Monday, October 13, 2008

HIMYM, "Intervention": Pack it up, pack it in, let me begin

Spoilers for "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I swing my flail...

Admittedly, I'm in a grouchy mood because the Giants are stinking it up in Cleveland right now, but "Intervention" really didn't do it for me.

Early last year, we spent a lot of time talking about the "HIMYM vs. Sitcom" issue, where the closer the stories, the dialogue and the characters' behavior resembled familiar sitcoms, the weaker the episodes were. When the show came back from the strike, this wasn't a problem anymore, but it's starting to become one again over the last few weeks.

While the "HIMYM" characters aren't the deepest on television, or even in the half-hour format, there's a certain level of recognizable, relatable behavior that Ted, Robin, Marshall and Lily generally achieve that makes the comedy work. Barney's the only character who's supposed to feel like he's on a sitcom; that's the point of Barney. (He would be flattered if you said he was like Fonzie.) The idea that the others have a friend like Barney who would dress up like an old man just to prove a point (and get lucky) is funny; it's when the others start becoming as broad and silly as Barney that things start to get uncomfortable.

There were certainly funny moments in "Intervention." Robin's drunken, out-of-control Canadian-ness (pictured above) may be the single greatest Robin Scherbatzky scene that doesn't involve beaded denim and jelly bracelets. But to have it in the same episode as Ted being particularly douchey about pronunciations, and dressing in RenFair gear, and Lily speaking in a bad Cockney accent, and Robin reciting a Dr. Seuss-style poem to express disapproval about Marshall's hat, and Lily accidentally sending her letter home with a student, and Ted not letting the woman he chased out of their booth retrieve her cell phone, and... well, not to sound too much like The Colonel from Monty Python, but there was altogether much too much silliness in this one. I started miming rim shots after a while. (I think it was around the time Robin showed up in the spray-on tan.)

Sure, I'm enough of an addict that the flash-forward at the end had me searching for clues about whether Ted married Stella, whether Robin is the only one living in the apartment (as Future Ted mentioned in "The Goat"), etc. But we're four episodes into the season and I'm still waiting for an episode that feels quintessentially "HIMYM." I had these same concerns last year and they turned it around, so I'm not too worried. But I'd like a really strong one sooner rather than later.

What did everybody else think?

51 comments:

Courtney said...

I cold hearted disagree with you about this episode. It was great HIMYM show. It's the best one of the season. Barney doing a "back to the future" bit to hook up with a girl. The interventions were good. Granted, it felt a little bit cartoonish, but this episode should get the gears moving on a slow season

Anonymous said...

Question for people with a better memory than me, wasn't it established in a previous Robin episode (the one with James Van Der Beek as her ex) that she's from rural Ontario? If so, any guesses as to why she's wearing a Vancouver Canucks jersey? This would be akin to Alan suddenly wearing a Seattle Seahawks jersey for no rational reason.

- Anon. in Canada where hockey allegiances are of life & death importance.

Anonymous said...

Did it seem like Robin and Barney were closer in the future than normal? Maybe I'm reading too much into it but they seem to glance at each other and then she leans against him for the picture.

wonderbug said...

ted DEF did not marry Stella (or at least they were not married in the flash forward).
Ted makes a point of holding up his left hand and NO RING!

Karen said...

Geez, I thought this one was AWFUL. And it seemed to last forever.

VERY sitcommy.

This season has been a real disappointment.

Kyle Wasko said...

Another weakish ep, with my biggest complaint being they totally ripped off the intervention gag from Mr. Show (up to and including the "we're having too many interventions" intervention).

Sara Ann said...

@anonymous #2: Robin does lean up against Barney for the picture, but it's ambiguous - it could just be a friendly gesture. Ted's lack of ring, though, seems more definite.

Allison said...

I thought this episode was totally solid! The Dr. Seuss poem made me laugh really hard, and so did Lily calling the cookie jar "R2 Sweet Tooth."

Hey, speaking of Lily, did you notice she didn't drink in the fast-forward?

katie said...

i'm totally not getting the himym hate. i thought the burger episode was awful, but the last one and this one were great. barney as a lesbian and barney as an old man are two great barney gags, and the running interventions thing seemed very himym-y and not sitcommy at all to me.

katie said...

also, lily totally did not drink her scotch.

Nicole said...

It wasn't a slap bet classic, but there were still moments.
I'm pretty sure Robin was from Ontario too, so she would probably have been wearing a Leafs jersey or even a classic Winnipeg Jets one.

Cobie Smulders is from Vancouver, so that's probably why she was wearing a Canucks jersey.

And I'm pretty sure Tim Horton's doesn't have a donut called a 'maple log'.

As for the flash forward, I was definitely trying to determine if there had been some sort of "rapprochement" between Barney and Robin... was hard to tell though.

Rich C said...

Nicole, you just covered what I was going to say re: Vancouver. I was distracted by Robin telling the story of the ('94?) Canucks while wearing a Luongo jersey ("What's the opposite of name-dropping?"). But Lily's the one stoning her at the door!
I'll take any Tim Horton's joke, accurate or not. (I'm from Seattle, and so jealous that we don't have Tim Horton's in the States!)

Anon in Can: I was watching the "Sandcastles in the Sand" video (but not the ep) yesterday actually. If I remember the lyrics, she sings "we were going to travel the globe. From Alberta to Ontario." So I think she's from further west.

Old Man Barney shuddering at the 31 year old cracked me up.

Rich C said...

Forgot to mention:

Cobie sure did look smokin' in the jersey though!

Roger said...

Hate to disagree Alan, but I liked this episode. Best one of the year thus far.

LA said...

I felt it was an improvement over last week, but still a bit subpar.

Formula for success: They need to give Jason Segel more material and Josh Radnor & Alyson Hannigan less.

Dark Tyler said...

It was a collection of past (in the context of the show) gags, that's why the characters were broad. We have all embraced silliness at some point in our lives, imagine if we all gathered and reminisced about each one's Silly Behavior. Would that make us broad characters? No; it's part of the concept of the episode.

Best of the season so far.

Andrea said...

Agree with Dark Tyler... broader than usual because of flashbacks. Enjoyed most of it - much more than the burger ep. Bad edit - booth girl took her phone with her but it was on the table in the next frame.

David J. Loehr said...

I'm from Seattle, and so jealous that we don't have Tim Horton's in the States!

We do! They're spreading from the midwest/northeast right now. We always stop when we're around Columbus, Ohio, but they're closer to us in Indiana and Kentucky now, even as far south as West Virginia. Indiana seems to be as far west as they've gotten. (For now.)

As for the episode, I'm much more engaged by talk of great doughnuts...

Anonymous said...

Possible solution: Have Stella be the mother, and then write both her and Ted out of the show?

datkid72 said...

Allen I have to disagree. I really enjoyed this ep. robin and her awesome Canadian accent had me in stitches!

Matter-Eater Lad said...

No episode with Stella is better than any episode without Stella. Ergo this was better than last week's.

I'm just disappointed we didn't get to hear Robin and Lily's letters.

fabarati said...

Am I the only one who noticed that Stewarts wife (Claudia) was played by someone else than earlier? She wasn't even blonde...

Otherwise it was a decent episode. Barney was as awesome as ever.

Adam said...

There are Tim Horton's in Rhode Island, and the second half of this episode made me want to do violent things to myself. I just don't like Ted as Emotional, Moral Centerpiece of the Show, and don't buy it when he gives lectures like that.

MCB said...

I thought it was the best episode of the season so far. Not that it's much of a contest, but still, a huge improvement over the last two weeks. My fiance and I are planning our own big move and I completely sympathized with the gang's desire to stay in the apartment and hang on tight to the great times they'd had there. Alyson Hannigan's delivery of her line about the Dowisetrepla apartment -- "It's a black hole where dreams go to die!" or something similar -- was hilarious. And maybe I was just in a silly mood, but I thought the interventions were funny too.

Anonymous said...

I agree when characters in any show behave abnormally it immediately takes me out of the show, but we should all remember this show is told from the viewpoint of future ted, so any silliness can be discarded as exageration or embellishment. great ep.

Andrew said...

I think its time to accept HIMYM for what it is: a decent sitcom that will have 2 or 3 amazingly quotable lines during an episode but rarely reach towards the sublime. And I'm fine watching that show when I can relate to the characters.

Super-Canadian Robin and back to the future Barney made the episode worthwhile. The shmaltzy stuff at the end? Not so much.

I think that starting next week, Chuck gets first dibs on the (single-tuner) DVR, since its been the far superior show this year, with HIMYM relegated to later online streaming. (And now that I've said this, next week's episode is going to be legendary.)

Carrie said...

I enjoyed the ep. Yes, it was sitcommy, but it was funny sitcommy and as long as it's funny that's enough for me. Also, Old Barney and Super Canadian Robin were just awesome.

Am I the only one who noticed that Stewarts wife (Claudia) was played by someone else than earlier? She wasn't even blonde...

I thought it was the same actress with a different hair color. Her voice sounded the same, at least.

dez said...

I was probably grouchier than you, Alan (damn those Phillies), but I thoroughly enjoyed last night's ep. Quite a salve after that disappointing game, especially with Future Barney and Super-Canadian Robin (heck, even with the "Mr. Show" rip-off!).

fabarati said...

I thought it was the same actress with a different hair color. Her voice sounded the same, at least.

I am not particularily good at remembering faces or voices, so I could very well be wrong.

But if that's the wife, and not an intervention leader, it's most likely a different person. Claudia was originally played by Virginia Williams, and I can't find her credited for this episode anywhere.

bettyd said...

The Ted character occasionally reminds me of the Jonathan Silverman character in The Single Guy. He tries to hard to be the center of the show, and he just can't carry it. Wasn't there a married couple and also a slutty single guy neighbor.

Steve said...

I thought the first ten minutes of the episode rank up there with any 10 minute stretch in the show's history.

The Back to the Future gag and the drunken Sherbatsky flashback were amazing.

The episode flagged a bit during the sentimental scenes, but it ended on a high note with the flash forward.

Grunt said...

I actually adored this episode and am surprised everyone else did not (it seems to be 35% hated, 50% thought it was ok, and I am of the 15% who loved it).

First, I love the fact that Barney had gotten Robin to slap Ted at the right moment...and I love the fact that Robin didn't warn Ted about it, she just did it. The Shit-Eating grin on Cobie's face was priceless.

Second, I find sitcomy stuff much more like the burger episode or episodes where if people would just have a conversation there wouldn't be an episode. I don't necessarily find the broad characterizations problimatic, especially since I could totally see my friends doing the exact same things (getting to into the Ren-Faire stuff, being stupidly pretentious etc...)

Also, I'm glad they're going to keep the apartment. I never understood why they wouldn't. It's a rent stabilized apartment on the Upper West Side. Worst case scenario you sublet it for a year or two to make sure you're okay living in NJ and then you give it up later. My husband did that exact thing with his East Village studio when we got married and I was not offended in the least.

Karl Ruben said...

I land squarely in the best-episode-so-far-this-season camp. I was a bit baffled reading Alan's opinions, to see that a lot of the things I loved about the episode and saw as emblematic of HIMYM's best qualities, were what Alan raised as reasons for the episode's suckiness. Sorry if linking to another critic's viewpoint in a thread like this is bad form, but Donna Bowman makes my points much better than I could ever hope to, in this AV Club post.

Jennifer said...

I thought it was pretty good, though Ted really does act like a dick in this one. (What else is new?) I actually got into the whole interventions schtick, and Barney's old man from the future gag, and especially Robin and Lily's hockey fight. And deep down I quite enjoyed everyone's sudden panic over moving and refusing to. And Lily's black hole where dreams go to die.

But that said, "I really need you guys to get on board with this," "Okay."...meh. But what does it matter, 'cause those two are probably over in the next episode anyway.

Ack, did not notice Lily not drinking. Noooooooo, not the dreaded baby on a sitcom! Noooooooo! (Inevitable on this show, yes, but still, nooooooo.)

boffo said...

Everything we've seen about Stuart in previous episodes indicates that he's in a horrible marriage that makes him miserable, but we've never seen anything about him drinking too much. So I was expecting it to turn out that the intervention wasn't about any of the normal intervention topics, but instead was a "Your wife is horrible and you should get a divorce" intervention. I even paused and made that prediction to my wife. (Who's pretty much the exact opposite of Claudia.)

Reinforcing my guess was that Claudia wasn't in the scene. Then some strange woman we had never seen before started reading a letter from Stuart's wife, and I thought that maybe they were reading something she said to show him how horrible she - like he only drinks one glass of wine a week, but she's accusing him of destroying their marriage. It was only later that I realized they had recast Claudia, that was supposed to be her reading the letter, and there wasn't any gag or switcharoo.

Nicole said...

I didn't realize that Robin was talking about the 94 Canucks, if so, she wouldn't have been wearing a Luongo jersey but a Pavel Bure one. Luongo wasn't even in the NHL in 94.

So if Robin is from Alberta originally, she would definitely NOT be wearing a Canucks jersey, but a Flames or Oilers jersey, or even a Jets one. Edmonton and Calgary fans hate each other, but hate Canucks fans even more.

Anonymous said...

Virginia Williams (who played Claudia in Drumroll, Please and The Wedding) was credited last night as Claudia. So she dyed her hair, but it was the same actress.

Anonymous said...

Wiki seems to think Robin is from Vancouver (despite any Robin Sparkles song lyrics) so like Cobie (who is definitely from Vancouver), it makes sense for her to be a Canucks fan.

And nicole, even if Robin was talking about the '94 Canucks, that doesn't mean she needed to be wearing a '94 jersey. In fact, I think the jersey she is wearing is time-appropriate for when that flashback is supposed to have taken place.

Amity said...

As much as a enjoy your posts, Alan, I have to disagree with you on this one. The first ten minutes alone were what I consider classic HIMYM, so much so, that I was shocked at how many funnies they were able to fit in that 10 minutes. With the exception of Ted yelling at the people in their booth, all the other moments you mentioned had us in stitches. True, Ted being so mean and nasty at not even allowing the woman to get her phone seemed out of character and unusually harsh for his character.
Did any one else notice that the buddy they had the intervention for had a different wife in this episode? His original wife was blond and she was the one who called and gave Ted the info about the cake baker, Victoria, in the first season. Was that a mistake they thought we wouldn't notice or has he already failed one marriage and started in on another? He was also the guy they brought to Marshall's bachelor party who kept cracking uncomfortable jokes about married life.

fabarati said...

Virginia Williams (who played Claudia in Drumroll, Please and The Wedding) was credited last night as Claudia. So she dyed her hair, but it was the same actress.

My bad, I guess. I probably just didn't look hard enough. She looks way different though.

Anonymous said...

I need clarification - I'm a recent fan who just got in on the show on DVD. I agree that if it's too broad it doesn't work as well (the burger story wasn't good (esp. since Marshall had already taken the job) but the format and conventions keep me coming back. However, Alan, you say that in "The Goat" it's revealed that Robin is living in the apartment alone - I thought it was more open that she was staying in the apartment, period, with someone else living there (at the time Ted but maybe Barney?) I don't know... Just wondering if anyone can shed light. Thanks

Alan Sepinwall said...

However, Alan, you say that in "The Goat" it's revealed that Robin is living in the apartment alone -

No, that's not what I said. I said that we know for sure that Robin is living there a year from "The Goat," but we don't definitively know that anyone else is there. My guess is that Ted and Stella break up, Ted and Robin wind up roommates, and Marshall and Lily move into Dowisetrepla, but we'll have to wait and see.

Rev-Views said...

I'm still not sure if the series of interventions was an intentional nod to other comedy shows or not. I thought when I saw the Hat intervention "Family Guy did that" and then from there it went like this in my head:

1. Hat Intervention - Family Guy (Peter)
2. Fake English Accent - ?
3. Spray on tan - Friends (Ross)
4. Magic Tricks (specifically fire) - Arrested Development (GOB)

Now can anyone think of a comedy show where a fake english accent features in the storyline so I can complete my conspiracy theory? :P

fabarati said...

Friends had a story line where Ross pretends he's english.

But I'm quite sure it's not the only one.

qrter said...

I thought the episode was funny, but then Josh Radnor has to go and spoil it all with his unconvincing acting..

When he went kind of insane and started unpacking - I just didn't buy it. When he suddenly decides to move forward with his weddingplans later on - I just don't buy it.

wonderbug said...

lily didn't drink her scotch, ted had no wedding ring...BUT ROBIN DID!

http://thetvaddict.com/2008/10/14/how-i-met-your-mother-2009-clues-you-may-have-missed/

fabarati said...

Robins ring is on the right hand, not the left hand. Not a wedding ring.

I caught that too when I saw it, but I disregarded it after some careful studying.

dez said...

It could be an engagement ring, though.

Cree said...

Best episode of the season, easily. I couldn't wait to log on and see what great things you wrote about it, but as soon as I read the bit about the Giants getting killed I knew that I was doomed. I thought each of the intervention scenes were hilarious and Barney was in rare form with the old man bit. The flash forward scene was an added bonus. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it. The first few episodes outside of the premiere sucked for me big time so this was a welcome half hour.

Pamela Jaye said...

I liked the ep. I like flashbacks and history of the gang, esp those who live in the apartment.
I also liked the commercial, with "Penny" and her laundry equipment.

I had another though, which I've forgotten, alas.

And I just saw Josh Radnor on Craig Ferguson interview from Sept - it was a buy Kristen Bell, get Josh free. He was a really boring interview. He and Craig just talked about books they liked.

Pamela Jaye said...

oh yeah- what I forgot: Big Bang makes me laugh out loud. I can't tell whether it's that I'm hoping my roommate will wonder what it is I'm laughing at (so far no luck - but this is the guy who likes to go to MIT and watch the students walk into each other (or was it walk into trees?))so....