Tag Archives: Sitcom

How I Met Your Mother – “Double Date”

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“Double Date”

September 28th, 2009

I love when episode titles aren’t what you’d expect. As a television critic, it means that I’m taking notes after I’ve looked to see what the title of the episode is (so you can more easily find this post), so I went into this one expecting the show to take advantage of their newfound pairing in order to provide some sitcom-style double date antics.

I should have known, of course, that How I Met Your Mother isn’t that kind of show. The “Double Date” at the center of the episode was a clever sort of “instant mythology,” where Ted relives a previous blind date all over again seven years later, which allows the show to do what it does best. We get healthy doses of both the show’s time-twisty structure as well as its heart within the storyline, while the other (also double-themed) story with Marshall and Barney helps to provide some levity while both work in tandem to create a whole new element of the HIMYM Lexicon.

On the whole, it’s a clever and well-executed episode that further cements the show’s strong sense of narrative, and one which provides a pretty darn good showcase for a somewhat maligned character.

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Series Premiere: Cougar Town – “Pilot”

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“Pilot”

September 23rd, 2009

Pilot season is really kind of an awkward time, when you think about it. If you’re going to be a “breakthrough” show (like Modern Family, which aired before Cougar Town), you need to move outside the bounds of the traditional pilot to surprise and excite. However, part of the nature of a pilot is tempering expectation, creating a template for your series which won’t always be smooth and which in some instances might not even be that compelling. It’s an episode where you open the episode with a conceptual scene that establishes your premise set to a hip indie music selection, and the result can often be a sense that this is “just another pilot.”

But there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Yes, Modern Family deserves its accolades, but Cougar Town is a solid if unspectacular pilot for a show that has amassed a pretty impressive supporting cast, a fantastic lead actress, and sets up a premise which could on the surface result in diminishing returns and yet could just as easily turn into a really engaging premise for a sitcom. It is certainly not subtle, but with Bill Lawrence behind the scenes and some elements of interest I’m definitely willing to stick around Cougar Town for a while.

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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.

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

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