Tag Archives: How I Met Your Mother

Summer 2013 Review: The Goodwin Games

31 May

Goodwin Games The Goodwin Games, which is being released at a time of year which virtually ensures the show will be cancelled shortly, is a Fox series from How I Met Your Mother creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays.  How I Met Your Mother relies on a storytelling gimmick, but a gimmick that, while dictating the way the story is told, doesn’t necessarily materially affect every episode.  The Goodwin Games’s gimmick is far more high concept and integral to the show.  The Goodwin patriarch, Benjamin (played by Beau Bridges) whose death leads to the events of the show, was an eccentric single parent who alienated his children over time through his strange parenting style.  He attempts to make up for his failings in life after his death through an extensive series of video tapes which catalog what amounts to a kind of hyper-complicated scavenger hunt for his fortune, which unbeknownst to his kids, is over $20 million.

The kids are three.  First, Scott Foley plays go-getter Henry who is a very busy surgeon who makes time to give back to the community and has a fiancé.  He’s brash, arrogant, patronizing and kind of a dick, but very successful, and his biggest crime seems to have been leaving a long-term girlfriend that his siblings loved from his hometown.  Middle child Chloe is a popular girl in high school turned wanna-be actress played by Becki Newton who seems to be relatively care free and possibly their father’s favorite, as her knowledge of Morse code wins her prizes from him in the past and present.  TJ Miller plays the youngest, idiot screw up Jimmy, who means well but has been in and out of jail due to a compulsion for thievery.  He has a daughter whom he loves, and who loves him, and who he sneaks up into her to see behind her mom’s back.  They’re all called back to their quaint New Hampshire hometown for the funeral, and they are invited for a reading of their dad’s will, which is a video tape.  This video tape provides the rules for the titular games; the three of them, and a random dude, will compete in a game of Trivial Pursuit for his millions.  Unfortunately, this family has a reputation for not being able to finish a game of Trivial Pursuit without breaking out into a game-ending fight, and this ensues doubly when they discover the game is a special edition composed of questions about themselves.  When everyone except Chloe forfeits, the proper video of their dad says they’ve all lost, but after they decide to finish the game out for dad at the local watering hole, someone at the bar passes them a card that lets them know the game is not just over (that would have been a really short series otherwise).  Apparently half the people in this town are in on The Goodwin Games.  The three kids leave the pilot episode reinvigorated, ready to play their dad’s game, and find out the first requirement is that they all move home.

It’s hard to tell if this was simply in my head the whole time because I knew who the creators were, but similarities with How I Met Your Mother were abound.  The humor was wacky, the dialogue was crisp, and it was all told with an undercurrent of sentimentality which has always been my primary hang up with How I Met Your Mother (in the early seasons, when the show was funny).  I don’t think the pilot for The Goodwin Games was particularly funny, but I could imagine how it could be, and some lines hit, or at least make me slightly smile.  It will never exactly be my cup of tea, but there’s a level of craftsmanship there that I can recognize when How I Met Your Mother is working, and I can imagine The Goodwin Games having the same.  It’s not even there yet, but as I’ve said often, a lot of watching a comedy pilot is not judging what it is, since very few comedy pilots are very funny, but trying to judge what it has the potential to be.  That said, while I think this could be very decent, I think there’s also very low probability it could ever be great, and unlikely very good, though I suppose decent is still a pretty good get for a comedy these days.

Will I watch it again? No.  It’s probably going to be cancelled because of when it’s airing, but even beyond that, as much as I hate to hold old shows by the creators against a new one, it’s hard not to.  I have a like-hate relationship with How I Met Your Mother that’s veered towards hate over the years, and since I’m long done with that show, unless Goodwin Games really knocked it out of the park, it would have been pretty hard to get me on board.  It wasn’t bad, it was kind of cute, but my standard was higher for this one.

Six Shows I Stopped Watching, Part 2

26 Apr

Part 2 of a brief list of six shows I actively decided to stop watching.   Part 1 and a full intro can be found here.

24

Beep beep

The only show on this list that I truly harbor no ill will towards.  24 was just doing its thing, year to year, and yeah, that thing got kind of, well, extremely repetitive (there’s always a mole) but it didn’t materially deviate from the promise that it made it great in the first place.  It just kind of got a bit worse doing the same, and at least part of that worse is that the writers were just out of ideas; if the last season was first, it might have seemed better, because repetitiveness was a problem that was harder to avoid in 24 than even in most other long-running shows.  Eight seasons is a lot.  I watched the vast majority of the seventh season and then missed the last few episodes due to circumstance, and just noticed as I went through that summer meaning to click on remaining episodes which were safely stored on my dv-r that I never really had the desire to.  Every time i sat down to, I instead decided to watch something else.  I then didn’t see most of the eighth season, but like with Lost, I also watched the finale, this time with a much greater sense of closure and merely saying so long to Jack Bauer (and Chloe, let’s not forget Chloe) without the vitriol that powered by viewing of the Lost finale.  I only vaguely understood what was going on, but that was fine.

As I’ve said, I don’t really hold any real animus towards this show; unlike with Lost, the inferior later seasons didn’t retroactively bring down the quality of the earlier seasons for me.  I still harbor great love for the first few seasons and the first season in particular, and the joys it brought me to see every 24 trope for the first time, and then to root for the tropes as they happened the new few times after that (Jack:  It’s not the right play!, Kim is kidnapped again).  The one later plot point that did particularly rub me the wrong way was the resuscitation of Tony Almeida who for all intents and purposes had been dead for seasons and now was a super evil bad guy for some reason.  I get how they could be very 24-y but it just did not work for me; very few characters in the pantheon outside of Jack actually mean something, and Tony was one of them.  If they had to decided to make him come back and go all revenge-y soon after, it would have been one thing, but to have him lay dormant for years and then bring him back was too much.

How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother

It’s almost a tribute to how much I like certain aspects of this show (namely, Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel) that I stuck with it for as long as I did considering how much this show seems like it was designed to bother me and me alone.  I know plenty of people who like the show, and plenty of people who don’t, but almost no one who is as irritated by the same aspects of the show that irritate me.  Just about everyone I know would agree the quality has slipped from the show’s second or third season peak, but how much is an open question.  What the show has going for it at its best is the cast, and, well, the jokes; it can actually be quite funny, and you’d think for a comedy that should be enough, and sometimes it is.  The show had an awful narrative device, and I just hated its tone, which I found moralizing and patronizing, trying to tell lessons that seemed uncalled for (see “Nothing Good Happens After 2 A.M.).  The show constantly told, rather than showed – it wasn’t enough to display some lessons through the events of an episode, but rather, narrator Bob Saget had to hammer the message home just in case you couldn’t follow along with the complicated narratives that How I Met Your Mother provides.  I stuck around for a fair time because it was funny, but when the later seasons became to seriously lack the funny, I was out.

I had threatened to leave for a long time before I did, coming back to the show, figuring it was only 20 minutes of my time, even if I didn’t really enjoy it.  This is, until I watched Season 7’s Symphony of Illumination, which had Robin narrating the show, presumably to her children, from the future, instead of Ted, and ended with the twist that she was just narrating the story to her fictional kids in her head, because she can’t have children (and I guess couldn’t have possibly adopted kids).  I just hated, hated, hated everything about it, and if I had been going back and forth about leaving the show for a season or two (in hindsight, I can’t believe I waited that long), that make it a quick and easy decision, and I haven’t seen an episode of the show since.  I always hated the idea of Barney and Robin getting together (not that it violates any key precept of the show, I just personally didn’t like it) from day 1, when it seemed inevitable (I still don’t understand how this isn’t weirder between Ted and Barney), so I didn’t particularly mind missing their engagement, though I suppose I’ll follow close enough to at least find out who plays the mother if they ever do get to that.

Ranking the Shows That I watch: 2012 edition: The Outcasts, Part 2

25 Jan

This is my ranking of shows that I watched in 2012 – for the rules, see the intro;  so far we’re discussing shows that made my last list but not this one.

Here are some more shows that made last year’s list that didn’t make the cut this year.

Royal Pains

What a royal pain

2011 Rank:  30

And so the USA exodus continues.  Royal Pains isn’t bad.  It just isn’t particularly good either.  It’s probably not a show one would expect me to watch, unless they knew about my aforementioned USA mini-obsession.  I really have so little new information about the show; I watched with my friend, and when we lost our momentum, we both kind of stopped, and neither of us were too bent out of shape about it.  Every episode, main character doctor Hank Lawson solves a patient’s case, while other gradual progress is made on serial plotlines.  Henry Winkler plays his and his brother’s dad which is kind of cool.  Royal Pains is right out of the USA playbook, better than Fairly Legal, and probably better than several more USA shows, but worse than a couple others.  I bear it no ill will, but don’t watch it.

True Blood

Delicious

2011 Rank:  29

Here’s my long view take on True Blood.  I enjoyed the first season more than I thought I would.  I really liked the second season, which I thought was really focused and well plotted; there were two major storylines, and they were both resolved in the last few episodes, one before the other, allowing the characters from the second storyline to join the first just in time for the climax.  The third season then went away from that, giving nearly every character their own plotline, some severely weaker than others and completely unnecessary, and strangely had its climax less than 2/3 through the season, after which the villain, the Vampire King of Mississippi, one of the season’s strong points, sort of collapsed.  I barely started the fourth season, before I was done with it. True Blood has several problems, but scope is the biggest; it expanded too far and basically there was no reining it back in.  I enjoy hearing people tell me the plots because they sound so ridiculous, but I’m done watching it.  There’s a careful line between stupid trashy fun, and stupid trashy, well, trash, and this gradually shifted from the former to the latter.

How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother

2011 Rank: 27

Here’s a show that a lot of people like better than me, because it pushes a lot of my particular buttons.  I hate the narration, I hate the incredibly on the nose messaging and oddly old school moralism that I think is wisely absent from most modern comedies.  I do think the actors work very well together as a group, and I think that the funny parts, particularly provided by Barney and Marshall have been very solid, and that kept me watching for years, even as there were parts of the show that seriously bothered me.  So, I kept on, after I finished all my other shows, watching How I Met Your Mother dutifully, though ambivalently, until Season 7 episode “Symphony of Illumination,” in which the gimmick is that instead of regular narrator Ted telling the story to his kids, this time it’s Robin telling the story to her kids.  Only, it turns out that she can’t have kids, and instead she’s telling it to her fictional kids in her mind.  How I Met Your Mother has done gimmicks well in the past, but I just hated, hated this episode and it gave me the impetus to put down the show altogether.

Psych

Shawn and Gus

2011:  26

Almost out of USA shows, I swear.  Psych is actually the one I currently like the best, and still have plans on watching more of it.  Unlike most of the other USA shows, which are light hearted dramadies, Psych is much more explicitly a comedy.  Because it’s focus is on being funny and lighter, it’s much less of a issue to have generic procedural murders every episode without almost any serial element.  However, the lack of serial element is also what causes me to keep putting it behind watching other shows with longer arcs.  Still, Psych is an easy show to watch; it’s refreshing and enjoyable which makes it a great show to watch when tired, and I mean that as a compliment.  It’s like bathroom magazine reading; it’s hardly essential viewing, but it’s a great way to fill in some time, and I would rank this the highest of the USA shows if I actually watched it regularly.  Still I don’t, which I suppose says something about the show as well.

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.