So they opened with a screening of "How I Met Everyone Else," which the crowd -- a mixture of New York-based Emmy voters, local press, and assorted VIPs (I spent time before the Q&A in a green room of sorts with a bunch of Fox studio execs, plus Alexis Denisof, but I was too busy sweating out last-minute prep to chat up Mr. Hannigan) -- ate up.
Then I got to introduce the cast and producers, and after some preliminary chat about how Carter feels the episode symbolizes all the things that make "HIMYM" special (playing with time and narrative and continuity while also telling a funny story about friendship over the years) and how the show is filmed differently from a standard multi-camera sitcom (they film over three days without an audience, and they can tell if a joke works if the crew laughs at it), we got down to various details. This isn't necessarily in order, and no quotes will be exact, but among the things discussed/revealed:
- Alyson Hannigan not only doesn't mind having to constantly wear different wigs because her own hairstyle keeps changing (let alone the college and middle-aged Lilys), she actually kind of digs it, and argues with the producers that Future Ted is absent-minded and can never remember exactly what Lily's hair looked like at a given point.
- The cast and crew have just as much fun mocking Cobie Smulders' Canadian-ness as the characters have mocking Robin's.
- Barney and Robin as a couple wasn't part of the original plan, but once they saw how Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie played off each other in "Zip, Zip, Zip" (the Laser Tag episode), the writers started contemplating it. NPH is very conscious of not defanging Barney, and Carter said they're going to approach whatever happens with those two with their chief goal being to not change the things that fans like about Barney.
- Carter danced around the issue of a master plan, save that they know exactly what the last episode will be. I asked if he and Craig Thomas had ever thought of pulling Lindelof/Cuse and asking CBS for a fixed end date; he wasn't interested in that.
- He was also evasive about whether Stella will be back much next year (though he and everyone else had nothing but praise for Sarah Chalke; NPH said she's the coolest person he knows, and told everyone in the audience to be sure to hug her if they ever come across her in person).
- Alyson doesn't think "HIMYM" fans have anything on "Buffy" fans when it comes to obsessing over minutiae, and told a story about some Whedon-ite asking her about a bag of potato chips that was upside down and backwards in a Sunnydale High vending machine, and what that symbolized vis-a-vis the Hellmouth. She patiently explained to this person that it was a bag of Lay's and they couldn't get legal clearance to show the logo.
- I asked NPH if he gets people quoting Barney's catchphrases at him; he said one time a very enthusiastic, drunk guy said he once tried to use the Lemon Law on a girl, "But it didn't work!"
- Vis-a-vis continuity, Carter says they have a writer's bible of all the different references made on the show, but it's not obsessed over, and the tail doesn't wag the dog. More often than not, the story makes them realize there's an opportunity to do a callback to some earlier episode. Like, in "How I Met Everyone Else," they knew that Marshall had said in an earlier episode (in a line that was rewritten on the set) that the first time he met Ted, he thought he was the dean, and so they knew they'd have to do a flashback to that once they decided to do an episode with that premise.
- Future Ted as an unreliable narrator (see "The Goat") does give them some wiggle room in terms of continuity; when I brought up the matter of Barney not being able to drive in one episode and then driving Ted's moving van in another, everyone said "Ah-ha!" and looked at Carter like he just got busted by the teacher. (My goal in life was always to play the teacher who busts the kids; goal completed.)
- NPH did not need any coaxing to do the Doogie joke at the end of "The Bracket," and in fact seemed surprised at the suggestion, as he's never had a problem with being known for that show. "People always think they have to walk on eggshells about it, like I'm going to punch them in the face," he said (more or less). Cobie asked him if he ever did punch somebody; "Once or twice," he said.
- Cobie said she and the producers have half-seriously talked about doing a Robin Sparkles mall concert tour, but it would have to be only in Canadian malls.
- During the audience Q&A, somebody asked about the Britney Spears experience, and everybody (NPH in particular) gave the party line about how they just wanted to give her an environment where she was free from the paparazzi so she could do some proper work. I asked Carter if he planned to bring Britney back again next season; he said, mostly sarcastically, that they hadn't put a lot of thought into season four "and how Abby fits into the larger picture" yet.
- An audience member asked everybody to name their favorite episode, and while I'm blanking on all the choices (Cobie, not surprisingly, chose "Slap Bet," and Carter and Pam both chose "Drumroll, Please," the season one episode where Ted and Victoria meet), NPH brought up the two-minute date from "Ten Sessions," and raved about how impressed he was that they were actually able to fit it all into two minutes. "Don't time it!" Josh Radnor muttered, and Pam reluctantly admitted that the date actually runs 2 minutes, 17 seconds. "Well that was a terrible job by you!" NPH complained.
- I asked Radnor if he and Bob Saget have any kind of interaction; he said Saget keeps suggesting that they go out for drinks, but Radnor's afraid to go and have to listen to dirty stories about the Olsen twins.
- Has the mother actually appeared on the show yet? Carter was thrown by the phrasing of this and how to answer it, but he cleverly ducked it by saying that, yes, she has: "We saw her holding a yellow umbrella, and she was played by Pam Fryman."
- Will we ever find out about the goat? Carter got very excited and insisted that they have an amazing plan for the goat, and that he knows people thinks that they don't (hence the 30th/31st day birthday confusion from "The Goat"), but we will find out, and it will be awesome.
- Will we ever find out about the pineapple? Carter shook his head and said that his single biggest regret in the history of the show was having Future Ted say at the end of "The Pineapple Incident" that he never did find out what the pineapple was about, because he'd really like to tell that story. Josh suggested that maybe they could do it in a way where the audience finds out but Ted doesn't, and when I related the story to some friends, they all independently suggested doing an episode narrated by Future Marshall.
- How much have Future Ted's kids aged during the telling of the story? After much debate early in the run -- specifically over whether they should be wearing different clothes in episode two -- everybody decided that Future Ted is telling this story over a single day.
- Will we ever hear the kids speak again? They explained that, early in season two, they filmed a bunch of sound bytes to be used at specific points in the future -- including several "very important" bits of dialogue that were so secret that they had to film those scenes with virtually the entire crew banished from the set. I then asked if that meant that if I tracked down the kids (Lyndsy Fonseca and David Henrie), they could tell me who the mother is. Pam acknowledged that they probably could, "but we hope they won't. They're very nice kids."
- Will Marshall and Lily have kids anytime soon, or does the show have no place for babies? This is another hot debate in the writers room, and Carter acknowledged that Sitcom 101 says that babies are death on a show, but he also feels like this is a show about the major milestones in people's lives as they move from their 20s into their 30s, and...
- Most importantly, Marshall still owes Barney two slaps from the slap bet? Do they have specific slaps in mind? Carter said that gets debated almost as often as the baby thing, the goat, the pineapple, etc., but they have some good ideas and don't want to give the secret away ahead of time.
If anything else comes to me after a good night's sleep, I'll post it in the comments tomorrow.