old at this point. There’s very little fresh about the role: while Regis flipping out and smashing a mailbox, or just being angry in general, has its charms, it felt like a bit of a waste, and one wonders if there isn’t a more interesting celebrity who could have put something better on the table.
Really, though, the episode is memorable because of the obsessive hamburger statements, from burgasms to Marshall’s speech that was more emotional than his wedding vows. Their various one-liners were quite strong, but I wasn’t quick enough to write any of them down. Needless to say, though, that if your favourite kind of episode revolves around the five characters just sitting around and shooting the breeze on an inane subject, this is your kind of half hour.
The producers have made special note about their efforts to have more stand-alone episodes this season, like this one for example, and it has its upsides. The episode is a nicely contained little story, but at the same time I missed the big picture: Sarah Chalke’s busy schedule keeps Stella away, but it still seemed weird abandoning it. That said, as long as each episode advances a bit for any one character (here Marshall), I think the show is still going strong.
- Loved Barney’s insistence that Chinese/Mexican/Indian food were really all the same – he didn’t play a big role in the episode, but his Goliath-talk was good good, and NPH got to do his Regis Phlibin impression during their one direct confrontation at the gym.
- Robin doesn’t get to do much in this one, but Cobie Smulders as usual knocks her one-note roles out of the park with her constantly being kept away from having a maburger for herself. The show did a good job of handling her role in this dynamic as someone who slowly devolves to eating candy off the street and pondering eating deposit envelopes.
- I have a feeling that I’m going to need another viewing to really let most of this one sink in, but
- I was convinced early on that, considering that McLaren’s got a new chef, that the former chef at the restaurant in question would have been at McLaren’s all along, and that Marshall just psychologically was unable to see the burger for what it was. Considering that it didn’t happen, I looked like a real louse at the end of the day.
- Having just watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I have a great appreciation for Jason Segel, and I’ve decided that we need more puppets in the HIMYM influence. Jason Segel’s other newsworthy contribution to FSM, though, is not something we need more of.