Monday, February 01, 2010

How I Met Your Mother, "The Perfect Week": We want a Swisher, not a belly itcher!

A review of "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I take a swat at the Hamburglar...

"The Perfect Week" featured plenty of elements that should have made me an absolute sucker for it. It was loaded with baseball jokes, from Ted playing pitching coach to Barney (while accompanied by the score from the original "Major League"(*), to Jim Nantz kicking his chair over at the idea that Marshall would invoke the jinx again, to the cameo by Nick Swisher, who has already vaulted his way into becoming my second-favorite Yankee(**). It had sops to "HIMYM" continuity, like the first mention of Victoria I can recall since the first season and Marshall's ongoing Sasquatch fixation, and meta jokes like Future Ted acknowledging he's a bad dad for telling his kids stories like this one. And much of the episode leaned on the show's most reliable source of humor: Barney's success with the ladies.

(*) It gets overlooked in some circles because it came out the year after "Bull Durham" and ripped off a bunch of elements from that movie (washed-up but wily catcher, pitcher with million dollar arm and no control, voodoo-practicing player, etc.), but it's still one of my favorite Underdog Sports Movies. You can hear a sample of the score here, and keep watching at least until you get to the end of the American Express commercial, which is the moment when I knew the guy playing Willy Mays Hays was gonna be a big star. Shame he forgot how to be funny (and when to pay his taxes).

(**) What can I say? The guy's just an endearing goofball who can hit a little. Of course, the gap between him and first-favorite Yankee Mariano Rivera is insurmountable, but watching Swisher (with more than a little help from CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett) completely reinvent the clubhouse dynamics of what had been a stultifying roster for a long, long time was a joy to behold. Plus, his haircuts are all stupid, including the one he wore tonight.


Yet the baseball jokes got repetitive after a while (though some later ones like Nantz's tantrum were funny anyway), and a lot of the gags sprinkled around it didn't work. Robin's Dale fixation in particular was one of the most annoying things Cobie Smulders has ever been asked to play (and it also feels like the show's done a lot of "Robin gets indignant that people don't realize how hot she is" gags of late), and the initial scene where Ted made his unfortunately-named student cry was Ross Gellar bad, even if some of the follow-up jokes made by the gang made my inner 9-year-old chuckle. And like "The Playbook" from earlier in the season, the Barney jokes began to feel like a crutch after a while.

Lot of strong elements, but not one of the season's stronger episodes.

What did everybody else think?

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree. It just didn't come together for me. I had been recommending the show and Barney's character in particular to my brother the other day. I hope he didn't pick tonight to start watching. Otherwise, I'll have to email him clips of Barney on The Price is Right and explaining how Jesus invented the three-day rule (and FYI, that's when he invented the high five).

gladly said...

Aw, I loved this one. I thought the Jim Nance stuff was structured beautifully, and the whole Lily/Marshall toothbrush gag was so true to them and so disgusting. Now it makes me think Nick Swisher is gross too for finding it sweet (but I'm a Phillies fan, so I wasn't far away from that).

Ted's "vist to the mound" was my highlight, and both actors played it perfectly. And Lily as the "DeWayne Wise" of Barney's perfect week was a nice turn for her character. I was a sucker for the whole plot.

I do agree that Robin's storyline was dumb and insulting to her character. Ever since the Barney subplot, I think they've had some trouble getting Robin back to form.

Chrissy said...

I also really enjoyed it (and I'm not into baseball so I only got about half the jokes in that area). Agreed that the Robin stuff fell fat - I feel like the show is insecure about presenting her as a gorgeous woman now that's she's put on a teeny bit of post-pregnancy weight. That might be paranoid, but they keep dressing her in the most unflattering outfits, and they keep playing up her confidence like it's a joke rather than one of her most attractive qualities.

Also - "I have to go to the hospital"? Oh holy jeebus, I almost had to go to the hospital after that one.

Grunt said...

the "I have to go to the hospital" scene made the episode for me. It took my husband a moment to get it, somehow he didn't pick up on what Marshall had taken and thought that Marshall and Lily were both on X.

Eric said...

Not to mention, I now know never to open an email from Bill Simmons in front of my kids.

(though Donna Bowman @ the AV Club said it's Phil Simms - am I just deaf?)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Phil Simms (who is Nantz's partner on NFL games).

Nick said...

Personally i loved this episode.I thought it was just plain funny. Cook Poo! i mean, come on, hilarious. Although there were a lot of baseball jokes, the whole theme of the episode was baseball, so i found it fitting. The toothbrush story was pretty good but i got a good laugh when we found out ted had been using it as well hahaha. Anyway, they really need to do something with Robin, her hotter than everyone else attitude is boring and doesn't add anything to the show, it just makes me mad.

Blair Waldorf said...

I loved this episode. Barney and Jim Nance were hilarious.

I don't love baseball but as a sports fan, I respect a streak. I started yelling at the TV when Lily tried to jinx it.

It is always surreal to see Nick Swisher on TV. He grew up in my town and I still remember him as a goofball kid. I still can't believe he is a Yankee. Nice to see he hasn't changed much. Yeah, still have kind of a crush.

Crystal said...

While I thought the episode was funny, I was disappointed because I literally JUST finished rewatching Season 1, so I had a vivid picture in my mind of Lily & Marshall being stuck in the bathroom in "Zip Zip Zip," in which they had separate toothbrushes! That's the first time I can think of that this show has broken continuity, which I was kind of distraught about.

And I agree, they need to find something to do with Robin's character, because Cobie Smulders deserves much more than what they've been giving her.

Anonymous said...

Who overlooks "Major League"? One of the funniest sports movies alongside "Slap Shot". "Bull Durham" is overrated and dated.

Overall one of the better episodes recently.

Hatfield said...

Ok, you can like what you want, but how is Bull Durham dated, especially standing next to Major League? I'd say they're both pretty dated. (I love both movies, by the way)

This episode made me like Jim Nantz more. A little, anyway

Question Mark said...

Jim Nantz was the MVP (baseball reference! Yes!) of this episode. As someone who's watched Nantz's competent but hardly colorful commentary over the years, it was great to see him just cut loose and be goofy. It's also kind of funny to see Nantz in this baseball-themed episode given that he broadcasts golf, football, college basketball....basically everything but MLB.

Question Mark said...

Oh, also, Yankees suck.

Craig Ranapia said...

What did everybody else think?

Cobie Smulders and Neil Patrick Harris should come down with blue flu until they stop being used as a gag recycling scheme. Seriously, Robin and Barney are, too often recently, funny in all the wrong ways.

Anonymous said...

Agree that having Robin chase after a guy she's not interested in only after he turns out not to be interested in her has been way over done on this show. But I loved almost everything else & would have really enjoyed the episode except for the thing with Ted's student. It felt mean spirited, and made the group seem a bit like bullies, even though I know that wasn't the situation. Could have done w/o it.

Rob S. said...

Poor Cook Poo. I love puns like that, but I felt too sorry for her to laugh.

compain87 said...

I don't know, I really thought this episode was a home run. Like most Barney episodes it was great and it had all the elements that make for a great HIMYM episode(that includes the robin plot because this show isn't perfect even their best episodes have flaws). I LOVED the Major League reference its gotta be in my top 5 all time sports movies.

Who overlooks "Major League"? One of the funniest sports movies alongside "Slap Shot". "Bull Durham" is overrated and dated.

The Tom Berenger romance story really drags the movie down, another reason it gets overlooked. The only two scenes that made that story arc worth it were the parts where he walks into the party, and when Willie Mays Hays asks him why he is reading Moby Dick.

This was probably the best I've heard from Jim Nantz(he is at least a major league announcer where as Joe buck should be sent to a Triple A farm team). No one in my mind will ever beat Bob Eucker in Major League though, he gives a Hall of Fame performance as Harry Doyle.

I'm a bit surprised you didn't enjoy this one Alan.

"In case you haven't noticed, and judging by the attendance you haven't, the Indians have managed to win a few here and there, and are threatening to climb out of the cellar."

Anonymous said...

I really thought the Cook Pu jokes were overdone. At the end I just disliked Ted for being kind of racist and a jerk, especially his main concern regarding the whole situation was how it embarrassed or reflected negatively on HIM rather than any cognizance of how he fucked up regarding the poor girl.

Anonymous said...

I agree about the continuity errors a previous poster brought up. Not just the toothbrush, but the smoking episode (Robin and Lily had been shown as hiding their smoking).

But more importantly, Barney was shown as wanting more from life in season four after he got to 200. I feel like for some reason the writers decided that Barney-Robin didn't work and they have retreated to what they perceive as safe ground.

But there's two problems with this. Barney-Robin did work, or could have if we got more then the sexless innkeeper episode of them working. And even before then, Barney was a more interesting character. He's dangerously close to becoming a parody of himself (so is Robin).

They need to do something new to keep the show fresh, and Barney being worried about his job (especially when they don't even bother to explain why) doesn't count.

An episode where Ted, Robin, and Barney are all being narcissistic doesn't work. It could work on other sitcoms, or if even on this one of they make that the joke and call attention to the situation. But here it just made me dislike them.

Steve said...

I can't put my finger on it exactly, but this show is not nearly as good as it was in the first two seasons. I think all of the characters have become exaggerations of their former selves and it's getting to the point of over-acting... especially Marshall and Barney who are my two favorite characters.

Once the baseball analogy started, I enjoyed this episode a lot. I loved the bullpen visit (heater, high and outside, slider) and it was cemented by the Major League score (blows away Bull Durham).

I was surprised to see Nantz involved in this episode given his recent public divorce.

Greg said...

When did Lily become such a pill? Her insisting that Barney talk about maybe getting fired was painful to watch. Especially because, as Marshall pointed out, there wasn't anything Barney could do about it. Between this and the time she DEMANDED Barney and Robin talk about their relationship, Lily is quickly becoming so annoying she's unlikeable and unwatchable. The writers should stop that insanity immedialty.

Beth Hicks said...

I wasn't a fan. Barney's womanizing is actually the part of the show that has always worn thin for me. I'm catching up on season 2, and he gets some great moments of heart and introspection that don't keep him from being a ladies' man. Ever since his break up with Robin, he's done nothing but be that guy in a suit who has ridiculous luck with women.

I like it when Barney's storyline revolves around Ted's or Marshall and Lily's. Having it as the centerpiece highlights his skeeviness.

Dan said...

Crystal said: While I thought the episode was funny, I was disappointed because I literally JUST finished rewatching Season 1, so I had a vivid picture in my mind of Lily & Marshall being stuck in the bathroom in "Zip Zip Zip," in which they had separate toothbrushes! That's the first time I can think of that this show has broken continuity, which I was kind of distraught about.

Crystal, remember that one of the writers' biggest fallback is that Ted is an unreliable narrator. The toothbrush discontinuity can easily be explained by the fact that Ted would've assumed at the time that Lilly and Marshall had separate toothbrushes while they were locked up together. And he wouldn't want to ruin the surprise later on when telling this part of the story. Like it or not, that's what the writers would say.

Bryan said...

some funny stuff but just so so overall I thought. HIMYM sometimes reminds me of a kid I went to high school with that tends to run jokes into the ground - he would've gone crazy with the cook poo stuff .

And the nominees for worst Yankee in a supporting role are:

Nick Swisher - HIMYM
Paul O'Neil - Seinfeld

any others?

(yes I know Hernandez was in Seinfeld- but he was good)

DonBoy said...

Good news for Ted; after driving an Asian, or Asian-American, woman out of his class with his relentless mockery of her name, he shouldn't have that problem about not being able to date students for long.

Anonymous said...

Should you really be nominating baseball players for anything, Bryan, if you don't know that Keith Hernandez played for the Mets and not the Yankees?

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

Keith Hernandez played for the Mets and not the Yankees?

Wow, that was bad wasn't it? That's what I get for trying to be funny.

Good thing I'm not running for office in NY.

Anonymous said...

Yep, the need to fix Robin. Ever since the breakup the writers put all this time into making Barney “awesome” again that they completely ignored that Robin use to be a pretty great character herself. Where the episode with Robin becoming herself again?
-Stacy

Jennifer said...

I generally concur with everyone on the elements of this that were not the best. But mostly I was wincing at Ted-turned-Ross-Gellar. Dear god, I felt sorry for that girl. And wanted to yell at Ted to STFU already. (Yeah, in real life he'd be so fired.)

Though I work at a university and man, I do see some of the stupidest names on people (not just the Asian ones either), that are SO BAD you really do think someone named their child this as a joke. I feel tempted at times to blab across the Internet "Wow, look at this stupid name! Cannot believe someone did this to their baby!", except some day that poor child will Google themselves and find out what I said.

That said, Ted? NYC is a small town, and if you hear that girl's name somewhere, STFU.

Mustach Pete Drexel said...

The song from Major League is called Pennant Fever. I link it on my recap and HIMYM music page but it's not out for digital download. Only on the OST.

Probably my favorite moment from tonight was when Jim Nantz kicked his chair because of the jinx. I do have to say that through all of the guest stars on the show he is by far my favorite. It just played so well.

Anonymous said...

They did acknowledge tonight that Barney's womanizing is compulsive, and a "cry for help." So maybe they'll go somewhere with that later on. I'm not sure how many more "Barney scores" stories they can tell, anyway.

Brandy said...

I was a big Barney and Robin shipper, but when they were put together earlier this season it was obvious to me that the writers didn't see them the way I saw them. Somehow they had them doing all the coupely things that Marshal and Lily do without realizing that these are two grown up individuals who would remain individuals in their couple rather than becoming a couple blob.

So when they broke up Barney and Robin I was okay with it. But Barney had some serious character growth over the past few seasons and it's gone... it's just been erased. We don't even have reflective moments where he seems unsure that it's really what he wants...which at least we had before.

Right now I just want to see the characters grow up some.

Hannah Lee said...

But Barney had some serious character growth over the past few seasons and it's gone... it's just been erased.

And Robin had an actual personality and it’s gone…it’s just been erased. She just sits at the bar booth smiling and nodding, and sometimes does something “crazy” or “funny”, but totally out of character. (I blame the writers, not the actress)

Lately I’ve struggled to get through an entire HIMYM episode, which is a shame. I used to really love this show and watch each episode repeatedly, but something’s missing lately. Maybe they’re having so much fun making the show that they forgot how to make the show fun?

isaac said...

So here's a show based in New York that never, ever has any visible minorities in it (except for the stereotype-a-thon cab driver who has faded away). And we get a borderline racist subplot centered around how funny Chinese peoples' names are? Seriously?

Maggie said...

NYC is a small town, and if you hear that girl's name somewhere, STFU.

Of course it's not, and that's one of the things that bothered me most about this episode (and took me out of it.) There is no way she just happened to get take out food in the bar under where Ted lives, out of all the bars and restaurants in his neighborhood, not to mention every neighborhood in Manhattan. Does he live right next to campus?

But even if we accept that impossible coincidence under the guise of dramatic license, I thought it was unbelievable that a woman who had just been humiliated in public because of her name would give that name to someone where it would be called out publicly again. I have a difficult to pronounce name, and I always use a simpler one when making reservations, giving my Starbucks order, etc. That would be 100 times more likely mere days after I was publicy embarrassed by someone making fun of my name. Another 1,000 times if I were in a bar of rowdy drunken people.

Laurel said...

Crystal, remember that one of the writers' biggest fallback is that Ted is an unreliable narrator. The toothbrush discontinuity can easily be explained by the fact that Ted would've assumed at the time that Lilly and Marshall had separate toothbrushes while they were locked up together.

But Ted assumed that they kept their toothbrush in their bedroom and HIS was the only one in the bathroom. Not a big deal, I guess, but the writers do rely (less so this season it seems) on running gags and small details from past seasons.

I am over Barney's womanizing. Even if we accept that Barney and Robin's romance is completely over, I can't imagine that Robin would be totally fine with, and cheering on, Barney's sexual conquests. I get her supporting Ted in his quest for true love, but with Barney it just seems implausable.

jenmoon said...

Well, he might be by campus, beats me... I mainly said the small town thing because sitcoms tend to treat NYC as one, i.e. you can run into anyone at any time. "In a city of fifty million people, you're bound to run into your ex-wife," or whatever the line from When Harry Met Sally is.

But good point on having an embarrassing name = "don't freaking make someone call it out in public, then." Like she couldn't have just said "Cook?" Though maybe that might have confused the kitchen, I dunno.

dez said...

Poor Pu should change her name to Mary Cook or something similar.

Thought the Pu joke was overdone, but the rest was hilarious and had me laughing. Guess I'm in the minority here :-)

Whoever mentioned it earlier: Marshall said in passing that Barney was in danger of being fired for blowing a big merger. I'd like to see what he did because he's always come across as very competent at his job. Perhaps this mistake and his overcompensating by sleeping with one woman a day for a week are indications that he's not over his break-up with Robin and a way to bring them back together? Or is that pure wishful thinking? :-)

Kensington said...

"Ross Gellar bad..."

Ouch.

Yeah, something has gone wrong with this show. Two or three years ago, it was appointment TV. Now, it's background, and I don't even care if my DVR misses it.

I haven't changed; it has.

arrabbiata said...

I certainly don't look to HIMYM (or Community for that matter) to be a documentary on the college experience, but I find some of the problems that Ted gets himself into as a professor to have no basis in reality. Every college class I've ever taught, going back almost 20 years at multiple schools, you have a class roster in hand before the first class meeting. And with that roster, no way anyone confuses a 300 student class for a 30 student class, as he did on his first day. And if that roster has a Cook Pu on it, it's because someone with that name has paid the college good money to be in that class, not because someone is playing a joke. I realize that Ted got his job through an inside connection and not through his own merits, but no one is this clueless. (yeah, I know this is nitpicky, but it's hard for me to enjoy comedy sometimes when I get mildly aggravated) On the other hand, professors partying with students happens regularly enough that I could enjoy Ted's foolish behavior in that situation.

The rest of the episode was ok. Liked the Jim Nance portions, though I feel cheated that we didn't see more of Barney actually working his game on the various women.

Anonymous said...

I'd take Major League 3 over Major League or Bull Durham any day...

alex s. said...

I was a little disappointed that the overall "Barney might lose his job" arc seemed to have no impact at all. I don't particularly want to see "jobless Barney" as a character arc, but for all that build-up it should have some effect. (Maybe something will come out of it, but that didn't seem likely from what we did see.)

I thought they did a nice job carrying through with the baseball theme, but I thought it a little odd that they didn't save the script for, I don't know, baseball season.

Anonymous said...

Living in Vancouver I and loving the Canucks I loved the 'Nucks reference, and will be using "If one of the Vancouver Canucks walked in here, my panties would fall so fast there would be a hole in the floor" in the future!
Rita

Anonymous said...

I actually loved the Barney story and thought the Robin story was funny. "Cook Poo" was kind of annoying although a couple of the jokes were funny. The Marshall/Lily storyline was weird but alright