Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dispatch from CBS: Talking with HIMYM co-creator Craig Thomas

At CBS' party last night, I talked to "How I Met Your Mother" co-creator Craig Thomas about what CBS president Nina Tassler said about Stella's potential status as The Mother and what else is coming up at the start of season four, and Craig even slipped me a very important exclusive about the new season.

Nina said during her press conference that she doesn't think Stella is the mother. Your reaction?

I am not prepared to say either way whether she is the mom. But I will also say we're not antsy to tell people who the mom is in the premiere of season four. We have a little mystery going. "What's up with the island on 'Lost'? I don't know; let's keep watching!" So I think Nina is right to say we're not going to give it away in our first episode back.

What can you tell me about what happens next season?

We're not going to jerk the audience around. Our premiere gets right to it on both cliffhangers: on the proposal cliffhanger and the Barney longing look at Robin cliffhanger. Maybe we're not milking it enough, as a lot of shows do very well. We're just diving into that in episode one. A-story, B-story, just picking up on Ted and Stella and Barney dealing with those feelings. Let's get right to it and give the audience what they want.

You've been building to Barney and Robin since the Laser Tag episode in season one.

We have. It's been two years coming, we don't need to stretch it out any longer than that. Neil's so amazing with her, Cobie's so amazing with Neil. Lily's going to play into it a bunch, as the only one who can tell something's a little odd about Barney, something a little different than before the bus hit him. It's fun to see her recognize him.

So how do you do this without defanging Barney?

We don't defang Barney, because Barney will always be Barney. We've shown Barney have af eeling side and quickly retreat back into his comfort zone before. What's interesting about this is that we'll see Barney sustain something emotional over several episodes. I think the audience will see very quickly that we're not defanging Barney. We'll see a guy who has these feelings and has no clue what to do with them.

And the flipside of that is what Neil said at the New York Emmy event: how do you do this without making Robin look like an idiot for getting with a man she knows treats women so badly?

The funny thing is, they were so sweet together in that Sandcastles episode where he put his arm around her and told her how awesome she is. You just buy it. There will never be a more perfect woman for Barney than Robin. I kind of just buy it, I don't feel like we have to prove it to the audience. Ultimately, it's about exploring what the hell would Barney do with this. Obviously, when he was Hippie Barney, 10-12 years ago, he had feelings for a girl, and probably hasn't had one second of considering that since. I think it's going to be a Neil powerhouse episode.

Do you think at this point the fans are more invested in Robin and Barney than in Ted and whoever the mom turns out to be?

I think fans have been watching Robin and Barney for two years, so until we say someone's the mom, the fans aren't going to freak as much about that as they are about Barney with Robin. And that's fine with me. The fans are invested in the mom no matter what we do, but Barney andRobin, that glance he took at Robin, I'll be honest, that was thrilling to us. That was a great little gracenote in our finale and it's given us a lot of rocket fuel for our first six.

Okay, so we know what's happening with Ted and Stella and Robin and Barney and Lily. What's happening with Marshall? Or is Jason Segel just big-timing you now and he'll show up once or twice an episode to show his penis?

Here is a Newark Star-Ledger exclusive: we will see Jason Segel's penis in all 24 episodes this season. And always in different surprising ways. Different framings: some will be close-ups, some will be really wide, some will be really tight close-ups. We pitched it to CBS, and they loved it.

No, Segel will be in episode one being a really good friend to Ted and being the guy saying to Ted, 'Really? Three months? Three months in and you're proposing? In the same day where you broke up with her, got in a car accident and proposed?' He's going to be the voice of reason a little bit. They're like family, and he has to ask the hard questions.

What is the status of the Dowisetrepla apartment that Marshall and Lily bought? Will they ever move into it?

We don't find them in there in episode one, but the idea of them moving and the idea of things shifting around and us reconfiguring the living situation for everyone on the show, we're getting into that.

Well, at the end of "The Goat," you gave up that Robin would be living in Ted's apartment within the next year.

We try to keep our promises on "How I Met Your Mother," we're pretty proud of our continuity. The fans seem to love that, we want to honor the fans, so we are not jerking anyone around on that front. You will see Robin moving in with Ted and you will see another arrangement happening.

And do you actually have an idea for the goat itself?

I'm going to be honest with you: we have thirty-five ideas for the goat! That jerkaround -- that unabashed audience jerkaround we did on the goat -- was us not being able to choose one of those 35 ideas that we had two years to come up with. We will get there. I promise all "HIMYM" fans.

I liked that bit in "The Chain of Screaming" where we got to see all the other characters as Marshall. That seemed like a new trick in your bag in terms of playing with narrative and perspective. Might we see more of that?

I love that, because that's how it is when you hang out with a group of friends, they go, "Oh, you know what I would have done in that situation?" and they pitch you some impossibly cool idea and you feel like an idiot for not trying that, and it's like, "No, in the moment, you never think of that thing. Screw you, man!" I like that form and hope to do it again.

And, of course, that gave us Alyson grabbing her crotch.

I guarantee you this: you will see Jason's penis and Alyson grabbing her crotch in all 24 episodes. It's going to be our best season yet!


Anonymous said...

I wuv you, Alan, for getting us this dish! I don't know anyone else in media land who pays this much attention to this show, which it eminently deserves.

Hooray for Jason Segel's penis!

David J. Loehr said...

Here is a Newark Star-Ledger exclusive: we will see Jason Segel's penis in all 24 episodes this season.

But is it a hammer? (Sometimes a hammer is just a hammer...)

Anonymous said...

Alan, you're awesome. Thanks for asking these great questions. It's a fabulous interview and makes me even more excited for season 4, if that's even possible.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the updates, I have no further questions myself - you asked all the ones I was thinking.

Anonymous said...

Great interview, Alan! I can't wait for HIMYM to return. The bit about Barney's upcoming storyline is especially exciting -- I love that Lily will be the one to put it together. Hannigan and Harris have great chemistry.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I guarantee you this: you will see Jason's penis and Alyson grabbing her crotch in all 24 episodes. It's going to be our best season yet!

Well they've won me over with that one. Can't wait for the new season.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Well they've won me over with that one.

Which one: penis or crotch grab?

Hal Incandenza said...

Great interview, Alan.

Suppose I'm now in the minority, but I just don't like Robin and Barney (RoBar? BarRo? (as in "wheel")) together. To analogize, it's like when Rachel and Joey dated--it just feels wrong. But maybe I should give Bays/Thomas more credit than that...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this scoop, Alan.

Ken Levine predicts on his blog that you will be dead soon. Is it too invasive (or callous) to ask that you increase your cardio workouts so we can enjoy more interviews like this one?

Anonymous said...

Which one: penis or crotch grab?

I think it may be a little bit of both.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Alan! Great meeting you at TCA!

Matt Mitovich, senior editor,