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Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 27: How I Met Your Mother

30 Aug

I have some strong feelings about How I Met Your Mother, both good and bad, but I don’t have time for all of it here, so I’ll focus on a couple of points.

It’s the best old-school style sitcom on television, and though that’s sort of a back handed compliment, it is, well, a compliment.  It’s a multi-camera sitcom – it takes place largely on a set, and it earns at least my slight ire for being a New York set show filming in Los Angeles (enough shows film in New York these days – no real excuse – plus, it’s not like you can’t tell the difference after watching a real and not real New York show for a season – all the buildings in faux New York shows look so generic, and New York shows go out of their way to show off real New York locations that are well known like Washington Square Park).  It also has a laugh track, for which there’s really no excuse this day and age.

Earlier on this list, I talked about how Modern Family subverts the “traditional” sitcom in subtle ways, to make a little bit of a fresh take n the format.  For better or worse, How I Met Your Mother doesn’t do that.  It’s not a traditional family show certainly, but it keeps within expected bounds, and plays by some of the established rules.

As you may or may not have been able to tell from the tone of the article, generally I think these characteristics (and really, more than anything else, limitations) that mark a “traditional” sitcom are negatives, but they are not by any means enough to necessarily sink a show.  Merely, it means that How I Met Your Mother must get out of the hole by being funny.  And that it does, very well, generally, though better in some circumstances than others – sometimes it puts its foot in its mouth and prevents situations from being as funny as they could have been.  Still, the show, and particularly Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segal, makes you laugh, has some quotable lines, even catch phrases, in a good way, rather than a this feels so forced into my vernacular way.

A couple of notes particularly on the most recent season (SPOILERS).

Quickly, they maybe dipped too often into the Robin Sparkles’ well.  Episode “The Slap Bet,” the first episode with Robin Sparkles, was the best episode of the series, and while I like that they don’t forget about it, every episode in which they’ve tried to recreate another song seems like a pale imitation.

In bigger plot points, what irritates me most of all is the way it feels like they’re forcing Barney into all of a sudden wanting to get married, and then getting married very quickly afterwards.  There’s two issues I have here.  First of all, it doesn’t feel natural at all.  Barney is a womanizer, and he just has a revelation that he’s super unsatisfied in his current lifestyle in one moment, revealing it to us, even though we’ve seen absolutely no evidence before.  Second, okay, the writers decide they want an emotional plotline for Barney.  They already have one with him finally meeting and coming to terms with his dad!  You can’t get much more big and emotional than that, and they’ve been harping about his lack of dad over and over again for the entire show so it feels perfectly natural.  Why can’t they just use that and be happy about it?

I’ll end with a complimentary note –Marshall’s dad’s death and its aftermath was handled very well.  It was a really sad and cruel moment, and I resented feeling so bummed when watching a comedy, but that being their goal, it was well executed.

Why it’s this high:  Neil Patrick Harris makes me laugh, and Jason Segal often does too

Why it’s not higher:  When the show is not being funny, it’s being terrible

Best episode from the most recent season:  It hasn’t been the strongest season, it’s been a slow downhill journey since season 2, but still there are plenty of funny moments and episodes – “Unfinished” I’ll pick mainly due to the plotline in which Barney woos Ted back to designing the building for his bank, by treating him like a woman.