Tuesday, November 25, 2008

HIMYM, "The Naked Man": Look! Down on the couch!

Spoilers for last night's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I floss...

There's a running theme of "HIMYM vs. Sitcom" in these reviews, which occasionally prompts people to ask, "But isn't HIMYM a sitcom? How can calling a plot sitcom-y be an insult?" Two answers to that. First, when I say "sitcom-y," I'm referring to bad, hackneyed sitcoms ("According to Jim" instead of "Cheers"). Second, though "HIMYM" has the form and style of a traditional sitcom, it's always at its best when it's telling stories in its own unique way, whether that's playing with the narrative structure (interlocking flashbacks, skewed perception) or just the kinds of topics that the characters get into.

"The Naked Man" was funny, but it was also very "HIMYM." A commenter on another post called it the show's best episode since "Slap Bet," and while I wouldn't go nearly that far, it still felt like the purest concentrated dose of "HIMYM" that we've gotten in quite some time.

The very concept of The Naked Man -- that simply stripping down in the middle of a date leads to sex two out of three times -- was wonderful, as was the gang's fascination with it. As we've established in the past, Barney's often more interested in proving or disproving new social theories than he is in being successful (see also his joy at getting dumped according to the Lemon Law), so his obsession with getting Ted to try out The Naked Man with him rang very true, and very funny. I also got a kick out of Barney and Ted getting caught up in finding the perfect pose with which to introduce The Naked Man to their dates. (Barney should've stuck with the Burt Reynolds -- link probably NSFW.)

While Marshall "calling slut" on Robin seemed a little harsh for such a sexually active (albeit monogamous and schmoopy) character, it did lead to the introduction of dozens of great new excuses -- Paratrooping (or, as Robin called it, Banging For Roof), Condom's About To Expire, Wingman Diving On The Friend Grenade and, of course, Nothing Good On Television -- plus Barney's long and passionate monologue about the 7' woman in the denim skirt.

Mitch's own level of self-awareness was a nice touch. I don't think the joke would have worked nearly as well if he didn't realize what a big loser he is. (Five fantasy football teams? Wow. I only have two and even that's at least one too many.) And Barney and Ted's awe of the guy led to one of my favorite Ted moments of all-time: his superhero-style narration as The Naked Man walked out into a dark and scary night.

Good stuff all around.

What did everybody else think?

63 comments:

mrsb said...

Finally, this season, an episode that was awe (wait for it) some.

Dark Tyler said...

"Shock and awwww"

Finally, a Coupling-worthy episode of HIMYM again.

Nicole said...

Naked Man had the meta humour of Marshall/Jason Segel being the one most adamantly being against the "naked". I couldn't help but think of Forgetting Sarah Marshall in the first discussion at the bar.

Loved Ted's line to the Naked Man to take the couch pillow when he leaves.

erin said...

I thought it was absolutely fantastic, and while it wasn't as good as slap bet, it was pretty close. I laughed pretty much throughout the show, and LOVED the posing sequence. Thank you to the writers for giving us so much Barney and Ted to look at! (although those that giveth, taketh away--that was a lot of Mitch to handle...)

I did find the Marshall "slut" comment very interesting...and not to make this a hot topic blog, but...I thought he was kind of right. But then, I think the same thing of Barney. The difference is that Barney's not ashamed of his sluttiness, and Robin doesn't want to be seen that way. (The old chestnut of the double standard rears its ugly head). But just own up to it, I say, and move on with your business! Redefine the word!

And I loved the turnabout-as-fair-play with Lily as the "naked man". And that Marshall was so unhappy with her making the list because it violates his "romantic" view of why people have sex (although I think that was just a writer's ploy to give Lily a reason to create the list in the first place). That's what makes those two so cute--their ongoing play at role reversal!

Great ep, and a great use of nakedness (and BTW--Barney totally should have stuck with the Burt Reynold's pose. It's a classic!)

erin said...

@Nicole--I thought of that too! I just saw that again recently, and the sound effects of Jason Segal turning from side to side to make Kristen Bell have sex with him (but ultimately not succeeding) was going through head. It was a pretty funny meta statement...I think a lot of us have seen more naked Segal than we have most other actors!

Anonymous said...

hey Alan,

Thanks for posting the review. I'm the one who said it was the best since "Slap Bet."

If you beg to differ, where would you rank Naked Man on the pantheon of great "Mother" and what goes above it?

LAP said...

This episode could join the ranks of Spoiler Alert for me, which I still find to be a moment of pure television genius. The careful casting of Mitch truly inspired them all.

It's always such a relief to see Ted be outside of himself these days.

BH said...

This season has been a little hit or miss for me, but this episode was definitely the best so far -- and one of my favorites of all time.

Marshall had some great scenes in this episode -- the coughing bit, floss, the notebook... -- Segel is definitely underused on the show.

bobviegas said...

Kudos to the writers for having the bookmark in Neruda's book on sonnet 27. A self-contained joke in maybe half a second.

Pamela Jaye said...

Now there's an ep I adored - Spoiler Alert. The breaking glass was such fun and the singing denouement.

I haven't seen Slap Bet since it aired, so I just went to look it up an see why... oh.

Still, Apple Orchard Banana Cat Dance...

well, since I couldn't find that info anywhere online (I found a somewhat abandoned himym wiki), I had to watch the mpg from my DVR on the laptop (I really need to find an avi - that file is huge!) and guess what!

I finally figured out why Lindsay Price looked so familiar (on that show I didn't watch).

Travis said...

Great episode. I laughed more consistently than I've laughed at this show since Season 2 - and the best laughs all came from Robin. I loved when Ted walked in on the Mexican standoff (any time they highlight Robin's gunplay it's a highlight) and her phone call to Mitch when we can just picture how confused he is on the other end of the line. In fact, some of the funniest moments this season have been Robin-centered, including the great drunken Canadian flashback. It's nice to see them developing that character, Cobie's funny.

Anonymous said...

Great episode.

As a single, Mitch-like guy, I have to ask: Ladies, do you think The Naked Man would work? Two out of three times?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Mo Ryan has a picture of the cocktail napkin with all 50 reasons.

Evie Garland said...

I loved Lily's "I went with the 'I've got boobs' pose." (and Marshall's "and she nailed it!")
It occurs to me that this show is at its best when Ted is single, so he can play straight man to Barney's hook-up king. This is, at heart, a single person's comedy, and Marshall and Lily are so great as a couple they're going to comedicly upstage any relationship Ted is in.

Rachel said...

That was awesome, and I laughed harder than I probably have at the rest of season 4 combined.

That cocktail napkin is genius!

Brian said...

For some reason my DVR flaked on me last night and didn't record this episode. Does HIMYM have eps available anywhere on the web?

Amity said...

Sorry, Anon, the Naked Man would not have worked on me. But I would have been nice enough to insist you take your clothes with you.
I also liked this episode. Especially loved Ted's elevator montage with the new girl because it reminded me of the sweetness of his getting to know Victoria the cake baker, however many seasons ago that was.

erin said...

@anon as Mitch--if the date was as bad as both Ted's and Robin's was, nah--that wouldn't work on me. But if we were dating, I'd probably laugh my butt off (in a good way) and you'd get lucky. But I've been on a couple of not horrible-but-not great first dates, and I wasn't interested in seeing ANY of them naked. Even if they made it kind of amusing!

Rachael said...

Yes, Bryan. You can watch them on cbs.com the next day, or sometimes even a little later the same day it airs.

Anonymous said...

"For some reason my DVR flaked on me last night and didn't record this episode. Does HIMYM have eps available anywhere on the web?"

CBS.com, my friend.

Brian said...

Sweet. Thanks.

zodin2008 said...

Hilarious episode, easily the funniest and most as the show SHOULD be, of the season - thank you HIMYM writers for heading into Thanksgiving break on a high note.

And I would also like to add kudos to the hilarious actor who played Mitch. I actually thought he was great and had a lot of screen presence...I have a feeling HIMYM brings him back for a future episode.

I did bristle a little at the "Fantasy Football guy as measurement for being a loser". I love Fantasy football, do 2 leagues, and I am happily married with a kid :-) My wife is very tolerant of it because she A) doesn't hate football (though like me, prefers college) and B) it only takes up 4 months out of the 12 months of the year.

Five leagues is a bit extreme.

bettyd said...

Really thought one of the 50 reasons was going to be "to make a baby", since there was the baby talk a few weeks back. I'm glad the show didn't go there and stayed with the single people theme more. But the baby thing must be coming up, since AH is pregnant, so I'd guess Lily would be too (since she's married and not violating any CBS rules!)

Anonymous said...

Am I actually the only person who didn't like this episode? I expected to find everyone complaining about the ridiculous over-the-top scenarios Ted walked in on over the years (Barney as escape artist?). Granted there were a few good parts, but rather than reminding me of HIMYM at its finest this episode was making me think maybe I was ready to give up HIMYM. (I watch Chuck and, somewhat shamefully, record Gossip Girl so it's hard to get around to HIMYM). But with so many of you out there liking it, maybe I should consider blaming my own mood or health, as Alan has been doing recently.

Ed said...

Does this mean we have to wait until May 2009 to found out more about the goat?

Steve said...

The Naked Man is a real person! He was infamous on J-Date a few years ago. My sister actually went on a date with him.

She didn't know he was The Naked Man at the time, and he was unable to convince her to come up to his place so he didn't try it with her. But later she talked to a friend who had also met him through J-Date, and had seen him naked. (The Naked Man did not work on my sister's friend. Or so she claims.)

I'm guessing one of the writers (or a friend of one of the writers) used J-Date a few years back, and had encountered the real Naked Man.

polkadotoes said...

@ Anon 12:33 -

What?! Barney as escape artist was great. I mean, come on, he held his breath for 12 minutes..haha. Then Robin in a stand off, awesome as with anything of Robin and a gun. AND the GOAT!!! Though now we have to wait for May for that episode it was a nice little touch letting us know they didn't forget :)

Hopefully you feel better though since you hinted you aren't feeling so hot. Maybe you can enjoy it then ;)

Ginny said...

Loved that Barney, in his Burt Reynolds pose, was chewing gum--just like Burt would!

Allison said...

I thought this was the best episode of the season for sure, and probably top 5 for the series. Loved that we not only got the hilarious list of 50 reasons to have sex, but also Ted and Barney's Naked Man poses (I can't imagine what I'd think if I walked in on a guy doing the "Heisman").

And although I don't think we'll see her again, I LOVED Ted's horrible date. The actress really sold it. When she said the Neruda book was "all in Mexican" and did the thumbs-down and raspberry, that was one of my favorite moments of the show. (Because it was funny, not because I agree with her).

Rachel said...

When she said the Neruda book was "all in Mexican" and did the thumbs-down and raspberry, that was one of my favorite moments of the show. (Because it was funny, not because I agree with her).

Ditto! I was about point this out as one of my favorite parts of the episode. Something about how she played it make me laugh out loud.

Thanks for linking to the final list, Alan. (And thanks for posting it, Mo.) Great stuff.

LeeZy said...

Is it just me, or does the Naked Man, who is a loser because he plays in 5 fantasy football leagues...

... sort of resemble Matthew Berry the fantasy football columnist at ESPN?

http://assets.espn.go.com/media/motion/2007/1127/hu_071127FAN_workingwire1v.jpg

The receding hairline... the face... am I right people?

Alan Sepinwall said...

LeeZy, I made the Berry connection, too. Your link doesn't work, but here's a picture of him (albeit when he had more hair than he does now).

Rachel said...

And if you listen to Berry's fantasy football podcast, you know there's a running joke about how he always strikes out with the ladies. Wouldn't put it past Berry to try The Naked Man!

LeeZy said...

Alan, thanks for posting a working link to what Berry looks like.

I will now have to craft an email to him, so it makes one of his columns...

Alan Sepinwall said...

I will now have to craft an email to him, so it makes one of his columns...

Is it sad that I thought of doing something similar, in the hopes that it would make its way onto the podcast (yes, I listen to a fantasy football podcast) and they could answer a question about playing Darren McFadden at flex this week?

God, I am The Naked Man (minus the naked part), aren't I?

Cameron Hughes said...

That was the closest we'll ever get to a Friends crossover

(Ugly Naked Guy)

LeeZy said...

Alan,

Just spent the past hour trying to write a concise, to the point, email so he would seriously consider watching that episode on CBS.com

I hope he takes the bait... more so than anything, I made the correlation because Naked Guy had a lot of sage wisdom... just like what Matthew Berry tries to dole out once in a while.

and BTW, you should play McFadden... he goes against KC that just gave up 54 points to Buffalo...

J.J. said...

Weird admission: I actually laughed at the 5 Fantasy Football teams thing, just because I've got a Yahoo account where I play fantasy football and I happen to know that they only allow you to maintain 4 teams before they demand you start paying to play.

Anonymous said...

And BTW, you should play McFadden... he goes against KC that just gave up 54 points to Buffalo...

Agreed, as a KC resident, I know the Swiss-Cheese aspect of the Chiefs' run defense all too well. And I'm pretty sure he had a good game against KC the first time around.

Leezy, I will definitely be tuning into the podcast this week to see if they read your email. (I haven't listened as much lately because I've already clinched a playoff spot in my league.)

Anonymous said...

Hands down the best episode this season (although parts of "intervention" were pretty great)
*Loved the girls with axes ready to smash Barney out of the Houdini tank.
* Robin and guns always makes me laugh. The joke just keeps getting funnier.
*Lily's quiet fascination/curiosity about Barney's sexplay never gets old.
*Barney (as Burt Reynolds) chomping gum.

Courtney said...

Great episode .. I have a date coming up on saturday.. if it goes bad.. i might have to try the naked man. I will keep you post it

domino87 said...

Now THATS the HIMYM that I know and love. This season hasn't been doin it for me so I was overjoyed they actually did an episode that was classic HIMYM.

This episode will probably be the new "go-to" episode for me when I'm having a bad day and need a laugh. It will not be coming off the DVR for a long time.

"Mr. Wangs is back in business?"

Anonymous said...

Alan,

Very interesting point about HIMYM vs. Sitcom - to me this episode was the case in a point. Before watching, I read the logline and thought this episode would be awful because Robin's naked date would send Ted into a Robin-loving tailspin and the show into the sit-commie (sic) world where hijinks ensue between new roommates, with one unable to tell the other how they feel until the secrets revealed and everything resolves.

Instead, the show treated the subject as serious to the nature of the group - both in terms of what they'll try and what they care about (sex) - while the main Ted relationship storyline with his first post-Stella date instead becomes a fertile place for comedy.

I commend the writers for making such a great premise look like a sitcom. I thought I was going to watch a sitcom when instead I saw a character comedy. Thank you, sirs.

LoopyChew said...

Best highlight of Season 4 for sure.

Reason 39 on the napkin, for the continuity freaks, is a callback to "Brunch" from Season 2--Lily is turned on by Marshall's calves.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the ep ... but I can't help remember Barney actually tried the Naked Man on Robin once already. And got kicked out of the apartment.

Maybe it wasn't the exact same setup as actually trying to use Naked Man as a gimmick, but the end result was the same.

LA said...

Terrific episode! The magic is back!

Anonymous said...

It was very funny (especially the poses) but wasn't anyone else disturbed by the fact that Ted was telling his teenage kids about the time he had a one-night stand with a "horrible human being" who he had no intention of seeing again?

Jennifer J. said...

This episode made up for the so far subpar season. Everyone's mentioned everything great already. Although I did love Marshall's barely squeaked out delivery of how they "were making him sad." :)

Tyroc said...

Someone above made a distinction between a sitcom and a character comedy, but I would argue the best sitcoms have always been character comedies (The Honeymooners, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, MASH, Bob Newhart, Taxi, Cheers, Frasier, Seinfeld, etc.)

This is by far the best episode of the season and shows what the series can be when it concentrates on the funny instead of being a sappy soap opera (or a moralizing, preachy piece of work like last week's awful judgment of single women.)

Apparently the ratings were up this week. Could it be, as Ken Levine is staying in his blog, that the sitcom is coming back?

Fingers crossed...

Matthew L said...

Does this mean we have to wait until May 2009 to found out more about the goat?

That's about right. We first heard about the goat in the 28th birthday episode, which aired on 8 May 2006. Then we heard about it in his 30th birthday episode, The Goat, which aired 28 April 2008. So first week of May is about the right time for Ted's birthday.

Of course, the other thing is that, if I saw it correctly, the holdup scene was a flashforward to Christmas 2008. So we should have an interesting Christmas episode this year.

Matthew L said...

Actually forget that. I just checked, and I was wrong - the hold-up was not a flashforward.

*The acrobats were on November 26, 2004
* The escape act was on July 16, 2007
* The hold-up was on December 15, 2006
* The goat was on May 8, 2009 (the only flashforward)

It does raise the question why they mixed the timeline up in the flashbacks (which I think was what threw me), and why we were apparently denied an episode where gun-toting Robin help up some burglars.

Matthew L said...

Sorry about the multiple posts (I would have edited my earlier posts if I could), but I just remembered one other thing I wanted to say.

wasn't anyone else disturbed by the fact that Ted was telling his teenage kids about the time he had a one-night stand with a "horrible human being" who he had no intention of seeing again?

The show is very aware of that fact - there was an episode back in the first season where FutureTed actually commented on the fact that he tells his kids a lot of things he probably shouldn't. So he knows he shouldn't do it, and yet he continues to tell his kids these stories.

lambertman said...

Indeed. If Ted were any more deviant, he'd be... well, he'd be Bob Saget.

dez said...

^Except Ted's much funnier (yes, I've seen Saget's stand-up before, bleah).

Tyroc said...

Saget, even at his most cringe-worthy gag-inducing worst on Full House was MUCH funnier than Josh Radnor.

Radnor = joke killer.

Ginny said...

Hey! Now Cobie (Robin) is pregnant,too! Looks like the girls will be carrying big purses, and standing behind furniture a lot. Can't wait to see if they do anything wacky with them...fat suits anyone? (Not that those two would ever even show.)

Anonymous said...

they should put Cobie Smulders in a fat suit for the season, have unemployed Robin sit around all day eating away her depression. Also, this will serve to punish Smulders for not timing her baby-making personal life to best accommodate my HIMYM enjoyment.

jazzfan360 said...

See, I thought this was their lamest episode ever. I laughed once or twice. It just didn't work for me. And my biggest laugh actually was at something not in the episode, it was at a close-up picture of Lily's napkin list I found on the net. Some of the reasons not spoken aloud on the show were a scream.

They HAVE to tell the story behind the Mexican standoff.

Travis said...

Lilly: This is getting a little hard.
Barney: ... number 46!

I love this show!
I was in a terrible mood when I started the episode, but it quickly had me laughing.

Tom said...

Sorry, kids, but the episode sucked.

The key to this show is the social observational humor, which is always outrageous but, when it works, is also rooted in recognizable human behavior that everyone has seen but no one has ever articulated before.

The lemon law - funny, honest stuff. Ditto Barney's hot/crazy scale, the bro code, the bracket, etc.

But the naked man?

Sorry Courtney, but before you try this stunt on your date, you should know that it won't get you laid two out of three times. In fact, in approximately 2.98 out of three times it will land you in jail or the hospital.

To pretend otherwise: indeed, to build an entire episode around a contradiction of this basic fact of human nature, simply because doing so affords ample opportunity for ribald laffs and hijinks is...

Hmmm. What's the word?

Wait for it....

Tom said...

Sitcom-y.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, great episode...one of the best!

Pamela Jaye said...

i just caught up with the news that Cobie is pregnant.

I'm a bit behind.

So will this turn the show into How I Hid Two Mothers ?