“The Perfect Week”
February 1st, 2010
I’ll get it out of the way upfront: it still bugs me that Barney and Robin were broken up so quickly, and no amount of funny episodes which depend on Barney being a total womanizer is ever going to convince me that it was necessary or advantageous for the show to go about it as it did.
That being said, “The Perfect Week” was pretty funny, a nice collection of “things that we expect to see from HIMYM” with just enough pathos to make the story work. By admitting the hypocrisy inherent in Lily’s actions, and by providing Barney’s actions with at least some sort of emotional justification beyond sexual desire, the episode took a potentially narrow concept and turned it into something that will have no long term impact but remained compelling and meaningful in the short term.
Sort of, you know, like Barney’s one-night stands.
This isn’t the first time a sitcom has adapted the sports metaphor of the Perfect Game into other contexts: just recently, going through the first season of Scrubs after its ninth season premiered, I revisited “My Blind Date,” where Dr. Cox tries to keep 27 patients alive in the ICU for an entire shift. So it’s not as if HIMYM is breaking any new ground when it adapts the format to serve Barney’s purposes, with 7 women in 7 nights without a single rejection (or a hit, if you will – one presumes that a walk (away) would be similarly damaging). As someone who played and follows baseball to some degree, I thought the metaphor worked, even if it did do pretty much the same jokes that Scrubs did (in terms of not saying the word in order to avoid jinxing it, etc.).
Obviously, HIMYM was going something a bit more gimmicky (it’s a less serious sitcom than Scrubs was in the early seasons), so you have Sportscaster Jim Nantz appearing to Barney’s imagination in order to keep the sports metaphors rolling along, and you have Nick Swisher popping up to give the story some sports/New York credibility (made easier by the fact that Swisher is reportedly dating JoAnna Garcia, who was Ted’s object of affection in “The Window.”). And I thought it worked overall, although there’s certain points where it felt like the concept was stretching to be able to tell its jokes: the episode was obviously going to be formulaic, but the extended bit on performance enhancing drugs felt a bit overlong for its irrelevance to the episode at hand. It was a throwaway joke that maybe didn’t need the cutaway, as Marshall’s emergency erection did little to elevate (…sigh) the situation.
While episodes where Barney is revealed to be a real human being – here diving into the Perfect Game as a way to avoid the reality of potentially losing his job – are normally nice showcases for Neil Patrick Harris, the way the episode was structured meant that the rest of the gang basically had to sell the comedy. And I thought they did an admirable job of making three jokes (Ted’s humiliation of Cook Pu, Robin’s Gargamel-obsessed date who never called back, Marshall and Lily sharing a toothbrush) stretch the entire half-hour with enough variations to keep it from seeming stale. The Cook Pu jokes weren’t particularly clever, and Robin has played this type of story before (see: “The Naked Man”), and…okay, Marshall and Lily sharing a toothbrush was exactly as gross/sweet as the show made it out to be. But the stories made their interactions seem familiar and realistic, running jokes that reminded you that it was still the same week ongoing, and thus better placing Barney’s efforts into context.
Sometimes, I don’t need the show to be particularly clever, but rather remarkably familiar and balanced. Here, Barney’s conversation with Nantz made for a nice bit of flow (with little moments like Barney guessing what the gang says in his absence), and it created an intriguing narrative pileup in Future Ted telling a story about Barney telling a story about the Perfect Week, which was nicely played into at the end of the episode when Present Ted made a remark that there’s no way that Future Ted would ever tell his children this story (leading to Saget’s “Am I a bad, Dad?”) In fact, that wasn’t even the only lingering question from five seasons that the episode asked: when Lily pointed out that Barney’s actions were a cry for help, Marshall or Ted (I forget which) pointed out that by that standard all of Barney’s actions are a cry for help. And while Lily’s characterization is perhaps the most uneven on the show, I thought the episode nicely tapped into Lily’s helpful instincts and demonstrated some awareness of Barney’s situation on the part of the show (which was further reflected in Barney’s look of awareness when his imagined Jim Nantz called him on his concern).
I didn’t laugh out loud a great deal or anything, but the episode came together nicely in the end with everyone pitching in to keep a New York Yankee from stealing away the Perfect Game that Barney needed. I do think that the show needs to worry about overdoing Barney’s sexual conquests (especially when they’re devoid of actual female characters, as we saw here as compared with Stacy Keibler a few weeks ago), but so long as it ends up being a satisfying half-hour of comedy they’re going to keep going to that well, and I’m going to keep being annoyed but entertained.
- I’m glad that the show resisted making a Jersey Shore joke, and instead went after Staten Island in terms of Barney’s sixth conquest.
- Continuity isn’t always HIMYM’s biggest concern, but Marshall’s obsession with Sasquatch is a nice touch.
- While they translated women’s response to Nick Swisher into Canadian for Robin, they didn’t bother translating it into something other than sports, so I feel a little bad for the non-sports fanatics amongst the HIMYM viewership.