Fall ’08 Season TV Blitz, Day 5: How I Met Your Mother & The Office
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 29, 2008
How I Met Your Mother
(Mondays, 8:30-9:00 PM, CBS)
New Cast: Sarah Chalke (Regular, at least for time being)
Where We’re At Now: Ted has successfully proposed to Stella (Chalke), the dermatologist who removed his tramp stamp and who he dated last season. Marshall points out that he has done this without really knowing anything about her, including whether or not she would like Star Wars, both’s favorite movie, which he is shocked to find out she has never seen. Meanwhile, Barney struggles with the realization that he is in love with Robin, enlisting Lily’s help to woo her. Robin is weirded out by Barney’s attempts to be gentlemanly to her, and misreads his advances.
Thoughts?: New season, same ratings doldrums for How I Met Your Mother–the season four premiere achieved yet another mediocre 5.9 rating, less than half the viewers that ABC’s Dancing With the Stars received (though thankfully, .2 more than historically terrible lead-in The Big Band Theory received). How this show has managed to be presumably everything anyone could want in a sitcom for three going on four seasons while continuing to steadily underperform in the Nielsens and not getting cancelled is going to go as one of the the great mysteries of early 21st century TV, like a Twilight Zone episode with a laugh track. At least you can’t fault the show for being inconsistent, I suppose.
Anwyay, the new How I Met Your Mother toys with two big changes to the show’s otherwise relatively same as it ever was forula-Ted getting married, and Barney renouncing his old-school womanizing ways. Both are somehwat inevitable changes for the show to at least tinker with at some point, though the latter would be disastrous if they ever went through with it–we want to see Barney trade in his skirt-chasing, catchphrase-spawning ways for a deep relationship with Robin as much as we want Dr. House to realize his sarcasm is just an immature defense mechanism and start treating his friends and employees with the respect they deserve. Luckily, the show’s creators appear to realize this, and even though they throw in a (fairly brilliant) fake out to deke audiences into thinking the transformation is official, they let it be known that ultimately, Barney as we know him is probably here to stay .
Ted and Stella’s future is a little more uncertain–they appear to be in it for the long haul, and given that Sarah Chalke rivals Alyson Hannigan for heart-wrenching adorability (both undoubtedly being first ballot Hall of Famers), it’d be hard to fault Ted for settling down. But is she really ready to become a permanent fixture on the Mothership? She’s still not listed in the show’s main cast, and she’s yet to be confirmed as the Mother in question on the show, so it seems like her future on the show is still far from permanent.
Nonetheless, her stay is welcome for the time being–I’m still too in love with her Scrubs character to not hope for her to start yelling “Frick!” every now and then, but since How I Met Your Mother is still relatively charming and vaguely fresh whle Scrubs has gotten grating and redundant, I can get my Chalke fix here for now.
(Side Question: Doesn’t it seem sort of unrealistic that Ted and Marshall’s favorite movie would be Star Wars? I mean, how many geeks do you know who think the first movie is the best of the trilogy? Sure, it came first, but unless you were of age at the time–and Ted and Marshall would’ve been about two in 1977–it seems like most people have come to prefer Empire or Jedi, no? Kind of lazy writing, in my opinion.
Side Question #2: Assuming this show goes on for, say, three-four more seasons, isn’t it going to be weird that the actors playing Ted’s kids will have grown from adolescents to young adults in the time it took him to tell his story? Or are they replacing the kids with new actors every season? Doubt I’d notice, to be honest)
Still Hot / Worth Watching?: Apparently not to the general public, though to be fair, they never really had the audience to begin with (unlike, say, Heroes, which I think we can now count as one of the biggest one-season wonders in recent TV). I still kinda dig it.
New Cast: Amy Ryan
Where We’re At Now: With Toby gone to Costa Rica, Michael has taken a much bigger liking to Holly (Ryan), the new HR rep at Dunder-Mifflin, though with a pregnant Jan (not by him) in tow, he fails to act on his feelings, prompting Holly to go on a date with a yoga instructor set up by Oscar. Dwight and Angela continue their affair after Angela has agreed to marry Andy, who she now finds annoying and makes planning their wedding deliberately difficult. Pam is gone to study graphic design at Pratt, while Jim wonders whether or not he should have proposed to her before she left. And Ryan, officially having bottomed out, returns to the company as the fill-in receptionist for Pam, much to Michael’s delight and Jim’s schadenfraude. And everyone’s trying to lose weight to win an branch-wide competition.
Thoughts?: I took an extended hiatus from The Office over the course of the fourth season–the hour long episodes to start the season were disastrous, and with Jim and Pam finally in sync, the show lost any sort of urgency it might have had the first three seasons. Perhaps more importantly, it just wasn’t very funny anymore. And truth told, I still probably won’t be sticking with The Office on a weekly basis like I once did. But by all estimations, this was a pretty fucking good premiere. Angela and Andy’s conversations, and the resulting booty calls to Dwight, were all fairly priceless. Kelly’s crash diet, and her much-savored rejections of a significantly humbled Ryan, were handled beautifully, as was Jim’s moment of triumph over his one-time saboteur. And the last scene, while somewhat predictable, was maybe the most emotionally arresting moment on the show since Pam’s Survivor speech, if not even longer.
But maybe the best recent development the show has gone under is in Ryan’s character. With Jan going off the deep end last season and Carol never having been at all fleshed out as a character, the show was wise to present Michael with a legitimate match for once. Holly strikes a nice balance of being a very Michael-like character, who would have believeable interest in him, without either just being a female carbon copy of him or being a complete idiot. A lot of it has to do with Ryan, who played the supremely loveable Beattie Russel on The Wire, and brings the same kind of general kindness, albeit in an expectedly lamer fashion, to her character here. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when/if Michael’s more self-centered, meaner side surfaces around Holly, but for now at least, it’s nice to just see these two sweet kids getting along famously.
Still Hot / Worth Sticking With?: The show appears to have regained its footing and momentum for the time being. Just quit while you’re ahead with the hour-longs, plelase.