Monday, December 10, 2007

HIMYM: 8 simple rules

Spoilers for "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I leap in slow motion...

On this season's "HIMYM" vs. Sitcom scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing "HIMYM" at its most distinct (say, "How I Met Everyone Else") and 1 representing a leftover "Suddenly Susan" script with the names changed to protect the innocent (say, "We're Not From Here"), I'd have to put "The Platinum Rule" at a solid 9, maybe even a 9.5. Flashbacks within flashbacks -- with characters referring back and forth to the previous flashbacks to explain why they're reliving them -- Barney presenting another dating rule, a bit of meta main character mockery with the talk of how much Ted obsesses over his stupid hair, more anti-Canada bigotry ("What's the opposite of name-dropping")... Really, the only thing keeping it from a 10 is that I'm pretty sure Lily has never before sported the hairstyle she had in the neighbor flashbacks, even though those scenes would have taken place not long after "Slap Bet." That's the sort of continuity error the show doesn't usually make.

Then again, maybe "Platinum Rule" ought to score higher. There's a reason I've spent so much of this season harping on what is and isn't a "HIMYM"-y episode, and it's that the way Bays, Thomas and company play with structure is at least as important as -- and sometimes more important than -- the characters, or the plots, or even the jokes. Told sequentially, the three storylines here would have gotten repetitive and predictable in a hurry (Robin's in particular; the guy didn't remotely seem like an ex-hockey player, and overall they have yet to crack the code for giving her a good dating subplot), but the way they kept folding in and out of each other became part of the fun. Sequences like the three-tiered break-up, with Robin and Marshall/Lily trying to dump graciously while Barney was candid to a fault with Wendy the Waitress worked precisely because they were placed next to each other in that "Slaughterhouse Five" chronological style that "HIMYM" does so well.

I've liked some of Barney's previous rules better than this one -- Lemon Law's hard to top, and Crazy/Hot did come with a visual aid -- but there were enough amusing moments to compensate, whether Marshall performing charades for "We just go across the hall!" or the gang ordering Barney to marry Wendy the Waitress to keep from losing the bar. And Neil Patrick Harris had some wonderful slapstick moments, with both his slide across the apartment to prevent Ted's exit and his slo-mo leap to slap the taste of burger out of Marshall's mouth.

Meanwhile, I'm still undecided on whether "HIMYM" is going to make the cut for my Top 10 list for '07. "Slap Bet" and "Single Stamina," the high points of season two, both aired at the tail end of '06, and season three has been up and down. Since I'm planning to pair the Top 10 list with a list of great episodes (or even moments) from shows that didn't make the list (either ones that just missed the cut or ones that are usually not that great but had a transcendent show), I'll have room to mention "HIMYM" somewhere, but my question is this: if you had to pick a single episode of the series that aired in this calendar year as the best, what would it be? "Showdown"? "How I Met Everyone Else"? Something else?

49 comments:

Michaela said...

"So that was the end of the story between me and Stella, at least for the time being." Eeeenteresting.

I speculated when he got the tattoo that it would turn out to be significant that he didn't have it immediately removed...

R.A. Porter said...

I think I'm going to be alone on this, but I thought they tried way too hard to timeshift in tonight's episode. I laughed, quite a few times, and some of the shifts worked for me, but overall I thought they'd tried a little too hard. Of course, if the AMPTP didn't cause production on everything to shut down, maybe my problems with the episode could have been ironed out a bit during rehearsals.

I did love seeing more of Wendy the Waitress, though.

dez said...

Right now, I'd vote "How I Met Everyone Else." And when the show ended tonight, all I could think was how much I was going to miss it until it comes back.

BTW, that guy not only didn't look like a hockey player, but he didn't look like a sportscaster, either :-)

BigTed said...

Yikes -- for a moment there, I thought you had actually linked to a review of an old "Suddenly Susan" episode. (A show that proved once and for all that the opposite of comedy isn't necessarily tragedy.)

Of course, as with all the catch phrases, playing with time the way "HIMYM" does is itself partially derived from "Seinfeld" (specifically the episode titled "The Betrayal," which itself was based on the Harold Pinter play that runs in reverse).

As for this episode, I admired it more than I loved it. The funny just wasn't there as much as it might have been. (Is it possible that the strike kept them from punching up the jokes in the writers' room?) And I'm getting a little worried about Ted as a character -- the vain concern over his (ridiculously tousled) hair, the fact that he's so often the one who gets into humiliating situations and becomes the butt of the others' jokes, is turning him into a version of Ross Geller. And nobody wants that. Maybe it's about time the "mother" showed up to whip him into shape, or at least to keep him from becoming boring.

Kyle Wasko said...

Solid episode tonight, though, like you, I remain disappointed with Season 3 on the whole.

As for best ep in the calendar year...while "How I Met Everyone Else" is up there, I think that "Showdown" is my fave. They completely nailed the TPIR scenes (the part where Barney bids a billion dollars, chats with BB for 29 seconds, then hits the price of the computer right on the number was perfect) and did a great job of linking it to the rest of the gang (Marshall and Lily's wedding--terrific editing there.)

I seem to recall "Stuff" (Slap #2) being really good. The same goes for "Arrivederci, Fiero" (although, upon re-watching it last Monday night, it's not so much laugh-out-loud funny as sweet.)

One (or two) other off-topic question: do you have the Extras: Christmas Special yet? If so, have you watched it?

Joe said...

Ya gotta put HIMYM on the top 10 list! There were a couple duds early on this season, but it's been brilliant the past 6 weeks, and last season was great. 30 Rock is the 21st Century Seinfeld; HIMYM is its Friends...only better. Hopefully the Emmy losers will nominate it.

I'm surprised you missed the hidden message in last night's show!

Oz said...

I think "Showdown" was much better than "HIM Everyone Else", and that "Stuff" is the only other episode in the running since its slaptastic coda was clearly the funniest moment of HIMYM 2007.

Also, I don't think HIMYM can even make a top 20 for 2007, much less a top 10, especially if you include British shows. Off the top of my head, the following shows overall had better years (in roughly descending order of average episode quality):

Mad Men
The Shield
Gossip Girl
House
The Office
Heroes
Pushing Daisies
30 Rock
Doctor Who
Dexter
The Sopranos
Battlestar Galactica
Ugly Betty
Jekyll
Chuck
Eureka
Life on Mars (II)
Journeyman
Friday Night Lights
Supernatural

Moreover, even though it's hard to compare dramas and comedies, I think the best 2007 episode of each of the above series was much better than the best of HIMYM.

Oz

RJ said...

You can't beat "Showdown" and "Slap Bet"...but "The Pineapple Incident" deserves an honorable mention.

jcpbmg said...

I loved tonight's episode and fully agree that it represented everything that is (and can) be great about the show when it's done right. And at least they got Lilly's hair right in the 2005 flashbacks.

To me this marks the best episode of the season thus far, however it doesn't hold a candle to some of those season 1 and 2 episodes that we all cherish.

Also, did I completely miss a little throw away line because I totally didn't catch the meta of Ted constantly fixing his hair (is it just a think Radnor does a lot)? Although I did love how Marshall kept handing Barney tissues to wipe all of the product off of his hands.

TL said...

ARRRGGGG.... our CBS affiliate preempted HIMYM to run a simulcast of Monday Night Football. Isn't this why they moved MNF to cable in the first place?

Allison said...

"Club soda gets everything off"

Love the dirty stuff they sneak into this show.

Also, I enjoyed the very subtle trend shifts in Lily's outfits and hair from present day to 2006 to 2005. Really nice attention to detail.

Stacie said...

DON'T KILL THE BAR, DUDE.

Adam said...

Is it okay if I didn't love the episode? Admired the structure, but just didn't find it funny enough. Too predictable.

RandomRanter said...

TL, while I feel your pain, when a game runs on cable they are required to provide it to the local markets on a broadcast channel.
Back to HIMYM, I haven't felt this season is as awesome as the prior two, but still really enjoyable.
But "Showdown" rocked. HIMEE was good to, Showdown remains funny after repeated viewings.

Matt said...

I guess I'm the only one but I really liked the season finale last year (Something Blue was the title I believe). I thought the flashback to the Ted/Robin breakup was interesting. The way they messed with the traditional wedding TV cliches for Marshall/Lily (new last name - Awesomes) was great as well. What really sold it for me though, was the ending. Just classic Barney with a hint of how much he missed his friend.

Andrew said...

Of everything that aired this year, I'd agree that Showdown was the winner. Last night's was one of the better episodes of this season.

Was this one filmed after the strike began?

Alex said...

Like others have written: I appreciated the effort to combine all three past indescretions, but I wasn't bowled over by the execution. I think it was because I just didn't love Barney's explanation for "The Platinum Rule." The alternative - "don't eat where you poop" - was more appropriate, but I know they wanted to add yet another crazy, Barney rule-of-thumb.

Sidenote: nice to see Kristen Schaal show up, although I wish she'd had more to do. Loved the bit with Marshall and Lily ultimately sneaking out the window and finding them in the alley.

Skeezix said...

Expecting to see a repeat, I was pleasantly surprised by this episode and I agree with your assessment of it.

"the guy didn't remotely seem like an ex-hockey player, and overall they have yet to crack the code for giving her a good dating subplot"

Up here in Canada, where so many people have (at some point in their lives) played hockey, I don't know what you would expect an "ex-hockey player" to be, but I agree that the attraction between Iron Man and Robin seemed forced.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sidenote: nice to see Kristen Schaal show up, although I wish she'd had more to do.

Me, too. Fortunately, they didn't have the other couple move out of the building, so they could always use her again when she's not busy chasing Bret and Jemaine.

Up here in Canada, where so many people have (at some point in their lives) played hockey, I don't know what you would expect an "ex-hockey player" to be,

An ex-NHL player, which is what he was described as.

AndyW said...

For the conspiracy theory, is it significant we never saw the good Dr. Stella? I mean, it's not yellow-umbrella significant, but I'll grasp at straws in these end times for scripted television.

Dave said...

"Stuff" and "Showdown" are my favorites of this calendar year. Not sure how to choose between them, but I supposed "Showdown" had more 'HIMYM-elements'.

For me, it's an easy top ten show (with, in some sort of order, Lost, Friday Night Lights, The Sopranos, 30 Rock, The Office, Dexter & Chuck being the only better shows) but I didn't catch any of the BBC shows and I don't have the fondness for some of the other shows you blog about, so I can see it slipping off the list (season one of Heroes and either BSG or Pushing Daisies would round out a top ten for me).

Pirate Alice said...

I may be alone here, but I REALLY liked Slapsgiving. The song at the end was so funny and bringing back the slap bet was great.

Adam said...

Long time reader first time caller. I have a continuity question and I know this is the place to ask it.

Didn't Marshall & Lilly get their own place?

jcpbmg said...

adam, while we were led to believe that at the end of that episode, it's been clear from the past 3 or 4 episodes that they're still living with ted. i guess we're to assume that marshall used his lawyer skills to get them out of the lease (i mean he has to be applying that law degree somehow considering we never hear him discuss the job he's supposed to have with john cho).

Anonymous said...

Fiero was a pretty good episdoe that (I think) ran in 2007. "I would walk 500 hundred miles...."

TL said...

TL, while I feel your pain, when a game runs on cable they are required to provide it to the local markets on a broadcast channel.

Thanks, I mostly just needed to complain for a minute since this is the second time this season. Our affiliate always re-airs the preempted HIMYM at 3AM Sunday morning, although not in HD.

Anonymous said...

Lucky Penny was really funny, or at least parts were. Barney running the marathon without training and then being stuck on the subway was hilarious - old ladies and a pregnant woman glaring at him. Barney learing to drive in Arrivederci, Fiero was also priceless. Something Borrowed was one of my other favorites; the frosted tips, the toupee and finally the hat. "oh, a hat...".

Andrew said...

I see that it's already been noted, but I did mean to add, hey-- that's Kristin Schaal as the neighbor!

While HIMYM might not be in the best 10 TV shows of the year, it is one of the best comedies on TV. Besides 30 Rock and The Office (and the more limited runs of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Flight of the Conchords), there aren't that many half-hour comedies, much less many that are worthwhile.

jcpbmg said...

speaking of other comedies, Alan, do you have any thoughts on how well Samantha Who is doing after both you and Mo Ryan gave it negative reviews. The show did suck at first, but in its defense it's gotten considerably better since the pilot, and honestly who knew Barry Watson was funny.

Anonymous said...

Oh!! "Slapsgiving is my favorite." I can watch that episode over and over... Just the way Marshall looks at Barney, is totally worth it.. The song at the end... I haven't watched the previous seasons, but I don't know what can top it.

dez said...

I've reconsidered and want to change my vote to "Showdown." Little Barney watching his "dad" on TV was hilarious!

I mean, it's not yellow-umbrella significant, but I'll grasp at straws in these end times for scripted television.


Heh, whatever you do, don't go out into The Mist....

Drew said...

I really think that this show has been far, far more consistent than The Office has been the last two seasons. The Office has been good, of course, but it's spectacularly uneven at times both in terms of tone and in terms of sheer quality. While HIMYM hasn't been as strong this season as it was last, I would not put The Office's third season (or its fourth) above HIMYM. Maybe equal. But I can't see how it's been better.

Anonymous said...

Showdown, hands down. There's a reason why this was NPH's Emmy submission after he was nominated.

John F said...

"Heh, whatever you do, don't go out into The Mist...."

Totally agree, avoid The Mist at all costs.

On topic, HIMYM is easily in the top five comedies on tv, but when including dramas I can see where it might just miss the mark.

Did anyone notice in the episode that they went out of sequence once. Instead of the Robin, Lily/Marshall, Barney structure of the episode, when they were realizing that they made a mistake they went Robin, Barney, then Lily/Marshall. Funny they missed that when they are generally so good with the continuity.

Anthony Foglia said...

No one's responded to the first comment. Michaela, I, too, thought it was significant that Ted added that "this was the end of the story[...] at least for the time being." In fact, from very early on, I expected this to relationship to be the exception to the platinum rule. Maybe from the way they built up the rule, it just needed to be proven right or wrong in "present time" or something else, but if it wasn't for the lack of an umbrella...

(Does the Platinum Rule even apply to Ted dating this doctor? He said it would have been 10 treatments. And if things did go south, he could have always switched doctors. That's much easier than finding a new job, apartment, or bar.)

treved said...

As a huge HIMYM fan, and someone who grew up in Vancouver and remains obsessed with the Canucks, the Mason Raymond shout-out just slayed me!

Plus, he's a pretty obscure player - a rookie that barely made the team this season, and then was sent to the minors after only a few games. Though he was called back up to the big team today! What a great week for him!

Alan, any chance you can ask Carter/Bays next time you talk how they came up with him? Do they have a Vancouver writer on staff or something?

dez said...

Totally agree, avoid The Mist at all costs.

Everyone should see The Mist. Great flick :-)

MJ said...

I think HIMYM should get points for being viewer friendly and still smart. It's legions beyond the single camera set crap but more accessible than Arrested Development and similar shows that didn't appeal to the masses. I don't spend the week waiting for the next episode, but I'm always happy to watch when it hits my Tivo queue.

Alex R said...

Everyone ignored the first comment on this post, but Michaela, I had the SAME REACTION as you about Stella the unseen Doctor.

I turned to my wife with a chill up and down my spine after that supposed 'throwaway' line and said, "that's going to BE the mother character".

The line was so deliberate at the end, (plus the fact that they never showed Stella in the episode which means they will want to cast someone important when they finally do cast the role), leads me to believe she will be the mother.

Nice catch, Michaela.

Great episode - definitely one of my favorites of the year.

My only nitpick was that Lily's hair in it's current state is the worst - I absolutely loathe her season 3 hair, and this coming from a huge Allyson Hannigan fan. She looks like she should be into bondage with this cut.

My 1 other nitpick was the guy playing the hockey player/sportscaster was the worst actor I have ever seen.

max_headroom said...

I love the episode too! However, I totally agree with Alex R regarding Lily's hairstyle. What on earth?!?

Lindy said...

I'm bummed that this was the last episode made before the strike shut down production -- no more new HIMYM for who knows how long. I was happy that it went out on a strong note, but I'm going to miss this show in 2008.

After the season premiere, I half-jokingly guessed that Mom could be the dermatologist who removes Ted's tattoo ... No yellow umbrella, yet, but I'm still suspicious.

Lindy said...

Oh, and I echo everything that's been said about Lily's current haircut. Ick. I think Lily's strange neighbor storyline hairstyle was the stylist's best attempt to hide her awful bangs and get a rough approximation of her Season 2 hair.

Drew said...

It just seems a little too obvious now given that comment. That doesn't mean she won't be the next Robin, though. Or maybe it'll just be like the dating service where they revisit it later in the season, and it ultimately leads to nothing. I guess that'd be like Trudy, as well.

Anyone read the letter the creators wrote on the HIMYM MySpace? Basically, it was awesome and said they were about to unfold a really juicy story. Director Pam Fryman called it "yummy" even.

So I think we call that a bummer.

Don't kill the show, strike.

Anonymous said...

Amazingly, on the week he's mentioned, Mason Raymond scored his first big league goal tonight.

Anonymous said...

Best episode of the year has got to be Slapsgiving!

Anonymous said...

What's the song during the step 3 ???? Thanks ...

AlexisFromFrance said...

What's the song during the step 3 ?????? thanks

CM said...

Just saw it (TiVo) -- loved it! I understand the distinction between "admiring" it and actually finding it funny, and maybe I admired it more, but that was plenty for me. My favorite was how each triplet of stories ended with each of them repeating the same phrase in the past and now... "I think it'll be okay." "But it wasn't." I think your review is spot-on -- the same exact plot would have been tired and overdone on any other show, but here it's brilliant.

Showdown is my favorite so far, but this one comes in second for me.

Pamela Jaye said...

Months later...

confused.
he's going out with her, and then a couple of episodes later, he's going to meet her (and we are too?)
It seemed to me the eps were out of order, but a cursory glance at the comments says no...

confused.
(and sorry i was so out of it during the season. i figured a compressed rewatch would help, but i should have combined it with blog reading. (yours, not Barney's)