Saturday, March 30, 2013

Random Thoughts: How I Met Your Mother - Redemption

I became a fan of How I Met Your Mother about a year ago, somewhere in the middle of Season 7.  But I had never seen it in the regular time slot it inhabits on CBS.  Just like I have done with shows such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Roswell, my girlfriend and I decided to give it a try and we streamed it on Netflix.  It didn’t take long for us to become hooked and we finished off the first six seasons in record time. 

The problem we ran into was that the network broadcasts of the series was in the middle of Season 7 and wasn’t available on Netflix Streaming at that time (it is now).   So the only choices we had were to begin watching Season 7 in the middle and catch up with the early seasons later on, or find some other way.  I opted for an alternative which was to purchase the complete season from Amazon. 

Yes, it was a bit pricey (just under $40 for HD) when you consider that I could have waited and watched it as part of my Netflix subscription later down the road.  But as I suspected, Season 7 didn’t become available until after Season 8, the current season, had already begun.  So I would be no better off.

I also might have been able to watch over the internet at the CBS web site, but that would have meant watching from my computer (ugh) and I believe they only keep up about four episodes at a time.  Can’t have people tuning out and missing the commercials although the CBS stream is not exactly light in that department either.  (5 commercials during each break).

And besides, despite what I had heard in some quarters, season 7 was for me at least, very satisfying.  Sure there were some clunky episodes, but when you have 24 episodes to get on the air, there are going to be a few rhinestones tossed in there along with the rubies, diamonds, and emeralds.

It was originally thought that Season 8 would be the swan song for How I Met Your Mother and that we would finally get to meet the mystery lady.   There certainly have been enough hints thrown in as to where, when, and how Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) would finally meet the girl of his dreams.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the finale.  I was not the only one who had become hooked.  It seems that thanks to Netflix, many people like myself who had never seen the show became fans and the series experienced an unprecedented ratings boost unheard of for a show in it’s seventh season.  So negotiations were done, the actors signed on for one more round, and yes Virginia there will be a Season Nine.

However, not everything has been puppies and flowers.  The series and the premise began to look tired.  Unlike the previous seasons, there seem to be way more forgettable clunkers this season than memorable gems.  The first two episodes were certainly okay (Farhampton & The Prenup), but the two that followed were abysmal by comparison (Nannies and Who Wants To Be A Godparent). 

Honestly, I’ve found just about all the Mickey Aldrin (Chris Elliott) episodes to be more annoying than funny.  And it was becoming apparent that the episodes centering around Baby Marvin just weren’t cutting it either which is what happens sometimes when you have to introduce a kid into a series.  It gums up the works with baby poop jokes and sleepless parents.  Poor Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lilly (Alyson Hannigan). 

The Autumn of Breakups episode was fine, but hampered by Ted (Neil Patrick Harris) and his bro dog.  Or should I say Ted and his Bore Dog.  Splitsville would have been a terrific episode, but was dragged down again by the whole Marshall/Lilly/Marvin dilemma in which they were  unable to get some private time for sex.  Another episode dealt with Marvin having constipation.  Another episode had Ted witnessing Marvin’s first steps instead of Marshall and Lily.  What a drag. 

Then there was all the time spent getting to the mid-season finale The Final Page which included a guest appearance by Buffy alumni Seth Greene.  As usual, good guy Ted ends up with the short end of the stick.  And I’ll be honest.  I dearly love both Barney and Robin (Coby Smulders), but I’ve never really bought into the whole Barney/Robin  on again off again on again romance.  It just doesn’t work for me.  And the fact that Barney had to use every evil trick of deception in the book before proposing to her only added to my conviction.  But there is still a glimmer of hope that these two will never make it down the aisle together.  They just work better as separate entities.  Maybe something will change my mind although the possibility seems remote at this junction. But maybe the whole point is mute what with Season 9 wrapping things up next year.

Robin Sparkles did return, but the less said about that the better.  It was funny the first three times, but this is proof positive that too much is too much.  They should have learned that with the very disappointing reveal of Slutty Pumpkin in Season 7 which was nothing more than an excuse to find a way to use Katie Holmes.  After having heard about Slutty Pumpkin forever, that episode was a major disappointment, but not quite as bad as Robin Sparkles fourth time around.

Marshall’s mom Judy (Suzie Plakson) having sex with Mickey?  Even the thought was sickening.  It was also way out of character for everything we have come to understand about Marshall’s mom and his family in the few episodes she’s been mentioned in or made an appearance.

But the worst part of the whole season, and perhaps the low point of the series?  Ted’s overly obsessed and loony tunes girlfriend, Jeanette Peterson (Abby Elliott).  None of this relationship was remotely funny.  Not one single second of it.  Worse, it was downright painful to watch.  I wanted to throw something at the TV.

For anybody who has witnessed a basket case like Jeanette, or knows somebody who has been in a relationship with a bi-polar maniacal partner, they’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  Worse yet, as destructive as this character was, Ted broke up and went back with her because despite everything she had done, the sex was good.  Give me a break.  My opinion is that the Jeanette story should never ever see the light of day again.  It’s one thing to make a funny over obsessed girl friend character, it’s quite another to turn her into a violent and dangerous felon with maniacal tendencies. 

“The Ashtray”, which brought back the Captain for no particularly good reason, “Weekend at Barney’s”, and “The Fortress” were not much better.  I was at the point where I didn’t even feel compelled to watch any episodes with the immediacy I once did.  If you’re going to bring back the Captain, wouldn’t you bring back his daughter Zoey?  Certainly that would have been far more interesting.  Okay, so maybe Jennifer Morrison, the actress who played Zoey, is busy on the set of Once Upon A Time.  Get another actress.  It’s been done before.

Then came this past Monday’s episode (3/25/2013), The Time Travelers.  This episode did not exactly start with a bang.  The whole premise centered around Ted and Barney being visited by their future selves to convince Ted to go to Wrestlers vs. Robots, with a silly sub plot added of Carl the Bartender naming a drink that Marshall had invented, calling it the “Robin Sherbatsky.”
For 3/4 of the running time, the episode not only seemed to be going nowhere, as they added Barney from 20 years in the future, Ted from 20 years into the future, 20 hours from now Barney, 20 hours from now Ted, and topped off with 20 minutes from now Barney, it appeared to be approaching total lunacy and not in a funny way.  I was ready to give up and turn in my How I Met Your Mother Fan Club membership.  But, in the last five minutes of the episode, the whole mess was brought together as if someone had shined a light from above and said enough with this b.s. 
What initially appeared to be another writing disaster, the hat check girl appears, the episode took a 180 degree turn, and I was reminded as to why I totally love this show and how the memorable moments, even the small ones, can wash away the bad taste of all the Jeanette episodes.

And in those five precious moments, we learned more about Ted’s future wife than we had in some entire seasons.

But even more, we found out how much he really will love her, forever and always.   And it is another great example of Josh Radnor’s talent, and why he is perfect as Ted.  He has never been given enough credit for his contributions.  In those five minutes, How I Met Your Mother had redeemed itself for the entire season.

If you haven’t seen the episode, I won’t spoil it for you but if you have given up as I almost did, try again.  By my calculations, there are about 4 episodes left until we get to the Ted and Robin’s wedding episode (or episodes if it’s a two part episode), where we might possibly get to meet the future Mrs. Ted Mosby for the very first time.  I hope so.  I’ll be sure to report back here with my thoughts on it when it happens or maybe even before that.

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