By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - 6 Comments
Watching last night’s How I Met Your Mother, I was not pleased – though I wasn’t inspired to the heights of invective that Alan Sepinwall reaches in this post, where he devastatingly lists everything that has been wrong with the Zoey arc and the Zoey character this season.
Here’s the thing: this has been one-half of a fine comeback season for HIMYM after what was generally agreed to be a disappointing fifth season. Several episodes have been very good, there have been some good guest characters (John Lithgow) and the stuff revolving around fathers – Marshall losing his dad, Barney finding his – has made for some funny and touching material. Even the Zoey arc produced some good material thanks to the character of the Captain, played by Kyle MacLachlan.
But the character of Zoey wasn’t appealing, and her relationship with Ted became a sort of collection of all the show’s weak points, rolled up into one cute and quirky ball. It’s not news that Ted has been the show’s most problematic character literally from the beginning. It’s the Achilles heel: the whole thing is built around his search for the right woman, and he’s the narrator of the story, yet he’s the hardest character to like. And for some reason, when the writers put him together with a woman he’s serious about, he gets worse – his “cute banter” with Zoey was even more appalling than his “cute banter” with Sarah Chalke’s Stella. (I don’t think this was intentional. As I recall, his banter with Stella was supposed to show how delightful they were together even if they ultimately weren’t right for each other. Instead it accidentally made a lot of us not want to see them together.) Because Ted is so unappealing matched up with almost any woman on a regular basis, this kind of makes it hard to care who the Mother is, let alone look forward to them teasing it out for two more seasons. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the best relationship he had on the series was with Robin, in the best season of the series, the second. Not only because Robin was someone we could actually like, but because the relationship was already announced as doomed before it began – no teasing or fake-outs – and the writers could concentrate on the problems, not trying to make it look cute.
The other issues the show faces are just typical season-six issues. Some of their devices (relationship metaphors, characters making up crazy quasi-scientific rules to explain typical relationship issues) can still be fun but have been done over 100 times, so for every episode where they work, there may be another one where they feel tired. But that’s normal for any show that has gone over 100 episodes, particularly when they have a very tight-knit group of characters and can’t add new regulars or shift focus. It reminds me of Frasier, which also had a failed arc that it never fully recovered from (as I’ve said in the past, Frasier getting fired is like Barney and Robin getting together) and stayed focused on the same five characters. Maybe sometimes adding a Scrappy Doo makes sense, just to freshen things up. They should see if Kyle MacLachlan’s available.
On a positive note with a hint of negativity: I can’t believe Pamela Fryman has never been nominated for a Best Director Emmy for this show (or any show, for that matter). The work she does as director of How I Met Your Mother has been one of its most important assets through good scripts and bad, and she has one of the toughest jobs of any TV director, essentially shooting two different types of show in one. Plus the unconventional shooting format of the series is largely her creation. Her failure to land a nomination is a sign of the bias against four-camera sitcoms in the Emmy voting – no director of a multi-camera show has been nominated since 2005.
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 1:58 PM - 0 Comments
Because canned laughter is mostly a thing of the past, most “without laugh track” clips are really nothing of the kind (just audience laughter muted). But this extended scene from last night’s How I Met Your Mother actually is without the laugh track, provided by an audience watching the finished episode. So here’s what it’s like.
The actors on How I Met Your Mother don’t pause for laughter, which is why the show gets fewer “laugh track” accusations than shows that don’t have post-dubbed laughter: the audience laughter has to be dubbed in at a low level so as not to drown out the lines, so many people don’t notice it. Still, even in one unedited shot with no “coverage,” you can sort of see why the show still uses the track: it’s not that it’s not funny without it, just that the camera format and lighting has a somewhat spooky empty-studio feel without the presence of the laughter. On a single-camera show, the director and cinematographer use the lighting and camera angles to create atmosphere and avoid the feeling that the characters are just on a studio set. But on HIMYM, a set just looks like a set, and the laughter provides the sense of atmosphere that the mise-en-scène cannot.
Also, since I won’t get another chance to use this: Ben Vereen was last night’s HIMYM guest. An hour later, Charlie Sheen was on the same network. That’s right, Charlie Sheen and Ben Vereen on the same network on the same night. Pinky and the Brain fans will know why this is is significant. For the rest, just google “Charlie Sheen, Ben Vereen, shrink to the size of a lima bean.”
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 1:40 PM - 7 Comments
The “How I Met Your Mother goes to Toronto” bit last night (actually, “How I Met Your Mother goes to a Tim Horton’s set built at the Fox studio”) was great fun, probably because it wasn’t over-hyped in advance like “The Simpsons goes to Toronto” or “The Office goes to Winnipeg.” The show makes so much fun of Canada and Robin’s Canadian-ness that Canadian networks can’t really hype it that much; for one thing, it’s not a special event when they make Canada jokes, and for another thing, there’s always going to be someone — usually Barney — making jokes about how lame Canada is. Though last night, he got his comeuppance. (A word that Barney could probably turn into a suggestive joke, come to think of it.)
But even though her Canadian identity is the butt of many, many jokes, Robin is one of the most patriotic Canadian characters on TV (in the U.S. or in Canada). And there may be a lesson in the way the show advances every possible Canadian stereotype, and still manages to make Canada and Canadians seem like fun. A purely positive portrayal of Canada tends to make us seem boring, especially in comedy, which depends on stereotypes and generalizations. Canada comedy is more fun when it embraces these stereotypes, just as American comedy embraces all the stereotypes about Americans (and obviously, Barney’s transformation of Robin into an American was a parade of negative U.S. stereotypes).
The other fun thing about the show’s portrayal of Canada is that it uses stereotypes which it basically made up on its own, like “Canadians love guns” or “Canadians are afraid of the dark.” HIMYM is good at creating its own comedy mythology: ideas about men, women, or countries that were invented by the writers, but seem real because all the characters stick to them in a consistent, plausible way. Comedy relies on stereotypes, but it doesn’t have to depend solely on the ones we knew already; the writers can make their own.
And speaking of HIMYM and CanCon, Alan Thicke will make a return appearance in the show, in another episode about Lily’s psychotic desire to control other people’s relationships.
Finally, and this is not HIMYM-related, the second of the two Gemini Industry Awards galas is tonight. Let us feel liberated to make stereotypical jokes about the Geminis. And then, loosened up by those jokes, let’s acknowledge that there’s some very good stuff that will be honoured tonight. Like all countries, we are lame and awesome at the same time.
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at 12:52 AM - 0 Comments
The new season of How I Met Your Mother started tonight, so you might want to check out Hitfix’s interview with co-creator Carter Bays. He talks mostly about the themes of last season — mostly, putting Ted through a lot of bad stuff, dropping obviously false hints about who The Mother might be, and hiding two pregnancies in very awkward ways — but does mention a few things planned for this season, particularly one thing that became apparent in the season premiere: Ted is going to be more well-adjusted and happy than last year. Whether this is considered pleasing, or just an excuse for him to be an even more annoying person than he usually is (he sometimes turns human in episodes where he is made to suffer, particularly the memorable “Shelter Island”), is for the viewer to decide.
Also, Myles has his take on The Big Bang Theory season premiere and what he sees as the cruel treatment of Sheldon by his supposed friends. While the show has its unaddressed weaknesses, I’m not sure I agree that that’s one of them. It’s true that with the possible exception of Penny, most of the characters aren’t nice to Sheldon. It’s also true that he’s such an obnoxious lunatic, by real-world standards, that anything they do or say to him is (again, by real-world standards) sort of justified. If the other characters treated his behaviour as cute or even tolerable, we would be in danger of a “Jerkass Homer” situation: the character who acts like a jerk and is never punished for it. We’re freed up to love a character like that only because other people acknowledge how horrible he would be to live with, so we don’t have to, and can instead focus on his good qualities (plus the charm of the very traits that would make us hate him in real life). Otherwise we find ourselves wondering why the characters don’t acknowledge the truth about this person’s behaviour, and before you know it, we’re Frank Grimes, screaming at the television set and asking why no one on the show seems to notice that this person is nuts. What I suppose I’m saying is that the audience would not like this character if the other characters didn’t — sometimes — fulfil the basic and important role of being annoyed by him. For every Dennis the Menace there must be a Mr. Wilson.
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, May 11, 2009 at 11:02 PM - 2 Comments
The second and third-most-popular CBS comedies had a little too much of, respectively: Penny/Leonard (can’t they just leave him at the North Pole and give Penny and Sheldon more time for hilarious bits like the door-knocking routine?) and Ted (not a bad episode, but why spend a whole half-hour on a relationship nobody cared about and a creepy, self-loving lead character who pities himself because true love hasn’t come to him by the time he’s 30?).
But while I left halfway through the world’s most popular comedy, Two and a Half Men — I actually don’t dislike it, it just doesn’t compel me to watch it all the way through — I’m now left wondering: since part of the episode involved Jon Cryer getting a ventriloquist’s dummy, was there a scene in the second half where someone talks to the dummy as if it’s real? Because quite apart from shows like Soap that built four years’ worth of stories on that gag, it’s tradition that any episode involving a ventriloquist’s dummy must involve a scene where a character acts like the dummy is real. Now I may have to check the West Coast feed of TaaHM just to see which character followed tradition and tried to kill the dummy.
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, May 5, 2009 at 1:26 PM - 12 Comments
The official TV listings for last night’s HIMYM had this description:
After Ted runs into an old flame, he talks to his future kids about how being in the right place at the right time can impact a person’s life.
If you’ve seen the episode, you know what’s wrong with that description. Besides the fact that there are too many episodes focusing on Ted. The whole episode was constructed so we wouldn’t know who it was he ran into until the end of the second act. The cast list for the episode (in the same listing) deliberately didn’t mention the name of the actress playing the part, yet whoever wrote the listing gave the game away and spoiled the ending.
Or they would have spoiled it, except everybody who had watched the show before probably knew he wasn’t going to meet The Mother. Any time they make it look like he’s going to meet the woman of his dreams, we know it won’t happen; that’s been the rule of the show ever since the pilot. The listing more or less gave away who it would be (there are only two “old flames” from the show, and it wasn’t going to be Ashley Williams, though I wouldn’t mind seeing her again), but it didn’t hurt the episode.
There are a lot of official listings, used as the basis for the descriptions in other listings (digital boxes and elsewhere), that give away too much information. Some of them give away the whole plot up until the ending, particularly when the actual story of the episode doesn’t become apparent until the end. (Sometimes the episode will go to great lengths to hide what it’s really about, but the listing is always trying to describe the episode in the most accurate way possible, so it will just give away what the producers tried to conceal.) And if somebody is supposed to be dead, but is revealed to be alive at the end of the episode, the listing will almost always find some way to give it away, because it won’t say that the character is dead — it’ll say that he or she is “apparently” dead, an instant tip-off that they’re alive.
Then you get listings that are based on earlier versions of an episode, and describe B stories that were cut before airing or even plot points that were re-shot. The Fox animated shows used to have that, because Fox would write up the listings right after the animatic came back, and then not change them when the episodes were rewritten and re-animated. There’s at least one King of the Hill where every official TV listing describes a completely different plot than the one it ended up having.
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, May 4, 2009 at 12:39 PM - 2 Comments
Every successful show inspires imitators, but How I Met Your Mother hasn’t had many imitators — probably because until 2008, it wasn’t actually a success. Now that it has achieved something resembling hit status, NBC has picked up what appears to be a somewhat similar show, “100 Questions.” (Originally titled “100 Questions for Charlotte Payne.”) The New York Times has the preview clip of this show, about a young woman who goes to a dating service where they try and find your perfect mate by asking you very personal questions about yourself and your love life. The format, according to early reviews, is something like this: every week the lead character is asked a question, and in the process of answering the question, she tells a story from her life or the lives of her young friends. The question from the pilot is “are you an honest person?”
The creator of the show, actor Chris Moynihan, originally had the five characters before he hit on the 100 questions as a framing device. The end result will be the first multi-camera show that goes for a HIMYM vibe — a story of young urban friends in the city, but with time-jumps, narration and an overarching story about how the lead character finds true love.
This is not, repeat, not an accusatory post. Every show imitates some other show, and HIMYM is a good example for a multi-camera sitcom to follow if it wants to add some pep and pace to its storytelling. The preview doesn’t look all that promising, though, mostly because the lead character looks like she might be a female Ted Mosby (not a compliment in any possible way). But it’s just a preview, after all. Still, the weak spot in the HIMYM formula is that when an ensemble comedy story is told through the eyes of one character, that character almost inevitably becomes the least likable person on the show, if only because that character is constantly making every issue All About Him. An early review of the 100 Questions pilot claims that they get around this problem by not trying to pretend that Charlotte is likable, but that has its own obvious problems.
Still, while waiting for HIMYM to get a fifth-season pickup, we now have definite proof that it’s become a semi-hit; other networks are trying to come up with something similar, or at least, when they try to do Friends-style comedies, they now try and add some HIMYM-style storytelling.
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, April 13, 2009 at 9:25 PM - 1 Comment
As most of you know, How I Met Your Mother has been writing and shooting around the pregnancies of its two female cast members. Tonight’s episode was obviously filmed while Alyson Hannigan was off having her baby, because they came up with an excuse for her not to be in the episode (except for one short scene that was presumably filmed earlier). I thought it worked; having her character refuse to speak to the others because of a dirty, sexist joke was contrived, but so is everything that happens on this show. And her absence was actually allowed to affect the plot, with Barney bonding with Marshall and Marshall taking on Lily’s usual job as the evil manipulative schemer.
Writing around a temporarily absent character — due to childbirth, illness or a movie — is always tricky. Sometimes a show will just do what HIMYM did tonight and do one scene in advance (or after the rest of the episode is filmed) with the person who’s going to be away, so he or she will at least be in the episode. When Bob Newhart had it in his contract that he could have several weeks off in his final season of The Bob Newhart Show, the writers did episodes that were all about Emily, and Bob was seen only on the phone, talking to Emily about what he was doing at his “psychologist’s conference” or whatever it was supposed to be. That’s a very common and easy-to-spot solution: have the characters say that Missing Person is out of town, or at a conference, and then at some point in the episode he calls in; cut to Missing Person at a pay phone (or, today, cell phone) asking how things are going without him.
But sometimes there’s no time to shoot a separate scene, and the show can simply ignore the missing character and hope we don’t notice. You may remember that Seinfeld did that during one of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s pregnancies, leaving Elaine entirely out of the season opener when the guys went to Los Angeles.
Then there’s the trickiest thing: the episode that is written around a particular character, which then has to be rewritten to compensate for his or her absence. The classic example is the episode of Frasier that was supposed to be about a basketball player deciding that Frasier is his good-luck charm. Before it was to be filmed, Kelsey Grammer went into rehab. So Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, March 23, 2009 at 11:13 PM - 3 Comments
Most people who saw tonight’s How I Met Your Mother will have checked this out by now, but, in answer to the obvious questions.
-Yes, there is a Canadiansexacts.org.
- Yes, that is Alan Thicke, composer of the “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Facts of Life” theme song, TV dad, and all-around Canadian god.
- Yes, one caption spells Sudbury as “Sudsbury.” And, in answer to the follow-up question, no, that mistake probably doesn’t keep the webmaster up nights.
“Canada, you did it again. You even managed to ruin this. Why? Why do we let you be a country?” — Barney Stinson
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 12:24 AM - 5 Comments
Tonight’s How I Met Your Mother was the kind of episode I like, after a batch of episodes that have had entertaining moments but haven’t really been my style. (This was a sequel to last week’s episode, “Sorry, Bro,” and while that episode had its admirers, I thought the story was a bit pointless and way too heavy on scenes with no other regulars besides Ted.) This has been an uneven season, but when the show gets a story that really works, it reminds me why it’s still my favourite comedy: because it gets comedy and storylines out of every character’s relationship with every other character, and tries to take familiar relationships in unexpected but appropriate directions. In this case, the fact that Lily has been responsible for breaking up Ted’s unsuitable relationships, including his second-season breakup with Robin, is true to what we know about her, but expands on it.
And speaking of expanding, since both the female leads on the show are pregnant, we’re going to see a lot of stories written around the necessity to keep them sitting down a lot or otherwise not too close to the camera. In this episode, Alyson Hannigan spent most of the episode in a chair, and Cobie Smulders spent most of the episode on a TV screen way in the background. It worked fine in this episode. Additional trivia: this was like the second episode in four seasons not directed by Pamela Fryman. Veteran writer/producer Rob Greenberg, a consultant on HIMYM, did this one.
In some ways, How I Met Your Mother is a show where the writers use all kinds of gimmicks, flash-forwards, characters in funny wigs and makeup, to lend a hip veneer to one of the most old-fashioned sitcoms on television, one that is extremely sentimental and incorporates a huge amount of pre-Seinfeld hugging and learning. But that’s all right with me, and I think the weakest episodes are often the ones that are the least sentimental and serious.
If HIMYM reminded me of its strengths, its time-slot mate, The Big Bang Theory, reminded me a bit of what keeps it from being a really great sitcom (or even an intermittently first-rate one like HIMYM). This was a good episode, so I’m not singling it out as a bad example, but just as a typical example of the way this show tells its stories, which is to keep them very simple and unadorned. They often don’t really end so much as peter out, a bit like the stories on The Office, but The Office is usually trying to convey some over-arching theme underneath the simple stories. (Penny’s business might be carried over to another episode, or it might not, but the episodes almost always end abruptly, and the resolutions are not much more complicated than the guys deciding they can’t make a thousand more Penny Blossoms.) Not that I want TBBT to try and get deep and emotional; it doesn’t pretend to have depth or to want to teach lessons, and that’s fine. But the stories are so simple that they can feel incomplete, and because almost nobody ever appears besides the five main characters (in this episode, they were the only ones who appeared), I sometimes wish they’d push them just a little farther. Pushing the characters and stories to more interesting places is what separates a great show from a good one; it’s what separates, say, Cheers from Wings. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a solid show with a fine cast, like Wings, except that there are higher expectations for a good sitcom in an era that doesn’t have many of those things.
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, March 2, 2009 at 5:03 PM - 2 Comments
We’re going to meet Barney’s mother on How I Met Your Mother tonight (played by Frances Conroy from Six Feet Under). This may or may not turn out to be one of those situations where the character in the flesh can never live up to the unseen character from Barney’s descriptions and various flashbacks — where we’ve never seen her face — but the “meet the folks” episode is a rite of passage that most TV characters must go through eventually. In introducing the parents of a main character, the writers have several options.
1) The parent is exactly like the character. We now know where he picked up all his character traits, but more importantly, we get to see an older actor imitating all the catchphrases and mannerisms of the familiar regular character. Often culminates in a scene where the regular and the guest get together and wear the same clothes, talk with the same speech patterns, or show that despite their disagreements they really do agree on everything else. Often the regular and his or her parents are unaware of how much they have in common until the other regulars point it out.
2) The parent is the exact opposite of the character. This not only provides the opportunity for a surprise reveal at the beginning and a touching reconciliation at the end, but enables the writers to provide a bunch of backstory about how the character’s whole way of living is an attempt to get away from his/her roots. Always leads to a scene where the parent and/or parents embarrass the regular in a restaurant. In fact, most visits-from-parents episodes involve an embarrassing scene in a restaurant.
3) The parents are having marital troubles and the regular tries to patch up their relationship. HIMYM already did this episode with Ted’s parents, who were already divorced and hadn’t told him.
Most of these categories also apply to visits from other relatives (like that very weak HIMYM episode about Ted’s sister), but sibling episodes tend to lean much more heavily toward category 1; every casting director is on the lookout for someone who can act exactly like a regular when playing the long-lost brother or sister.
Also, I’m trying to think which ensemble show holds the record for fewest parents ever introduced. I think it must be NewsRadio. That show had eight regulars and I don’t think we ever actually met any of their parents. We did meet Matthew’s adopted “twin” brother played by Jon Stewart, though.
Update: Having seen the episode, I’m embarrassed that I forgot to include plot # 4 in my original post: The regular character is keeping a secret from the parent or parents, leading to results of a disastrous nature.
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, January 30, 2009 at 10:37 PM - 0 Comments
Just some thoughts that come to mind while browsing next week’s TV listings at the invaluable Futon Critic:
- The Futon Critic himself has a review of the post-Super-Bowl The Office episode.
- I still don’t get why Lie To Me feels a need to have two mysteries per episode. (This episode is a replacement for the actual third episode, which got delayed, and which also has two mysteries.) They’re just going to double the risk of running out of plausible mysteries, all the while jamming every episode so full of mystery-solving that there’s no time for character moments. House may be formulaic, but the “meanwhile” from its upcoming 100th episode is a character-based subplot, not a slightly lighter version of the main mystery.
- What does Damages have in common with Two and a Half Men? They both title every episode after a line of dialogue from the episode that only makes sense when you hear it in context. (Damages‘ next episode is called “I Agree, It Wasn’t Funny”; Men‘s next episode is called “David Copperfield Slipped Me a Roofie.”)
- Speaking of Two and a Half Men, next time you watch one of Chuck Lorre’s shows, note that his shows use writing credits differently from almost any other prime-time show. Every episode of his two shows has both a “story by” and “teleplay by” credit (except for the pilots) distributed among different members of the writing staff. Apparently Lorre decided to more or less eliminate the first draft and the corresponding “written by” credit; the episodes are almost entirely written in the room, and then the episode assigns story and teleplay credit (and therefore royalties) to several writers. NewsRadio used that system too in some of its episodes, but not all.
- I know Knight Rider is going to be canceled and deserves to be, but plot descriptions like next week’s make me wish that they’d done the retool (dropping the terrorist-fighting stuff and getting back to cheesy ’80s-style stories) earlier. This story, you’ve got to admit, is a real Knight Rider story in every way:
Mike’s old Army friend recruits his help to investigate the suspicious death of a tough-as-nails drill sergeant Jack Burber. Mike learns that the drill sergeant was participating in an underground fight club for military veterans for extra money. In order to find out what really happened, Mike has to infiltrate the fight club and try not to get himself killed in the ring.
Why couldn’t they have done stories like that in the first place? Then they might actually have become a (cheesy but entertaining) success.
- I look forward to any How I Met Your Mother episode that offers the opportunity for more Canada jokes.
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 1:20 PM - 3 Comments
- How I Met Your Mother: I was expecting some kind of twist at the end, but it went pretty much as expected — Ted has suspicions, suspicions appear to be confirmed, turns out it was all a plot to Teach Him a Lesson; Ted learns his lesson; hug. As others have observed, the key weakness with this episode was that Ted’s sister is even less appealing of a character than he is, and therefore the A story revolved around people we couldn’t like much. But Singing Barney and the Robin/Marshall B story (with Singing Marshall) made it fun. One thing about this episode is that like the season premiere and a few others this season, it had a very linear plot and relatively few sets. I almost wonder why they don’t just start shooting in front of an audience if they’re going to do episodes like this.
- Dexter: The season just completed made everybody nicer and more normal; Dexter even had encounters with his dead foster-father, and only sane and normal TV characters get to take advice from dead people. (Just ask Katherine Heigl.) But though the show’s been getting soapier, I don’t think it’s so much a break from the first and best season, but more a negative effect of trying to dig too deeply into a shallow character. The fun part of the premise was that Dexter was a monster without ordinary human feelings, but while he hasn’t exactly been humanized, he’s become a little more human, and therefore less interesting; when he gets lectured by the ghost of Harry, he might as well be a character on Thirtysomething. This is one of those cases where character development is not an entirely good thing for a show; the interesting thing about Dexter was that he was an undeveloped character whose personality and mind didn’t have all the facets of normal, non-psychotic people.
- The Border: This show has been rightly noted as having good production values, particularly by CBC standards, and yet visually there’s an empty-building sort of look to a lot of the interior scenes. I think it’s something to do with the look of Toronto studios. They have excellent facilities, of course, but compared to Vancouver shows, Toronto shows often strike me as having that look in many scenes. Maybe that’s not so much a matter of set design as lighting and set decoration (a lot of these shows don’t give rooms a very “lived-in” appearance). And certainly it’s not inherent to Toronto-filmed shows and movies, since many shows and movies film their interiors in Toronto without looking like that. But I do think I see it in more than a few Toronto shows.
By Jaime Weinman - Wednesday, December 3, 2008 at 11:03 AM - 0 Comments
How I Met Your Mother co-creator Carter Bays is from the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, Ohio, so Cleveland magazine tracked him down and did a long article on him and the autobiographical nature of the show. Ted and Marshall are based, respectively, on Bays and his writing/producing partner Craig Thomas — Bays was the single guy from Ohio, Thomas was the guy who’d been in a relationship with one woman seemingly forever — and the catchphrase “Have You Met Ted?” is based on the way a friend of theirs used to introduce Bays to women. I think one reason why HIMYM has developed the following it has is that, like Seinfeld, it has that unusual balance between realism and craziness: most of the plots are based on things that could, and did, happen to real people, but the working-out of those plots tends to be wacky and crazy. Usually the crazy shows are the ones that have less down-to-earth stories — look at 30 Rock, which only became good once it more or less abandoned the reality of working on a late-niht comedy show — and the shows that are recognizably realistic are not particularly wacky (Everybody Loves Raymond was another show where most plots were based on real things that happened, but it rarely went “big” with those stories). A show that feels realistic and unrealistic at the same time is a fun and unusual mix for sitcom viewers.
The article was written by Rebecca Meiser, who talks a bit more about it at her blog and links to a special wedding video made by the cast of HIMYM.
I did a YouTube search and I found that that HIMYM video was available there, so hopefully it’s acceptable for me to embed it. It’s like a lost episode, complete with mushy song choices and Wendy the Waitress.
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 10:46 AM - 2 Comments
NOTE: This episode contains slight spoilers for last night’s episode of How I Met Your Mother.
I don’t know how others reacted, but “Shelter Island” was, for the most part, my kind of episode: funny, sweet, and using the narration and time jumps to add layers (comedic and emotional) to a linear story that is strong in and of itself. The first few episodes of the season were a little iffy, but now that they’ve wrapped up the Stella arc, as well as finally doing an episode where Ted is less of a jerk than someone else (in this case, Stella), prospects seem pretty bright, especially if they focus a little more on the other, better characters after this very Ted-centric run of episodes.
I especially liked how, as a sort of parallel to the way Ted missed the “real” story behind Stella’s behaviour, the episode played with our expectations of what the ending would be. Anyone who had ever seen more than one sitcom wedding episode probably knew that at least one part of the ending was not in doubt: we knew Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, September 22, 2008 at 9:50 PM - 0 Comments
One thing I was keeping an eye out for in the season premiere of How I Met Your Mother is whether they’d continue the trend they (unconsciously) started last year, of having Ted (Josh Radnor) be selfish, immature, and kind of a jerk. He did not disappoint: knowing nothing about the woman he’s going to marry, committing criminal negligence, and becoming freakishly obsessed with whether or not she likes Star Wars is an impressive tally for one episode, and continues his devolution into, as he put it tonight, “15 year-old me.” Barney is now officially a more mature and compassionate character than Ted.
I don’t think this is actually the wrong way to go with the character; as his friends all get more mature, why not have him become more immature on his way to self-discovery and eventual happiness with The Mother? (Is there anybody out there who thinks Stella’s the mother? Come on; her accepting his proposal is the Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 8:34 PM - 1 Comment
Because next week begins its fourth season, and if it completes that season, that’ll bring it up to around 85 episodes — not quite the magic number for syndication, but close. So Fox is selling it into syndication and discovering that it brings a pretty good price for a show that’s never really been a hit. Be interesting to see if it’s as successful in syndication as the studio and syndicators seem to expect. It’s the kind of show you’d think would do well in syndication — a multi-camera comedy with youth appeal — but the quasi-serialized nature of the show and constant references to previous events might bring it perilously close to the kind of show that almost never succeeds in syndication, the show where you need to have seen previous episodes to know what’s going on.
(Link Via Todd.)