Spoilers for, in order, "How I Met Your Mother," "Heroes" and "Studio 60" just as soon as I have a flashback, a flashforward, an in media res opening and then another flashback...
Fun With Unchronological Storytelling #1: "How I Met Your Mother," which is already one huge flashback, sneaks in a "one year later" coda that, among other things, establishes that Marshall and Lily will be married and Ted and Robin will still be dating a year or so from now. The former's not a shock at all, while the latter is a mild but not unpleasant surprise. Since this season has been consistently funnier than season one, it's fair to say that Ted and Robin as a couple hasn't hurt the show at all, and keeping the focus of Ted's mopey quest for The One leaves more room for Swarley and slap bet-style hijinks.
Overall, this one wasn't as legendary as the last few weeks (after "Slap Bet," I was starting to wonder if it had eclipsed "The Office" as my favorite comedy), but a nice spotlight on Barney that wasn't really awkward even with the NPH's recent uncloseting. Frankly, I was more distracted by flashbacks to Wayne Brady threatening to choke a bitch. "Singles stamina" was another good, observant concept, though I wish Marshall could regain his stamina just long enough to dance again, dammit.
Fun With Unchronological Storytelling #2: When TV shows do flashback episodes to events that happened before the pilot, there's a tendency to cram every significant event in each characters' backstory into the span of a couple of days. ("The Shield" did this a few years ago, and it was one of the few bad "Shield" episodes ever.) "Heroes" was definitely guilty of this, but it was still a very strong episode, arguably better than last week's This Is The One You've Been Waiting For confrontation between Peter and Sylar.
Sylar's origin story (and confirmation that Sylar does, in fact, steal people's powers along with their brains) and Hiro realizing the limits of his powers were obviously the big events, but I feel like we also filled in some good blanks about Nathan (who once upon a time was capable of doing the right thing without too much agonizing, and who flew for the first time as a literal flight-or-fight response that he couldn't control) and Niki, and continued the character rehab Claire started getting last week (showing that she never wanted to be a bitchy cheerleader).
(One completely anal fanboy nitpicky question that nagged at me as I tried to fall asleep: if Hiro teleported back to present-day Tokyo and had to take non-super transportation back to Texas, wouldn't someone in airport security or Customs on either side of Pacific at least raise an eyebrow over him making two Japan-->America trips in a short period without any record of his return to Japan? Again, not a big deal, but it kept me up a few minutes, so I felt I had to share.)
Not So Much Fun With Unchronological Storytelling: "Studio 60," which trotted out one of Sorkin's more tired narrative devices of beginning in media res, then skipping back to show how we arrived at this pivotal moment. John Wells has beat this one into the ground, too, and Sorkin just did it with the first part of "Nevada Day," and unless he finds a way for the flashbacks to completely alter our interpretation of what we saw in the present, I don't want to see him do it again for a long, long time.
On the plus side, it looks like Sorkin finally found a way to use Mark McKinney as something more than a glorified researcher. I liked him as the unfunny comedy guru, though the contrast would have been more effective if the Matt or Lucy or Darius ever seemed remotely funny -- or even just excitable -- most of the time. (Among the many "Studio 60" elements I've grown to hate: the way that characters will read scripts completely stone-faced, then declare, "This is really funny." If you want to demonstrate how funny it is, have you thought of laughing?) The decision to keep working on a hostage-themed sketch even as the Grosse Pointe thing kept going and going and going felt odd -- even if the situation ended without bloodshed, why did the cell phone minutes story have to be done as a hostage situation?
Elsewhere: The Howie Mandel monologue wasn't significantly lamer than your standard "SNL" monologue that has no joke outside of using elements of the host's famous show/movie. Suzanne the PA continues the transition to NewDonna that a lot of the Sorkin-ites assumed when she asked Matt in the pilot if he was here to save them. Sorkin again loses any credibility on his "these characters aren't really based on real people" story by making Jordan the victim of a newsmagazine takedown that sounded an awful lot like Lynn Hirschberg's "Jamie Tarses' Fall, As Scheduled" from the NY Times Magazine.
And we discover that Harriet Hayes, comedy goddess, whose role as co-anchor of "News 60" is entirely dependent on her ability to deliver a basic punchline, cannot, in fact, deliver a basic punchline. Sorkin, he of the plagiarism-is-evil attitude, owes either an apology or some royalties to Dennis Palumbo, Richard Benjamin, Mel Brooks or whoever wrote the scene in "My Favorite Year" where Benjy the Jewish comedy writer tries to teach K.C. the uptight WASP how to tell a joke, including the use of the "the duck says 'Get this guy off my ass'" gag. (And the next time, Sorkin may want to pay closer attention to that scene, as he uses "A man" and "a doctor's office" when Benjy clearly explained that "This guy" and "a psychiatrist's office" are both funnier.)
What did everybody else think?