Monday, May 12, 2008

HIMYM, "Everything Must Go": G-CWOK tested, dog approved

"How I Met Your Mother" spoilers coming up just as soon as I buy a gross of Hefty bags...

Stunt-casting: the deal with the devil.

On the one hand, if I'm right that CBS is going to include "HIMYM" on the fall schedule it announces on Wednesday, Ms. Britney Spears will be a big reason why. The show was already up in the ratings the week before "Ten Sessions," but Brit-Brit's cameo as Abby gave the show its best numbers ever and likely went a long way towards convincing any skeptical CBS executives that they might just want to renew it even if they don't "get" it.

Britney's presence was so minimal in "Ten Sessions," and the appearance such an obvious win-win for both parties ("HIMYM" got a ratings boost, Britney got to look physically and mentally healthy), that I had no problem with it at the time. But in Hollywood, there's no such thing as leaving well enough alone. Britney's first appearance gave the show its best ratings ever, so why not bring her back a second time? Or, as rumor has it, a third time next year?

Why not? Simple: because the more screen time you give her, the more Britney's limited comic chops are exposed, and the more "HIMYM" begins to resemble the tired old sitcoms it's usually so much better than. There wasn't a second of the Barney/Abby storyline this time that felt like something natural to the show, as opposed to something the writers had to cook up to include (and protect) Britney again. Neil Patrick Harris is a wondrous comic talent, but he can't carry that much dead weight(*) for an entire episode.

(*) Note: that wasn't a fat joke. Britney looked great, actually. She's just not very funny, and not up to NPH's level. She's not even up to Larry Wilmore's level, as the "Bernie Mac" creator/"Daily Show" correspondent made me laugh more in his 90 seconds or so on-camera (as Dr. Greer) than Britney did all episode.

Fortunately, though Britney's screen time was increased over "Ten Sessions," the writers were still smart enough to put her in the B-story, while Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan got to take the A-story, about Marshall losing faith in Lily's art and then finding a way -- with the help of some very attentive dogs -- to restore Lily's faith in him. It still wasn't an outrageously funny plot (and the runner within it about Ted's flaming red cowboy boots veered dangerously close to seeming like latter-era Ross from "Friends"), but it at least felt true to the characters, and in addition to Larry Wilmore, I liked the guys playing the G-CWOK's (Gay Couple Without Kids). Plus, Lily occasionally losing her patience with her kindergarten class works.

A few other notes:
  • As Segel and Hannigan said at episode's end, LilyandMarshallSellTheirStuff.com is a real website designed to raise money for an LA children's hospital, but the CharityFolks.com servers clearly weren't expecting an influx of web-savvy "HIMYM" fans, because I haven't been able to get the page to load since it was first mentioned. Also a real website: GuyForcesHisWifeToDressInAGarbageBagForTheNextThreeyears.com (complete with more ridiculous/creepy theme music!)
  • Someone on the staff is a big "Cheers" fan. (And why wouldn't they be?) Not only did Barney and Abby's cab ride include an homage to the most famous Sam/Diane scene of all time ("Are you as turned on right now as I am?" "More!"), but the frame on Lily's painting that the G-CWOKs bought was made by Anton Kreitzer, which was Norm's pseudonym in the episode where he hired a lazy crew for his painting business.
What did everybody else think?

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

This episode was so bad and unwatchable that it would have fit perfectly in that slot between Friends and Seinfeld in the mid-1990s, when NBC would air anything - no matter how crappy - between its two huge hits. Who replaced Bays and Thomas with hacks? It was so bad that I was thinking that Craig was replaced with Season 3 VM Rob Thomas . . . . .

Eric Fingerhut said...

I did like when Britney called her mom after the proposal, and Barney said, "She's really committed to the bit." Otherwise, pretty awful. Big Bang Theory was good, though.

Anna said...

Wow. Granted I haven't seen every episode of this show, but this was the worst HIMYM episode I've ever seen.

Ben G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicole said...

Larry Wilmore was the only truly funny part of this episode. Britney was boring and they should not bring her back unless it's a five second cameo.

I missed the first few minutes so I didn't get Ted with his red cowboys boots, but am glad to see that it wasn't just me that didn't get that bit.

Jenn said...

That was awful, and NPH's comments about stunt casting are completely justified. It's like they had to dumb down the show to match Britney's acting talent and everything suffered. Everything besides Lily and Marshall felt forced and one note, including Robin and Ted's obsession with Lily's clothes and red cowboy boots, respectively.

This was the first episode that left me feeling it wouldn't be awful if the show wasn't renewed.

Kyle Wasko said...

Easily the worst episode of the show's run.

Coming precariously close to shark jumping (or whatever kids are calling the phenomenon these days) territory...

(Also: where the hell was Robin tonight?)

Anonymous said...

I think if you hadn't picked up on that Cheers reference I was ready to ditch this blog and never come back.

"Oh, give it up Anton!!"

J said...

I shouldn't say anything, not having seen the two eps Spears appeared in, but: Do they really have to dumb the show down that much for her? She was bearable in the high-stress environs of SNL, and the rest of the cast (NPH aside) is hardly made up of comic geniuses. Hannigan totally coasts on charisma, they could change the guy who plays Ted weekly and I might not notice, and Robin is pretty much a second-rate Pretty Face.

So are they dumbing things down to indoctrinate new viewers, or is Britney just having trouble establishing herself within an already established ensemble?

Because that poor woman could use a steady gig.

Matt said...

LAT confirms renewal, so there's at least some good news today.

Rachel said...

This episode was awful. I love this show, but it was awful. I plugged in my TV to watch it and it was awful.

Have the last three episodes given anyone else the impression that they were very, very, very hastily rewritten? Damnit, Britney, I wish you luck in all your future endeavors, but don't kill the show, show-killer.

On the awesome side, Robin got some good one-liners, and the garbage bag website (which I'm sure fans made) was funnier than most of the show. But why are they selling Lily's ugliest clothes on the other site? Seriously, sell Robin's outfits!

R.A. Porter said...

j: they dumbed it down a *lot* and she still seemed like a caricature of a person. She's got no talent and no charisma. Every last drop of it has evaporated in the last decade. As for your opinion of the cast, I can't disagree about Alyson Hannigan too much (my Buffy fan-hood is being revoked as I compose this) and Josh Radnor isn't a comic genius, but I most definitely disagree with regard to Segal and Smulders.

I've now rewatched the scene in the G-CWOK's apartment and I'm about 70% sure the actor playing Walter also played one of Robin's dogs in "Stuff". Am I crazy?

Anthony Foglia said...

Definitely a weak episode. But worst ever, I don't know. I remember "We're Not From Here" being worse.

@Rachel said... the garbage bag website (which I'm sure fans made) was funnier than most of the show.

Nope. It looks like it's official. Check the registration information:

Registrant:
Intellectual Property Department (TCFFC)
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

[...]

Created on..............: 2008-04-29.

dez said...

Or, as rumor has it, a third time next year?


Oh, dear God, no. More Britney has already meant less funny--this ep was terrible. I don't blame Britney for it, either; it was clearly a failure on the writer's part. Well, okay, and the rest of the cast didn't seem as into it, either. Bleah all around.

Lilyandmarshallselltheirstuff.com is still not coming up, btw. Waah!

Rachel said...

Anthony - wow, seriously? I thought it was a fan thing because it wasn't up last week, when the other link was working.

Okay, the writers are still awesome and amazing, they were just thrown a curveball sometime after finishing Sandcastles in the Sand and haven't been able to get their footing. Maybe because they're saving it all for the finale. Which has to be a season finale, not a series, please.

Mo Ryan said...

Would anyone, gay or straight, wear their pants tucked in to their cowboy boots? If this is acceptable somewhere and I don't know about it, clearly I've led a sheltered life.

Evie Garland said...

yep, as Comic Book Store Guy would say, worst episode ever! Brit-Brit was better in the bar scenes than in the bed scenes, but still...simply horrible. And I felt like Marshall & Lily's chemistry wasn't right either...something about him calling it "not real art" didn't seem to fit with his character for me...and Lily had never tried to sell a painting before, even though her friend owns a gallery? That's just weird. And I was expecting a much bigger pay-off for the red boots running gag. The absence of Ted's gf is also really starting to irritate me. You simply can't have a character be in a serious relationship with someone who is never on the show!

I do, however, have every hope that they will regain their footing at the end of this season/beginning of next. And "G-CWOK" was pretty funny.

Kensington said...

"Ted's flaming red cowboy boots veered dangerously close to seeming like latter-era Ross from "Friends""

Ouch. That ought to cost Josh Radnor some sleepless nights.

LA said...

Unmitigated flop. Add me to the list of those who think this was the worst episode of the entire series. Between Britney and the script, it didn't stand a chance.

BigTed said...

Ted as late-era Ross from "Friends" is exactly right. Look at the evidence:

-- Constant jokes about his "hip" hair and clothes

-- Sincere-and-boring (as opposed to funny) romantic entanglements

-- Seeing the woman who was supposedly "the one" for him get involved with his second-best friend

-- Not really a straight man, but still less funny than all the other characters

Ross turned into an annoying shlump who the producers clearly thought was much more appealing than he actually was. It would be a shame to see the same thing happen to Ted.

Steven said...

Was anyone else really bothered by Lily's sense of entitlement here? Her inability to stop free-spending on her wardrobe is the entire reason she and Marshall are in this financial predicament in the first place. Yet she refuses to even consider getting rid of her clothes? Heck, she gets outraged at the mere suggestion of it.

I love Alyson Hannigan, and she has some great moments on HIMYM, but Lily's total lack of remorse through this whole arc (aside from some perfunctory SA meetings) is really making me question why Marshall would choose to stick by her.

Anonymous said...

From Jan:

"Britney looked great, actually. She's just not very funny, and not up to NPH's level. She's not even up to Larry Wilmore's level, as the "Bernie Mac" creator/"Daily Show" correspondent made me laugh more in his 90 seconds or so on-camera (as Dr. Greer) than Britney did all episode."

I agree 100 percent. While she was pleasant enough in the first episode, her limitations really showed up in this episode where she had more exposure. If they really want to have her on again, she should have way, way fewer scenes and/or lines.

And Larry Wilmore was great. I have to say I laughed out loud at the dogs staring at the picture, and that was about the only laugh I got out of this episode.

Jeff Martin said...

Did anyone else pick up a mistake in continuity? Didn't Ted help Barney narrow down which girl might have been sabotaging his game in "The Bracket?" If this episode picked up right after that one (Barney chasing the blond girl, who ultimately turns out to be Abby), shouldn't Ted have been too upset with Barney in "The Bracket" to have been part of the narrowing-down process? Presumably, this all takes place after Barney slept with Robin, right?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Presumably, this all takes place after Barney slept with Robin, right?

Jeff, I think this all takes place in order. AT the end of "The Bracket," Barney still hasn't figured out who the saboteur is, so he goes on with his life and hopes to catch her at some point. In the interim, he has sex with Robin and gets dumped by Ted. And now while he's flying solo (and yet still going to the bar underneath Ted and Marshall's apartment), he gets sabotaged again, and finally discovers that it's Abby.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I finally got the charity site to load this morning. Among the notable items for auction:

-One of Barney suits

-Ted's red boots

-Several of Lily's paintings

-A lot of Lily's clothes

-A signed script and DVD

-A chance to visit the set and meet the cast

Karen said...

I missed the first episode with Britney (DVR hiccup), so I was curious to see her last night.

Wow, she was really dreadful. In the scenes where she was in bed with NPH, she seemed incapable of shaping her features into any recognizable expression--just kept rolling her eyes in NPH's direction like she was paralyzed, or something. And as little expression in her voice as there was in her face. It was really sad.

You know, she's got a lot of problems, and I wish her the best, but setting her up to fail like this isn't doing her any favors.

And I'm sorry but no gay man in the WORLD would say that Ted was pulling off those red boots--not outside his pants-legs, anyway. That was one tragic look--and an insult to gay men everywhere.

Allison said...

I actually thought Britney was better in this one than the last episode she was on. She's still not good, but I felt like they made the character odd enough that she at least doesn't ruin everything. *shrug*

Selfishly, I love the truisms this show brings out about being in your late 20s/early 30s--like your friends not wanting to be your "wingman" anymore, or finding interesting ways to make money as an artist.

Jeff Martin said...

Okay, just re-watched the relevant scene in "The Bracket" - it's not out of line to think that Barney finding out it was Abby who was sabotaging him could have been post bro-breakup.

Regarding the ep itself, I thought it was good, not great. I do really like Ted as a character, so I am disappointed to see him turning into more and more of a schmo.

Anonymous said...

I thought the GCWOK's comment "pull them off" meant for Ted to literally pull them off. However, Ted mistook that comment to be a compliment...am I the only one who thought this?

Andrew said...

Worst. Episode. Ever.

OK, maybe no worse than "We're Not From Here" and not that much of a drop from the rest of the third season. It seems that HIMYM is like House-- a show that is usually entertaining, but brilliant only occassionally ("Slap Bet", "Three Stories").

Ah, but Kreitzer, that's comedy gold.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Ah, but Kreitzer, that's comedy gold.

"Here, I'll prove I'm not Kreitzer! Afternoon, everybody!"
"ANTON!!!!!"

Amy said...

I finally remembered the one funny thing about last night's episode....when Abby mentioned Fudgy the Whale and Cookie Puss. Patton Oswalt fans (like myself) would get a kick out of that.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I don't suppose you can use your journalistic skills to find out why that episode was oh so very bad.

Chris said...

@Anon 9:18 AM: Since that scene is a flashback, it seems likely that the depiction of the one guy's admiration for Marshall was from Marshall's own distorted subjectivity, while the admiration for the boots was from Ted's, meaning the guy said "pull them off" the way you're interpreting it, but Ted read it, and thus it was depicted, the other way. (The subjectivity explanation is also the only way I can stomach that pathetic depiction of the gay couple.) And I also agree with others that there's no way any reasonable-thinking 2008 American would wear boots with the pant legs tucked in. That completely ruined the whole bit for me.

R.A. Porter said...

anon: I'm not a journalist, but I can use the most basic of one's skills to determine what made that episode so bad. Alan can correct me where I stray...

Who? Britney.
What? Too much Britney.
Where? Street scene, taxi scene, bar scene, bed scene, 2nd bar scene, tag.
When? All damn episode.
Why? Publicly, because it's good for ratings. In reality, because they hate us and don't care if they lose long-time fans if it means a large influx of Brit-Brit's fans.

Steve said...

Amy,
good call with the Patton Oswalt reference.

Dear CBS,

Stop forcing How I Met Your Mother to dumb down its show for higher ratings. The show is great... let it be. And please, no more Britney.

Sincerely,

A longtime HIMYM fan

barefootjim said...

Oh. My. Gods.

What really sucks about this is that all of the extra people being drawn in by Britney end up seeing a run-of-the-mill sitcom as opposed to the show that we're always raving about.

It also struck me that this is a show that really needs an actual pre-planned end date, like Lost.

Alan Sepinwall said...

What really sucks about this is that all of the extra people being drawn in by Britney end up seeing a run-of-the-mill sitcom as opposed to the show that we're always raving about.

And, in fact, this episode was the highest-rated since "Ten Sessions" -- which will only encourage CBS to ask for more Britney next year.

R.A. Porter said...

Fifteen more minutes. The next time Brit-Brit's on I'm starting the clock. It runs whenever she's on screen in any future episode. If it gets to 15, I'll be done with HIMYM forever.

I'd *probably* still watch the first two seasons I already own, but no season three DVD and no more broadcast episodes. On the plus side, that'll get me back to normalcy - not a minute of CBS on my viewing schedule.

Honestly, I think that's overly generous of me.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Porter, I agree and disagree. Britney was bad, but only as bad as most sitcom actresses. No more, no less. The problem here was the script and the plot, which were plain and tired and lame. It was as if an old script of "Boston Common" or "The Single Guy" had been dusted off and adapted in a matter of hours. Ms. Spears made this worse, but she is not the sole cause of this episode's awfulness.

I have never seen the near uniformity of comments on Alan's blog. The only disagreement seems to be whether it is the worst episode of the series or the second worst.

Kenrick said...

I'm with you guys on this one. I didn't find Britney to be terrible or anything. The entire episode was rather unfunny. Dogs (but not birds) love Lily's paintings? *rolls eyes* Ted trying to pull off red boots? *rolls eyes*

dez said...

when Abby mentioned Fudgy the Whale and Cookie Puss. Patton Oswalt fans (like myself) would get a kick out of that.


What's the Patton Oswalt ref? I heard "Cookie Puss" and went immediately to the old Beastie Boys' song :-D

I hope Ted doesn't go down some sort of "Rossification path" because I really hated "Friends" and hate seeing HIMYM compared to it (unless the comparison is "HIMYM is in all ways superior to 'Friends' and should never be demeaned by being mentioned alongside 'Friends' again").

Amy said...

@dez said...
What's the Patton Oswalt ref? I heard "Cookie Puss" and went immediately to the old Beastie Boys' song :-D

In "Feelin' Kinda Patton" Patton does a ridiculous (and hilarious and great) parody of Carvel cakes. Check it out some time....(would have been a better way to spend 30 minutes last night)

Jennifer said...

I'm assuming Ted's pants were tucked in so we could see the boots in their full horror...I mean, glory.

God, I hate that Britney is what it takes to get this show ratings. She really can't do longer than 5 minutes without total suck kicking in. I felt like NPH was getting punished for his anti-Britney remarks with this storyline, somehow. Next thing you know, Britney will not only be the sixth cast member, but the mother.

This show's had a ton of decent guest stars- why is THIS ONE the "hit?" Argh.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with whoever referred to Robin as just a pretty face. Aside from NPH, I think Cobie Smulders is the best comic actor on the show. I was never a huge fan of Alyson Hannigan even on Buffy, but here she's downright annoying. And Marshall, and especially Ted, are complete personality vacuums for me. If you don't think so, just imagine how much funnier Ted would be if he was played by John Krasinski.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone notice that throughout the episode Robin is actually wearing cloths that Lily has worn in past episodes?

I love that little stuff that you have to watch 2-3 times to pick up on.

Vlada said...

It's marshallandlilyselltheirstuff.com. I made the same name reversal error, but either way, the site barely works. I manage to get on it long enough to write up a blog post for tvweek.com

Anonymous said...

Given the bump in the ratings, I have four words that will chill you to your soul....
Britney: Regular cast member

Jake said...

The "ridiculous/creepy theme music" is a dead-on parody of Serge Gainsbourg (see, e.g., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHiMDB19Dyc). Not enough to rescue a mediocre episode, but it's something.

Anonymous said...

The guy who plays Ted is so incredibly boring. Really makes the show almost unwatchable.

Can we replace him with Larry Wilmore? Or the little girl who drew rainbows? ANYONE is more interesting.

Simon said...

I was also bored by this episode - enough that when it ended, I was surprised as I was still waiting for it to 'kick off', as it were.

I love this show because of the characterisation - all of the 5 are three-dimensional people. This episode really hit home that over the last season they're starting to become caricatures.

Is it just the curse of a longer-running show? Unfortunately the Friends comparison is valid - I do hope it's just because of the strike and that next season we'll get back to seeing some depth to these people.

Indeed said...

Finally watched this last night. That was just sucky all around.

R.A. Porter said...

@Simon, M*A*S*H ran a lot longer than HIMYM or Friends and those characters all *gained* depth over time.

It's the curse of lazy writing, network notes, and pandering to the LCD in order to get large enough ratings. In the case of HIMYM, I hope it's mostly the latter two and that next season B&T will be more confident and just tell the stories they want the way they want to.

Anonymous said...

Horrible episode, but I blame the writers not Britney. In the words of Seth and Amy: Really? Red boots? You thought that was funny? Really?

Darren