Monday, October 01, 2007

HIMYM: Steinfeld did it!

Quick spoilers for "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I clean my Glock...

On my drive home from work, I was mentally plotting my night of TV watching/blogging, it occurred to me that, of the three sitcoms I'd currently consider the best on TV ("30 Rock" and "The Office" being the other two), "HIMYM" rarely reached the heights of the other two ("Slap Bet" excepted) but was more consistently funny..., of course, I have to be rewarded for this not so brilliant insight with an incredibly lame, sitcommy episode where one of the plots (Ted and Barney pretend to be tourists to pick up women) was lifted wholesale from a "Seinfeld" episode. Given that Barney makes a "Steinfeld" reference later in the episode, you'd think the writers would at least own up to it the way Mike Judge had Michael Bolton in "Office Space" admit that his embezzling scheme was used in "Superman III."

(Judge, by the way, has always insisted that he never saw "Superman III," but that once someone pointed it out to him while reading an early draft, he felt compelled to cop to it because the audience -- maybe not the whole audience, but some of it -- would know, and "Superman III" was a lot less popular than "Seinfeld.")

I'm not sure I've ever laughed less at an episode of this show. When even Barney's smutty punchlines are falling flat, you know it's just a bad night at the office.

That said, a few interesting things to note:
  • Robin and Barney have yet another bonding moment when they drink together to the end of Vacation Robin, and Robin has no problem telling Barney about her erotic dreams. At this point, is there anyone in the audience who doesn't think the two of them are going to get together eventually?
  • And speaking of the distant future, I like that combovers will still exist in 2029 -- as will Nancy Reagan's hairstyle -- but Marshall and Lily's bickering in both the present and future felt tonally off. It's not that I don't believe they'd fight, but that the pettiness and anger of it doesn't seem like something they'd do, not even after getting married. Maybe after 22 years of marriage, but the fundamental schmoopiness of their relationship is one of the defining characteristics of both Marshall and Lily, and I'm annoyed that it got tossed out for the sake of a flash-forward punchline to a subplot that wasn't very good to begin with.
  • Also, was I the only one hoping that Combover Marshall would be slapping Barney?
Ah, well. They can't all be "Slap Bet." Or even "Wait For It..." I'm sure next week'll be just fine.

What did everybody else think?

Oh, and no: I'm not just annoyed at Ted's anti-Jersey rant. I've never claimed to be from New York, even when I lived just across the river in Hoboken. I know my place and am fine with it.


Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, there is no one more provincial than a New Yorker.

Anonymous said...

"Oh, and no: I'm not just annoyed at Ted's anti-Jersey rant. I've never claimed to be from New York, even when I lived just across the river in Hoboken. I know my place."

Know your place? A proper NJ-er should be proud about it! :) I agreed with Ted, although for different reasons. (After Ted's rant though, it was extra-amusing how Robin kept declaring she was Canadian.)

But yeah, otherwise the episode was rather lame, unfortunately. I did like some of Barney's lines, but that's about it.

Ursula (an obnoxiously proud Jersey girl)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Ursula, I was in the process of fixing that even as your comment was being posted. See above.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't a fan of the Ted/Barney or Marshall/Lily plots either, but I got at least a few chuckles out of Robin's plot. Barney's scorn for pretentious hippie Vacation Robin was great. That said I never quite bought that Robin would bring Gael home to New York ... she had to know he wouldn't fit with her life there either. It might have been funnier if he followed her as a surprise.

TimmyD said...

Never thought about it before but you're right, the Barney/Robin thing might actually be in the future. Barney seemed to be really impressed with Robin's mammies as well and not just in a "look, boobies" way either (Barney would HATE "Tell Me You Love Me"). I even think Robin and Barney wouldn't be lame like Joey/Rachel on Friends either. We'll see!

Anonymous said...

at first i was afraid this was going to be one of the bottom-4 episodes on the series, however Ted's flat out awesome anti-jersey rant moved the episode into 'flat out sub-par' category for me.

i'd love to see more barney/robin moments along the lines of what we saw in s1's zap zap zap

Matt said...

It's little details that make this. For instance, in the flash-forward scene, there's a visible news article noting "NYC Lawyer Captures Nessie!" Everything fits together.

Yeah, the Lily/Marshall plot was bleh, and the Ted/Barney plot was all a setup to the final Jersey rant, but it needed to be done to get rid of Guy-El.

AC said...

I agree with everyone else: pretty lame episode, but the Jersey rant saved it. I'm a proud Jersey-an, but I do love to hear people making fun of the state, especially when they're as self-righteous about it as Ted was.

My hope is that next week will be better, as Gael is gone, and so is Vacation!Robin.

R.A. Porter said...

I thought this was a much better episode than you did, Alan. Though that might have been mostly based on carryover from the cold open. I thought the entire scene, including one of the sweetest rule of three payoffs ever, was hilarious. Everything that followed was buoyed by that for me.

Plus, Ted's rant and willingness to forgo sex for provincial pride were funny.

Withnail said...

Don't disagree with anything you said - and Enrico Inglesias was bad enough for one episode -
but Ted's pro-New York rant had me standing up, fist pumping, screaming along, YEAH!

F! Jersey! New York Pride!

afoglia said...

Withnail, you do realize you're on a NJ TV critic's blog, right? Don't make us chase you back to Virginia Heffernan's Screens, you NY snob!

Weak episode. About halfway through, I thought it would have been interesting if Ted actually ended up with a girl he liked via this ploy. That's when I remembered the Seinfeld episode. It would have been more interesting character-wise. But maybe only for season-one Ted and not season-three Ted.

Anonymous said...

The rant clearly touched some nerves. I was surprised they put that in because: a) Why bring up the smugger sides of Ted's personality again? A guy with a tramp stamp picking up girls on the street by playing an out-of-towner is in no position to be holier-than-thou. I thought the story would go Barney's way, especially after he shut down Ted's silly "Let's pretend we're French" conceit; b) it's a very regional rant; and c) The Seinfeld thing. I liked the cop from Newark, myself. I'd have liked him even more if he'd told Ted and Barney to take the train, like real New Yorkers.

An episode with _three_ weak storylines. This is not a good sign at all.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Alan's assessment of the episode but not of the series: to my mind, HIMYM is much more inconsistent then 30 Rock or the Office, both which almost always provide at least two or three laugh out loud moments, whereas HIMYM all too often only makes me smile. But when HIMYM is at its best, it actually exceeds the other two, as I think that Slap Bet was clearly the funniest episode of any sitcom on TV last year.


p.s. I guess I'm the only commenter on this blog who thinks so, but Big Bang Theory was once again really funny this week.

Anonymous said...

I didn't like this episode very much either (and I can't imagine Lily and Marshall would look like that in 20 years)... but I still enjoyed the flash-forward more than the one on "Lost."

Anonymous, you're right that "Big Bang Theory" was kind of funny tonight... but the plot about the geeks going into the girl's apartment while she's sleeping to straighten up? In real life she would a) call the cops, b) move, and c) not become even better friends with the creepy guys, as is sure to happen on this show.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with anon: the only big laugh was actually the Jersey cop's one line kissoff. Robin running the drum circle off with her gun was worth a chuckle, though; and lame as Lily and Marshall's storyline was, when Marshall left the apartment Segel's facial switch from moopy to cold was hilarious.

Though we might have found the one thing Segel can't do well on screen: that was some of the worst fake writing I've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

i'm interested to see how those on the west coast felt about Ted's anti-jersey rant and if the entire thing just missed the mark with them (and just went right over their heads), therefore making the entire episode flat

and i'll admit I thought gael (aka male-gail) was funny, though only because of everyone's reaction/interaction with him

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty tired already of every TV show and movie being set in New York and every New York character from those shows bashing New Jersey. I'm not even from that region and I've seen too much of that routine. Yawn. This show is usually so much more vibrant and original that to resort to such stale sitcom routines illustrates why this episode was off.

Anonymous said...

the pretending to be from out of town plot was more similar to an episode of 'It's Like You Know' than Steinfeld, although it was Nebraskans in LA not Missourians in NYC.

And damn I hate seeing Australian characters on American TV, antipodean drum circlers saying g'day in unison, they might as well have made them leprechaun backpackers.

Even so, not a terrible episode.

CM said...

Vacation Robin leaning in for a kiss, and Dream Robin's startled reaction, made the episode worthwhile. But yeah, the will and tourist plots were lame. I hope Robin and Barney never get together. It didn't occur to me that they would -- they both know each other a little too well. It would be fun to see them bro it up again, though.

Beckylooo said...

I'm with RA. I thought the Cold Open was inspired. I watched it thrice. Made the episode for me.

Unknown said...

So, we all know Barney is a big fat jerk when it comes to women, but Ted is supposed to be different, right? So why was he still willing to deal with a woman he obviously had zero respect for just to sleep with her? He was willing to go for it right up until the end when his NY pride couldn't take anymore.

This show has too often too closely approached the amount of misogyny I can take so that I don't find it funny anymore. Weak eps like this one don't even have the humor to surmount it.

Anonymous said...

i'm interested to see how those on the west coast felt about Ted's anti-jersey rant and if the entire thing just missed the mark with them (and just went right over their heads), therefore making the entire episode flat

West Coaster here. Thought it was hilarious to see the NYC/NJ in-fighting since we think you're all one big state over there anyway :-P

Seriously, dude, why would that go over our heads? We're not all granola-eating flakes out here.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 7:36 couldn't be more right.

It's so annoying that EVERY teevee show is set in either NY or LA. I've long wanted (but been too lazy) to create a website that simply gridded every night's show coloring each one for their setting (i.e. red for LA & blue for NY) and showing people that there'd be little white space for shows not set on the coasts.

It's very insular that writers think that there's culture only in NY & LA. I'd argue that there isn't much in LA, unless you count freeways. Jokes about traffic on the 405 are only funny in the writer's room.

Nobody cares about the purity of a New Yorker vs. a bridge & tunnel-ite. Especially from a show that's filmed in LA, but set in NY.

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