Monday, May 05, 2008

HIMYM, "Rebound Bro": If it bleeds, Barney leads

"How I Met Your Mother" spoilers coming up just as soon as I put "Seabiscuit" in my Netflix queue...

Sigh... they can't all be winners, I guess, but if we're buying into my theory that Stella is The Mother, why did her second episode have to the first out and out dud of the post-strike run?

The Ted-Stella portion of the episode was actually okay. Nothing memorable, and certainly not as great a showcase for Sarah Chalke's comic chops as "Ten Sessions" -- plus, there's the matter of the show glossing over from Stella not having time to date to being in the middle of a semi-serious relationship with Ted -- but at least it wasn't actively annoying and sitcommy like virtually every second of the Barney storyline.

I like Will Forte. I think he's one of the more underrated "SNL" castmembers of recent vintage, but something about him just doesn't always(*) translate well to outside comedies. His "Flight of the Conchords" episode was the most traditional, least "Conchords"-y episode of that show's first season, and his performance as Barney's pathetic rebound bro felt far too broad for "HIMYM," which is usually much smarter in its silliness. Just look at Barney himself, and how well Neil Patrick Harris plays what could be a gross and obnoxious character.

((*) Forte was very funny as the Prince's aide in the black tie episode of "30 Rock" last season, but that show takes place on a much cartoonier plane of reality.)

There were a couple of jokes sprinkled throughout the show that at least made me smile -- the "27 Dresses" guy, Robin not being sure that she and Barney had an equal amount of sex with each other, Marshall's list of memorable things from 2003 -- but by "HIMYM" standards, this was a mess.

On one other note, as people keep asking me about the show's future, this Hollywood Reporter story about shows on the bubble says "a pickup is considered a given," and that matches well with the smoke signals I've been seeing. You never know with show business, but I feel confident that when CBS announces its schedule next Wednesday, I will again have no need to throw scrambled eggs at Les Moonves.

What did everybody else think?

49 comments:

DivGuy said...

-"This happens every time I get an erection" was funny.

-Robin's shock that Marshall meant the book Da Vinci code was funny

-The problem with this show is the same problem that HIMYM has never solved: why should I care about Ted? Whether douchey or shmoopy, he's not a particularly interesting character. I think of the college episodes where he's insufferably arrogant, and I don't think he's meaningfully changed.

Being mad at Barney and not at Robin over their hookup is transparently sexist (implies thinking sex is something a boy does to a girl), and shows that the distance between douchey and shmoopy Ted is not large.

Why aren't Marshall and Lily hanging out with Barney? They love Barney. They don't need to break up with him.

Matthew L said...

there's the matter of the show glossing over from Stella not having time to date to being in the middle of a semi-serious relationship with Ted

I think I suggested a solution to this question in a post to last week's column - but I was late to that column, so I don't know whether anyone saw it.

My view is this - she has a standard "I'm too busy" answer to anyone who asks her out. Because she is genuinely busy, and making room for a date is complicated, and not worth the effort for a guy who might go out with her once or twice and then not progress things any further. It's a lot of effort to arrange her schedule, arrange a sitter, etc, for someone who is just out for a bit of fun, nothing too serious. But Ted's two-minute-date just made her think that this guy is serious, and he is worth the effort. And so she makes time for him - because if you meet someone who you think might genuinely be "the one", you would make time for them, no matter how difficult it would be.

They could have explained that a bit clearer, sure, but it's not strictly necessary. All you need to know is that she has made time for a relationship.

Alap said...

i think the core problem of the barney storyline was that he was forced to play the straight man to will forte's wacky/crazy guy. though neil patrick harris played it really well, it sorta neuters everything that makes the barney character so great.

and count me as one of those who's not buying stella as the mother, especially after this episode. it just seems like they're setting us up for a fall; everything's working a little too neatly for them and, as donna bowman put it in her avclub review, they doth protest too much about their relationship being so deep and settled for her to really be "the one."

i mean, if she did turn out to be the mother, it would come off as more telegraphed than michael being the man on the boat.

R.A. Porter said...

I agree with divguy about the erection line. Happy I wasn't drinking milk at that moment.

Otherwise this episode was a major letdown. I don't find Sarah Chalke particularly funny or endearing, and her presence here just makes me think how much I *do* like Alicia Silverstone.

I'm just "thrilled" that we get this episode followed by the return of Britney. I love stunt casting.

chris w said...

While I recognized this show wasn't really up to snuff I laughed out loud and long every time Will Forte's nose started bleeding and then the erection explanation was great.

Will Forte has a spot in my heart since he voiced teen-aged Abe Lincoln on the underrated and amazing Clone High.

Nicole said...

It was an OK episode, but the Will Forte character was a bit too pathetic. Barney is supposed to be the pathetic one, and it doesn't work when he's not. At least not in the way he was used tonight.

I also thought the moment when Stella got pissed off with Ted for telling Marshall and Lily about the drought felt like a bad Friends moment.

They also need to deal with Ted's reasons for being angry at Barney and not Robin. Although Robin's line was funny, it still didn't justify it and it does appear sexist, as if Robin didn't have any say in this happening and didn't also overlook the bro code.

Frankly, just not having Barney sitting at the bar with the rest of gang threw off most of the rhythm of the show, so they need to fix that stat.

Rachel said...

Yeah, not the best HIMYM episode ever.

I do like Ted/Stella (mostly because I think Sarah Chalke has the chops to fit in with the cast in the long term). But Ted/The Mother is turning into Ross/Rachel for me, i.e. inevitable but only semi-interesting. Meanwhile, the secondary "Chandler/Monica" relationship -- Barney & Robin -- is the intriguing comedy gold mine.

(Sorry for the simplistic analogizing, but I do think it fits in a way. Even though they're married, Marshall/Lily do have a Joey and Phoebe wackiness vibe.)

Evie Garland said...

Good call, divguy, on Ted being the least interesting character on the show. And Sarah Chalke just seems to be playing a less-interesting Elliot. I think this ep proves what a bad idea it was to make Ted and Barney break up...Barney needs a straight man.

Devin McCullen said...

"Hanging up on you once wasn't enough." HA.

Not the greatest episode, but I enjoyed it a fair amount. Robin showing up at the bar was quite good.

I just feel like adding that "Seabiscuit" was the first time I ever noticed Elizabeth Banks, and I spent the whole movie thinking "Wait, is that Parker Posey?"

Anna said...

I totally agree about Ted's double standard of being completely fine with Robin while cutting Barney out of his life.

Poor Barney.

electricia said...

First - who did Ted last have sex with? I just can't remember who/when etc.

I felt this was a fairly blah episode as well, though it did have a few funny moments. My husband and I (as well as a couple of our friends) sometimes feel that the writers are spying on us, as bits of our lives keep ending up on the show. Most notably in this episode, our favorite line of "______ II: Electric Boogaloo."

BigTed said...

Not only was this a below-par "HIMYM," but the usually likeable "Big Bang Theory" was really off-putting tonight. (The big joke was that the boys were deluding themselves when they believed that a really beautiful woman -- improbably, Sheldon's twin sister -- could possibly be interested in them. In other words, it was the show's entire premise, but done in a way that completely humiliated the nerds.)

And the "CSI"-themed "Two and a Half Men" wasn't funny at all. I'm not sure who thought sex jokes about a dead guy, or an extended prison-rape gag, would be laff riots, but they really weren't.

Overall, it was about the worst night ever for CBS' comedy lineup.

Michael said...

Aside from being a bit sitcommish, this episode also suffered from behing a rehash of part of the theme from Slap Bet/Robin Sparkles. Your girlfriend tells you a big secret, maybe you shouldn't tell your friends. I know people often don't learn their lessons that well, but it felt like old territory.

As for the Barney/Robin treatment, I find Ted's reaction believable even if it is annoying cause Barney's funnier when he's with the gang. Even if Barney and Robin are both considered bros, what they did is different since Robin is also his ex. Barney (his bro) slept with Robin (his ex). BAD. Robin (his bro) slept with Barney (his bro). Meh.

Kensington said...

I'm with Big Ted on the Big Bang Theory hate tonight. The writers really seem to have made up their mind to go with the "holding the nerds in contempt" scenario (as opposed to the far more potent possibility of having fun with the nerds and demonstrating some small amount of affection for them. The actors are too good for what it's devolving into.

As for HIMYM, I also agree with those who find the Barney/Robin scenes to be the most fun. I love how the writers are willing to make the coupling seem a little sleazy whilst still maintaining the affection they obviously feel toward each other.

Now, one last thing. Is it just me, or are the characters on television right now entirely too casual about sex? I imagine this will make me come off as a bit of a prude, but would it have killed the show for even one character to think that it's okay to wait for sex? I had the same feeling during Chuck earlier this season, too.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or are the characters on television right now entirely too casual about sex? I imagine this will make me come off as a bit of a prude, but would it have killed the show for even one character to think that it's okay to wait for sex? I had the same feeling during Chuck earlier this season, too.

Do you really think that's new? Just in terms of TV comedies, go back to the early 90s and watch Friends or Seinfeld, and you find the exact same attitudes. But then, I think that's probably a reasonable reflection of how societal attitudes to sex are these days.

In fact, HIMYM present one of the most interesting couples in Marshall and Lily. Okay, so they weren't exactly virgins on their wedding night, but they had never been with anyone else - remember the recent "I wish I had a list of the people I had slept with. Oh, wait, I do, my marriage licence" scene, where they were really proud of that fact. I have difficulty thinking of any other couple of that age on TV that could actually say something like that.

Myles said...

Totally agree on the Barney storyline - he was playing too much of a straight man too much of the time for me to really dig into it.

I liked Ted/Stella much better, only because I really enjoy Sarah Chalke's reactions to Ted's awful one-liners. Something about it makes me like both of their characters more, which seems strange yet ultimately reflects my reaction.

But, for those who don't like Chalke by comparison, I can totally understand the issue with the episode: her reaction was total sitcom cliche for me, as well, except that I just find her so frakkin' charming.

I should get that checked out - it might be a condition as bad as unexpected numbers of testicles.

Anonymous said...

Yall are nutty. Will Forte was hilarious. The bloody nose/erection, the delicious koala meat, the geraldine ferrarbro, the fat ugly whore, I'm still laughing thinking about him.

The A story was a little weak though. As is usually the case with Ted-centric storylines.

Donlee Brussel said...

Sorry, but to the people who think Alicia Silverstone would've been better in this role, you're wrong.

Chalke has more charm, more range, and doggone it, more looks than Silverstone ever could hope to have.

FYI, to the people who keep saying week in and week out that when the Ted will announce when we meet the Mother, you're forgetting that Ted has already told the kids the story of how he met her, as explained in the season premiere when he told them that they already knew the story about the yellow umbrella.

Now that "Scrubs" is finally done, I very much look forward to Sarah Chalke joining the cast of "Mother" full time next season.

Suck it, bitches.

mrsb said...

Even a mediocre HIMYM is better than most television these days.

Bobman said...

As for the Barney/Robin treatment, I find Ted's reaction believable even if it is annoying cause Barney's funnier when he's with the gang. Even if Barney and Robin are both considered bros, what they did is different since Robin is also his ex. Barney (his bro) slept with Robin (his ex). BAD. Robin (his bro) slept with Barney (his bro). Meh.

I more or less agree with this line of reasoning. I don't find Ted's behavior sexist so much as each of those involved has a different role in his life with different rules and they are judged accordingly.

If Ted and Barney were girls, and Robin was a guy, the Ted-girl would equally be mad at the Barney-girl but probably not as much at the Robin-guy (and people would probably call that sexist too).

Regardless of what gender you are you're going to be more mad at your best/close friend for sleeping with your ex than you're going to be with your ex for sleeping with your best/close friend.

Girl Detective said...

I have a bad cold this week. "Their meat is delicious" had me laughing so hard that it set off a coughing fit that lasted through the rest of the ep and into Bones.

Allison said...

I agree that this episode was basically a dud, but two things I especially liked:

The line's not that funny, but Alyson Hannigan's delivery of, "If I hadn't had sex in 5 months I'd be out on the street sellin' it for a nickel" made me laugh hard.

Also, I loved when Barney was calling replacement bros, because since I turned 30, every time I call someone I haven't seen in a while to hang out, they've either gotten married or had a baby.

Stef said...

I thought this episode was okay, and I'm in the "Sarah Chalke is charming" and Stella's better than Elliott camp. BUT, after this episode, I now feel pretty strongly that Stella is NOT the mom. And mostly it comes down to the daughter - who would be the kids' older sister - and the "it's all fitting too nicely" part. I think there's going to be a curveball come season finale time, but I'll enjoy Stella until it happens.

And I have to ask it - am I the only person since seeing "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" who's finding Jason Segel, and Marshall, much more attractive? What's he doing with his hair??? Love it!

Lindy said...

Oh, I'm totally with you on Jason Segel, Stef.

I thought Alan's analysis was spot-on. The Stella stuff was OK, the Barney stuff was not great (I'll give them the nosebleed, though -- that was funny). Overall not one of the better episodes. But I still love you, HIMYM!

Amy said...

Now that "Scrubs" is finally done, I very much look forward to Sarah Chalke joining the cast of "Mother" full time next season

That isn't true, she has 18 episodes left of Scrubs (worst kept secret in tv) BUT I believe they are already starting to film those now? (Zach Braff's blog makes me think that)

I really, really want Lilly and Marshall to become secret bros with Barney. Marshall was missing him so much and they are both so bad at making up stories/lying it would be really fun....and no one would feel bad for Ted when they did it..

Stacie said...

A couple of other funny moments...

1) Sex-starved Lilly during a minor earthquake in San Francisco..

2) Marshall's devastation at realizing that Nell Carter has been dead for five years...

And, for whatever it's worth, I thought 2-1/2 Men was hysterical.

Anonymous said...

I don't know. I liked this episode. Making Barney's wingman *that* much of a loser was a little too easy. What would have been funnier, I think, would have been to make the new wingman surprisingly more Barney than Barney after setting him up as such a dud in the office.

I like Ted. I must be the only one but I have liked him from the beginning and he has good chemistry with Sarah Chalke. I hope she is the Mother as she would fit in nicely with the show.

I also loved the "events from 2003" list. Very Marshall and very HIMYM.

floretbroccoli said...

plus, there's the matter of the show glossing over from Stella not having time to date to being in the middle of a semi-serious relationship with Ted

I thought of that, too, but then respected the fact that most of the time we saw Ted with Stella, it was over a quick lunch in her office, i.e., her only free time.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just the way I saw it, but Ted isn't really mad at either Robin or Barney. Ted just feels that Barney is too immature for him and where he wants his life to go.

I'm sure a lot of us have been through that - we realize that we need to make a change, but our friends sometimes, often inadvertently, weigh us down...

Ted realized after the St. Patty's day ep. that he needed to change and that Barney would always be there weighing him down and so he had to make a clean break. Barney and Robin hooking up was just the catalyst that set it off. In the limo he gets really mad (hey my mother is coming into town..), but then cools down. It's then, with a level-ish head, that Ted breaks up with Barney.

LA said...

Stef - I fell madly in love with Jason Segel during the strike when I watched Freaks & Geeks (and Undeclared) on DVD. Needless to say, I was at the first showing of Sarah Marshall where I found him even more charming.

dez said...

And I have to ask it - am I the only person since seeing "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" who's finding Jason Segel, and Marshall, much more attractive? What's he doing with his hair??? Love it!

I've been crushing on him since Freaks and Geeks :-)

I thought the ep was pretty funny all-around, and I like Ted, too. And I liked last night's "Two and a Half Men." Something dire must be wrong with me.

TL said...

The Barney plot was a little broad, but I was OK with it.

Electra - 5 months ago (in show time), Ted was with Robin at Thanksgiving.

Stella simply *cannot* be the mother. Future Ted is talking all about Stella to the Kids; if Stella was the mother, it'd be beyond contrivance that he wasn't referring to her as "your mother" now when he consistently has for the past 2 2/3 years. Plus, we know from "Wait for It" that there's obviously some revelation with the yellow umbrella.

That First Andrew said...

Why do people keep thinking that the identity of the Mother is a mystery Bob Saget want's his kids to figure out? They know their mother by name, if not by the details of her life. Sagat isn't telling this story to see how clever they are.

Go back to the episode in season 2 when his parents visited and he realized that they never really told him any of the details of their lives together. When he asked how they met, his father says "Great story. We met in a bar." and Ted replied that when he has kids, he is going to tell them everything about how he met their mother. That is what this show is.

He is not trying to trip up his kids with a groovy mystery. He is telling a story to people who already know the ending.

andythesaint said...

I agree with anonymous (well one of them), that Ted's rejection of Barney isn't a simple sexist thing (although, there may be elements of that which I think is a good thing for the show. In that it's not afraid to have its main character be less than perfect). I think sleeping with Robin was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Prior to that, Ted may have forgiven all of Barney's other transgressions with the idea that through it all, Barney is still a loyal friend (albeit in his Barney way). Breaking the Bro Code proved to Ted that even this wasn't the case, and thus it was time to move on.

Whereas with Robin, this was her first transgression against Ted's friendship, and thus it was forgivable.

ITomV-Piscataway said...

When Will Forte said "their meat is delicious" when describing his favorite thing about koala bears - I went hysterical.And also when he insulted the girl he was trying to pick up.

Episode was OK, but a little uneven. Ted has a lot of Ross Geller in him....

Stef said...

Dez, La, Lindy - yeah, I first found Jason to be really charming and adorable as Nick Andopolis. But lately? He's stepped up his game, Mr. Movie Star, and is suddenly HOT. :-)

Ok, sorry Alan, you have can have your blog back now!

Anthony Foglia said...

Definitely a weak episode. The Barney stuff was funny, albeit a little broader than usual. The problem with the Ted-Stella story was that we don't know Stella that well to care about the couple. In her only previous appearance, she was seen in small bits, and keeping Ted at bay. We needed another episode of the two of them together first. That is hard when the character admits she has little free time, and the actress is busy as well.

Karen said...

I'm with Michael--this episode felt sitcommy. It had some good lines, and some great performances, but the set-up/punchline rhythm was too cliched as were some of the reactions. I thought it was weak, despite liking many individual moments in it.

Let's just say that, while I didn't think it sucked, I was glad I wasn't using it to convince an uninitiated friend how brilliant the show is.

Chris Littmann said...

I think more weeks than not feel sitcomy with this show lately, but I have a question for Alan. Have they always had some little bit of show after the last commercial, or is that something new post-strike? It had honestly been so long, I couldn't remember.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Have they always had some little bit of show after the last commercial, or is that something new post-strike? It had honestly been so long, I couldn't remember.

They've usually, but not always, done it going back to the first season.

The Pale Writer said...

i still think the pieces are lined up for barney to be the father of stella's kid.

we still haven't resolved which blonde was spreading rumors abut him; he and ted have broken up, so he's not hanging out with her; and i still maintain he never went to see her at the doctor's office; that he made that up after getting frustrated dealing with britney on the phone.

plus, once it's revealed, it makes a nice, full-circle, "now ted's slept with one of barney's ex's" excuse for them all to get back together.

who's with me?.... no one?....

Alan Sepinwall said...

we still haven't resolved which blonde was spreading rumors abut him;

Given that Britney's coming back before the season's over, I'm assuming she's the rumor-spreader.

CM said...

My theory on Ted's double standard is that he knows Robin slept with Barney because she was feeling vulnerable; but when Barney sleeps with a girl, she's a conquest. Why would he make a conquest out of Ted's ex? I think that eventually, it'll come out that Barney actually has feelings for Robin and then Ted will forgive him. This also fits with the "I've outgrown him" rationale because that will show Barney is maturing.

dez said...

^CM, I think you are probably correct, but I also like The Pale Writer's theory :-) I'm sure whatever they do to bring Barney and Ted back into Bro-dom will be good. I have a lot of faith in this show!

Karen said...

Just saw this cartoon posted by a commenter over at TVSquad:

http://www.reallifecomics.com/archive/080506.html

Miguel said...

I don't know what it is, but I find myself disagreeing with you more and more Alan. I actually thought this episode was pretty funny, and in particular, I thought Will Forte was pretty damn good.

I thought last week's episode of The Office where Stanley blew up at Michael was horrible, it made me more uncomfortable than it made me laugh. But you thought it was the funniest episode so far this season.

Is it just me? Or is Alan just a little off?

R.A. Porter said...

miguel, I'm sure it's not just you, but I know I agree with Alan's assessments of the two episodes you mention. Now sometimes, he's just plum loco - that's when his opinions don't match mine, of course - but on these he seems about right. ;)

Less obnoxiously (but more nerdily,) it's possible that the set of things you like about HIMYM and the set of things Alan like about HIMYM showed less congruence this week than in weeks passed. While normally
{Alan} ∩ {Miguel} ∩ {HIMYM}
is a large subset, this week
{Alan} ∩ {HIMYM}
didn't have many common elements whereas
{Miguel} ∩ {HIMYM}
did.

The Pale Writer said...

Given that Britney's coming back before the season's over, I'm assuming she's the rumor-spreader.

certainly possible... but i don't think so. they have two storylines running (stella and ted/barney) that we know have forks in their futures: future ted called barney "uncle barney" and i think its pretty obvious at this point that stella is not the mother.

and i know it's a sitcom, but isn't it odd ted hasn't asked about the father yet? ordinarily, that would be a topic of much discussion, especially from ted's perspective and certainly amongst his friends - is he still in the picture?, did she maybe, at one point, have a more... morally casual attitude..., etc.

it feels like its being saved for a big reveal...

i should note: 75% of the time, i'm wrong every time.

Alan Sepinwall said...

i should note: 75% of the time, i'm wrong every time

That doesn't make sense.

I'm not going to lie to you, Pale Writer: your theory smells like pure gasoline.