Tuesday, March 09, 2010

How I Met Your Mother, "Of Course": Butt, um

A review of last night's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I get on a stool so I can fall off it...

"Of Course" was frustrating me for a good chunk of its running time, then saved itself in the final minutes with a reminder that "HIMYM" can lean on its romantic side even when the comedy isn't quite working.

Jennifer Lopez was fine (far more lifelike and definitely more adept with comedy than Carrie Underwood) and worked well as a woman Barney would go to great lengths to bed.(*) But the comedy surrounding Barney's quest, and around Ted and Marshall recognizing how badly they'd treated Robin, was incredibly broad and/or weird. Even though the show's established that the gang for some reason cheers on Barney's slutty ways, I don't buy the guys actually singing a song about it, and going on and on with it in front of Robin.

(*) I'm not sure if everybody's commercial pattern was the same as in NY/NJ, but immediate after Barney threw up into the Stormtrooper helmet, we got an ad for J-Lo's awful-looking new movie, which began with her vomiting as well. They're puke kindred spirits!

And speaking of songs, Ted's ode to the Super-Date was just bizarre. "Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit" worked in the context of the show because Barney's a larger-than-life character, and also because the number took place entirely in Barney's head. But Ted's supposed to be more down to earth, and he was doing it in the middle of the bar, even though the rapidly shifting settings suggested we were supposed to view it as another kind of fantasy. I was amused briefly, but tonally, it didn't work.(**)

(**) And I know you can wave off either song as being a product of Future Ted the unreliable narrator, but I think there comes a point where that becomes a crutch for the writers and/or the fans to excuse anything that shouldn't fit - particularly when we don't hear Saget talking about how this isn't really what happened, but how he'd like to remember it.

There were still some funny moments here and there - the casual return of Robin's "But, um" catchphrase, Anita putting poor Mike the cameraman on her hook (only an episode after Robin allegedly let him off hers), Barney discussing the tininess and softness of his fiber - but "Of Course" really didn't start to work until we got the scenes from previous episodes intercut with new scenes of Robin being upset about Barney.

Robin's seeming ease with seeing her ex-boyfriend turn into the biggest himbo in Manhattan has stuck out like a sore thumb since the break-up episode, and it needed to be dealt with. Beyond that, the closing scenes of "Of Course" gave Barney back some necessary depth and humanity for the first time since he and Robin split. I'd like to think this is all greasing the wheels for a Barney/Robin reunion - that the break-up, and then all the talk by the producers that they missed telling stories about Barney seducing random women, were actually a fake-out before a Barn-man & Robin 2.0 turns out to be a much more successful and fun relationship - but even if it doesn't, Barney as two-dimensional character gets old after a while, even when played by NPH.

What did everybody else think?

48 comments:

Zach said...

You're right about Ted's impromptu musical, really seemed out of place in the middle of the episode.

Before they did all those flashbacks, I thought this was one of those instances where the episodes were filmed out of order. So the episode was a little disappointing for me up until the end when we see where it went.

My issue lies in the fact though that this show is called "How I Met Your Mother." I know they haven't done episodes talking about the mother before, but they didn't even broach the subject just a little bit here. Would like to see at least a drop of info, even something small, in each episode.

Brandy said...

I feel pretty much the same as you did, Alan, except I liked Ted's song, mostly because I think Josh Radnor has a really nice voice. I can see how it would take you out of the scene, though, since Ted's not one to break into song.

I'd like to see Barney and Robin eventually make another go at it, too, but even if they don't, they need to pump the breaks on Barney's womanizing anyway. He's been crazier than ever since the breakup, and for me, it's been mostly annoying instead of funny.

Roger said...

I felt like the things that bugged you as unrealistic were examples of Barney (who we know is even more unreliable than Future Ted) exaggerating to the cop who pulled him out of the river.

Andy said...

I actually hope this episode closed out the Barney and Robin as a couple story. They are funnier apart even if they do seem like they would be great together if the writers could just find a way to make it work. If they ever do get together I think it should be as an epilogue during the last episode of the series (though Future Ted seemed to indicate Robin meeting Don was something the kids would find significant.)

I enjoyed the episode quite a bit. It was a good mix of comedy and emotion that HIMYM does so well. Loved the way they called back to previous "but, um" joke and added the twist to the narrative by showing what Robin's real reactions to Barney bragging about his conquests since their break up have been.

The only thing I didn't enjoy was Ted's musical number. Leave that to NPH and use it sparingly (say maybe once a season.)

Andy said...

Jennifer Lopez looked amazing by the way. Butt, um indeed.

Mike C said...

At first, I definitely thought the "Bang Bang" song (when it was just Marshall) at the bar was far too broad. Then I kind of chuckled when Ted flashed back to joining in. But when Barney joined in, playing the spoons no less, I was dying. Watched it several times. I thought the broadness was worth it for that laugh at the end.

Αλέξανδρος said...

I really liked the episode.
We had seen before Robin being sad about the breakup and i liked how it played out.
Great callbacks to but..um and the hook.
Jennifer Lopez was good and totally convincing as someone Barney would go to great lengths to sleep with.
I disagree on to things:

I liked Ted's number, although i agree it was somewhat weird.
Barney gets to do a number because of his larger-than-life side, Ted gets to do one because of his feminine/i-wanna-get-married side...
The bang-bang song worked because we previously saw all the characters say that the really liked it the first time. I wasn't really about Barney's (in this case Robin's) sexual adventures...

belinda said...

I'd like to think this is all greasing the wheels for a Barney/Robin reunion - that the break-up, and then all the talk by the producers that they missed telling stories about Barney seducing random women, were actually a fake-out before a Barn-man & Robin 2.0 turns out to be a much more successful and fun relationship

I hope you're right! I still feel cheated out of the awesome hilarity they could have written for Barney and Robin as a couple, but didn't for some reason.

Blair Waldorf said...

Wow. J. Lo. Wow.

I liked this episode. My favorite part was the book title "Of course you're still single take a look at yourself you dumb slut."

Bryan said...

I thought it was just awful from start to finish. To use Alan's word the whole thing just felt "weird" and disjointed to me.

A couple of time it sounded like Marshall and Lilly were shouting their words and pausing for the laugh track like on one of those bad sitcom pilots -very bad

Amy said...

I really enjoyed this episode - I agree that the Bang, Bang song and the musical number were out of proportion, and that's what I liked so much. It was silly, ridiculous and catchy and laugh-out-loud.

Bring on the zaniness!

I think also it worked for me since it was internally consistent. Everything was over the top in this episode.

Dan said...

Terrible episode. It was necessary because they'd done such a bad job after Barney and Robin broke up... but that didn't make the episode any less painful/unfunny.

Andrew said...

I really enjoyed this episode. Maybe it was just the catharsis of seeing that the writers knew there needed to be some emotional fallout from Barney and Robin breaking up, but the big, broad jokes worked for me. Marshall's song was one of those jokes that worked more as the writers came back to it-- Lily finding it very catchy, Barney jumping in on spoons.

And how can you not like a scene where Marshall punches the head off Barney's stormtrooper in part because he's still mad at the Empire?

And if this is told more from Barney's perspective than Ted's, that makes the more cartoonish mood make more sense.

Lepidoptera said...

Thank you for mentioning Lilly pausing for the laugh track, Bryan. She seems to do this at least a couple times an episode, and there is never any call for it.

All this talk of whether Barney and Robin would be better off/funnier single, but the character I actually think would be funniest single is Marshall, because, sorry to say, Lilly is BY FAR the weakest character of the bunch, and the writers have all but given up on giving her an interesting situation or a funny line. She interferes occasionally, and allows Ted and Marshall to bounce jokes off of her, but this has to be the least interesting sitcom lead to make in 100 episodes in history.

I thought the retrospective of Robin's suffering was well done, and the handling of Barney's stroke of humanity deft.

Alex said...

New thought last night: is Barney just a comedic take on Patrick Bateman?

Alan Sepinwall said...

And if this is told more from Barney's perspective than Ted's, that makes the more cartoonish mood make more sense.

I hear what you guys are saying on this, but if that's the case, they needed to keep revisiting Barney talking to the cop, and/or let NPH take over narration duties for once. Instead, Future Ted was still the narrator, and there were none of the signifiers that we get whenever Future Ted is exaggerating or rewriting history.

tag said...

I thought Jennifer Lopez was awful. My initial reaction was that she was the reason that plot line didn't work.

Maybe I should give her a pass and blame the writers.


Alan Said:
I hear what you guys are saying on this, but if that's the case, they needed to keep revisiting Barney talking to the cop, and/or let NPH take over narration duties for once.

I agree with you 100%. At first they setup the narrative in that way, and then seemed to forget about it. I felt let down.

srpad said...

I agree with just about everything Alan wrote but yet I enjoyed this episode quite a bit. The musical number seemed a weird and I hope they don't go to that well much more but the utter randomness of it worked.

The way they layed the Bang bang song on so thick was what made it funny. Any less and it would have just seemed mean and thoughtless.

I don't think this is working back towards Barney and Robin, they have been strongly implying News Guy Whose Name I Forgot is going to be the one for Robin. It could be a fake out but i don't think so.

One thing I didn't get was the title. I am not sure what it was referring to. Is it a play on the idiom "But (Butt) of course." in a sly joke about J. Lo.?

Bryan said...

At first they setup the narrative in that way, and then seemed to forget about it. I felt let down.

yeah that was very weird too - when they came back to Barney jumping in the river at the end it was jarring to me because I had literally forgot about it.

Maybe it was the directing- was there a different director on this one?

Alan Sepinwall said...

One thing I didn't get was the title. I am not sure what it was referring to. Is it a play on the idiom "But (Butt) of course." in a sly joke about J. Lo.?

When Barney finds out that Anita wrote the book, he says, "Of course!" Because now her behavior makes sense, and gives him a counter-strategy, etc., etc.

Josh said...

Maybe I missed something, or maybe it's just me being a guy...but why did Robin get upset about the "Superdate" after calling J-Lo's character and asking her to seduce Barney?

I understand all the other post break-up sadness, but I thought Robin brought J-Lo into Barney's world was a way to get back at him. If all is going as planned and Barney is infatuated with the woman who Robin is using to get back at him, why does their fake relationship make her upset?

Roger said...

I hear what you guys are saying on this, but if that's the case, they needed to keep revisiting Barney talking to the cop, and/or let NPH take over narration duties for once. Instead, Future Ted was still the narrator, and there were none of the signifiers that we get whenever Future Ted is exaggerating or rewriting history.

I feel like the surprise at the end was necessary, and having it keep come back to him would have ruined that surprise.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I feel like the surprise at the end was necessary, and having it keep come back to him would have ruined that surprise.

What surprise? We knew going in that he was telling the story to the cop, and that he had been fished out of the river. Letting Barney narrate, and/or cutting from time to time back to Barney and the cop wouldn't have in any way spoiled why it was that Barney jumped in the river, or any of the rest.

Alan Sepinwall said...

but why did Robin get upset about the "Superdate" after calling J-Lo's character and asking her to seduce Barney?

She didn't ask J-Lo to seduce Barney. She asked her to teach Barney a lesson by sexually frustrating him. Robin didn't expect that Barney would respond by giving Anita the kind of huge romantic gesture he never gave her while they were dating.

Julia Mathias said...

It's so weird how people can respond in so many different ways to an episode. I absolutely loved it! All parts of it. I loved that they finally stopped pretending that Barney and Robin were never together, that Ted broke into song, that everybody was singing about Barney's sex life. I completely bought the whole thing.

Brian said...

I do think that the show has missed out on some opportunities with the narrative structure. I am really waiting for a show in which we think the action is being told from Ted's point of view, but then it turns out that future Ted was in the bathroom or something, and the story we think is going on is Barney or Marshall messing with the kids. I think that would have some great potential for hyjinks to ensue.

cadfile said...

Just didn't work for me this time at all - I chuckled a few times but it just seemed tired and pointless and the serious part at the end seemed out of place.

I thought the following "Rules of Engagement" episode was funnier.

Michael said...

So what did I miss? Anita whispered something in Barney's ear and then he left and jumped in the river. What was that all about?

Alan Sepinwall said...

It was Barney's version of taking a cold shower to curb his desire.

Anonymous said...

The J-Lo lame movie aired immediately after the puke scene here in the Midwest, too -- and I thought the same thing.

Capcha word: theat. Where Cindy Brady sits.

aaron | be awesome instead said...

I'm with you that I felt pretty underwhelmed until the last few minutes of the ep. I hated that Barney pushed her to Don, though I do think we saw a big development for Barney.

P.S. Alan, I spend a few hours writing my recap each Monday night...I hate that you can vocalize what I want to say so much better in so little time...but I love reading it.

bsangs said...

Who would have ever thought that the only redeeming quality of a HIMYM episode would be J-Lo. But, um, man was she hot. Otherwise, meh. Lame episode. And with everything we know about Robin, I don't buy her reacting like that for a second.

Andrew said...

Gotta say though, when you're high, that song by Ted is devastatingly hilarious.....I would imagine.

mrsb said...

Loved Robin's "but, um".
Didn't mind JLo.
Hated Ted's song.
Loved that Barney and Robin dealt a little with the breakup with feeling.

Not the funniest episode ever, but not the worst.

Kenrick said...

I actually thought this was one of the best episodes of the season - a season I felt has been mostly lackluster.

Katrine said...

Oh man, I'm glad I'm not the only one who STILL wants Robin and barney to be together, just... not written as awfully as they were. It's like the writers did a great job building UP the chemistry between those two, and they totally sold me on them as characters who fit together well and would make a great couple... and then they just... fell down flat on their faces with it. But despite the mess they made of writing the relationship, the build-up's still there for me, and I feel like the characters, independent of the writers, WOULD still work together really well.

I want the writers to stop watching romantic comedies, and go watch some shows/movies/read some books where "the couple getting together" isn't the end-all be-all, and the story continues past that and the characters continue to be fun and and interesting and not lose their individuality, and then come back to Barney and Robin.

ADW said...

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who tires of Barney pushed endlessly as King of the Swordsmen. I enjoyed Ted's song, laughed at "Bang Bang" and appreciated that Robin was allowed to be more than a punch line. It was a little disconcerting since I enjoy that she's not predictably girly but she hasn't a decent scene in forever. It was an awfully long jump here from most of the previous episodes.

I liked Jennifer Lopez until she got desperate for Barney's attention. I guess the point was that he said no, but still...

Love "Don" as an actor..just a wee bit lighter a part than the one on "Big Love".

For me, I saw it as disjointed, with little comedic flow but it felt less annoying than some of the overbearing Barney-centric episodes. Last week's "winking" business made my teeth grind.


I'm still laughing over last week's "Marshall as pimply teenager" scene. I almost always think their flashbacks as funny but the ones with Marshall are particularly hilarious. He looks younger in those scenes than he does on "Freaks & Geeks".

Anonymous said...

Sooo disappointed that you used the word "himbo" on a blog about television. When was the last time you watched Seinfeld, Alan? "Mimbo" is the superior non-word by far.

Isaac Lin said...

I felt the comedy was overly broad and fairly generic-sitcom in nature. I was hoping there would be a twist where it turned out everyone was misinterpreting Robin's behaviour, but the story ended up playing out in a predictable manner.

Mike said...

I laughed during the scenes when Robin was crying. Does that make me a bad person? Maybe, but they just didn't work for me haha.

Jill Mader said...

I loved this episode, despite the fact that I hated Ted's song. What the hell was that? I loved Jennifer Lopez though, and the stuff with Robin and Barney. I kind of want her to end up with Don though, I like him. I thought Marshall was hilarious this week. Jason Segel is great.

- jill (http://couchtimewithjill.blogspot.com)

Linda said...

When Barney finds out that Anita wrote the book, he says, "Of course!" Because now her behavior makes sense, and gives him a counter-strategy, etc., etc.

The title is referencing the name of Anita's book.

I actually really enjoyed this episode. It started off weak (another guest appearance? another story about Barney's conquests?), but then it started showing some heart.

We've been complaining for weeks how the writers spent a season building up to Robin and Barney as a couple only to break them up soon after, and without any fallout.

I don't think we're going to see them back together soon, especially with how they've been building up the Don thing. But the episode showed how much Barney cares about Robin, and that he fell short as a boyfriend, but he wants her to be happy, even if it means that someone else will get to land the awesome Robin Scherbatsky.

The cutbacks to the previously unseen scenes are classic HIMYM. For a moment, I got excited about Ted planning a date because we haven't seen that ultra romantic side of him lately, just his wingman side (although, him breaking into song was just weird). I wasn't amused by the "Bang Bang" song at first, but each successive cutback sealed the deal for me. The reference to "But, um", sound engineer Mike, Marshall falling for Don, Barney falling off his stool, all good marks (and this probably would have ruined the dynamic of the scene, but I thought they were going to bring back Robin's giggles when she lies and says she's not upset at the shooting range).

The episode ultimately didn't live up to its potential (I had forgotten about Barney at the river, and it was jarring), but I think it's a great step toward its former greatness.

One last note: Clearly, J.Lo is hot. But she's 40, and we're all familiar with Barney's reactions when he finds out a woman is over 30. Stop with the weak guest stars already.

Rachel said...

Who cares about Don? The only reason we care about Don is because Future Ted (and Marshall) are pushing him so hard. He's not a good match for Robin, he's just some guy that the writers decided to bring in because no one can be happy who's not in a relationship that will lead towards marriage and babies.

Snore. Barney and Robin have chemistry, but they didn't need to be in a Marshall-and-Lily relationship. The writers killed their relationship, and the show has been shaky ever since.

Craig Ranapia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig Ranapia said...

but even if it doesn't, Barney as two-dimensional character gets old after a while, even when played by NPH.

Certainly -- but I think it's like the lazy regression of J.D. to "whiny, needy man-child" on Scrubs: The Next Generation, after spending a whole season slowly turning him into a more or less functional adult. It's just too easy for the writers to keep going back to, and I don't think its going to change until NPH says "this is getting boring".

Snore. Barney and Robin have chemistry, but they didn't need to be in a Marshall-and-Lily relationship. The writers killed their relationship, and the show has been shaky ever since.

Rachel, thank you! To be honest, the writers may enjoy writing a show called 'How Uncle Barney Met David Duchovny at Sex Rehab', but it's becoming an increasingly tedious show to watch.

Nat said...

I think this episode was a lot stronger in the second half, once we saw Robin's side of things.

I think them dealing with the break-up does pave the way for them in the future, but honestly for the majority of the show, it will be a lot more interesting keeping them apart. Dating is a huge part of the show and it would be a little boring if Ted was the only single one. That's something that would only work when we're nearing the end of the show and about to meet the Mother.

alex s. said...

I liked the episode overall, but for all the context about Barney dealing with Robin, I was a little bit distracted by the fact that it was Ted's dream date that really got to Robin. (Part of the effect was that Barney was the one that let her take it, but it still Ted's romanticism.) On some level, I would think that would have to bother Ted.

I get that the TV group can't drift apart as friends would in real life, but it's still hard to imagine a world where Ted and Robin could break up, then move in together, get back together briefly and then cohabitate (and see other people) without having problems.

Mike said...

Rachel said:

"he's just some guy that the writers decided to bring in because no one can be happy who's not in a relationship that will lead towards marriage and babies."

Agreed, all they've done since season 4 is try to imply that the only two people who were single (and liked it that way for the most part) were always secretly a Ted (who believes that his only shot at happiness is to have what Marshall and Lily have), and they failed miserably. They should just end this show and get it over with, to linger further with this show is pointless, because I can guess with great confidence that they're not gaining any new fans with this drivel, nor keeping any old ones around (myself included).