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?