Monday, October 29, 2007

"Lance Hardwood, sex architect, starring Ted Mosby.": How I Met Your Mother

Hurrah for good HIMYM! After three weeks of mediocre to pretty good TV, HIMYM is back to its season two level best, and it's managing to get there by being as zippy and time-manipulate-y and story juggling-y as it ever was. Granted, this one didn't jump around in time as much as last week's (how could it have?), but its story of twentysomethings confronting their worst professional fears to find happiness (and credit card debt!) was the sort of thing this show does so well. I'm glad that the show isn't doing stock romantic comedy stuff anymore. Even though this show has done a story about the temptation of Marshall before, it's the sort of thing you just don't see done on sitcoms all that often (television doesn't really like to get into how you have to betray your ideals to get the security you want to live all that often).

It helped that the B-story, hacky as it could have been, somehow kept a nicely modulated pitch, never getting too creepy or too guarded, when it must have seemed like it would have been easy to go either way. The best gag, of course, was Ted talking to Adult Video Weekly and thinking it was Architectural Vision Weekly (and how would that even be a thing?). The misunderstandings stemming from that were pretty great, and I also liked the visit with the fake Ted Mosby (and his failure to understand how his taking Ted's name was a problem for an architect). Most of this was kept afloat by Barney. I realize it's cliche to say it by now, but Neil Patrick Harris manages to make plot after plot work on this show, sometimes just through force of will. I'm glad the producers ditched their idea of a Jack Black-esque Barney when they saw Harris' audition.

Robin was very funny here too, particularly her failure to make a good, clever joke about Jude Law and then her attempts to explain her lame joke. Cobie Smulders is best when the show doesn't strain too hard to make her funny. She's a funny actress, but she's not exactly a one-liner machine, y'know? It's better to put her in awkward situations because Smulders is great at playing the pretty girl who gets in over her head and finds her confidence slowly seeping away from her. And she managed to prompt Lily's revelation about how she gets all her nice things (and has a sitcom character explained that ever? thanks, Robin!).

But it was the Marshall/Lily storyline that really hit home with me. I've written often about how Marshall and Lily hit home as realistic characters for Libby and me in a variety of ways, and this episode just deepened those similarities, from the rampant credit card debt to the way Lily wanted to push Marshall into the big law firm job but ultimately acquiesced to his dreams of working for the NRDC to the way they text each other at all times. And if you needed any proof of Alyson Hannigan's range as this character (and, indeed, in the first season, there was a lot of skepticism as to her suitability for the part), it was in this episode, where she ricocheted from happy to sad to orgasmic for shoes.

Marshall's courtship by the law firm was very funny as well, and I particularly liked his long, sad walk back from Jeff's office (John Cho was great in that part) and the way he couldn't hide his excitement at seeing Patrick Swayze. Sometimes, you have to trade in on your ideals to get other things you want (like a safe life for your wife), and I was glad that the show didn't judge Marshall for doing this, choosing instead to show how he might be a little depressed about this but ready to save the amusement park of dreams.

While this one wasn't quite as good as last week's episode, it was a very funny one in its own right, and it even managed to set up a number of plotlines that should be interesting in the weeks to come. It's not just because I have to blog about it that makes me watch HIMYM first every Monday night -- it's episodes like this one, which balance the show's sweetly goofy charm with the tough choices you make in your twenties.

1 comment:

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