How I Met Your Mother
Season One (2005-2006) (Fox Home Video-2006)
Those charmingly misguided TV sitcom writers seem to have four general rules:
One: all twenty-somethings, regardless of financial obligation and career path, must live in Manhattan, in cool apartments with HUGE bathrooms.
Two: all Manhattan-dwelling twenty-somethings are magically blessed with lots of free time, despite claiming they have jobs that would normally tie up its victims for about sixty hours per week.
Three: all main male and female characters must do a clumsy, tedious mating dance, even though viewers know – and not necessarily care – that they will eventually get together. As well, the other cast members (playing concerned, caring friends), ride every movement of this mating dance, and live and breathe by its outcome. Footnote to this rule: be sure to shoe-horn in a sappy yet hard-rockin’ ballad as the romantic leads gaze longingly at each other. It’s sexual tension as generated by an AA battery.
Four: TV New Yorker twenty-somethings NEVER take the subway. They always hail cabs, driven by wisecracking cabdrivers (some even Caucasian!).
Out of this repetitiveness comes How I Met Your Mother, a critical darling that is admired for its sharp writing (which is deserved) but – like most sitcoms – gets just about everything else wrong.
In the era of the Seinfeld hangover, and in its desperation to offer a sitcom-starved nation classic episodes and catchphrases, the series suffers at best from writing that is more interesting than its characters. They pull out all the stops here to try to win your love: Wonder Years moments of lightbulb-over-the-head narration, and network TV’s version of intimate sexual detail.
We’re also entreated to character quirks that seem to come out of a Mad Lib. Examples: a busy career gal manages to own five dogs while living in a small apartment. A dude has an office job, but it’s never mentioned exactly what he does (this is supposed to be funny and intriguing). Catchphrases for your endearment: “Suit up,” “Steak Sauce” (meaning A-l!), and many versions of “high five.” And, here’s the one that is supposed to get us right in the heart and soul and never let go: when introducing the main character to a quirky assortment of women who may or may not become “the mother:” “Have you met Ted?”
At the very least, the series gets right to the point: twenty years into the future, the story leading up to how a mother and a father meet and marry is told by the father. His teenaged children seem unusually, perversely swept up in the tale, and the viewer is meant to be kept in the dark as to who the mother will eventually turn out to be (most likely saved for the series’ finale). So, the premise is presented clearly, but the details are then dangled in front of us in a slow, meandering, peek-a-boo.
The story zips back and forth between the present and the future (mostly the present), with a peppy, Beach-Boys-type theme song to prove that it’s all in fun and that fate is funny. Again (and again and again and again), we are asked to care deeply that the main male and female will get together and be, in fact, the “mother” the “I” should meet. Meanwhile, we watch them have fun.
While we are teased about the final answer to the series’ premise, we watch these twenty-somethings “suit up” for an alcoholic future (at least the Friends gang were coffee drinkers) as they gather at their favorite watering hole (what a concept!) and make plans for their misadventures (“let’s drive down to Philly and lick the Liberty Bell!”).
Of course, like yuppie New York, everyone here is super-attractive and boring as all get out. We have the law student whose heart is not in it, the TV news reporter who is humiliated into doing human-interest stories, and the law student’s fiancé, who – well, she’s too boring to remember.
The one we are asked to care for – the Jimmy-Fallon type who is looking for love in all the wrong places – is an “architect,” with a lot of spare time to bitch and moan about meeting Mrs. Right. All of his friends – with the patience of saints – seem not only to tolerate this, but encourage it.
Stealing the show, as we have been told over and over again, is Neil Patrick Harris as Barney, the suit-wearing yuppie who riffs off the sitcom one-liners like a master marksman. Naturally, he is masterful, and he does steal the show; however, it’s not a fair contest. There is nobody to steal the show from.
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 27, 2007.