Monday, March 17, 2008

HIMYM, "No Tomorrow": Kissing the Barney-stone

Spoilers for "No Tomorrow," the first post-strike episode of "How I Met Your Mother," coming up just as soon as I do some drunk pocket-dialing...

Ahhhh, "HIMYM." Sweet, delicious, chocolate-y "HIMYM." No, wait -- that's the chocolate chip cookie I just ate. (Who knew that the local liquor store would have the best cookies in the state?) But "HIMYM" was pretty sweet, too. Not the best episode of the season (that's still "How I Met Everyone Else"), but after three months-plus with no show, I would have taken a "We're Not From Here" right now. And "No Tomorrow" was a lot funnier than "We're Not From Here."

A few friends of mine who are fans of the show complained that Ted's transformation this season into a willing wingman for Barney made them like him a lot less. I didn't have that problem -- if anything, the schmoopie, self-righteous Ted of season one could be a lot more annoying -- and I thought it was a viable character arc to go in after the split from Robin. But that arc's over now, with Ted having hit rock bottom as a player after hearing all the pocket-dialed(*) messages. Between Future Ted's narration at the beginning and end of the episode and the return of the mother's yellow umbrella, the show seems to be moving quickly towards introducing the woman of Ted's dreams.

((*) I've never had the pocket-dialing problem, but rather deal with pocket-photographing. Every couple of days, I need to go in and delete a dozen or so completely black photos that were taken when the cameraphone button got accidentally pushed as I was walking. Anybody else have that problem?)

I do wonder, though, how this Britney Spears/Alicia Silverstone/Sarah Chalke kerfuffle will complicate matters. For those of you not keeping up with the latest, Silverstone was going to be in next week's episode as a woman Ted was chasing. Then the producers -- no doubt worrying about cancellation and desperate for anything to goose the numbers -- cast Britney to play a small role, and allegedly Silverstone and her people didn't appreciate being upstaged. So Silverstone bowed out, and the producers brought in Chalke at the last minute.

Now, I haven't seen next week's episode, but as soon as I heard they were casting Silverstone to play a potential Ted love interest, my reaction was, "Okay, that's the mom." Just seemed to click for some reason. But with "Scrubs" apparently returning for next season (either on NBC or ABC), Chalke's not going to be available for more than next week's show, even though tonight's episode implies Ted's going to meet the mom very soon, and... Okay, now my brain hurts a little, so let's get back to discussing "No Tomorrow" and deal with next week when it comes.

So Ted hits rock bottom, but I enjoyed spending most of the episode seeing Ted's beer goggle version of events, and of seeing Ted and, especially, Barney marvel at the laws of karma turning upside down. ("Shockingly deep bellybuttons" is just a funny turn of phrase.) The only thing the story missed, I think, was for the sober flashback version of events to be in even starker contrast to what we originally saw.

People have been asking ever since "Dowisetrepla" when Marshall and Lily would be moving out, and now we have our answer: not until the crooked floors get fixed, or until the producers contrive another systemic problem with that money pit to keep the living arrangements status quo. I was surprised that Marshall didn't start ranting about the smell on top of the floor problem ("First it reeks of sewage and now it's crooked!"), but the increasing tilt of the camera was a nice touch, as were Marshall's conflicting lies about the friendly but racist ghost.

One last point: Barney's area code monologue was maybe my favorite thing Neil Patrick Harris has said all season, and not just because I was once a possessor of a 973 number (and now have an area code so far removed from the city that it wasn't even worth mentioning).

What did everybody else think?

46 comments:

Mich said...

Certainly Ted bumping into that girl in the club wasn't totally random, right? She's probably being set up to be the friend of the mother or something like that.

Anthony Foglia said...

I liked it. Like you said, it wasn't great, but it had some really good moments. I'll miss Ted as wingman. He never really got too cruel and sexist though. Just four episodes really ("Wait For It...", "We're Not From Here", "Third Wheel", "No Tomorrow"), three of which were in the very beginning of the season, and even in other episodes where he was a wingman ("The Yips") Ted wasn't acting like a jerk or Barney-lite. Yes he had two girlfriends, but we don't know how casual he was with them. Those episodes, "How I Met Everyone Else" and "Spoiler Alert", did suffer from it though; they felt like typical "Seinfeld" or "Friends" episodes with the boy/girl-friend of the week.

I don't think the problem was Ted's characterization, but the weak execution.

About next week's episode, I'm not sure Silverstone/Chalke was supposed to be the future mother (they haven't reached syndication money yet), but she was the dermatologist Barney and the others were dead set against Ted dating because it violated the Platinum Rule. So now, because Britney was hired and Silverstone has a big ego, we'll get only the first chapter of a story. Silverstone shouldn't complain; she hasn't done anything in 5 years.

Mac said...

Oh, sweet lord, the pocket-photo problem. Some days I have five or six new ones. Oh, and it runs down the battery, too. I even wore my phone on my belt for awhile to avoid it, but eventually decided pocket photos were a small price to pay for not looking like a complete tool.

ben said...

I agree with mich, though my immediate thought was that she *was* the mother, and not a friend of the mother. Makes sense that she would just be a link to the mother though.

Mike Mac said...

Really missed this show much more than I realized. I thought this was a great return and sets the stage for a decent spring season, with or without stunt-casting intended to boost the ratings.

Although I disagree with one point... I thought that it was nice to see Ted's 'real' version of events weren't so skewed from his drunken interpretation, but that the realization of how he sounded and acted was sobering enough just the same. This was much more realistic than those moments when sitcoms go for cheap laughs by 'drunkifying' everything and everyone at the bar to show how horribly things had really gone. This has been one of the show's virtues in its better episodes... not overselling the point, and keeping some emotional resonance in tact for the characters, which allows them to get away with so many of the goofier things that they do so well.

In what will surely be a recurring theme on this site for weeks to come... it's great to have some freshly scripted series back on the networks.

Anonymous said...

My favorite line: "How is racist ghost better than crooked? Seriously, someone tell me how that's better?" Cobie Smulders is a seriously underrated comic actress.

Mark B said...

Slanted floor? So they moved into Paul and Jamie Buchman's old place?

John F said...

I enjoyed the fact that view from Lily and Marshall's condo altered based on the slant storyline. When they first arrived the bridge slanted slightly. As soon as Robin and Marshall tested the slant with the champagne bottle the bridge righted itself and stayed that way heighten the perspective.

I like the "friend of the mom" theory for the girl Ted bumped into at the bar.

Alan, I too have the cell phone camera problem. I assumed this was a problem for me because my phone's a flip phone and the only button on the side turns the camera on. The people I've know who have the random dial problem have phones like Ted's, where all the buttons are exposed and they haven't set the keys on "lock."

M.A.Peel said...

Has any other show, besides Cheers, had a St. Patrick's Day episode? I can't think of one. Loved the green suit.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Has any other show, besides Cheers, had a St. Patrick's Day episode? I can't think of one.

Technically, the "ER" pilot took place on St. Patty's Day.

And that "Cheers" episode was co-written by the great Ken Levine, who has a script excerpt up at his blog.

Bobman said...

I'm not ashamed to admit that I was openly singing aloud the "theme song". Welcome back, good comedy :)

As for the pocket dialing / phoning, I had several "candy bar" phones that would be prone to this behavior, but they all had lock features to avoid such a problem.

R.A. Porter said...

anthony foglia, I've got to disagree about Silverstone's ego being the problem. I can't have anything but respect for someone who didn't want to get in the middle of the sewer that is Spears' life right now. It's a cheap casting stunt made in a desperate attempt to save this show we all love. Killing it to save it.

So Ted stole Tracy's* umbrella. Is she going to realize it's hers when at some point she sees Ted with it, or is she going to replace her original umbrella with a new yellow one (in honor of Paddington Bear, natch) and run into Ted that way?


*Watch "Belly Full of Turkey" again. For a show as obsessed with continuity as this, I'm convinced the mother's name is "Tracy".

Anonymous said...

Technically, the Simpsons episode with Rex Bannister, Prohibition, and that Untouchables narration begins as a St. Paddy's episode, which I only because they re-ran it tonight, as they do every year in L.A. Can't wait for the April 15th syndication re-run of the Homer-rats-out-Burns-for-the-IRS episode.

Oh, and good HIMYM.

Joel

Matt said...

Michael Ausiello has strongly hinted that Silverstone is "Mother" and that her dropping out of the episode simply changed the plot--she'll turn up later. Silverstone remains a charming presence, and is one of the few known actresses who I can see holding her own with this ensemble.

Devin McCullen said...

I think my favorite moment may have been Lily's terrified leap into Marshall's arms. Glad to have it back.

Michael said...

I really liked the episode and am glad it's back (I also sang the theme song, but i do that every week.)

A few thoughts:
1. The girl he bumped into really stood out the second time I watched the ep. Must be a friend.
2. Just before he was punched(the drunker time), Ted used the word "Brah," which they'd agreed to never use again. It was a good week, they had fun. (what episode is that from, btw?)

3. Barney seemed to be getting progresively drunker the whole episode while Ted stays "sober"

4. The conversation between Ted and Marshal at the end seemed really out of place for this show. Not bad, just different. The whole thing after Ted left the apartment at the end seemed really out of place for the show, too.

5. If the story of how Ted met the mother has to do with her yellow umbrella (from ep 3.01), and he got the umbrella as a result of this party, how come he didn't find out she was there till "several years later"?


Such a great show, and i'm so glad its back.

greatreader said...

I watched HIMYM and the New Adventures of Old Christine for the first time tonight. That admission is rather embarrassing considering how much I enjoyed both.

Nicole said...

I purse dial myself all the time...

Anyway, glad it was back. The girl Ted bumped into was definitely noticeable and I thought at first it was the mother. That's going to come back at some point before the season is over.

As for the Chalke/Silverstone as mother... I think either would work, and unless it's sweeps, I don't think we'll actually meet the mother next week. At least there won't be an obvious reveal of it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Good call, everybody who mentioned the bump-in woman. I took note of that as I was watching the episode and then completely forgot to mention her in the review. It could be that all this Chalke/Silverstone stuff is misdirection, and that the brunette is the mom, but the friend theory seems more likely to me.

Anonymous said...

Here's my question, given Chalke's limited availability, rather than reduce the character to just one episode instead of the intended three, why not cast someone else?

Also, I know someone who offered Silverstone a role for a really quality indie project. She turned it down, which kind of surprised me because the last movie she did went direct to video and the last pilot she did wasn't even picked up.

If they were actually offering her the Mother role, she'd be an absolute idiot to turn it down, upstaged by Britney or not.

And to R.A. Porter and anyone else of you who are saying good on her for turning it down, shame on you for having holier than thou attitudes. A good role is a good role is a good role.

Personally... I'd prefer "Scrubs" get canceled because it's a shell of the show it once was and I think Chalke would be great as the Mother, both because she has less ego issues and because let's be honest, she did phenomenal work in the early seasons of "Scrubs"

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Alan- which liquor store has the best cookies in the state???

Tom G, ballssticksstuff.com said...

Hard to disagree with anything Alan wrote in his post, including the dreaded pocket-photos. Happens at least once a day. Also, about once a week I accidentally turn on the mp3 player in my phone by bumping it in my pocket. Before I know what's going on, I've got "A Boy Named Sue" blaring from my pants.

Alex said...

I thought that it was nice to see Ted's 'real' version of events weren't so skewed from his drunken interpretation, but that the realization of how he sounded and acted was sobering enough just the same. This was much more realistic than those moments when sitcoms go for cheap laughs by 'drunkifying' everything.

Agreed. This was a nice surprise! I was looking forward to Silverstone but Chalke is alright, I suppose. I just hate when people who are already on a current show guest star on another current show. Not that I think Chalke will be playing another version of Elliot, but there's something disconcerting about it. She's just so recognizable to me now.

Overall, loved the episode and Barney's area code rant and yes, I too sang along with the theme song. But I do that every week- not ashamed! I've never butt-dialed, but I've definitely done the pocket-photo thing. It was a cute bit of "nothing" to inject into the episode.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan- which liquor store has the best cookies in the state???

The one across the street from the train station in New Providence. It's very dangerous how good they are. The one plus (for my waistline, if not my appetite) is that, ever since we wrote the place up in the paper last summer, the cookies are so in demand that they're often sold out by the time I get there.

Matt said...

Re: Michael

4. The conversation between Ted and Marshal at the end seemed really out of place for this show. Not bad, just different. The whole thing after Ted left the apartment at the end seemed really out of place for the show, too.

I think the show does this plenty of times. One example is when Ted yelled at Marshall in the beginning of Season 2 for being a shell of his former self. I think the characters let things go with each other until it gets to a tipping point and they have to say something. I would say its not common but definitely something that occurs on the show at least once a season.

Anonymous said...

The one across the street from the train station in New Providence. It's very dangerous how good they are. The one plus (for my waistline, if not my appetite) is that, ever since we wrote the place up in the paper last summer, the cookies are so in demand that they're often sold out by the time I get there.

Hmmm... I work by the train station in Summit so that's only one stop away. Worth the trip? It'd be pretty disappointing to get there and have them sold out, though.

Beth said...

Now that it seems we're getting closer to "meeting" the mother - I was wondering last night if we'll get any episodes in the "how i met your father" vein. I think those would be great!

R.A. Porter said...

anon: I can't speak for anyone else, and certainly not for Silverstone, but for me it's not a "holier than thou attitude." While I agree that "a good role is a good role is a good role," I also know that a crappy job with a crappy coworker is rarely worth the trouble.

If Alicia Silverstone actually agreed to this job (there's some chatter out of her camp that she didn't) and then backed out because she believed working with that person or under those conditions would be unpleasant or detrimental to her personal happiness, then hell yeah, I support that. I'd like it if more people in the world refused to take jobs with train wrecks. Eventually, the train wrecks wouldn't get hired anymore.

barefootjim said...

Count me in with those who first thought that the woman that Ted bumped into was the mother, but perhaps the bumped girl is the misdirection, since the producers know that the fanbase is reading the casting news looking for clues.

Also, I was also confused by Ted's grabbing the umbrella, but saying that they didn't find out until years later that they were at the same party.

Which means that while the umbrella is a signifier to us, the audience, it doesn't mean anything to the characters. My guess is that it has nothing with How Ted Met His Kids' Mother.

Finally: feh on Britney Spears, and stuntcasting.

Anonymous said...

Why would the "bump-in" girl NOT be future wife? Given the fact that future Ted mentions that he met his wife that day.

Steve said...

Good episode. And the green suit made Barney look like he just won the Masters.

R.A. Porter said...

A tradition unlike any other.

Damn it Steve, I'm going to be hearing Nantz intoning that over and over and over and over again starting two days from now. Did you need to bring up the Masters today? :)

anon: I believe (though I'd have to rewatch to confirm) Ted said that he didn't know the mother was there until years later.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Good news: last night's episode hit a season high in the ratings, while Big Bang took a dip when moved to 8 o'clock.

Matt said...

Also, HIMYM grew off the Big Bang leadin--yay! Also, considering that last night was Dancing With The Stars premiere, this is very good news.

Jon Delfin said...

So it was just my DVR that cut off the opening bit of the show? Weird. (First thing I saw was Barney about to leave the apartment.)

Dennis Wilson said...

Hey, is future Ted actually married to the kids' mother? For all we know, by then he's back with "Aunt Robin." For that matter, has he ever actuallly said he's their father (or have they called him "dad")? Maybe they're really the kids of some yellow-umbrellaed lady and some other dude (Barney?), and he's just their long-winded "Uncle Ted." I keep thinking there's going to be a twist at the end of this thing.

R.A. Porter said...

dennis wilson: they are definitely his kids, had with the mother. However, it's not clear that she's still around. A friend of mine theorizes that she's actually passed away and Aunt Robin helps Ted raise them.

Alan Sepinwall said...

So it was just my DVR that cut off the opening bit of the show? Weird. (First thing I saw was Barney about to leave the apartment.)

No, I think CBS started HIMYM a minute early, for some reason. (Usually, the lead-off show might bleed into the hammock show, but not the other way around.) You missed a bunch of Marshall and Lily making fun of Barney's green suit (among other things, they called him The Riddler).

LA said...

dennis wilson - I totally agree with the theory that either the mother isn't around or that there's still some other twist about the mother. I've actually been thinking that for awhile, glad to see I'm not the only one having those thoughts.

alex s said...

It seems to me there's real problems with casting the mother. If they get a well-known actress, there are going to be huge problems if the actors don't have great chemistry. Even if they have just "good" chemistry, it may not live up to the hype.

On a related note, I wonder what the chances are of the mother appearing with any surprise. Casting is kind of a gray area. As we saw with House: "actor X has been signed long-term" isn't always considered a spoiler, and agents and publicists are dying to get that information out anyway. (Not to mention publications and columnists that seem to be trying to make their names by spoiling as many shows as possible.)

Okay, I've convinced myself that the mother has to be someone we haven't heard of before.

Finally, I thought the final scene, which showed Barney waking up under a dumpster was pretty out of character, even if it was just meant as a throwaway gag.

Jacob said...

Did anyone else notice the bar was called "Low Point"? Nice Easter egg!

Mark B said...

Hey, is future Ted actually married to the kids' mother?

There will be twists, no doubt, but I think Ted is the father, married to the kids' mother, plain and simple. The series is framed as a father whose romantic dreams were fulfilled by meeting their mother. So despite the various scenarios floated, I don't think her identity is going to be the result of any tricks about "biological mother" or any other semantic games. (And you'd think far less of the show if there were.)

I also don't think they're planting clues. It's not supposed to be a puzzle, whereby if the episodes are played backwards and we pore over them like the Zapruder film or the Sgt. Pepper cover that we're going to be able to say "A-HA! SHE'S the mother!"

Anthony Foglia said...

@barefootjim: "Which means that while the umbrella is a signifier to us, the audience, it doesn't mean anything to the characters. My guess is that it has nothing with How Ted Met His Kids' Mother."

Future!Ted started the season by saying the kids knew the story of the yellow umbrella. From TV.com:

Older Ted: (voiceover) Kids, there’s more than one story of how I met your mother. You know the short version, the thing with your mom’s yellow umbrella. But there’s a bigger story; the story of how I became who I had to become before I could meet her. And that story begins here.

With yellow umbrella changing hands, I don't know how any story could be "short." (Unless the mother sees Ted with the umbrella and accusing him of stealing it, but that would have to be soon.)

And Alan, Jon, I too think WCBS started early. Luckily I set my DVR a minute early to catch Chuck Lorre's title card. Still I missed it, but it's a small loss.

Matthew L said...

I too was convinced the girl Ted bumped into was the Mother, especially so since I swear the girl he bumped into looked like Justine Bateman - did anyone else think that?

But then "I never met your Mother that night", so that couldn't have been the Mother. Then I was trying to figure out what the significance of the bump was - the idea of her being a friend makes a lot of sense ( does the idea of the showrunners just messing with us)

The thing I like about HIMYM is that it is distinctively HIMYM. I love the way the showrunners are very open about loving the multi-camera sitcom traditional setup, but then use comedy that would be much more at home in a single-camera - the way the show handled the slanted floor, for instance, is something a single-camera show like Scrubs would do, rather than Two And A Half Men.

There's been a bit of discussion about Alicia Silverstone. For me, I fully understand her position. I don't see it as being an ego problem, but that Britney's hire completely changed the circumstances of why she took the role. She doesn't have a big career right now, and I can see that she would look at a role like this as something that can get her name out there, helping raise her profile again. To suddenly discover that she'll be in an episode where all the attention is focused on Britney - I think it's fully understandable why she would pull out. And from their public statements, the showrunners seem to understand her decision, and want to still get her on the show. So they don't seem too disappointed.

LoopyChew said...

Guess that means I'll have to stop in New Providence for some cookies next time I'm in-state (being a former Hilltopper and everything).