Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Time of the Season: S1 of How I Met Your Mother

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 8, 2007

“Legen–wait for it–DARY”

Turns out there’s at least one show on CBS that isn’t either a serial crime-related drama or Two and a Half Men (who knew?) Despite its cloying title, cloying premise (a father 25 years in the future tells his kids the unnecessarily long story of how he, well, met their mom) and cloying roots (the stories are based on the actual romantic experiences of the show’s creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas), How I Met Your Mother is actually a surprisingly palatable show–sort of like Scrubs meets the decent parts of Friends. Show’s definitely not without its issues though, so let’s break it down one time:

The Good:

  • Neil. Patrick. Harris. Fresh off a career revival due to his unforgettable cameo in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (a performance that ranks up there with Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore and Jon Favreau in the D-Girl episode of The Sopranos as an all-time great self-performance), NPH basically plays a slightly less scummy version of his H&K persona (minus the drugs, plus suits & laser tag). NPH’s Barney, with his littany of cheap pick-up lines and paradigm-spawning catchphrases, is easily the show’s most memorable character, and probably the most compellingly narcissistic TV character not cuurrently appearing on Entourage (why “Suit up!” hasn’t become the next “Let’s hug it out, bitch” is beyond me). It comes off as somewhat ironic given his recent coming out of the closet–Barney might be the the most rampant, unapologetically misogynistic TV character since Bulldog from Frasier, who was played by the similarly homosexual Dan Butler. Go figure.
  • Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan as engaged couple Lily and Marshall. Between his roles in SLC Punk, Freaks and Geeks and this, Segel is quickly becoming one of my favorite That Guys of recent years, and there are at most seven–maybe eight–people on the entire planet that are more adorable than Alyson Hannigan. The two manage to do the impossible with their characters–play a couple that is both totally in love and demonstrates it whenever possible (in often extremely cutesy fashion), and still remain likeable (and even endearing) people. It’s unreal.
  • Skillful use of “The One Where ____” Friends-type plotlines (i.e. The One Where Barney Dares Robin To Do Stuff on TV, The One Where It’s Game Night, The One Where Ted Waits for the Slutty Pumpkin, etc). As I’ll talk about more later, the show often gets bogged down in its multi-episode arcs, so it’s pretty important that the self-contained episodes have pretty tight storylines, and for the most part, they definitely do. My personal favorite is probably “Okay Awesome,” i.e. The One Where They Go to a Club. Segel’s quote upon his arrival (“Oh, it’s just that I had this move,and I wanted to BUST it“) is a series high point.

The Bad:

  • Definite APS (Annoying Protagonist Syndrome) sufferer. Ted Moseby, played by Josh Radnor, isn’t a bad guy, and it’s not a bad performance, but when you’ve got one characterexperiencing critical, life-changing romantic epiphanies in pretty much every episode, he’s bound to get real grating real quick. He gets enough support from the rest of the cast that his failings aren’t too glaring, but the number of times I wanted to slap this guy across the season is at least twice as high as it probably should be.
  • Show carries over many of the good qualities of Scrubs–likeable, believable group of friends, hilarious and on point pop-culture references, realistic look at relationships, quality stuff like that–but unfortunately it also carries over the show’s worst quality, the unrelenting moralizing. Partly necessary due to the show’s framing–future Ted (voiced by the unseen Bob Saget) telling the whole thing to his kids–it has Scrubs-style morals-a-week, and like Scrubs, they’re all pretty much the same moral. It’s real repetitive, and real fucking frustrating.

The Questionable:

  • The whole Big Mystery about who exactly the mother of Ted’s kids is–at first it’s geared to be Ted’s season one love interest Robin, but Saget closes the first episode by referring to her as “Aunt Robin” to his kids, making it clear that it’s not her. This is risky, since not only does it make us not really care whether or not Ted and Robin get together (since at the very least, we know it’s not permanent), it leads to lots of another annoying fakeouts. It might be rewarding when it’s finally revealed, but now it seems to me that the show’s sweet and involving enough without this arcing gimmick, and it’s just sort of distracting.
  • The theme song. I dig it, and it’s great for the show, but it’s only like ten seconds long–by the time you start humming along, it’s already over. What gives?
  • Limited cast–though a couple people drift in and out of their universe, so far it’s basically just the five mains (Ted, Lily, Marshall, Robin, Barney) and whoever Ted happens to be dating at the time (which is now Robin, so forget that). Drama becomes stale when it’s the same people rehashing the same tired business with each other time and time again, so let’s hope that the show takes the lead from Scrubs and Friends and sees its social universe expand somewhat in future seasons.

Still, beats the fuck out of Criminal Minds: Louisville. Sign me up for season two!

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4 Responses to “Time of the Season: S1 of How I Met Your Mother”

  1. Sonja said

    The two creators are in a band, and they wrote the theme song! That’s what gives.

    You didn’t mention phone fives! I really like phone fives.

  2. This is one of those shows I like well enough, but will never watch regularly unless I suddenly discover I’m immortal and rich enough to not have to work.

    Andrew, are you the Good Dr. Bill over at the Sound Opinions board?

  3. Andrew Unterberger said

    Phone fives aren’t in the first season, I don’t think. If they are I definitely missed them.

    And yeah Ian, of course.

  4. billy said

    Cobie Smulders is one of the seven or eight more adorable people than Hannigan.

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