Tuesday, November 13, 2007

HIMYM: Shattered glass

Haven't seen last night's "Journeyman" yet, but hope to get to it later today or tomorrow. In the meantime, "How I Met Your Mother" spoilers coming up just as soon as I literally blow my own mind...

In my ongoing "HIMYM vs. Sitcom" analysis of this season, I'd say "Spoiler Alert" fell somewhere in the middle. The notion of the shattered illusions and the revisited flashbacks were very much a "HIMYM" device, but the scene at the end where Marshall stops all the fighting with his big announcement felt like someone on the writing staff had just watched "The One With the Embryos" episode of "Friends." I'm not saying "Friends" invented that conceit or that no other comedy should get to use it, but it was a very traditional sitcom kind of moment.

While the various revelations were funny, particularly all the descriptions of Lily's chewing ("It sounds like cufflinks going up a vacuum cleaner!") and Ted being an annoying corrector (which led to the great Barney and Marshall exchange of "Don't they teach vocabulary in Canada?" "They literally don't!"), I have some logic questions about the shattered illusion concept. As originally introduced, the reason for the illusions was a desire to sleep with someone -- "You're driving the I Want to Have Sex With Her Bus, and it's got a huge blind spot." -- but then it expanded, so that Robin never noticed Lily's chewing, and the guys never noticed Ted's correcting, etc. Usually, when the show introduces an idea like this or Lemon Law or the Crazy/Hot scale, there are some very specific rules laid out about it, which only makes the applications funnier. If they'd mentioned some kind of best friend corollary from the start -- especially with some convoluted but understandable logic of its own -- I wouldn't have spent so much of the episode's second half wondering if Robin's dream kiss with Vacation Robin didn't hint at something deeper, whether Marshall wanted more than bromance with Ted, etc. Not a huge problem, but not up to top standards.

Couple of other thoughts:
  • While Ted was annoying with the correcting, at the same time I could relate to his hatred of the pandemic misuse of "literally," which drives me nuts almost as much as the bastardization of "push the edge of the envelope" (which suggests trying to expand the boundaries of something) to "push the envelope" (which suggests sliding an envelope around a table). Hi, my name is Alan, and I'm sometimes a grammar nerd. Anybody have their own linguistic pet peeve?
  • Marshall singing his daily routine -- "The Salvation Army does not fight fair.." -- was awesome.
  • In the three years later flashforward, Ted was not wearing a ring. Sloppiness, or a suggestion that the writers don't intend for Ted to get married until near the end of the series? (This, of course, assumes that the series will be around for three-plus more years.)
  • I have no comment on this, but it's too funny not to reproduce: "Why do you think I call her Chewbacca?" "I assume it's because she's loyal, wears shiny belts and I resemble a young Harrison Ford."
What did everybody else think?

44 comments:

Alex said...

I watched this at the gym, and maybe I was all jacked up because of that...I laughed a lot. I think part of it DID have to do with all of the descriptions of Lily's chewing. I had a feeling that Marshall would figure out his password through some crazy coincidence and I wasn't disappointed with his crazy pneumonic.

I liked the use of Spoon's "The Underdog" at the end, sans vocals. This show doesn't use a whole lot of music, but when they do, I've been pleased with the choices.

Anonymous said...

The whole fighting over annoying habits was already done in a first season Friends episode. (Phoebe chewed her hair, Ross corrected people's pronunciation, etc.)

Eric said...

I really enjoyed this one, and noticed a lot of callbacks here and there. (Note in the epilogue, Cathy talks about having brunch, including popovers, at a place down the street.)

But Pushing the Envelope isn't as bad a usage as you seem to think, Alan. The term originated as a mathematical/engineering term before entering the common lexicon through "The Right Stuff."

On the other hand, I was right there with Ted on the Frankenstein/Frankenstein's Monster distinction. Almost as bad as calling The Doctor "Doctor Who."

Jeff said...

So Lilly and Marshall moved out to DoWiSeTrePla... and Ted just keeps the place all to himself? That's a lot of rent that walked out the door.

Favorite line of the night: When "Marshall Law" is declared over his glass of champagne.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I watched this at the gym, and maybe I was all jacked up because of that...I laughed a lot.

No, it wasn't just the adrenaline. This was a funny episode. I'm just pointing out some areas here and there where it could have been improved. Like Larry David, I'm an improver.

But Pushing the Envelope isn't as bad a usage as you seem to think, Alan. The term originated as a mathematical/engineering term before entering the common lexicon through "The Right Stuff."

I followed the link, and it still seems to me that "push the envelope" doesn't apply; it's "push the edge" or "push the outside" of the envelope.

So Lilly and Marshall moved out to DoWiSeTrePla... and Ted just keeps the place all to himself? That's a lot of rent that walked out the door.

In this episode, at least, it seems that Marshall and Lily still live there, but given the references to the apartment, it didn't air out of order. They probably haven't closed yet.

And don't architects make mad money? Mike Brady was able to support a family of six in a big house with a beautiful Astroturf lawn and a live-in maid on an architect's salary, after all.

LtDish said...

"Irregardless" makes me want to throw my shoe at the heads of those who say it.

dez said...

I wasn't disappointed with his crazy pneumonic.

I liked his mnemonic, too [/Word Nerd off]

:-)

TL said...

Anybody have their own linguistic pet peeve?

*All uses of "impact" that don't involve one physical object actually hitting another object.

*"They" as a singular pronoun/"their" as a singular possessive pronoun.

Also, whatever the faults in last night's episode, the final scene in the apartment where everyone's illusions simultaneously crumbled was perfect enough that I didn't care about the rest.

TL said...

"Irregardless" makes me want to throw my shoe at the heads of those who say it.

Except when Tony Soprano says it. Then it's hilarious.

Kyle Wasko said...

Another so-so episode, I thought. If Season 2 was a solid A (and it was), 3 is hovering in the C+/B- range at the moment.

I don't want to be too nitpicky, but...

1. I didn't think the reveal that Ted's girlfriend talked too much was all that great. Was expecting a bit more there. (Full disclosure: I thought they might go with the tranny angle).

2. Small thing, but I thought they missed an opportunity with that final exchange between Robin and Ted. Would have preferred something more like this:

Robin: I literally want to rip your head off.
Ted: No, you figur--oh.

That said, next week's ep might very well be a classic.

treved said...

Maybe I'm still too fresh out of law school, but the "tension" of Marshall losing his password was too overblown for me.

Even if you lose your password, the results get published 2 days later. Sure, it's 2 days of annoyance, but it's not the 6 weeks they talked about on the show.

I know, I know, they exaggerated to fuel the story. It still bugged me.

Maggie said...

When Marshall declared Marshall law on the champagne, I think he was singing to "Confrontation" from Les Miz. I think it was a reference to the hilarious duet he and NPH sang on Megan Mullaly's talk show. (It's on YouTube, but I'm having trouble linking to it).

Tom G, ballssticksstuff.com said...

I would agree, the Tony Soprano Exception is the only time "irregardless" is at all tolerable, any other time it is just maddening.

Another one that gets me is "Currently, I am"... how redundant is that?

One that actually amuses me is "supposably", ever since Joey tried it out and liked it on Friends.

J. Bowman said...

The misuse of "begs the question" drives me bonkers.
Whenever someone says, "it begs the question," I have to work very hard not to immediately cut them off with, "No, it doesn't." Often, I fail at this.

flem snopes said...

linguistic pet peeve:

"I could care less," when, literally, the speaker means, "I couldn't care less."

Like fingernails on a chalkboard. Or desert spoons in a garbage disposal.

Captain T said...

What bothered me about this episode was that we as viewers have been watching these characters lives for 3 years now, if these annoyances actually existed, shouldn't the glass have been breaking for us as well? It all just seemed forced to me. It had some funny scenes, but overall, it was probably my least favorite episode of the season.

Daniel said...

J. Bowman - Count me in on your anti-Begs The Question crusade. The only thing that annoys me more than the general misuse of the phrase is when it's misused on legal shows where presumably the main characters KNOW BETTER. In the pilot of the Rob Lowe classic "Lyon's Den," Lowe's character -- the legal hotshot to end all legal hotshots --improperly begged the question and that was it for me. The show died there. For everybody else, the show died within two weeks away, so it wasn't a big loss...

I frequently serve as a deputy in the "Ironic" Police, responding with "Nope. That'd be a coincidence." Or "Nah, that's really just more something that sucks."

That being said, I have several dozen other rhetorical crutches that I fall back on that are inevitably annoying to other people.

-Daniel

Devin McCullen said...

I'm just annoyed because I was sure the intro was going to be "Spoilers as soon as I arrange an clandestine meeting in a deserted parking structure.", so much so that I posted it in a discussion over at Throwing Things just to have it on the record. (Yes, I probably need help.)

But I thought it was a very enjoyable episode. One subtle thing I liked was when Barney revealed his scam to Marshall, Marshall got so angry for a minute my brain went "Slap coming!", because I forgot which week it was supposed to be. (And, yes, a slap there wouldn't have made sense with the countdown, it was a sudden thought.) But I think that was probably done that way as a subtle reminder to the audience about the whole slap bit. It got me to slapcountdown.com last night.

Karen said...

I have some logic questions about the shattered illusion concept. As originally introduced, the reason for the illusions was a desire to sleep with someone -- "You're driving the I Want to Have Sex With Her Bus, and it's got a huge blind spot." -- but then it expanded, so that Robin never noticed Lily's chewing, and the guys never noticed Ted's correcting, etc.

Good lord, yes. That irritated the bejeezus out of me. Every time the glass shattered after the original example, my attitude was. basically, "Really? Barney wants to sleep with Ted? Interesting!" A terrible plot hole.

In addition to that, as the TWoP "weecap" (and talk about an irritating linguistic development right there) noted, not all the jokes were particularly strong.

And, on the subject of linguistic pet peeves, I'd have to go with the "less/fewer" confusion that is rampant today, even in advertising ("Gets less miles to the gallon!"). But, truly, there are so many, starting with apostrophe abuse: http://www.apostropheabuse.com/.

chris W said...

My grammar pet peeve:

When people use "ignorant" to mean rude. This one girl in my high school class used it all the time (she was always fighting with people so she got a chance to use it a lot) and it drove me bonkers.

Dave Sandell said...

I agree with almost all of the pet peeves. "Begs the question" isn't amongst them, only because I find the whole thing confusing and choose not to use it ever as a result. I don't understand the proper or improper uses.

However, I use they as a singular pronoun all the time. I realize it's bad grammar, but I hate having to say 'he or she' and use 'they' instead. I really want to use something else, but 'one' sounds odd. Any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Not sure if this counts as a grammar pet peeve - just word usage, I suppose. Anytime somebody uses the expression "whatnot" it makes my skin crawl. What does that mean?

LoopyChew said...

What bothered me about this episode was that we as viewers have been watching these characters lives for 3 years now, if these annoyances actually existed, shouldn't the glass have been breaking for us as well?

Maybe, but I think that at the very least the guys' habits have some merit. Having just started hooking someone on S1, Marshall's singing is in 1x03. "Studyin' law...makin' a responsible choice for my few-chah..."

I don't think we've seen Ted correcting people all that much, but at the same time I think it's perfectly in-character for him. Think of it as a holdover from his snobby days.

Barney's habits actually endear him to us. They're what make him--wait for it--legendary! Whaaaaat uuuuup?

Personally, this episode was one of the better ones of the season. Still no "How I Met Everyone Else," but better than everything that came before that. There were lots of hilarious moments, but the very last second with the subtitle "(Glass shattering)" was what really killed me.

Bruce Reid said...

For me the logic of the premise fell apart when everybody had their illusions shattered about Barney. If these are supposed to be attributes overlooked because we admire so much about the person otherwise that we can't imagine they're in any way annoying...well, Barney is already annoying. His high-pitched catch-phrase-slinging self-absorption wouldn't be news to anybody; they're part of his dickishness, which, however entertaining to watch, is clearly established as understood and often grating to everybody on the show.

Still, a funny enough episode.

David J. Loehr said...

The whole literally thing reminded me of a subtle running joke through the entire series of Barney Miller, where they would do variations on "literally/figuratively/metaphorically speaking." (And they were always grammatically correct.)

CM said...

I agree with Captain T - the conceit didn't make sense, AND has been done. The only time I laughed during the entire episode was Barney's last congratulatory comment, "Lawsuit up!" Otherwise, disappointing, boring and hackneyed A and B stories.

Ken said...

As I recall, in The Right Stuff, they would say, "Pushing the edge of that envelope, and hauling it back in," correctly. It's only when adopted popularly did "the edge" get dropped, just like the "n't" to yield "Could care less". You might as well write, "for all intensive porpoises" -- you think you're using a phrase, but you're not. For me, every use of "it's" that should be "its" pops out.

I thought the shattering glass effect was a bit overused, and many of the jokes were not that funny.

Rand said...

I can't say I was terribly fond of this episode. It was funny, but didn't seem connected to the series, everything felt generic and the only point of the jokes seemed to underline the "lesson," which is kinda of lame in my mind. But perhaps I'm being too harsh, it was still funny.

My linguistic pet peeve isn't terribly original, but I hate how people use "ironic." There is a certain vagueness to the meaning of the word that could allow liberal interpretation, but ironic DOES NOT simply mean surprisingly coincidental, there has to be some sense of defying expectations or literal meaning.

TomV-Piscataway said...

I liked this episode, it could have used some tweaking, but overall I enjoyed it.

My pet word peeve - My friend uses the term "to be quite honest with you" all the time ! UGH! What is he doing, lying to me the rest of the time?? Or being semi-honest?

Mark said...

I read somewhere that the writers of The Office make it a point to never use "literally" incorrectly. I've never checked for myself, but I'd always thought that was pretty cool.

filmcricket said...

I agree with all of the pet peeves listed here, especially, as TL said, the use of "impact" as a verb.

One that hasn't been mentioned is split infinitives, for which I blame Star Trek. Lots of people, myself included, use them in conversation, but seeing them written drives me nuts, even though they are supposedly now an accepted part of English grammar.

dez said...

Split infinitives are probably accepted now thanks to Business English, bah. I will admit that it does sound better to split some infinitives when speaking, though.

One of my favorite tactics when arguing on the 'nets with a grammarian is to use "could care less" on purpose and then watch the person's head start spinnning.

My linguistic pet peeve is any use of the phrase "It is what it is," especially as a way to eschew personal responsibility for something going wrong. Who came up with that phrase anyway?

Anonymous said...

linguistic pet peeve:

The use of "conversate" and "conversating".

Drives. me. nuts. (literally)

wonderbug said...

has anyone heard about this new film starring Ryan Reynolds?
a dad tells his kid how he met her mother...
sound familiar?

http://www.iwatchstuff.com/2007/11/definitely_maybe_trailer_defin.php

PamelaJaye said...

I loved the ep. apparently I haven't seen a lot of sitcoms since the mid-nineties, and I have only seen a handful of eps of Friends. My brother laughed so hard I had to pause the ep now and then (and he saw it Tuesday night, so I got to enjoy him enjoying it).

I missed the first half of the Canadian Grammar thing. twice. thanks.

and yes, I'm a grammar nerd. And I live on the internet where people can't spell lose, too, or definitely.

There was once a book review which read "Blood literally explodes off the page!" I have not been able to find it in the last few years. If someone knows where it is, please share!

In the real world, aside from my hatred of misused literallys, people "could care less" and everyone loves to modify "unique." (very unique!)

it seemed to me that Marshall and Lily still live there... or was that all flashbacks? (and come to think of it, why doesn't Barney move in? I know he has an *awesome* place of his own (and formerly Lily's) but perhaps he could just rent a room for sex. And why does he go to this particular bar, anyway? Now that we know that he *met* everyone there - not that he goes there cause that's where his friends go (and we know it's too far from his house and interferes with sex).

PamelaJaye said...

I'm going to assume that no one here has read Eats Shoots and Leaves (I think by Lynne Truss?) because it has not been mentioned (at least by name. i'm still reading comments)

bill said...

In "The Right Stuff," envelope is used ten times

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed it. Thought it was one of the better eps this year.

As for linguistic pet peeve: "really/very/sort of/whatever unique." You're either unique or you're not.

Also, while I love my grocery store, it has two signs that amuse me:
* "Wash produce *before* eating" (emphasis on the sign). Because it's tough to wash it after eating it...
* And while I don't remember the exact wording, something about carding for all beverages. I didn't realize I needed ID to buy milk or OJ. It's especially annoying since supermarkets can't even sell alcohol in my state...

Anonymous said...

pamalajaye,

never assume...

PamelaJaye said...

Alan, your newspaper article on Chuck contains the phrase "besides the point"!

arrrrrgghhhhhh! (I'm literally pulling my hair out now. no, wait...)

(no wonder I can't get myself through this article)

Anonymous said...

linguistic pet peeve:

"exact same"

Anonymous said...

Linguistic pet peeve...

Mindless prattle:
"The proof is in the pudding."

Meaningful aphorism:
"The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this episode a lot until you pointed out that the rules they established about the blind spot were not consistant throughout the epsiode. Now I don't like it all that much. HIMYM is usally more careful thn that. I literally heard the sound of glass breaking...sigh

Anonymous said...

>Anonymous said...

pamalajaye,

for some reason, misspelling my name annoys me.
maybe i'm just frustrated with yet another dead hard drive