Tag Archives: Episode Nine

The 2008 Television Time Capsule: How I Met Your Mother – “The Naked Man”

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“The Naked Man”

Season Four, Episode Nine

Airdate: November 24th, 2008

Of all the shows on this list, How I Met Your Mother may have been one of the toughest selections. It isn’t that the show had too few or even too many great episodes in this calendar year, but rather that the show has a higher standard for greatness than other shows. There is something that elevates this above other sitcoms that is not always tangible, and not always something that appears in the same fashion.

So it’s tough to decide what it more quintessentially HIMYM than something else: some episodes might most embody the show’s commitment to its New York setting, others its manipulation of time, others its quirky catchphrases. Do we value episodes that highlight the awesomeness of Barney Stinson, or are such episodes almost too simple compared to the challenge of making Ted a likeable character? All of this creates a true conundrum, and one that was not easily answered.

The reason that I have chosen “The Naked Man” is not because I am convinced that it is the best episode the show aired this past year, but rather that I believe it to be the most well-rounded. It isn’t an episode about just Barney, or just Ted, or any single character. It ignores the show’s normal structure for a tightly construct A-plot, every character being either victim or perpetrator of the show’s newest lexicon entry. The Naked Man is a strategy employed by a hapless blind date of Robin’s, a decision to strip down on a bad date to see if the victim will say “Screw it” and give in to the power of nakedness.

What works about the episode is that it doesn’t try to be something bigger: yes, Ted is willing to try it because of his relationship troubles post-Stella, and Robin attempts to turn it into a real relationship to appear less pathetic after her own life crisis, but it feels like a bunch of people we like watching (yes, even Ted) trying out something fun, funny, and played with just the right level of reverance with its superhero-esque closing.

And while my mind might be torn between the Mr. Clean and the Burt Reynolds, and between this and many other episodes, I think my heart is perfectly fine with “The Naked Man” making it into the Time Capsule.

Related Posts at Cultural Learnings

[For more details on the Cultural Learnings 2008 Television Time Capsule, click here!]

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Pushing Daisies – “The Legend of Merle McQuoddy”

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“The Legend of Merle McQuoddy”

December 10th, 2008

I am going to miss Olive Snook most of all.

Yes, I will miss everything else about Pushing Daisies: Emerson Cod’s quippy one-liners, Chuck’s emotional integrity, Ned’s neurotic worrying, Jim Dale’s charming narration, Lily’s shotgun, Vivian’s heart on her sleeve, and the various quirky individuals who populate this world week after week, incapable of sitting still as they balance between our world and the whimsical universe Bryan Fuller has created.

But there is something about Olive Snook that pleases me the most, and makes me most upset for the show’s passing. It’s her sheer exuberance: without Ned and Chuck’s burdens, or Emerson’s gruff persona, Olive is the character who most gets to interact with the more fanciful elements of these storylines. The best mysteries are often the ones in which Olive takes part, or where Olive’s participatory spirit extends to the other characters – they have a certain bounce to them, a visual and aural sharpness only possible by the spunk her character brings to each scene, and they are in fashion throughout “The Legend of Merle McQuody.”

It is a testament to Kristin Chenoweth that Olive is still this charming even as she returns to idea of unrequited love, a notion which nearly sunk the character in the first season when it felt like an excuse to keep Ned and Chuck from connecting. Now that the show has settled, Chenoweth has made Olive’s emotional state more natural while also being integrated more closely into the week’s mystery. After being paired with Ned on “Comfort Food,” Olive here becomes a Jr. P.I. in Training with Cod Investigations, resulting in a fantastic comic pairing, some wonderful Olive moments and, most importantly, another in a series of great segments as Pushing Daisies marches towards its final Legend.

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How I Met Your Mother – “The Naked Man”

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“The Naked Man”

November 24th, 2008

[UPDATE: For those who want a better look at Lily’s list of 50 reasons to have sex, Mo Ryan at the Chicago Tribune has the enormous napkin list. I think my favourite is #39 because of its history between Marshall and Lily and the early Season Two period.]

When adding terms to the HIMYM Lexicon, it is usually Barney who takes the mantle, but “The Naked Man” takes a slightly different approach. For once, it places all of our characters on the same page: they are all students to Mitch The Naked Man’s teacher, and the result is that all of them test out his unorthodox method for their own purposes.

What could have been, as a result, a highly unorganized episode smartly lays low in regards to the show’s central dramas. With Barney and Robin’s love, and Ted’s recent breakup with Stella, payed homage to without dominating the episode, you have a chance for each character to play their comic beat while not becoming overloaded in drama. Yes, ultimately this episode feels quite inconsequential, but it was indulgent in a way HIMYM hasn’t been all season with the cloud of Stella or Major Life Changes hanging in the air.

And in many ways, this episode is the transition point: from this point forward, Ted’s in a new place in his life and perhaps we can find a new turn around the horizon…just as long as Mitch isn’t there when we turn the corner.

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The Office – “Frame Toby”

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“Frame Toby”

November 20th, 2008

Michael Scott is not a heartless man – he may hate Toby with every fibre of his being, and he may act as if his return is in fact a 911 emergency, but this does not mean that Michael is a terrible person. Under the circumstances, it makes perfect sense that Toby (Paul Lieberstein) returning would make Michael upset: he didn’t know he was there for a week because he refuses to go into the annex because “that’s where Holly worked,” and his most hated person replacing the person he loved would be highly problematic for anyone, yet alone someone as devoid of stability as Michael.

What works about “Frame Toby” (Michael’s initial reaction to his return, Dwight’s contribution to the eponymous effort, the conclusion of that particular story arc) works fine, but it felt like there was a bigger story here. The last time Michael was this adversarial with a co-worked was in “Goodbye, Stanley,” an episode where Michael finally came to his senses at episode’s end and he and Stanley actually talked out their differences. One of those scenes here could have gone a long way to formalizing Michael’s Holly issues, but the episode never goes there; instead, it spends a bit too much time on Pam’s non-triumphant return to the office, and never quite feels like a cohesive episode or something that adds to the existing mythology of this epic feud.

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Gossip Girl – “Pret-a-Poor-J”

“Pret-a-Poor-J”

October 27th, 2008

It’s been a long time since I’ve commented on Gossip Girl, but the show has been on a weird trajectory as of late. The season has had a lot of false starts: I thought they were going to villify Serena in her battle with Blair over supremacy, but now they’re back to being tight friends. I thought they were going to actually give the Nate/Vanessa storyline some time to breathe, and instead Vanessa’s back to being irrelevant and Nate’s moved in with the Humphreys. I thought that they were going to let Jenny settle into her new career in order to spare us more of her storyline, and instead they thrust her back into the show’s romantic and dramatic center.

Really, we’re right where we left off last season: with Blair and Chuck as the only interesting characters on the show, and everyone else just kind of puttering between pointless storylines. Even Blair and Chuck acknowledge, of course, that it’s the game that keeps them interesting, and even that could get old with time. And, to be fair to the show, “Pret-a-Poor-J” does represent the start of a new direction for the show (now 1/3 into its season, recently upped to 24 episodes), but it’s a start that seems too quick: new characters and new worlds can have an impact, but this feels more cheap than earned.

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Mad Men – “Six Month Leave”

“Six Month Leave”

September 28th, 2008

“Some People Just Hide in Plain Sight”

On the surface, Marilyn Monroe was the picture of grace and beauty, living the Hollywood dream and conquering the globe in the process. Of course, inside she was emotionally distraught, and her suicide rocked America in August, 1962. In the world of Mad Men, it rocks the secretarial pool at Sterling Cooper, sending them to the kleenex boxes and making them all question, at least a little bit, the value of life.

But that quote, coming from the elevator man of all people, is the driving force behind this series, particularly for Don Draper: he can’t actually hide away from everyone, he needs to be out there and available even while hiding pains as deep as his traumatic family past and as recent as his separation from Betty. Peggy may have hid in the months after her pregnancy, but now she’s back at work and having to act as if none of it is there, struggling while all eyes remain on her in her new success.

But this episode is all about those people who can’t hide in plain sight, who based on either inexperience or circumstance are no longer able to (or desiring to) hide something about themselves. In the case of Freddy Rumsen, our zipper musician extraordinaire, his habits have long been known by those in the office, but there comes a time when you get too comfortable and what was hidden becomes clear to too many people or, more accurately, to the wrong people. In the case of Betty Draper, she’s been so used to hiding her feelings that she has no idea how to express her displeasure, unsure of what she wants other than to be left alone and allowed to take care of her own life for a change.

While a less careful show might be running dangerously close to hammering this home a bit too hard at this point, “Six Month Leave” has more than enough moments of emotional discovery to feel like a new step into this particular subject, one of the show’s (and my) favourites.

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