Monday, March 23, 2009

HIMYM, "Old King Clancy": Northwest Passage

Spoilers for tonight's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I renounce my Canadian half-citizenship...
"Canada, you did it again. You even found a way to ruin this. Why? Why do we let you be a country?" -Barney
Today was not a good day at The Star-Ledger. We're certainly not alone in taking a beating in this economy, but the events of today had me really, really, really hoping for some big laughs from tonight's "HIMYM," particularly after the last two episodes had been so strong. Instead, unfortunately, we got a fairly iffy outing saved by some always-reliable Canadian comedy.

Now, admittedly, today's news at the paper may well have made it impossible for me to enjoy a storyline about fake jobs, Ted being on the verge of getting fired, a room designed for firing people, etc., but I don't think so. The biggest laugh I had at the episode was the security cam montage of Barney firing people -- specifically, the shot of him having sex under the table and then firing the woman he had sex with, which is completely despicable and yet completely Barney. (This is how good the writers and Neil Patrick Harris have been at creating this character: I love it when he's doing horrible things even when he's appearing in grainy footage with the sound off so I can't even see or hear anything from NPH.)

No, I just think it was a lame story, as sitcom plots about elaborate lies tend to be. Other than "HIMYM"-y touches like the aforementioned video montage, or the '70s-style caper movie title cards for each member of the conspiracy (including the chipmunk!), it was forgettable and not all that funny.

Lily playing a guessing game with Robin about Canadian sex acts -- with help from yet another classic fake website from the "HIMYM" folks (this time with appearances from an actual Canadian celebrity) -- was an amusing B-plot, and a reminder that clever euphemisms (invented or not) are often funnier than more sexually explicit punchlines, and it had a nice payoff at the end when we found out what really happened with The Frozen Snowshoe. I just wish it was in service to a better A-story.

What did everybody else think?

45 comments:

Carmichael Harold said...

Alan,

I'm very sorry to hear about the Star Ledger news, which is terrible, and I can understand you not finding this episode all that funny for a variety of reasons.

I agree that the Ted story wasn't all that good, but the B Story had a ton of time committed to it and consistently cracked me up. Hell, even "sturgeon" got a big laugh out of me.

Christopher said...

I actually really enjoyed the episode -- especially Marshall's stand-up.

This was just a solid "I enjoy hanging out with these people" episode.

David J. Loehr said...

I think my favorite of all of the links would be the "Two Girls, One Stanley Cup" page. Wow. Just wow.

l.b. weighs in said...

I really think that this is the beginning of the show really being affected by the ladies pregnancies.
It limits storytelling options when hiding the growing bellies is the priority.

But I liked it, it wasn't as good as the last two, but it went along at a good clip and I like that they are acknowledging what is going on in the world. And nice to have that leavened by something as absolutely funny as the website. They just always hit those out of the park!

Alan, my heart goes out to you about what is going on at your paper and all the other ones. I really think this is going to be a case of "you don't know what you got til it's gone." sigh.

Andrew said...

I'm only an occasional viewer, but I found Marshall's stand-up routine pretty hilarious. I recognized that brand of comic immediately, the type who thinks being offbeat is all that's necessary.

EOTW said...

I love the fish stand up bit and was hoping you'd use it in your "as soon as I" bit. Hope things take a look up. Kinda feel bad about reading all my news online. You're good, sir. good luck!

Jayne said...

"The newspaper will try to cushion the financial blow to its staff by increasing the amount of money it contributes to employees' 401(k) plans"...

Gaaah, why don't they just take it and set it on fire before your eyes?

Glad Bush never got around to letting people 'grow' their Social Security by letting them play the market with it.

I ::::finally::: understand why people who lived through the first Depression put their money under mattresses....

Anthony Foglia said...

It wasn't just you, Alan. The episode was weak. There were some nice moments. Besides the ones you mentioned, there was Ted making out with the lunch lady and then getting all principled. ("You're on the design committee!!") But as a whole, it never gelled.

Ginny said...

The website is way funnier than the episode. Thanks for linking for this lazyass. Did like Barney's reaction to Ted's news about starting his own business--"In this economy?" Sorry about your paper's troubles, Alan. Hope things start looking up SOON.

Chris Littmann said...

Alan -- Sorry to hear about the latest at the S-L. I just saw on the news today that the Observer here in Charlotte is eliminating something like 82 positions, 30 from the newsroom I believe. I'm grateful every day that I've still got a job.

Chris said...

As I'm a younger man, I assumed the title cards were a reference to Snatch.

But I agree, this episode was kind of lame.

Laura said...

I always have a really difficult time watching episodes that feature Ted being an architect. So that part of the episode was going to fall flat for me no matter what they did with it. That being said, I liked the B plot, and I think Marshall should really do more stand-up comedy.

JD said...

Totally agree, but I never connected to the story. Maybe because it had a Ted centered main story not involving his love life, but tonight's episode was mostly a miss for me.

tahl said...

Mainly - and this could be regional basis - but I can't help but point out that Wawa exists in the hinterlands of my fair country, South Jersey/Philadelphia, and *not* the socialized medicinal heavens of Canada.

srpad said...

This was a mediocre episode. Once again the jokes you mentioned (Barney and the table and all things Canadian) were the highlights. I also had a softspot for Marchalls open Mic as I have been there.

As far as the time change, I assumed it was because they needed to catch HIMYM up with BBT because a few weeks (months?)ago, Obama's speech preempted one and not the other.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Tahl, I think they're referring to the Canadian town of Wawa and not the chain of Philly/south Jersey convenience stores.

tahl said...

Whatever, it just goes to show how defensive we are (?!).

J.J. said...

I found it weird how Ted seemed to think his bank designs were so great. I think he used the words "inspired" and "innovative" at different points, describing his designs. But the things he talked about including in his designs didn't' sound innovative to me. Natural light? An oval-shaped room? A rooftop garden?

I forget -- is Ted supposed to be a visionary architect? Or is he merely a competent one (whose big career achievement to this point was realizing ahead of time that he should have a backup design prepared for some project because his boss's design looked like a penis)?

BigTed said...

Are we supposed to think that Ted is a good architect? Because his "great" ideas had absolutely nothing to do with what the client wanted, and seemed more fitting for a Northern California high-tech firm in the late '90s (or a day spa).

This is similar to the problem I frequently have with Ted's character: He's supposed to come off as a cool, funny, romantic guy with a nerdy/annoying/wimpy side, but sometimes he just seems like a nerdy/annoying/wimpy guy whose friends inexplicably think he's cool. (And in this episode he seemed strangely ungrateful to his Barney and Marshall, after they went to a huge amount of trouble in their -- admittedly misguided and weird -- attempt to protect him.

It's hard to know how we in the audience are supposed to see Ted as the protagonist of the show. I think we're supposed to like him despite his flaws, but sometimes those flaws overcome the likeability.

Nicole said...

I haven't seen the episode yet, but that website is pretty funny. This is actually funny stuff about Canada, as opposed to the Fox News panel that insulted the Canadian military and mounties but claimed it was "satire".

Jennifer said...

Honestly, I get depressed when a sitcom is reminding me that the world sucks now. I'd like my TV shows to not remind me in such painful detail right now, especially the comedic ones, thanks. So yeah, not in love with the A-plot, and another "Ted's a douche" plot.

The Canadian sex jokes, on the other hand, make it better.

Who's seen the website? BWAH.

wfpc.net said...

Read more about Old King Clancy at http://wfpc.net/old_king_clancy.html

Zack Smith said...

"Honestly, I get depressed when a sitcom is reminding me that the world sucks now. I'd like my TV shows to not remind me in such painful detail right now, especially the comedic ones, thanks."

Re-posted for TRUTH. I get annoyed with sitcoms whose characters are TOO glamorous (boy, remember all those mid-90s NBC shows set at magazines where nobody wrote anything?), but I watch these shows to ESCAPE reality. If you have something downbeat, at least have it happen to a character like Al Bundy who sort of has it coming.

I noticed a lot of fall sitcom pilots in development involve people being fired/downsized. I doubt it will reflect what really happens to most people, and I further doubt anyone will watch.

I believe Ted is a brilliant architect as much as I believe any of the characters on STUDIO 60 were good at sketch comedy. That is to say, not at all.

In agreement with those who hate Ted. Ted is a typical sitcom protagonist -- it's built around him, but it's his weird, quirky friends who come off as funny and interesting.

Ted is at his best when he's SUPPOSED to come off as a douche. The rest of the time, he comes off as self-absorbed, self-pitying and kind of a stalker.

On paper, the show might be about Ted the romantic's quest for love, but it's more fun as a show about a bunch of goofballs discussing their weird habits and obsessions, and they're all sort of on the same page. I have no real investment in the "quest" behind the show -- let Ted meet the damn mother in the last episode. I'd rather hear about fish lists and Canadian porn.

Whatever the setup of the show, it's more or less its best when it's just the characters at the bar riffing on each other. The dual-pregnancies have forced more scenes like this in the latter half of the season, and the writing has improved tremendously.

(And that ROBIN was the one who made the move once again proves she is destined for Barney. It cannot be denied.)

Alan, sorry about the paper, but you are a DAMN talented writer and even if things don't work out here, there is a 100 percent chance that you will find a new and better venue. I truly believe that.

Question Mark said...

Harvey's truly does make one of the best hamburgers in the land. I heartily endorse a Harvey's burger to any American tourist.

Andrea said...

@dronkmunk it was In 'lieu of an open thread this week' no open thread means nowhere to talk trash.

As for HIMYM... I like that they are embracing where the world is at the mo. Not as strong as the previous few eps but still good fun. Ted is Ted and I appreciate/ignore him as I feel fit - to paraphrase @Christopher... I'd like to hang out with these people.

Hope Star Ledger news gets better Alan.

Granola Mom said...

It's always amusing to me to see cute, innocent looking Lilly obsessed with some sex subject. Lilly is not afraid of flying her freak flag!

And, of course, NPH scenes steal the show.

As with most story lines that have Ted in the forefront, this one was weak. The friends once again keep the show from being a total dud, with the website being the cherry on a mediocre sundae.

Bobman said...

. If you have something downbeat, at least have it happen to a character like Al Bundy who sort of has it coming.

How DARE you, Al Bundy was a hero!

;-)

EOTW said...

Ted is the worst part og this show. FACT.

Bryan said...

Like everybody else Alan - very sorry about the news. This next couple of years (I hope it's only that long) is going to be tough on everybody I think - the talented and hard working, like you, will come out on the other side of this thing okay I think.

Anyway - like everybody, I found the ep very hit and miss and it's especially evident how much it lacks being run with The Bracket.

Crass C. said...

Alan--sorry about the S-L news, but +1 to Dr. Smith's comment "you are a DAMN talented writer and even if things don't work out here, there is a 100 percent chance that you will find a new and better venue."

Most of us made our peace with you charging something for your talents a long time ago. Why don't you and some of the other top critics with an on-line presence (eg Helden, Meg Smith or whoever--I dunno names, I'm a one-Alan guy) get together and do a more journalistic TWOP? Is there no opportunity for subscription or ad revenue in that model?

Anonymous said...

Not sure if you're still moderating comments Alan, but I think you had a couple spammers sneak through (see Cara & Mitchell-- copy/pasted earlier comments, then posted a nonsensical advertising pitch).

Also-- I liked the episode, and agree with pretty much everyone that Ted is the weak link on the show. I usually find myself rooting against him, which I don't think is the show's intention.

Ms Shea said...

including the chipmunk!

I believe it was a squirrel, not a chipmunk.

Sorry about the trouble at your paper.

Anonymous said...

I loved the shout out to the film Smokin' Aces in this ep....during the fake task force scene.

Anonymous said...

Odd continuity moment: Catching a bit of "The Bracket" where Ted asks Robin whether she ever fell asleep while eating ribs, which saw happen just a few episodes ago.

Very sorry to hear about the Ledger news. As always, good luck in weathering the storm.

Peter Lynn said...

Am I crazy, or did I see former Secretary of State Madeline Albright in the blink-and-you'll-miss-it montage of Ted's former sex partners?

Alan Sepinwall said...

There's a running gag on the series about Barney having a thing with Albright, but never Ted.

DF said...

First, there have been a lot of politics in the comments...

Second, I agree with Crass C. that maybe an online discussion group on a show you don't review might be a way to earn some revenue during your furlough- assuming you don't have a non-compete clause (even still it could raise your profile). You, Mo Ryan and Todd Van der Werff could get together and discuss Deadwood, for example...

Finally, I was disapointed that HIMYM used a fake wrestler as "the greatest" when Bret "The Hitman" Hart is, in his words "the Best There Was, The Best There Is, and The Best There Ever Will Be"

Wrenn said...

I want to try the Saskatoon Totem Pole... well not really I'm just pleased my city got a shout out on a fake HIMYM website

Tyroc said...

Marshall's standup bit, and the firing montage were great. The joke at the very end cute. And the "In this economy?" pretty damn hilarious.

The rest? YIKES!

So last week, Ted finds out Lilly has been lying to him and controlling his love life -- breaking up his girlfriends that she didn't approve of. And this week he finds out Marshall and Barney have been lying to him in a way that could effect his career and get him fired.

Who have these people become?

(And for me Alyson Hannigan having to once agian play the sweet, innocent girl who is secretly perverted -- as she did in American Pie -- has grown tiresome. I feel bad for the actress, no matter how adorable she is saying the lines.)

Heather said...

Agreed. It was an ok episode with some good moments. I don't know if anyone noticed, but even Ted's friends don't really care about Ted anymore. Poor guy. But I must say, I loved the telenovela bit of the storyline, esp when whatshername said she was already engaged to Barney. Classic.

Dave T said...

This is actually funny stuff about Canada, as opposed to the Fox News panel that insulted the Canadian military and mounties but claimed it was "satire".

The "claimed" it because it was a satiric show. Kind of like D.L. Hughley or Bill Maher.

(The host apologized nonetheless.)

Steve said...

Not the best episode, but there were some great moments.

I LOVED Marshall's open mic bit... it was pitch-perfect.

I also loved the way Jason Segel said "shiny diamond"... the delivery of the line had me rolling.

Nice call back to the argument as to who was Ted's best friend.

Given that the two women are limited due to pregnancy, I think the writers have done a great job treading water with the show.

Even bad episodes are very enjoyable. I just like these characters/actors

Travis said...

so the woman who claimed to be engaged to Barney... something Mendoza...

Same Mendoza referred to on Barney's hot/crazy scale. "something Mendoza diagonal"???

Amy said...

Alan, if you need a laugh, head over to The Onion's AV Club (www.avclub.com) and check out the comments to their Old King Clancy review - the commenters are proposing Canadian celebrity - collection - sex act euphemism combinations, and they're pretty much all genius.

Steven said...

I thought "Mendoza" in the hot/crazy diagonal was a reference to the Mendoza line in baseball, meaning even a shortstop has to bat at least .200 or so else he's out of the starting lineup.