Tuesday, October 09, 2007

HIMYM: I want to ride my tricycle, I want to ride my trike

I spent most of last night either watching Yanks-Indians or curled up in a ball on the floor of my basement thinking about Yanks-Indians. I'll be watching and blogging other Monday shows like "Heroes" and "Journeyman" later today, but I did watch "How I Met Your Mother" last night in hopes it would cheer me up from the carnage. (It didn't.) Spoilers coming up just as soon as I butter up my legs...

At what point should I be worried here? That's two duds in a row, and even the season premiere was just a pretty good episode of "HIMYM." If this were a three episode run in the middle of the year, I would shrug it off, but a slump at the beginning of a season -- especially one where the show's trying to forge a new direction, post-Ted/Robin -- is a little troubling. Not Chicken Little troubling, but still.

The Robin subplot was particularly lame, just an excuse for that one bit of physical comedy in the bathroom. I like Cobie Smulders, but she's not Lucille Ball enough (or even Amanda Bynes enough) to make that worthwhile. (Maybe the most interesting thing about that whole portion of the episode was wondering whether Doctor Awesome was in some way the show returning fire at "Chuck" for the creation of Captain Awesome -- who's also a doctor, btw. When informed of the Captain's existence back at press tour, the "HIMYM" creators and Neil Patrick Harris seemed both amused and defiant; "A war is brewing," NPH said.)

As for the A-story, while I appreciate Future Ted establishing that there are some stories on the show that he's not telling his kids -- and which in turn explains why he suggested back in "The Pineapple Incident" that he never saw Trudy again -- the story itself felt lacking and, like Robin's story, kind of sitcommy. (When "HIMYM" is working, it has the appearance but not the style of a traditional sitcom.)

I've never liked the device of a character disappearing from a date for long stretches to consult with his or her pals, and given that Ted had essentially blown them off and then vanished for a very long time, I'm surprised the girls didn't either storm into the bedroom, demand their coats and go. Trudy also seemed to behave differently from what I remember of "The Pineapple Incident," though you could ascribe some of that to the presence of her sorority sister. Either way, the "HIMYM" continuity nerd in me is annoyed Ted never asked her where the pineapple came from.

I'm glad the writers apparently let Ted go through with the tricycle -- too many shows decide the funniest outcome to any story where the main character might get laid is to deny him the pleasure -- but most of the good stuff took place on the fringes of the story, like Barney and pantsless Marshall playing WII and discussing British slang, or Marshall saying, "Oh, so it's a metaphorical belt?" a split second before the flashback to Barney pulling out the actual thing.

if these three episodes have a common thread, it's that they've largely focused on Ted and Robin's love lives, and I think it's obvious to everyone by now that they're the two weakest parts of the ensemble. They can certainly have their moments, like the Robin Sparkles video, but Barney, Marshall and Lily are all better-equipped to handle the real heavy lifting, comedy-wise. Last season worked so well because they were together for almost all of it, and their happy couplehood allowed them to hang back a bit and work in support of the other characters. Now that they're split up, forever, the writers clearly feel like they have to give them both something to do, and so far it hasn't been that interesting.

What did everybody else think?

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm giving up in HIMYM again. It's too early in the season to be this disappointing. Ted only works in a couple because he comes off to desperate and needy when single. I don't think the writers know what to do with everyone as they drag out meeting the mom.

Lindy said...

I completely agree, Alan. That's two misfires in a row, which is somewhat troubling to me. It really does feel as if no one is sure where to take the show after the Ted/Robin breakup. Speaking of that breakup, I expected the show to have a lot more to say about post-breakup awkwardness in the group. It seems like everyone went back to the Season 1 status quo awfully fast, and I think that's a missed opportunity -- the writers are usually very smart and funny about twenty-something relationship dynamics.

But the show has a long way to go before it loses my goodwill. If nothing else, we have the Slap Countdown clock. And shouldn't we be seeing Barney's gay brother again for his wedding?

Chuck said...

Really disappointing episode, and it may be a sign of things to come, for a couple of reasons: Cobie Smulders is a strong part of the group, but Robin is currently directionless--and not in an interesting way. The writers have given themselves an interesting set-up (what if Monica and Chandler had broken up on "Friends," or better yet, what if the writers there had Ross and Rachel actually move on?) but they've yet to meet the challenge. If Robin and Barney eventually do get-together, great, but it's apt to be a tough slog inching toward that while at the same time keeping Ted away from the mom for the rest of the series. So for B-plots we turn to Marshall and Lily bickering, etc., which no one wants to see because of the inherent kindness of the characters (and the fact we know we stay together, so true (= meaningful) conflict is just going to make us uncomfortable).

A big problem last night was how LAME Ted's jokes, "moves" were. Tough to root for that.

Jon Delfin said...

If you call last week's show a dud, we need a much stronger word for yesterday's. Show is on probation -- next week, I might watch, depending on the program blurb, or I might go back into "give it a rest" mode.

Anonymous said...

I am a latecomer to this show, so I never saw the earlier episode with Trudy, but the vibe my husband and I got from last night's episode was that it was some kind of set-up, but it never really paid off. Even Lily having "fought" with the blonde basically led nowhere. And are we to believe that Lily, Marshall and Barney stayed in Ted's room the entire night (or at least for several hours) and never ventured out to the bathroom or kitchen and overheard what was going on in the other room?

Jon Delfin said...

Oh, and meant to say: Danica McKellar shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a part that requires her to be wacky.

Anthony Foglia said...

I feel we watched different shows. I really liked this episode. Funniest of the season so far.

That doesn't mean I disagree with your worries about the character stuff. They don't know what to do with Robin (and it seemed too early for her to be preparing for a date at Ted's apartment).

And yes, the plot was sitcommy, but well-executed. (Biggest plot hole was at the end: why did the women go into Ted and Lily's room, and not Ted's?) It had me cracking up, which is most important.

But those two issues (no use for Robin, sitcommy plot) are ones I'm willing to accept occasionally for something so funny. Like once every few months or so. And especially after the mediocre premiere and the weak episode last week.

PS: Doctor Awesome seemed too much a background character to be a reference to anything.

R.A. Porter said...

I was a rare dissenter last week, but this week I'm less sure. I still laughed, but not often enough. The writers have yet to realize that "I" is best used as the glue that keeps the five friends together and not as the comedic center of episodes. Ted's just not that funny for the most part.

Agreed about Ted running to the bedroom. First, it felt like *bad* French farce. Second, dude there are two hot chicks throwing themselves at you. Less talky, more kissy.

One of the most sitcomy things I can think of is having a character behave in so unnatural a way to give the writers time for jokes. Ted hasn't been built up as so nerdy that he'd freeze up given that situation. It was funny that he had Lily give him the assessment of which girl to go for, but it was weak once he realized he had a shot at the trike to chicken out.

The Pale Writer said...

the bigger problem i had with last night's show (beyond the lame contrivance of them ALL being stupid enough to hide in ted's room - i know it's a sitcom, but... come on!) is what in ted’s past suggest he’s even remotely capable of pulling something as intricately difficult as the tricycle off? two years ago, he was telling robin he loved within hours of meeting her; now we’re supposed to buy him as porno gil?

Tosy And Cosh said...

I'm starting to think that they need to take a big steup forward with the mother. Maybe introdiuce her by Nov. or Feb. sweeps. And to avoid the issue of how to keep the show going once we know who the mother is, what if she's the villain of the show for a while? The foil to these characters, somebody we are set up to hate? Then, after a few guest spots, when our guard is down, she breaks out the yellow umbrella, and we realize that this character is Ted's true love. That gives them a pretty decent story engine going forward of redeeming this "villain" and getting her and Ted together.

JZ said...

Call me shallow, but I don't remember a damn thing about this episode other than Winnie Cooper and Joey's college roommate sitting on that couch, together, cooing.

Syconan said...

@Anthony Foglia: Exactly what I was thinking. Why did the women go to the other bedroom they knew wasn't Ted's?

And are we really supposed to believe Barney has never ridden the tricycle? Didn't he tell Robin in the Bachelor Party episode he'd been in a ten-way? Really silly episode.

Kensington said...

Wow, I couldn't disagree with the crowd, and Alan, more. I thought "Third Wheel" was outstanding, not only considerably funnier than last week's mediocrity but also sexy in a way that reminded me of Coupling (the BBC version, not the NBC remake).

I only have two complaints. First, how do we get a mini-Freaks and Geeks reunion and not allow Busy Philipps and Jason Segel any screentime together? What a waste! Second, I do think the show is at its best when the ensemble is together, and that's not going to happen if Robin keeps getting isolated from everyone else.

Kensington said...

"Why did the women go to the other bedroom they knew wasn't Ted's?"

My guess? Bigger bed. Plus, two drunken girls eager for a three-way, having been told overtly that the roommates would not be there, just weren't as discriminating in their logistics as they might have been otherwise.

"And are we really supposed to believe Barney has never ridden the tricycle? Didn't he tell Robin in the Bachelor Party episode he'd been in a ten-way?"

Easy! He was lying, probably trying to impress Robin. Note how hard it was for him to admit that he hadn't done it; he wasn't exactly forthcoming, initially.

Anthony Foglia said...

I like how we can have two different views of Ted. R.A. Porter thinks Ted wouldn't freeze up, and a mere two minutes later, The Pale Writer states Ted is incapable of being with two women at one time. Just goes to show Barney was right. "The logistics alone!"

Syconan, I didn't remember the 10-way (but another commenter on another blog mentioned it), but did Barney say it was him and 9 girls? A more even gender balance would help.[*] Plus, do we know when this happened? Before or after the wine spillage?

[*] I could imagine a requirement for the belt is a greater than 1 girl per 1 guy ratio. Otherwise, the "What Really Happened" extra scene makes the belt competition a photo finish. (Alan, are these scenes supposed to be canon, like "The Office?" This week's seems too untrue to the characters to work. More like Jason, Neil, and Alison having fun than Marshall, Barney, and Lily.)

Jason said...

I actually really enjoyed this episode. It had some sitcommy moments, but it was pretty hilarious whenever Barney was on screen. Glad to see the Wii get some love....it's an awesome system. For those that haven't seen it and love a good wii-laugh check this out:
http://ericksonblog.com/ericksonsports/2007/10/09/53/

BigTed said...

To me, the glaring omission in this episode was not giving the two girls anything funny to do, or giving them much characterization at all. They might as well have been a couple of walk-on "hot-to-trot babes" in a late-night Skinemax show. It was a complete waste of Danica McKellar's returning character, and especially of Busy Philipps as a comic actress.

Actually, the funniest thing I saw last night was the 15-second promo for the next episode of "The Office" that came on during "Heroes." Which doesn't say much for CBS' comedy lineup.

Dark Tyler said...

Alan, maybe you were in too much of a bad mood. :)

I found the episode cute, funny and sexy. Plus, future reference-worthy. Favorite part was when Barney walked Ted through the steps of his was to Heaven. And I loved that Ted did it.

Anyway, not something that will change my life, but I liked it.

Anonymous said...

I am beginning to think the show would live better in our memory if it had not been renewed.

Toby said...

As to whether or not Ted rode the trike, maybe he pulled a Ross Geller: made himself a sandwich before settling down to watch.

RandomRanter said...

I'm sort of in the middle. I didn't hate it, but I didn't save the episode either. I do agree that it was a shame for a show with such excellent continuity to bring back a character who had been so appreciated with no real follow up. Even Marshal would have remembered to ask about the Pineapple.

Anonymous said...

I have never understood your love for this show, Alan... and I gave it another shot this season and was befuddled! Glad to see you can see that these new eps have been quite lame.

Colin Fast said...

The first step in improving the show should be to get haircuts for Ted and Robin. Seriously, their lids are so bad it's distracting.

Step two is some actually funny material. But after the haircuts.

Todd said...

I enjoyed the episode. It wasn't my favorite, nor was it a great mediocrity. It's the sort of episode I'll sit through someday in syndication because I remember liking it well enough.

I like whoever it was above that posted about the mother coming on as the villain at some point. That would be great fun.

Stef said...

Kensington:
First, how do we get a mini-Freaks and Geeks reunion and not allow Busy Philipps and Jason Segel any screentime together?

I spent the entire episode thinking the same thing! How could there not be a Kim Kelly/Nick moment???

ant said...

I agree. Funnier please!

Nonetheless I did love Marshall playing wii in his shorts. It was funny on its own, but also funny since Nick Andopolis in F&G drummed in shorts.

anon said...

Alan,

Just as they did before the premiere, CBS is making "behind the scenes" (= deleted scenes) available for each of the first four episodes here (the fourth one isn't posted yet). I think they're all much funnier than what aired instead; clip three would have made a much better ending to Monday's episode.

Anon

JD said...

You guys are a little harsh, I think this season's been great. Yes Ted and Robin are split up but that's just a change, not a drawback. I'm sure we'll focus on Robin more as the season progresses, right now she's just in B-plots.

It's fun to watch Ted fumble through being single. I think if they kept it the same people would be complaining about how the show wasn't "fresh".

Check out my blog for even more proof the show is still on point:
http://www.have-you-met-ted.com

Anonymous said...

Allen i though it was a great ep. I laughed out loud more then a few times and i BEG for everyone to go to cbs.com and check out the "real" final scene of the ep...lets just say i doubt the censors at cbs would have let it air.

BF said...

Is anyone still reading this 18 months later?

Anyway, my biggest problem is that Ted disqualified himself for the belt when he refunded Lilly for the boots she lost during the sale. It may not have been a direct payment for services rendered, but money did exchange hands. That should make Red ineligibls given the rules.

Johnny Walker said...

I just watched this for the first time and your analysis is completely spot-on. I hope the series course-corrects soon.