Monday, March 01, 2010

How I Met Your Mother, "Hooked": The midwest pharma's daughter

A review of tonight's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I get an in at the roller rink...

On the last day of winter press tour, the TCA got to watch the "HIMYM" cast(*) perform the table read of the script for "Hooked." On the plus side: I laughed a bunch at the table read. On the minus side: I didn't laugh very much when I got to see the final versions of the same jokes.

(*) The regular cast plus Bob Saget, who doesn't usually attend, and guest star Catherine Reitman (Henrietta), but not plus Carrie Underwood; based on the number of magazine covers I see her on these days, I'm guessing she had too much else on her plate. But given how Future Ted spends so much of the episode being judgmental of Present Ted, it was nice to have Saget there to deliver the insults.

Now, I generally avoid reading comedy pilot scripts to avoid having the punchlines ruined (and the scripts themselves are never as funny as hearing the actors deliver the material), so I can't say for sure how much I would have liked "Hooked" had I come to it with virgin ears. But I think in this case my issues were less with my familiarity with the material than the final execution of it.

Having been on a woman's hook or three in my pre-marital life, I could very much relate to the episode's premise, both at the table read and in the final episode. But most of the material in the final version was incredibly broad, whether Scooter's pathetic teacup pig eyes or the frantic desperation of every scene at Henrietta's apartment.

Not helping matters was the casting of Carrie Underwood as the woman with Ted on her hook. Stunt-casting is one of those deal-with-the-devil situations. Britney Spears' appearance in "Ten Sessions" helped give the show one of its biggest audiences to that point, and the writers were able to work around her and focus the episode largely on Ted meeting Stella. But her next appearance in "Everything Must Go" was one of that season's weakest episodes, and too much reliance on Spears was a big reason why.

And Spears at least had experience doing a kind of sketch comedy, where for Underwood it's a triumph just to come across as a flesh-and-blood human being while the cameras roll. Her screen/stage presence has improved massively since her lox-like days on "Idol," but comedy is still a foreign language to her. So all she could do was the bare minimum that the role required, which was to look pretty and be immune to the charms of Ted Evelyn Mosby. With a less limited actress/comedienne, the writers could have had more fun with what's life from the perspective of the hooker (as Robin put it), rather than the hookee.

But I don't want to be too hard on "Hooked." Again, I laughed a bunch at the table read (though there's always the phenomenon of things seeming much funnier in person than they tend to on TV), and it's entirely possible that most (but not all) of my problems stem from knowing the jokes ahead of time. But Barney's history of hot professions was funny both times.

So I'll clam up and ask... what did everybody else think?

40 comments:

Stephen said...

I think Carrie Underwood has hooked me now.

Zach said...

I liked the episode. A little confused why they left Robin's new boyfriend out of it, might have shot this one out of order perhaps? But agree with Alan, I thought the best part were Barney's jokes, think there were about 10 Barneyisms just from this episode.

Now if you'll excuse me...I need to go find a teacup pig

Rinaldo said...

I thought this was one of their funniest and best in a while. Unlike some of their "we focus on a hitherto-unnamed social-interaction truth" episodes, the "hooked" thing seemed true, and common enough, and funny. I didn't mind about Ms. Underwood's lack of skills; she was a minor part of it in the end.

Josh said...

The first half had me rolling. I liked the whole "on the hook" thing and the pharma girls part. It just died, though, and got progressively less and less funny until the last joke was a total miss.

Phil Freeman said...

I thought this one was really funny, too. Underwood was a prop, and served in that capacity just fine - the teacup pig was much more important to the episode, and wow, did he deliver (I'm judging based on my wife's response, which basically echoed Robin's, Lily's and Marshall's). I didn't like the stuff with Henrietta or Mike, but Scooter didn't bug me, and Barney's hot-chicks-through-history bit was killer.

aaron | be awesome instead said...

Lots of great jokes... not a lot of substance...but a lot that was fun.

Ted and Henrietta at the end was the funniest things to me, and I thing that's true despite the fact you could see it coming once the ring dropped.

DonBoy said...

I thought it was the most depressing half hour of comedy I've seen in a long time. Not for unfunnyness, exactly, but because of all the mortifying situations. I can't imagine how AH made it through the pig scenes without cracking up, though.

Anonymous said...

I liked Carrie! But I don't think she'll ever be used properly in comedy because I've seen her in older interviews and less formal interviews and I think she actually has a darker or quirkier sense of humor than people would think and I don't think it's what her PR people want to be seen. I'm not quite sure how to put but w/e.

Overall, I enjoyed the episode and I agree that Barney's history of hot-girl employment was pretty funny.

I do think the writer's need to figure out what to do with Robin...she needs something to do.

Andy L said...

This one had me laughing so much in the first half that the weaker second half was more than made up for. The phrase "teacup pig" was funny every single time, as was the timing of Ted asking to borrow Barney's and getting interrupted by the Barnacle already saying yes.

Things slowed down considerably on the back nine, and all of the Henrietta stuff was too broad by half, but still a satisfying episode, and I didn't mind Carrie Underwood so much as I ignored her. Yes, the writers could have done more with the role if they had a better actress, but she wasn't as egregious as Britney in her second appearance.

AL said...

I thought Barney's jokes were great, but for me the best moments were all Marshall's. From his reaction to hearing about Barney's tea cup pig, to seeing him as a teenage hookee (every Marshall flashback should be played by Jason Segel, even if he's playing himself at five) to his inability to break up with Scooter in the end, I loved all of it!

Anonymous said...

I thought it was pretty weak. I have really been enjoying the season so far, but this episode I think is the weakest. I thought the premise of hooker, hooked, and hookee was great but the execution was not there. Also, Underwood came off as flat.

srpad said...

Chalk this up to familiarity breeding contempt for you Alan because I thought this was a strong episode.

I sear that Barney winking at the camera will *never* get old!

Cameron Hughes said...

As someone on the hook for a really hot girl a couple years ago, that was incredibly painful and funny to watch.

Anonymous said...

I was meh on Ted and Tiffany, but any monologue of Barney reciting history/theorizing/etc. is always a win. (Also, nice dig at Albuquerque, NPH!)

Henry said...

Eh. Honestly, I thought the episode could've been better. Carrie Underwood is certainly gorgeous, but doesn't have many comic chops.

Henry said...

Alan, your story on the table read reminded me of the Middleman table read for what would've been the 13th episode of the series given at Comic-Con 2009. I was able to attend that table read and laughed a bunch of times (and the small comic book of the said table read), but I'd imagine the gags would fall flat if ABC Family had gone ahead and filmed it. Probably what happened here with you, eh?

Henry said...

Alan, your story of this episode's table read reminded me of a Middleman table read of the "lost final episode" of that series that I got a chance to attend at the last Comic-Con. I laughed a bunch of times at the table read (and the comic book of the same episode) but I'd imagine the jokes would fall flat if ABC Family filmed it. Sounds like the same thing happened here, except the table read was filmed.

Henry said...

Whoops, sorry, I thought the site didn't take my comment so I wrote it again.

Matt S. said...

weakest of the season hands down was the amanda peet kisses marshall one---that one was kind of a miss in general---there wasn't even a Barney story (which makes sense since NPH was directing that week)

This one had several good laughs in it tho---plus the hooked plotline just by itself was wonderful--very very Seinfeldian.
(and not you know Friends which is what too often this show is compared to by people who i know who aren't so into it sad to say.)

Ted Mosby keeps reminding me more and more of myself sad to say---he can be the nicest guy in the world and he can also be such a jerk--and frequently in the same episode. i love it!

Bryan said...

I laughed a lot at this one - more than I have in a long while but it's still missing something.

I am curious though -what's a generic "rap" poster look like?

Did you see one at the table read Alan?

Alan Sepinwall said...

There aren't props at a table read, Bryan. (Which meant no teacup pig, either.) Just the actors dressed casually, sitting around a table and reading their lines, while a producer reads all the stage directions.

Bryan said...

ah - didn't think so - I just thought "wanna see my rap poster?" was funny.

It'd been cool but probably having the pig there would've interfered with the read - how do you not wanna hold a teacup pig?

Miken said...

"It was Freshman year and I was still interested in the Wu Tang Clan..."

It's too bad you had the table read on this one, I thought it was one of the best this season. The reactions to the pig were fantastic (along with the same music everytime).

Barney's reaction to Pharma-girls was great, as was the small joke in the beginning about having a hobby strong enough to get them up to the room, but not too strong to distract them.

It got a little predictable toward the end, and I'm not quite sure why future Ted kept calling himself such a jerk (the hooked situation happens to everyone), but it was still solid all around.

Anonymous said...

My favorite part is when Joey (Ted) mistakenly proposed to Rachel (Henrietta) when he somehow ended up with the ring that belonged to Ross (Tiffany's boyfriend).

I've never seen that sitcom before.

Alyssa said...

I thought the first half was hilarious and it got weaker as it went on. Still, one of the better episodes this season, I think. The idea of the hooker/hookee is spot on, and definitely seems very HIMYM. Carrie Underwood was bad, but it's not like they needed much from her. Also any excuse to bring back Marshall's rattail is okay by me.

However...am I the only woman on the planet who thinks teacup pigs are ugly? That thing was NOT cute.

Dave T said...

Barney winking at the camera will *never* get old!

It IS old. And dopey and annoying.

A good comedian does not "rimshot" himself after telling a joke, and that stupid "aren't I just so brilliant?" wink falls into that category for me. (The exception: Norman Fell turning to the other camera after a zing always worked.)

Katie said...

I am so sick of these filler episodes, and I think that this season has had WAY too many. I did not like this episode, it was completely pointless, and I'm starting to lose my patience with the writers. (And this is coming from a huge HIMYM fan.)

Anonymous said...

I didn't get Barney's last line about the death of Pharma girls? "First it's the glass"? Which relates to how the chick can't possibly be hot because she's fat (an understandable socially accepted "fact" but rarely so obviously stated)? Someone please explain.

Alan Sepinwall said...

"First, it's the Gladys" (the name of the new, bigger pharma girl).

Beth said...

The DVR was acting up, so I only saw the first half. This show is getting very old for me. My bf introduced me to it, and I loved the first two seasons. Liked the next two and am bored with this one. I think the actors are all extremely talented, and I am still on the hook for it, because I'm human, and dagnabbit I want to know who the mother is. But otherwise...meh.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Alan! That makes so much more sense.

Chrissy said...

I quite liked it, and I thought Carrie was yards better than Britney - at the very least she seemed more natural and not "I'm on TV!". I suppose she wasn't really funny, but that wasn't really a funny role - she only had one or two jokes.

Lily and the teacup pig sold it for me, and Lily is usually my least favorite character. I love that they keep finding reasons to bring back Scooter

Bdubs said...

While not my favorite episode, I laughed a lot. I loved the teacup pig! And I was glad Carrie Underwood was just normal, and her appearance wasn't over the top. It was better than Britney Spears guest spot, which I hated.

I can definitely relate to the Hooked issue that was the central theme. I think that's a great part of the show. HIMYM is always touching on those true relationship issues that everyday people experience.

Moshen Family said...

Dullsville, man. Barney, as always, supports a lousy script and plot, while Marshall & Lilly continue to bore to tears. Also, Hannigan is unbearable to watch anymore. She is so overmatched by the other characters, even the guest stars. However, it would destroy the dynamic of the show were she excised.

To me, bringing in outside "stars" is a sign of desperation, which is, at this point, unnecessary and premature. Better writing, give Robin & Marshall better things to do again, and you'll have a better show.

Jeff said...

This is going to sound really stupid and nitpicky but it bothers me how little the writers know about Minnesota despite the frequent references to Marshall being from St. Cloud. They had the dude in an Auburn t-shirt! Who from St. Cloud owns an Auburn t-shirt unless they were big Bo Jackson fans in the 80s.

Anonymous said...

Yes Jeff, that is stupid and nit-pickey. My sister when to Minneosta Law and she could care less...cut those boys some slack, will ya'? The show is great in introducing everyday things in a new light and funny. Period. (sorry to be so tough on you Jeff)
April

Jeff said...

I guess I just expect people to know what they're doing, April.

Anonymous said...

I'm finished with this show now, I've been watching since the 4th season to see if this show will recapture it's former glory, and it's now clear to me that it won't, I just don't have the patience for this show anymore, so I give up, because the writers clearly have.

Sarah said...

This show seems to be spinning its wheels lately. There's absolutely no overall plot arc for the season, so the characters are all just stuck biding their time until something interesting happens.

I just rewatched the first season, and what a difference! Right from the start, that season was full of emotionally resonant and humor-packed storylines: Ted and Robin trying to be friends, Ted's relationship with Victoria, Ted and Robin finally getting together, the reveal of Barney's hippie past, Marshall and Lily breaking up.

What have been the big story arcs this season? I haven't watched every episode (mainly because there's nothing to keep me coming back every week) but I can only think of one: Barney and Robin's short-lived and completely botched relationship, which was done in such a way that the viewer felt absolutely no investment in the outcome.

I feel like there's nothing to make me care about what happens to these characters anymore.

Betsy said...

seeing Marshall in an Auburn shirt really threw me too. I could see Ted wearing a random shirt to be hip, but Marshall definitely would not. College football is not something you joke about in the midwest or the south.