Monday, January 19, 2009

HIMYM, "Three Days of Snow": Five words I won't regret

Spoilers for the latest "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I open my moon roof...

When my wife and I started dating, we lived in a city with a disproportionate number of VW Beetles, and because we're both basically 12-year-olds at heart, we began to play the magical game that is Punch Buggy. And as dating turned into co-habitation, then engagement, then marriage, we kept right on playing. But every now and then, one of us would ask the other, "What happens when we stop playing? Does that mean all the romance is gone? Does it mean we're just bored with each other?"

Eventually, we wound up moving out to suburbia, where people drive SUVs instead of cute little German imports, and so the choice was kind of made for us. Now, on those rare occasions when we drive past a punch buggy, we look at each other, confused, and sometimes one of us will rap the other in the leg, and sometimes not. And I tell myself that the romance isn't gone -- I just bruise more easily these days.

Now, a running game of Punch Buggy isn't quite on the level of Marshall and Lily's airport ritual involving a chauffeur's cap and local microbrews, but what real-life couple can hope to stack up to that amount of schmoopy? The point is, I get where that story was coming from, because I've lived it on my own immature level, and the conflict felt real to me.

Unfortunately, it was the only part of "Three Days of Snow" that did. Barney and Ted with the bar may be the single dumbest "HIMYM" plot I've ever seen -- and that includes the infamous "We're Not From Here." At the very least, if the writers felt compelled to do a "Cocktail" homage/spoof, they could have at least remembered that Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown did their famous drink-juggling act to the tune of"Hippy Hippy Shake,", not "Kokomo" (that was part of the drippy love story with Elisabeth Shue). If you're gonna reference a cheesey '80s movie, get the details right, or don't do it. Next thing you know, they'll be doing a joke about Arnold Schwarzenegger starring in "Over the Top."

And glad as I was to see Ranjit for the first time this season, the moment where he ditched his passenger at the airport to help Lily complete the ritual rang almost as false as the Ted/Barney plot. This is what I'm talking about when I complain that a "HIMYM" episode feels too sitcommy: behavior that has no basis in reality, and that makes absolutely no sense except in service to a joke that isn't very funny in the first place. There was a lot of that in this episode, enough that even the sweet climax with the marching band wasn't enough to compensate.

Ah, well. What did everybody else think?

52 comments:

T-Boz said...

After spending my holidays watching this show from the beginning, I am finally caught up! Unfortunately, this episode was kind of disappointing. I enjoyed the Robin/Marshall interaction and story (gotta love Jason Segel's robot impression), but the Ted/Barney one was TERRIBLE. Even the valiant NPH couldn't salvage that mess.

JD said...

I have to say, I got weepy as the Auld Lang Syne played at the end and M/L kissed. I thought it was up there with the 2 minute date of Ted/Stella and the piano playing scene with Ted and Victoria from season one in romantic sweetness.

Steve said...

wow, I actually enjoyed this episode a lot.

I think they nailed the lovey-dovey, sentimental scenes with Marshall and Lilly, and I laughed out lound quite a few times during the Ted and Barney scenes, particularly:

- the Dibs comments
- Barney unable to understand how Ted doesn't get the idea of Bingo
- the gestured "what up?"

Anonymous said...

Ted & Barney's desire to run/own a bar is definitely a dream of every sentient man on the planet. But I have to agree with you on this one Alan. I find it hard to believe that Carl would hand over the keys that easily, even to his most trusted customers.

Ranjit's decision to drop his scheduled ride to help Lily in a flash was random. My jaw hit the floor when that scene played out - Ranjit would never leave a customer hangin'!

Bays, Thomas & crew could have taken a slightly more believable approach to the "we should buy a bar" scenario.

I still enjoyed the episode and the laughs it provided. Unfortunately, the season continues to be my least favourite.

Pamela Jaye said...

possibly due to the fact that I got interrupted about 16 times during the ep, the silliness did not bother me.

I loved the zoomed out to the huge hurricane nor'easter, but auld lang syne really got to me.

from the girl who *always* "worries too much"

Lou said...

Hoth-Dibs killed me, absolutely killed me. I had to pause for about 2 minutes to catch my breath. Okay sure, my boys and I watched the trilogy this weekend. And yes, we played a Star Wars miniatures game at bed time tonight. So maybe I'm the perfect target demographic for the joke, but still, any episode that made me laugh that hard can't be disappointing. Heck, this was one of my favorite episodes of the season. I loved all of the subplots, and the slow build of Auld Lang Syne was beautiful.

Oh yeah, and 'What Up?' charades was way clever.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that since the new eps started up again, both of the eps of HIMYM and BBT have both sucked hard. Hope it gets better. Hey, what the heck happened to Leonard's gf Stephanie? No mention of her at all since the show came back.

Devin McCullen said...

I really expected the intro to be "as soon as I take a marching band to the airport".

I do pretty much agree with the criticisms, although there were some fun asides in the Ted/Barney stuff. I liked the whole Bingo discussion.

I wonder if the Lily/Ranjit storyline would have worked better if they had dragged his fare along with them.

Ginny said...

Alan. Please. It's Slug-Bug. And there are plenty of them in my suburb. So, I've got that going for me. The ending was worth it for me. Also, Marshall insisting Robin hit on him and Ted believing it. I always like this show even when it's not too good so I've begun tivo-ing the Lifetime eps. Which reminds me. I have to take BBT off. That one felt very re-runny and even my not-very- interested-husband asked why they were making Sheldon the star of the show? Urkel, anyone?

Anonymous said...

i think alan forgets that this show is a SITCOM!!

GG said...

The Ted/Barney storyline had me laughing a lot. I dunno. Maybe it's because I'm not so pop-culture savvy, so I wasn't dissecting the references...

I have no complaints about this episode.

Anonymous said...

No, he knows it is a sitcom. He just didn't find the Barney/Ted sit very com. And I agree. But Marshall/Lily and Marshall/Robin were pretty good.

John F said...

I think our expectations are higher than that of a traditional sitcom. Take Marshall missing Lily's phone call and the time reveal at the end of the episode. A traditional sitcom would have played like they were in different terminals/airports/baggage claims and had some wacky way for them to find each other (probably with a ridiculous slo-mo run into each others arms through a throng of people). Instead, the writers have Marshall give a somewhat throwaway line about letting Lily's lunchtime "I love you" call go to voicemail and having the whole timing element of the show hinge on that one comment. This level of detail and forethought from the writers is what elevates the show above typical sitcom. It also explains why the B-plot, despite some great lines, was so weak in comparison.

To the poster who asked what happened to Leonard's girlfriend on BBT, I think they implied (if not explicitly stated) that they broke up at the end of the episode when Leonard has a difficult time with how fast their relationship was moving forward.

Stylist Mick said...

Robot mimicry is serious business.

Rick said...

I liked it a lot, and would side with Carter/Bays on all of your arguments against it.

As someone who lived upstairs from an independent bar (albeit in a much smaller town than NYC), handing the keys over to the every-nighters on a dead night was a rare delightful occurrence.

I have faith that they knew the right music for Cocktail and had an easier time with licensing the Beach Boys.

Ranjit has always been on the sitcommy end of HIMYM's spectrum- you really should forgive the dumped customer. It's not like he won't be getting money from Lily.

Incidentally, "How I Met Your Mother" is a five-word phrase...

BigTed said...

Every once in a while watching this show, I remember that it's supposed to be a story Ted's telling his kids. And when, for instance, the plot has Ted and Barney scoring with college girls because they remind the girls of their own dads, that's just gross.

Nicole said...

The marching band at the end made this episode for me. The Ted and Barney stuff was weak, but the Marshall scenes with Robin were good, and the end even better.

Andrew said...

After spending a bunch of time last year putting together spreadsheets and running numbers to figure out if it would be financially feasible to buy my beloed but now defunct local bar, I found it easy to relate to the Ted/Barney story. Sure, cut to: McLaren's full to the brim with people was obvious, but for that storyline on the whole, I don't really expect more from HIMYM.

Jennifer said...

Ted and Barney picking up dates is always bad, every time. At least this time we had the distraction of the Cocktail Bar to lighten up the skank-tedium.

I really liked Marshall and Robin (together alone again!) in the car doing the robot, and Robin made some darned good points. I also liked the "if we give up our rituals, are we old and boring?" discussion, and this is coming from a Robin-type who never did any.

The "oh, btw, this is taking place on different days" thing was a surprise kicker, but worked well for the marching band pulling the Love, Actually moment. I did enjoy that.

david said...

not exceptional but a nice payoff at the end. my one nitpick was the notion that robin would be oblivious to being plowed in on the side of the road. wouldnt a canadian have some experience with snowstorms?

Anonymous said...

I'll have to watch it again. I don't remember that @ all. thanks, though!

electricia said...

Like everyone else, I liked the Marshall/Lily stuff and found the Ted/Barney stuff to be meh, although there were definitely some really great moments within the boring storyline, as others have mentioned. I had a bit of a problem with Robin being such a naysayer about the little rituals, considering the Slapsgiving episode (I think) focused on her and Ted's own little ritual and used it as a metaphor for their relationship's end. Maybe they don't consider that in the same category, but I think it is. Which, by the way, I loved the callback to in last week's episode. (TO clarify, I'm talking about the saluting every time someone says something that sounds like a military title - general knowledge, corporal punishment, private joke, etc.)

Alan, I'm glad you and your wife are still 12-year-olds at heart. So are my husband and I. And one of our silliest rituals involves making a claw and swiping at the air and saying "RAWR!" any time someone mentions"bare hands" or anything about the right to "bear arms." I sure hope we never really grow up!

Brandon said...

Was Ted's "I'm gonna win her back" a flashback that we've seen or a hint about the future?

Incidentally, I loved the episode way before the surprise time-gimmick and marching band.

Crispy said...

The bar plot was weak, even with BINGO. I did enjoy Marshall and Lily's plot, though.

My hubby and I have added "yellow car" and "cruiser bruiser" to our "punch buggy" game. It's spices it up, and every other car in the 'burbs these days is a PT Cruiser.

Of course, "yellow car" immediately stops as soon as you cross the Lincoln Tunnel.

Ana Maria said...

...I enjoyed this episode very much, from beginning to end...of course no bar owner in his right mind would hand over the keys, but this did not seem strange or odd to me; after all, it is a sitcom...the end, with the marching band made me cry...

erin said...

Hmmm...I just wasn't feeling this episode tonight (nor BBT either, but I'm thinking it's not just me). I appreciate how the shows tries to write stories reflecting the line between couples and singles, and how hard that is to do. Sometimes, if you're in one category, it might be hard to appreciate the comedy of the other. This one didn't work for me--I'm single, and couldn't relate to the silly ritual of Marshall and Lily, so it was pretty...meh. But then, I've never wanted to own a bar, so...that didn't work for me either. I mainly enjoyed Robin and Marshall's scene (and yes, Marshall does an EXCELLENT robot), but that was about it. And I liked how thoughtful the screwy time frame was with Marshall and Lily at the airport--classic HIMYM. But in general, put me in the disappointed column.

JT said...

I think maybe the most important part of this episode were Ted's 5 words of "I'm gonna win her back". If memory serves me correct, this is new and is talking about someone we have not seen before, correct?

So who is he talking about and when does it occur?

orangecrush said...

I heard that Donna from That 70's Show will have a reoccuring role as Ted ex (highschool, college and post college).

Anonymous said...

They must not have been able to get the rights to "Hippy Hippy Shake," or if they could, "Kokomo" was cheaper.

latenac said...

Thank you Ginny, it is slug a bug. But Alan is obviously on the East Coast where for some reason it's punch buggy.

I liked the episode. It was silly, yes. And if the Ted/Barney plot hadn't fit so well into the Marshall/Lily plot at the end it would have been lamer. We actually watched the Auld Lang Syne scene 3 times it was done so nicely. I also really liked the Robin/Marshall scene, it was really nice. The Ranjit ditching his fare was a little annoying but other than that I liked it.

Lucy said...

Has this show always had a laugh track? Because I heard one last night, but I don't remember hearing one on this show before. Am I just crazy?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Am I just crazy?

I'm not a mental health professional, and therefore can't accurately answer that, but the show has always had a laugh track.

They record it without an audience, due to the nature of the production and the number of scenes per hour, but then they pump in laughter (sometimes recorded while people are watching the episode on tape, sometimes not) after the fact.

Grunt said...

My husband (wrongly) believes it is Slug-Bug (UG) and I (rightly) believe it is Punch-Buggy (which, clearly, has a great deal more poetry to it). And we used to play our versions until we were in LA on vacation and passed by a used car lot that only sold classic VW bugs. There must have been 50 there and we turned to each other and stared beating the crap out of each other while yelling "Punch-buggy-blue/slug-bug-red!" etc. We almost had a traffic accident, so we don't do that anymore.

Loved the Marshall/Lily stuff. I find it impressive that they make Marshall and Lily not insipid when they do stuff like this. I LOVED the lunchtime conversation with Marshall talking lawyer speak to Lily. I loved the fight with Robin. I liked aspects of the Ted/NPH storyline, but I did not love it (although Hoth-Dibs had me laughing so hard...)

But one thing really bothered me...

I know AH is pregnant, and they've actually been doing a great job of covering it, but I thought I read that CS was pregnant too. And there she was in a tank-top and shorts looking like a very thin woman in the fourth month (or so) of pregnancy. Not pregnant yet but just what was once flat is now convex. And I wondered why they would do that, they've been so careful with AH? Did anyone else notice this? Am I wrong? Was it just the arch in her back?

T-Boz said...

I thought I read that CS was pregnant too. And there she was in a tank-top and shorts looking like a very thin woman in the fourth month (or so) of pregnancy. Not pregnant yet but just what was once flat is now convex. And I wondered why they would do that, they've been so careful with AH? Did anyone else notice this? Am I wrong? Was it just the arch in her back?

I noticed that, too. It seemed like they were trying to play it off like she was just leaning in such a way that her stomach looked larger, but I agree that it definitely looked more like a thin woman who is pregnant.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who enjoyed the flashback to Marshall's side of the lunch conversation with an office full of lawyers? "I'll have to adjust my briefs"

jennythen said...

Wow, I loved this episode! I guess it helps that I've never seen Cocktails and didn't get the reference, but I thought Ted and Barney's storyline was hilarious. As much as I am rooting for Barney and Robin I was also relieved to see an episode that wasn't bogged down by it.

Rachel said...

Yeah, CS is definitely starting to look pregnant, and the game of "hide the pregnancies" -- or not hiding the pregnancies, for Cobie -- is really starting to distract.

I agree that Ted and Barney's plot was weak -- dude, they're over thirty, they shouldn't be hitting on college girls. Especially not if we're supposed to be rooting for Ted.

The problem with Ted isn't really the fault of his actor, but his characterization, which swings wildly between ultra-douchebag-don't-wanna-grow-up (whenever he's with Barney) and uptight know-it-all marriage-and-kids-are-the-point-of-my-existence(whenever he's with Marshall/Robin). He's been swinging especially wildly this season -- wasn't the point of "No Tomorrow" that he wasn't going to act like such a creep anymore? I want Ted to grow up badly, but the show is really putting characters in arrested development -- especially with (quite literally) not allowing the characters to change. Aside from Barney.

BTW, I agree the Barney/Ted plot wasn't fantastic, but I loved the call back to the telepathic conversations -- which haven't been seen since the second season -- and NPH's face while thinking "Kokomo".

Wonder Killer said...

I know I'm being the kind of annoying person that sitcom writers hope will suspend disbelief for half an hour, but this show has trained me to expect better. First, post-9/11, it is my understanding that you can't meet someone right at their airport gate- security. Second, in recent years, it has not been legal to bring liquids onto the plane, so no beer from distant locations. I know it is supposed to be cute and romantic, but it is also supposed to be New York.

T-Boz said...

First, post-9/11, it is my understanding that you can't meet someone right at their airport gate- security. Second, in recent years, it has not been legal to bring liquids onto the plane, so no beer from distant locations.

You're probably right about the liquids, but I'm pretty sure they were at the baggage claim, not the gate.

Mark B said...

How does Alcoholic Beverage Control let this bar keep its liquor license? Leaving it unattended and run by customers?

And bars don't declare "last call" and force everyone out by a certain hour because they want to.

Joobie said...

I thought about the airport logistics for a minute, but convinced myself that they were meeting at baggage claim, and that Lily had packed the beer in her checked bag and whipped it out just before meeting Marshall.

Highlights for me were the Hoth/Dibs part, the sign-language "what up" and Marshall's robot impression. A fairly throwaway episode, but it would be hard to match the emotion of last week's ep.

And it is a little weird to finally see Smulders look pregs.

Anonymous said...

The reference was to the beach boys' music video (featuring the song and scenes from the movie) and not the movie itself. It's the song and the shots that have become iconic, not the movie itself.

Antid Oto said...

I've pretty much convinced myself that the Ted and Barney bar plot was originally devised for Ted and Marshall. It seems much more in character for Ted to be sitting around with Marshall fantasizing about their bar, and much more in character for Marshall to come up with the name and concept "Puzzles," than it is for Barney to be involved anywhere. What does Barney want a with a last-call-less pub? He'd want either a strip joint or a club like Marquee. Also, Marshall might fantasize about being in "Cocktail," but I don't see how that appeals to Barney in the slightest.

Anonymous said...

Antid Oto: I see your point on the owning a bar dream/scenario making more sense for Marshall and Ted, but Barney does seem to have a love of Tom Cruise 80's movies (he dressed as a Top Gun character in "the slutty pumpkin") and one of the aspects of Barney's relationship with Ted (and Marshall too)is that while he may be a slick womanizer, hanging with Ted and Marshall allows his inner geek to come out occasionally. I've always enjoyed Barney because on any other sitcom, he would just be a one-dimensional shallow jackass whom it makes no sense for the other characters to hang out with. HIMYM at least gives him another side so you can see why the others would put up with his "less noble" impulses...

Nicole said...

I have only ever heard of the game referred to as "Punch Buggy" so that you can yell out "punch buggy [colour] no punch back".

Maybe it's a Canadian thing.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I've always found the schmoopiness of the Lily/Marshall relationship to be extremely annoying. So an entire episode based around it really irked me. And I don't know how anyone can complain about unrealistic sitcominess in one breath and then say they loved an ending that had an entire marching band serenading Lily at the airport. Gag me.

Anthony Foglia said...

Antid Oto wrote, It seems much more in character for [...] Marshall to come up with the name and concept "Puzzles," than it is for Barney to be involved anywhere.

Perhaps, but I'm certain Barney and Ted were plastered when they came up with the plan, which made the terrible name "Puzzles" sound awesome to them. Marshall would suggest "Puzzles" while sober.

KB said...

Kokomo is the song everyone remembers from Cocktail. Not that other one. If you're going to spoof Cocktail, Kokomo is the right song to use.

I enjoyed the Ted/Barney bar story. I find Ted so much more entertaining when he's trying to pick up girls with Barney than in any other situation.

Jeff said...

I thought it was one of the better episodes this summer. A couple good laughs (dibs and bingo) and just enough sap at the end.

Bryan said...

Punch Bug for us really took a hit in the 90's- My wife and I had been married over 10 years and there were fewer and fewer bugs on the road. But with the addition of a couple kids and the remergence of the Beetle in the last decade it is back stronger than ever. Having 4 people play (especially with 2 in the back seat not easily reachable) is much more exciting. (Much more exciting than this ep.) Everyone has pretty much summed up my feelings on this one as well- just want to add one thing. I thought the whole ahhh they're meeting at the airport oh no they're not thing at the end was sitcommy, stupid and executed badly (though I did like the song)

Anonymous said...

I too think that the Barney/Ted puzzles conversation was originally written for Marshall/Ted. It really sounded like one of their conversations while eating a sandwich. Just add a few giggles and you're there.

Anonymous said...

The Ted and Barney story was week, but I really enjoyed the Marshall and Lilly story.