Tuesday, May 15, 2007

HIMYM: Tell people what?

Spoilers for the "How I Met Your Mother" season (series?) finale coming up just as soon as I cocktail wiener block somebody...

Last week, "HIMYM" did a very good job of making a predictable sitcom situation (the wedding disaster) feel somewhat fresh and very funny. Last night, they tried to create some suspense about an outcome we all already knew -- if not when, then definitely what -- and it wasn't quite as successful. It was still a funny episode, thanks largely to Marshall and Lily's hunger pains (back to that in a minute) and Barney's reaction to the twists and turns of Ted's story, but the whole "The story's not over yet" device didn't work. Even people who hadn't figured out that the spaghetti stains from two weeks ago symbolized something big knew that Ted and Robin were destined to break up, and much of this season had been building towards that.

Still, given the corner Bays and Thomas painted themselves into in the pilot, I admire the way they handled the whole relationship. They recognized the obvious chemistry between Josh and Cobie, put them together for a season without having the show drown in their coupling the way "Friends" did with Ross 'n Rachel, while occasionally reminding us why it wouldn't work out. And in the end they broke them up without a lot of stupid tears and fireworks, and in a way that allows Robin to stay a part of the group if the show continues. And in the event that it doesn't, they gave us something of an ending, the "Casablanca" resolution where our hero loses the girl and finds happiness in a male friendship. The spoof of traditional wedding vows, followed by one last "wait for it" from Barney was a good note to go out on in the event things go horribly wrong with renewal.

(Speaking of which, everything I'm hearing on that score is positive, but I won't know for sure until Lox With Les tomorrow morning. I'll have a spoonful of scrambled eggs at the ready in the event my worst nightmare is revealed on the schedule board.)

Some other thoughts:
  • It was important that several episodes this season established how much Barney cared about Marshall and Lily getting married, because it made his negative opinion of Ted and Robin feel much less biased. He's not opposed to all couples, just this couple. (Then again, maybe he just doesn't want his wingman attached, no matter to who.)
  • I felt for Marshall and Lily in their hunger, but they have no one to blame but themselves. When Marian and I got hitched, I had a private discussion with the caterer to make sure I would get an opportunity to sample the food -- and sure enough, moments after we made our triumphant entrance into the cocktail room as Man And Wife, the caterer sidled up to me with a sundae from the mashed potato station. The best advice I can give any couple who are getting married is to make sure they carve out five minutes in the reception to eat.
  • A few weeks ago, my buddy Rich Heldenfels waxed rhapsodic about the way the "HIMYM" writers like to play with time, and they were at it again here, not just jumping back to explain the spaghetti stains, but to show Lily compiling her list of bad wedding cliches to avoid. Most shows would have done that scene weeks ago in the build-up to the main event, but because "HIMYM" has established this Billy Pilgrim narrative style, they could put it in right next to the appropriate follow-up joke.
So what did everybody else think? And should I offer to pay Les' dry-cleaning bill if eggs have to get tossed, or will I be too busy scraping myself off the sidewalk outside CBS HQ to care at that point?

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another example of how they get the details right: according to this interview, they had to go back and reshoot a bunch of the Price is Right episode once they decided to do the French horn thing in the finale, so the horn wouldn't be on the wall after the breakup.

Adam said...

The benefits of a Jewish wedding -- after the ceremony, the couple is supposed to be secluded for 15-20 minutes for yichud, during which they're allegedly supposed to consummate their love for the first time.

Instead, Jen and I made sure that the caterer had a sample of every food from the cocktail hour waiting for us.

David J. Loehr said...

We did much the same thing with our caterer, because we'd seen it happen enough times. (And we ended up getting a snack later anyway.)

The one thing I wish I could do over would be the cutting of the cake, only because--as I stood with a slice in one hand and a giant knife in the other--the entire group of groomsmen beat me to the "cake or death?" joke.

Anonymous said...

Way to take care of business Adam.

Joel said...

Thank you for citing my interview with Carter Bays, Mr. Anonymous.

I thought the device they used to tease out the break-up story worked very well. Not sure why it fell flat for you, Alan; considering, like you said, most people knew where they were going, it was refreshing that they decided to string it out over an entire the episode in order to build tension.

Also, I thought the break-up was handled with a maturity that you normally don't see on TV shows. No estranged daughter thrown in to make things complicated (Gilmore Girls), no "I don't love her!" (Scrubs), no "We were on a break!" (Friends). No artificial roadblocks or deal-breakers; it was all borne out of the differences between Ted and Robin. You know, kind of like in real life.

My favorite line from the episode came from Lily, to Barney: "Mini-quiche. You're a mega-douche!"

Lindy said...

I thought the way they teased out the breakup story was clever, but the pregnancy scare didn't quite work for me. Mainly because I didn't see why Ted and Robin would throw in "and then we had unprotected sex" in the middle of their breakup story -- seems like TMI, unless they were just messing with Barney.

Lily and Marshall are rapidly becoming my favorite TV couple. Somehow the writers find humor in how in love they are, instead of having them bicker every week. It's sweet and funny at the same time. I loved Marshall's awe-struck response to the fast food guy: "Uh, your wife just threw up in the trash." "My wife ..."

dez said...

This show has to come back next season! Barney still has some slaps coming!

RandomRanter said...

While I agree the outcome wasn't so suspenseful, I still adore the way they play with non-linear storytelling and make it work.

Steve said...

Does anybody have any idea why Robin wasn't drinking at the wedding? It seemed as though she just wanted Barney to think she was pregnant.

R.A. Porter said...

Alan, I think you should definitely offer to pick up the dry cleaning bill if it comes to that. It's the civil thing to do. It had better not come to that, though. Ted still hasn't met Tracy!!! (That's right, I know his future wife's name!)

A quick aside...did anyone else catch the opening to Family Guy two weeks back? The family was watching How I Met Your Father with both Josh and NPH providing their own voices. The single greatest use of the line "suit up", ever.

Steve said...

This is why at our upcoming wedding, we're appointing a member of the wedding party to be the official foodbringer.

Steve said...

Does anyone know if the plan is to introduce Ted's future wife in the final episode of the series, or if she'll come in before that and become a major character?

Kat Coble said...

I will be HEARTBROKEN if they cancel this show.

Not Arrested Development-heartbroken, but about 92% of that...

We still have outstanding slaps and I have yet to hear a Ted-Returns-To-Dating "Suit Up".

Tom said...

How I Met Your Father

http://youtube.com/watch?v=aWIwz7GqsQc

In case you want to see it.

I hate The Family Guy but this is funny.

dez said...

This is why at our upcoming wedding, we're appointing a member of the wedding party to be the official foodbringer.

If I ever got married, this wouldn't be a problem. Nothing gets between me and food (just ask Alan) :-D

Alan Sepinwall said...

Not sure why it fell flat for you, Alan; considering, like you said, most people knew where they were going, it was refreshing that they decided to string it out over an entire the episode in order to build tension.

But because I knew where it was going, Joel, I didn't feel any tension at all. A break-up episode was something they obviously had to do sooner or later, and something that had to get a certain amount of screen time given that they've spent two years on Ted and Robin, but every time Ted said that the story wasn't over yet, I shrugged and waited for them to get to the point where they broke up because he wants marriage and kids and she doesn't.

Alan, I think you should definitely offer to pick up the dry cleaning bill if it comes to that. It's the civil thing to do.

Not if they toss me on my behind, it isn't. I don't think it'll come to that, though.

Does anyone know if the plan is to introduce Ted's future wife in the final episode of the series, or if she'll come in before that and become a major character?

I think she'll come in well before then, Steve -- again, assuming the show is around that long -- but Ted's line about wanting to have fun with Barney for a while before resuming his search for The One suggests the writers want to back-burner Mopey Lovestruck Ted for a while. (Or else they're messing with us and Ted meets his future wife in the next season premiere, surprising him and horrifying Barney.)

Lindy said...

Or maybe we meet Mom early next season, but Ted is still recovering from his breakup with Robin and doesn't want to get too serious with anyone. (That would explain why Future Ted has spent so much time telling his kids about his relationship with Robin -- to explain why he and Mom didn't start dating right away.) I'm kind of hoping for that scenario, it would be interesting to watch the writers play with the "right-person-wrong-time" problem.

Alan, if they don't renew HIMYM, I suggest you follow Ted's example -- throw the eggs, scream "run!" and sprint out of there.

R.A. Porter said...

Just don't SLIP on the eggs!

Matt said...

We can all rest easy. Variety is reporting that HIMYM is in, while Old Christine only got a midseason order.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Best news I've heard all day! FYI, the full story is here, though I don't know how much can be read if you don't have a password.

To sum up, not only is HIMYM back, but Jericho, The Class and Close to Home are all kaput.

JosieK said...

No password necessary - 'Class,' 'Home' axed; 'Your Mother' renewed.

dez said...

I thought "Jericho" was a hit for CBS? :( I'm also surprised "Christine" only got a midseason order, given Julia's Emmy win.

But: YAY! HIYMM lives another season! :-)

Anonymous said...

So, does this mean that Cobie Smulders is gone? I don't know if I can believe Robin hanging around when Ted and her are no more. Also, does anyone else feel like the producers thought they weren't getting renewed? this ep seems like such a final thing, especially, for me, the scene where Marshall first says "my wife." That was really great. And again, NPH deserves an Emmy this year.

JosieK said...

Why on earth would Cobie Sulders be gone just because Robin and Ted aren't meant to be (which we knew about in the very first episode)?

k said...

so happy about the renew.
also very amused that a majority of these posts are about eating at their own weddings. on that note, we had an awesome waiter who made us sit down when every course was served if only to have a taste.

however he kept taking away my husband's half drunk beers and yet refilling my wine glass. so i was tanked by the end of the night and my husband was very sober--didn't yak in any trash cans though!

i liked this ep although i agree that that the "the story's not over yet" got a little worn by the end.

Loved the list of wedding cliches though.

Joel said...

But because I knew where it was going, Joel, I didn't feel any tension at all.

Point taken. I guess my feeling was that they did a good job of making lemonade (a funny finale) out of lemons (the fact that we knew Ted and Robin were going to break up).

Maybe I was distracted by Cobie. She looked fantastic in that episode.

Glad to see the show back. Bays says that we're going to see a lot of the carefree, more-cynical-about-love Ted in season three, not the simpering love-starved Ted from season one.

Anonymous said...

I'd guess that "Aunt Robin" will be around for awhile.

Tom said...

Sorry if this has already been posted. I thought it was a cute story about HIMYM. Apparently the proposal that Ted & Robin interrupted was real.

http://wcbstv.com/video/?id=99565@wcbs.dayport.com

Pamela Jaye said...

i can't believe that story was still up!