Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"This just in. Look at my hand. How weird is my hand?": How I Met Your Mother

After last week's excellent premiere, it was inevitable that Mother would take a step or two back, but this was actually one of their weaker efforts in a while overall, even if there were some very funny bits scattered throughout the episode. Part of the problem, I think, was that one of the main plots of the episode was taken from Seinfeld (and one of the episodes I've actually seen!) and the other plot centered around Robin's rather unfunny boyfriend and a large collection of unfunny backpacker caricatures. That the episode worked as often as it did is tribute to the easy chemistry this show has with its audience.

In some ways, it was a noble try from the show at having three plots all running at the same time. Sadly, the show's comic rhythms usually suffer from this sort of plotting. It's better to have one main plot and a smaller B-plot with possibly a runner of a C-plot. This episode contained three plots, all of roughly equal weight, and the only one that was amusing throughout was the Marshall and Lily story (as Marshall struggled to write an appropriate death letter for his wife in case he passed away, while Lily's death letter was a collection of useful information, nothing more). I'm not sure if this was written better than the other two plots or if this was just something I hadn't seen a million times, but I enjoyed how its familiar twists and turns unfolded, particularly in the final gag (mostly for the newspaper in the background, which read, as near as I could tell, "NYC Lawyer Captures Nessie" -- looks like Marshall's livin' the dream). Even the old age makeup worked for me, and I usually hate that sort of thing.

One of the other great things about the episode was the way it reawakened the Barney/Robin chemistry. The show capitalized on this in spades in the back half of season one, but it was lost in season two, a necessary demise in the face of Ted and Robin's relationship. I don't necessarily want to see Barney and Robin get together ever, but it might be fun to see them discover that they would make good friends with benefits for each other.

I wasn't so sure about the Ted and Barney posing as tourists plot. For one thing, Seinfeld did it better. For another thing, it just meandered along and didn't really go anywhere (though Barney's elaborate back story for the two was amusing in fits and starts). Fortunately, the plot came to a head in Ted's rant about New Jersey. It wasn't the kindest thing ever said about the Garden State, but it at least put a capper on the storyline, which was what the meandering affair probably needed (it was also probably the funniest moment of the episode all around). It is nice to see Ted as Barney's wingman and see what he missed so very much in season two, and Ted is a little bit better as a devil-may-care single guy than a romantic swooner, but I still wanted something more from the storyline.

I wasn't horribly enraptured by the Robin storyline either. I like how Cobie Smulders has turned into that rarest of things on TV -- a funny hot girl (other examples include Becki Newton on Ugly Betty and Jamie Pressly on My Name Is Earl -- though her character is far from hot). And I liked both her marijuana high and the way she conversed with her vacation self (and Barney's reaction to just how hot and twisted the dream got). But Gael was a laugh killer, even when the gang was trying to use big words to talk around him. I like that the show thought Enrique Iglesias would bring in the ratings, but it really seems like he didn't, sadly. And the backpackers crowding Robin's living room also failed to take off as either characters or a plot device. So the story ended up being kind of a wasted one.

I like that everybody's back to the beginning, so we can start the story over again. But I thought that this episode ended up mostly being one that didn't work all that well. I'm not going to proclaim that the show is in a slump or anything stupid (not after the excellent premiere), but here's hoping the show rebounds as quickly as it has in the past next week.

1 comment:

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