Tuesday, January 13, 2009

HIMYM, "Benefits": Steinfeld did it again!

Spoilers for last night's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I steal Feely the Share Bear...

Given that "Seinfeld" went off the air a decade ago, and that many of today's young comedy writers grew up watching that show, you would think that a little "Seinfeld" flavor would leak into today's comedy scripts. But I guess everyone realizes that the lifts would be too recognizable, or that they can't pull off the same material the way that Seinfeld and David did. Or maybe it's just that there aren't that many sitcoms left to steal from Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer.

"HIMYM" previously did one "Seinfeld"-flavored episode, last year's "We're Not From Here," which is probably the "HIMYM" low point to date. So when I began to realize that "Benefits" was borrowing from not one, but two different "Seinfeld"s -- "The Deal," where Jerry and Elaine try to have sex again with no strings attached, and, of course, "The Contest," which made primetime safe for masturbation jokes (or vice versa) -- I braced myself for another stinker.

But this time, it worked for the most part. I never forgot that "Seinfeld" had done similar stories before, but this time, they felt more "HIMYM"-appropriate.

Part of that is that, unlike the deliberately-soulless "Seinfeld," "HIMYM" is a show that embraces the idea of hugs, and characters talking about their emotions, and all that other heartwarming junk the kids are so into today. And with the added wrinkle that Barney is secretly in love with Robin, the "Benefits" A-story became its own thing, which was largely a showcase for the awf-someness of Neil Patrick Harris as Barney tried to mask his jealousy. At this point, NPH's genius goes without saying, but it takes some real talent to be able to make a line like "Awesome, we're still talking about this?" both really funny and really poignant.

Beyond Barney's pathos, there were a bunch of other uniquely "HIMYM"-y wrinkles to the story, like Barney's hilarious side trip to comparison shop for a TV to smash, or the rapid-fire montage of TEd, Robin and Barney going through the cycle all over again.

As for Marshall's story, "HIMYM" has its own long history of coming up with euphemisms for taboo subjects -- "Eating a sandwich," most notably -- and even if Bays and Thomas lifted that concept from "Seinfeld,"(*) it's become such a part of the show that it worked.

(*) UPDATE: It appears that I really, really misread this storyline. See the comments for more. Sigh...

And really, beyond the subject matter and the euphemisms, it was telling a different story than "The Contest." And I give them points to using all those fame whore guest stars as minimally as possible, and in a story about masturbation. Seems about right for those folks.

Some other thoughts on "Benefits":

• Where was Ted's inner corrector at when Robin -- who earlier in the episode had mocked him for dropping a 20-year-old "Revenge of the Nerds" reference -- compared herself to The Fonz? I suppose he was in a good mood at the time, post-coitus.

• Has a character on the show ever broken the fourth wall the way that Marshall did when he raised his eyebrow at the camera after finding out about the abandoned 8th floor?

• Scenes in Lily's kindergarten class are really hit-and-miss, in part because the kid actors come across like kid actors. I don't know that the gag about LIly telling one student about his parents' divorce would have worked even with a young Haley Joel Osment, but in this case, it felt cheap.

What did everybody else think?

74 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wait, Marshall's storyline was about masturbation? I thought it was about reading on the crapper. Granted, I had a long day and was sleepy while watching HIMYM... so that's my excuse if it went over my head. But... really... "reading a magazine" at work? I thought it was just about having other people know you were going into the washroom and planned to spend enough time in there that reading material was necessary.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Marshall was masturbating, I think he was dropping the kids off at the pool.

sjml said...

Wait -- the Marshall storyline was about going #2 at work, right? It was funny that Barney thought it was about masturbation.

sjml said...

And two people beat me to it in the time between your empty comment pages and me typing two sentences. I love the internet.

Myles said...

See, this is why I should read your reviews before writing my own, Alan - I get to appear as one of those youngins who never watched enough Seinfeld to be able to pick up the immediate comparison.

I really enjoyed the episode mainly because it let Ted be a jerk, but then didn't immediately pull back and pretend that he wasn't a jerk. Yeah, he stopped being a jerk as soon as he realized what was going on, but letting the first period linger is better for the character - jerk Ted is far more entertaining than forcefully endearing Ted.

And Alan, I'm not sure if I'd say that Marshall's story was actually about masturbation - Barney's misunderstanding of the phrase aside (which I now see was likely an homage to the Seinfeld episode) the episode dealt with something less taboo but more in line with Marshall's innocence. I thought the storyline also worked well since it integrated with, at first, Ted and Robin, and then with Barney and his bathroom in the end.

Just a fun ep. overall.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Oy, this is the sort of thing that happens when I'm at press tour and my brain starts melting down.

Barney and I were wrong, you guys were right. Which makes it not a "Seinfeld" riff, but an "American Pie" one. And it also explains why Lily was so amused by the whole concept.

I'd go back and edit the review, but half of it's now about masturbation. So I give up.

But putting Kardashian, et al. in the middle of a story about taking a dump seems just as thematically-appropriate.

TimmyD said...

I am pretty sure it was about masturbating. Which is kind of weird. This wasn't one of those, wink wink everyone does it kind of things. Or maybe it is? Do people really do this at work? Cuz, I can never use my work bathroom again if that is so.

If it is about #2 then this story borrowed more from Seinfeld with George's bathroom obsession.

Chaddogg said...

Yeah, Alan, it clearly was NOT about masterbation -- hence the humor when Barney jumps to the wrong conclusion that "reading a magazine" means masterbation.

And besides, I doubt "burrito" would ever require you to "read a magazine" in the "master of my domain" sense.

If you want a Seinfeld spin on Marshall's reading a magazine bit, though, the correct reference is to the episode where George fakes a handicap to use the handicapped bathroom.

Crispy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crispy said...

Didn't George have a book that he read in the bathroom of a bookstore that he was forced to buy? And then it was "tagged" so that he could not return it?

Not exactly the same thing, though, I guess. I think you could probably match any sitcom set up to something on Seinfeld if you look hard enough.

Withnail said...

Is it just me, or has Jason Segel gained a significant amount of weight?

And yeah, he was pooping, not jacking...

mhbazzi said...

Yeah, I'm pretty certain it was about taking a sh!t, not masturbation.

Jake said...

GEEZ ALAN YOU WERE WAY OFF ETC ETC ETC. I thought it was one of the better episodes this season, although I have to admit that the standard is quite a bit lower than it used to be for this show. Not sure why, but it doesn't seem to be clicking as well. Part of it is that the writers seem to be jumping to sitcom cliche behavior/dialogue way more often and way more blatantly (although it worked pretty well here).

Anyway, Barney was funny. Ted was, ultimately, a nice guy, but had a chance to be interesting for a while first. Everybody else was okay. Would watch again.

Jesse said...

I thought it was a decent enough episode, although for a while there, the way Lily was looking at Barney had me worried they were going to hook them up.

Also, I know it was written and filmed before the current troubles, but I'm surprised a usually bland network like CBS let the slightly wince-inducing joke about "Gaza Strippers" make it past S&P.

Toby said...

I know there must be plenty more about the episode to talk about, but I have one other thought about why it had to be a poop euphemism - Lily's reactions were more in keeping with Marshall's hang-ups being about taking a dump. Otherwise, I'd think she'd be pretty upset if he was masturbating as much as that episode would have us think.

SO glad the four airheads - er, celebs were fantasies and not a typical sitcom encounter.

Chaddogg said...

Anyone have any thoughts about the hint, early in the show, regarding what Lily said about "something casual never works with ex's, I should know" or something, and Bob Saget/Ted as narrator saying "but we'll get to that later"?

A hint at marital troubles in Marshall and Lily land?

Bryan said...

For some reason these guys just can't seem to nail a full episode this year. Most of it was good, even though as you said Alan blatently ripped off (maybe for this show that does derivative so well we should just start calling it something like "off-show callback"). But the kidergarten class and especially the talking magazine covers just seemed hackneyed.

Anonymous said...

The "we'll get to that later" aside foreshadowed the fact that it was Barney, not Ted or Robin, who would be hurt by the enoucnter.

Anonymous said...

it was definitely about dropping a deuce at work!

I loved this episode. NPH is gold

Ed said...

I have to keep wondering that if we ever get to see Ted as his children on the couch see him, will he be a rambling drunk in their eyes? Ted may sound lucid when he speaks to them but this may be how he hears himself. Really, who would tell their kids these stories if they weren't three sheets to the wind!

Andrew said...

If you want a Seinfeld spin on Marshall's reading a magazine bit, though, the correct reference is to the episode where George fakes a handicap to use the handicapped bathroom.

Or The Gymnast, where we learn that George takes his shirt off in order to "read a magazine."

Kevin said...

Have they ever said what happened to Robin's five dogs when she moved in with Ted?

mp said...

I just didn't understand why pooping needs another euphemism when there are so many already

Withnail said...

Actually, Alan, your comletely missing the 'pooping' part of the show and thinking it was about Marshall masturbating at work is disturbing, because you operate as a television critic.

There was NO clue that Marshall was masturbating at work. All the jokes were food related. "Burrito, big lunch, etc." It's also completely out of CHARACTER for Marshall to masturbate at work - which is why the joke where Barney thought he was talking about jacking off was funny.

We even see him on the toilet on the 8th floor.

This is not to nit-pick the way internet denizens often do - but to ask the question:

Were you even watching the show?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Were you even watching the show?

No. Not at all. You caught me. I just skimmed the message boards(*) and wrote the blog entry off of that.

(*) "Skimmed the message boards" is, of course, a euphemism for "flossed my teeth," which is itself a euphemism for "did some crunches," which in turn really means "grew a mustache."

Jesse said...

Withnail at all:

Did you not read the part where Alan's at the TCA, aka the conference literally (literally! ;)) made for people like him?

Give him a break.

Mike said...

Didn't Robin lose the dogs prior to moving to Japan?

Pamela Jaye said...

"HIMYM"-y, "HIMYM"-y, Hi Lo

I've only seen two eps of Seinfeld (at least one had Marlee Matlin) so I'm pretty unspoiled. I did love the "reading a magazine" (though not so much as the "...sandwich") and completely did not notice the guest star (I also don't realize I've seen people who are "dead" (till the second or third ep at least - hiss) or in flashbacks or dreams. Did Marshall ask what she was famous, cause I've been wondering (now that I've rememered who it was)

Noticed a lot of Lily From The Waist Up. Can't wait for Robin From The Waist Up and possibly Lexie (Grey) From The Waist Up

also really loved the TVs!

and the roommate thing reinds me I have to buy toilet paper (hey, did Marshall et in after they took his key? Does Marshall not know his wife can't keep a secret?)

and no, I didn't miss Seinfeld (or Friends) cause I was too young.
I'm trying to think of a hit sitcom I actually saw in its "prime" - Home Improvement maybe. Mad About You (back when they still had friends) if that was a hit. I liked Almost Perfect but some idiot at CBS killed it.

JasonR said...

(*) "Skimmed the message boards" is, of course, a euphemism for "flossed my teeth," which is itself a euphemism for "did some crunches," which in turn really means "grew a mustache."

Alan - I thought you would bring this comment/joke full circle by saying "which really means I was reading a magazine."

Jennifer said...

Robin's dogs "went to a farm" (offscreen, because Josh Radnor is allergic).

I thought this was the best possible method of handling lame celebutard cameos ever. Awesome.

Barney made this episode. I continue to be impressed at how the writers and NPH/Cobie handle the situation and balance between Barney the Horndog and Barney the Lovelorn.

I will admit if I were Jason, I'd be all, "um, I have a plotline about shitting?" But it's still not quite as bad as the Robin-leg-shaving episode, so whatever. I did like how they finally tied the two plots together in Barney's office.

erin said...

This was the first HIMYM I've laughed at in a few episodes, so for that I'm grateful.

I loved the Marshall storyline because I am NOT fan of using the bathroom in really any sense in public, but you just get past it. But I'm always so thrilled when I can find one in a semi-quiet/private floor. I don't want an audience!

Barney was just wonderful, but I'm wondering how long they can make the tension hold out? I like that Ted kind of gets that Barney's in love with Robin, but won't call him out on it. And I love Barney's goofy looks when he's watching Robin talk. They do have great chemistry. I thought it was realistic Ted and Robin started out their living arrangements with some boundary crossing--I think a lot of people can imagine that happening if they lived with certain exes (which is probably why it's rarely a good idea!) But Barney's involvement made it that much more poignant instead of just a cheap laugh. I LOVED the reveal where he's talking to the kids in the end--ha! I bet they were good listeners...and learned a few things!

David said...

Have they ever said what happened to Robin's five dogs when she moved in with Ted?

Robin took them up to her aunt's farm in upstate NY in the "Stuff" episode. Also the episode with slap #2.

JD said...

Yikes, I seem to be in the minority in thinking this was one of the worst episodes of the season. I thought the Seinfeld ripoff was more George having to pay for the expensive artbook because he read it while in the bathroom, but I also think the Robyn/Ted/Barney triangle is getting too close to Friends' Ross/Rachel/Joey territory.

W said...

I didn't really feel like Marhsall was breaking the 4th wall. Raising an eyebrow at a brilliant idea seems like a Marshall kind of thing. Especially when no one is looking.

Steve said...

Did anyone else notice how much Alyson Hannigan's pregnancy was showing? Even with having her wear baggy clothes and always filming her from the chest up or putting a prop in front of her stomach, it was still pretty obvious. And I assume this will only get more noticeable as the season rolls on.

It seems like at some point the writers will have to deal with it, either with Lily getting pregnant or a storyline where she gains a lot of weight.

Cobie Smulders' pregnancy wasn't so noticeable. She wore slightly baggy/bulky clothes, but if I didn't already know she was pregnant it never would have occurred to me. But I think she might not be as far along as Hannigan.

GG said...

Did you catch the callback to Madeline Albright?

Barney: I said, "Madeline, every single international conflict essentially boils down to sexual tension."

:D

Anonymous said...

I thought the Seinfeld ripoff was more George having to pay for the expensive artbook because he read it while in the bathroom...

FYI, Seinfeld invented neither pooping, reading while pooping, or being embarrassed to poop in public. In fact I experience all three on a regular basis and I've never seen an episode of the show.

Bryan said...

I understand it's a sitcom and I know about "suspension of disbelief" but one thing that really annoyed me last night was the amount of money Barney spent on tv's and milk - all for a cheap laugh. Maybe it was because I had just finished watching a rerun where he buys plane tickets to Philly to follow some girls but it just seemed too much.

Jeff Martin said...

Bryan, I think Barney's wealth is kind of a running theme on the show. He has the full-wall TV, an incredible apartment that he lives in by himself, and buys things from SkyMall when he's depressed. Buying exorbitant amounts of milk and a new TV to smash doesn't seem too out of character.

Melanie said...

Seinfeld also didn't invent friends w/benefits, and the potential pitfalls thereof.

I don't think Alyson's pregnancy is noticeable yet if you're not looking for it.

Alan, I would rethink the mustache.

Loved the call-back to Private Thing.

And also thought the use of the cameos was done perfectly - everyone had been so worked up about it, and it turned out great, I thought.

electricia said...

I thought the episode was cute and enjoyable, and handles the Ted/Robin hooking up thing a lot better than I expected. I didn't think it seemed derivative or off in any way. It wasn't brilliant, but it was still fun. And my husband and I got a good laugh over the Kim Kardashian thing, because neither of us really knows why she's famous, either. I didn't actually recognize any of the others and didn't realize they were reality stars until the Kardashian thing.

As soon as Lily first came on screen, I kept looking at her and thinking "Why does she look so different? There's something definitely different about her." For a while I thought it was that her hair was darker and the cut was different, and then I realized it was something more. Then I was thinking that her face looked really, really full (for her, anyway) and wondering what was up. Then I noticed her boobs. Then it all clicked and I remembered that AH is pregnant, which I'd totally forgotten about. She was definitely mostly shot from the bust up, but there were a few wider shots and she was definitely wearing baggier clothes. I assume we'll start seeing a lot less of Lily's legs in upcoming episodes. I thought Robin's wardrobe seemed bulkier and baggier than usual with lots of sweaters rather than her usual sleeveless tops, but Ted did say it was winter, and Robin is unemployed so probably not dressing up as much.

Nicole said...

I actually watched the show and thought reading a magazine was a euphemism for masturbation until Barney made his comment. Then I realized that it was about number two. I couldn't figure out why Lily was so okay with it until then.

I probably didn't care so much what it meant because the A plot was so much better. NPH was fabulous last night and made the unrequited thing work, when it could have been a massive FAIL.
It annoys me to no end that he loses his Emmys to Jeremy Piven.

I do wonder about Ted talking to his fairly young kids about his "friends with benefits" stage with Aunt Robin. That seems a little too open, especially since the kids are not adult.

Pamela Jaye said...

since we're talking about poo anyway, I was singing something from Dr. Horrible the other day and realized there were two musicals last year that mentioned poo in song (and were close enough to being TV that I actually saw both of them)

and NPH was in one of them.

was that enough on topic?

andythesaint said...

I think Alan will need to rewatch this episode again when he has more time, so he can catch all the "magazine" bits he missed in his confusion. My favourite was when Marshall was feeling better at work because of the empty floor's bathroom, and they show him eating fruit at a meeting, walking down the hall drinking coffee, and eating a burrito/donair something while getting into the elevator.

Also, someone on another message board pointing this out (I missed it): Marshall was probably the one not replacing the toilet paper at Ted and Robin's apartment -- which led to the fight that led to the hooking up that Marshall walked in on. So there was some clever things going on in this episode as long as you got the joke. The plots may not have been original, but they were given the proper HIMYM treatment (which is a symbol for the series itself, a show that on the surface isn't anything new, but becomes fresh by putting a fresh spin on the familiar).

Pamela Jaye said...

(*) "Skimmed the message boards" is, of course, a euphemism for "flossed my teeth," which is itself a euphemism for "did some crunches," which in turn really means "grew a mustache."

LOL

Robin lost the dogs, actually quite a while before she went to Japan I believe. Something aout them going to the farm, a misunderstanding of *that* and the revelation she had a relative who actually had a farm?

I'm still trying to find a non-TMI way to ask why it takes people enough time to "read a magazine." I guess it's a good thing I have other opportunities to read magazines, cause I'd never get to read them that way, with an Evelyn Woods course.

slb said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this episode! While I loved every NPH line, the part that I'm still cracking up about is Marshall's expression when he catches Robin and Ted at the very beginning. He somewhat resembled a startled crab as he scurried off in fright! We rewound that part about four times.

Bryan said...

Pamela Jaye - A magazine is not always entirely read - sometimes all that's required is a few pictures with long captions - but a magazine (or a complete newspaper section) should be taken just in case. There's nothing worse than being short sighted and sitting there with nothing to read but the back of a shampoo bottle or read through and reply to old text messages. On more than one occasion I've had nothing to do but organize the reciepts in my wallet. TMI?

Melanie said...

Yes, a little TMI, everybody. (And really, I found the topic bordering on gross while watching the show.)

And apparently I'm a lousy excuse for a female because I hafta say I rarely notice what the girls on this show wear, or what any characters wear, for that matter. So maybe that's partially why I find the pregancy(ies) not noticeable.

KB said...

The "reading a magazine" thing was poorly executed all around. I knew it was about going #2 but I can't blame Alan or anyone else for being confused. Marshall was reading US Weekly or some similar celebrity tabloid nonsense. Would Marshall purchase a magazine like that? It seems out of character and there was no explanation. I personally have never felt weird going #2 at work, but I would be embarrassed to carry around a magazine like that anywhere at anytime. On the flip side, would Marshall (or any other average guy) jack it to a hot pick of some chick from the Hills or Kim K.? Certainly. That makes more sense. I think the choice of magazine made it rather confusing and I doubt they would have used a magazine like that for this story if they did not need to fit in those awful guest stars.

Overall, not the best HIMYM, but not terrible either. NPH had some funny scenes. I worry a little about the direction they are taking Barney but we'll have to see how it goes.

Anonymous said...

actually it was "Them" magazine (which is much more appropriate title), and the whole point is when you are "reading a magazine" you aren't really looking for anything too intellectual, just something to keep you occupied. I am not an "Us" (or "Them") magazine person, but I've skimmed it when I needed to "read a magazine"

Dan Barrett said...

Gosh, parents in the future sure are very liberal about what they discuss with their kids.

"Kids, let me tell you a story about how I started banging your aunt Robin".

There is an interesting blog entry at Ken Levines site where he discusses the final season of Cheers and the fact none of the actors learnt their lines toward the end, effectively mailing the performances in. Levine states that audiences didn't care as by this point they were so in love with the show that they were willing to laugh at anything coming out of the casts mouths.

I'm beginning to feel that way about HIMYM. I'm not quite willing to laugh at it all, but its built up so much goodwill for me at this point that a sub-par episode like this will still have me chuckling and willing to let it slide.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan Barrett,

You know, no one has ever brought up the "wow, Ted tells his kids lots of inappropriate details, doesn't he?" before. No one stopped to think about it. Except for the times that Bays/Thomas have been asked about it. Except for the times that Saget's narration (which is what the kids hear) doesn't match with what we're shown (see, e.g., 1x16, "Cupcake", narration of Ted/Victoria's activities pre-departure for Berlin v. copious Ted/Victoria sex; the Goat). Except for the fact that Bays has said that the kids are hearing this story in a single sitting, which is not nearly enough time to get anywhere close to one tenth the amount of detail we're seeing (http://sepinwall.blogspot.com/2008/06/keeping-things-in-moderation-himym-emmy.html, "lightning round" question #4).

It's a storytelling device, and it's one that shouldn't be taken completely literally, given what the creators have said and what we ourselves have seen onscreen.

Pamela Jaye said...

with*out* an Evelyn woods course. sigh

Daniel said...

Man, back in my day you had to walk five miles in the snow, barefoot, to go to the toilet and when you got there you'd only have your imagination to keep you company. Kids these days...
Not reading on the toilet has it's benefits, too. Many people I know believe that the thoughts you come up with on the toilet (Toilet Thoughts) are naturally the most profound and insightful thoughts of all.

Pamela Jaye said...

actually it was "Them" magazine

now *that* I noticed. well, it kind of whizzed by, and I thought that was what it said, giggled, but didn't rewind to check. which makes me wonder:

do you think Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction was *planned*? perhaps to test whether the rewind function was measurable?

Mike F said...

for me, the laugh out loud moment in this episode was the sight-gag when Barney casually reveals he has a private toilet built into his office

the casual sex storyline, for me, didn't work on all cylanders...aside from what was another very funny sight-gag, all that milk

Mads said...

Should this be the episode NPH submits for the Emmys? I know, I know, we still have a bunch of episodes to go, but he was just so fantastic last night. He got to be both FunnyBarney and EmotionalBarney and was equally amazing at both.

Mark B said...

Up until Barney's comments, I think we were meant to think "reading a magazine" was a sexual euphemism. It was only when, unlike the others, he started saying it as though it were in quotes that we were to realize what it meant.

Rachel said...

I was trying to figure out whether "reading a magazine" was masturbation or pooping, and wasn't sure until Barney's matter-of-fact clarification. So it was easily missed.

Alyson Hannigan is noticeably showing to the point where I winced when I saw her drinking wine. It's harder to watch scenes with her and not think of her as the pregnant actress, and not as Lily -- though when she cried about Marshall's credit card bills, I thought they were going to have her cry over how huge her credit card bills were. Her line "Story of my life: my cuteness interferes with people hearing my message" cracked me up.

And seriously, can we throw awards/flowers/bras/boxers/finely aged Scotch at NPH's feet? He is so incredibly brilliant, going from physical comedy to absolute emotional nakedness in the blink of an eye. I watched the scene where he says "I love you" to Robin, then shakes his head when she says he's not like Ted, about three times, and my heart broke for him each time. That he didn't win a Golden Globe is a crime.

Anonymous said...

Put me down as another one who thought it was about masturbation. Either way, I think I would have found the plot annoying. Really can't explain it, but I find both the Marshall and Lilly characters annoying and unfunny.
Barney seemed off this edisode too, but I guess he was supposed to seem off. Whatever happened to Barney's pledge to date bimbos?

Ed said...

Is it weird that instead of reading a magazine, in this day and age I watch stuff on my iPod?

Anthony Foglia said...

I often spend a long time in the bathroom, but I never consider bringing a magazine, and I doubt I would at work. But, this might be why I occasionally hear "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" playing in the stall next to me.

Tyroc said...

I too thought "reading a magazine" was confusing as can be for the first half of the episode and think it would've been much funnier if they didn't try for a euphemism and just explained he likes to take his time in the bathroom and read and relax from the start. It felt very much like they were going for one of their cutesy expressions or theories (there's at least one per episode) and as usual the expression they went with was not at all something people would say or do in real life and thus don't become part of the national lexicon.

(That said, being embarrassed about bringing reading material to the crapper at work, is a real thing, and I'm guessing came up in the writers room. I just wish they hadn't tried to hide the ball so much or be so coy, as it took away greatly from the premise. And yes, having him bring a magazine with sexy stars on the cover only confused the point more.)

Funny Idea: B+, Execution: C-!

latenac said...

I really loved this episode. I thought the bathroom subplot was very funny. Mainly b/c I had an employee who often could be seen headed towards the bathroom with the NY Times. Fortunately it was the daily one and not the Sunday one. I did want to tell Marshall that despite my employees confidence in heading to the bathroom with it we all still thought he was a douche bag for doing it.

And the NPH story line was just perfect but then I think he's perfect anyway. He really does deserve some sort of award for his acting.

Crispy said...

I honestly didn't think there was any ambiguity about "reading a magazine". I always assumed it meant pooping.

Maybe if it had been Ted's story line, it would have crossed my mind that it meant masturbating, but Marshal? He's such a "girl", that he probably thinks he's cheating on Lily if he masturbates. This is the guy who thinks that sex should only be done for love, remember?

Plus throw in all the burrito and big lunch comments. Unless Marshal has some serious food fetishes, it just doesn't add to self gratification.

And really, who spanks one out to Spencer and Heidi? YUCK! If he were doing it that often, at WORK, wouldn't he just throw some sexy pics of Lily on his phone? She's enough of a freak to be willing.

CM said...

I really liked that the matter-of-fact hooking up between Ted and Robin didn't turn into some emotional weirdness. When Ted kissed Robin goodbye and then you see each of them discussing the kiss, I braced myself for extended drama, and was relieved that it didn't last.

I also liked the deliberate ambiguity about "reading a magazine" at the beginning and thought it was funny when NPH got dirty looks for saying, "We're talking about masturbating, right?"

Even though Ted ended up acting like a nice guy, I thought he preserved his jerkiness by insisting over and over that NPH confess his love for Robin.

Cagey said...

I never thought it was NOT about pooping. But then again, at one of my jobs, I worked in an office full of guys and many were unashamed about taking reading material into the bathroom.

Furthermore, I have known more than a few who were quite literally anal retentive about the Public Poop.

Anonymous said...

I agree totally with a previous poster that wrote that the plot idea was funny but the execution was not. This seems to be a common problem with this show. Lots of funny ideas that don't work in their execution and it just comes across as unfunny. I think its about time I take this show oof my TIVO.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I didn't really feel like Marhsall was breaking the 4th wall. Raising an eyebrow at a brilliant idea seems like a Marshall kind of thing.

Except that he doesn't just look in the direction of the camera -- he makes eye contact with it. That's fourth wall-breaking.

Pamela Jaye said...

Have they ever said what happened to Robin's five dogs when she moved in with Ted?

I'm watching season 2. What ep number, I don't know. It's called Stuff.
It's the ep where Robin asks Ted to get rid of all his stuff - like the phone booth - cause he got it from old girlfriends and all she can see when she sees the stuff, if his old girlfriends draped around the apartment.
Then he finds out that old boyfriends are where she got the dogs. Cute visuals.

she sends them to her aunt's farm upstate

and i think there may be a slap...

also, NPH talks around Moist a lot ;-)

Jorge Garrido said...

I could have sworn this about masturbating at work.

Mike said...

Is it possible that the storyline was about masturbating the same way that "grinch" was the C-word instead of the B-word?

It seemed really weird to me that these people, who talk about a lot of dirty-esque things, would need to have a euphemism for something as pedestrian as pooping.

HelloWorld said...

I watched it over and over and I still don't know wheter it is about masturbation or going #2. So weird...

mehmet rasit said...

why going #2 would be emberrasing
it is clearly about masturbation