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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"I still think about him in the shower"

Guys, I know I've been slacking. But there is a lot going on in my life right now, including a lot of travel, and it's just hard to keep up. Plus there just hasn't been a whole lot of great TV on lately. I don't think that Monday's episode of How I Met Your Mother qualifies as great, but it was noteworthy and I figured I should talk about it.

Some people may wonder where my love for HIMYM went. Well, to be honest, I'm not really sure. Part of it started with the shift of Barney's sexism from funny and tongue-in-cheek to something to be celebrated. Also - racist? The "Vietnamese shame wheel" joke was neither funny nor at all ok on a show where the only people of color are a cab/limo driver and Wayne Brady. And it was made TWICE. Part of it started when they broke up Robin and Barney because Barney got fat and Robin got...tired? Part of it started when Marshall and Lily's storylines got reduced to baby/dead dad. Part of it started when Jennifer Morrison showed up, but I've come to realize that it's not all her fault, although she should really never, ever try to be funny because those stricken eyes of hers are only good for narrowing to judge Doctors Chase and House and/or widening while birthing Captain Kirk in an alternate universe. But it has gotten beyond Jennifer Morrison.

The truth is that HIMYM has lost its edge. When it was a small sitcom struggling for popularity, there was much more envelope-pushing going on and the comedy was fresh. Now that (with the timely death of Two And A Half Men) it's competing with The Big Bang Theory for the title of the most mediocre sitcomy sitcom on CBS, the comedy is much more middle of the road. It's Jay Leno comedy, designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It's lost its intelligence, that unexpected aspect of the show that made you feel like the writers were getting away with putting this edgy comedy on CBS by disguising its jokes with a laugh track. Take the entire premise of the slap bet. Here is a joke that has stretched over multiple seasons, giving the most entertainment payoff to the hardcore fans. Something so weird and unconventional has provided the show with some of its best episodes, and managed to do so without the slapping edging into cruel or violent territory. Great stuff.

Now let's look at the storyline of Barney's dad. It, too, has been carried through over many seasons, which is why I thought it was strange that so little fanfare was made about this week's episode where we finally meet him. Aside from the moment at the end with the basketball hoop, which was brilliantly acted by NPH (who always brings more to the role than the writers give him to work with), the entire episode was really predictable. And (imagine Amy Poehler) REALLY? You need a dad in order to learn how to use a screwdriver? Really? What kind of sexist bullshit is that? Screwdrivers are pretty self-explanatory - Barney may be helpless and lazy, but he's not retarded. And I'm pretty sure even people who ARE retarded can figure out how to use a screwdriver, whether or not there's a MAN around to help them. Anyway, it's a hallmark of the decline (and exponentially-increasing sexism) of the show that the ending "punchline" is about how only a man can teach you how to use tools. Really.

John Lithgow was fine, he always is. The blame for this entire wretched season lies with the writers, who have lost the show's original quirky irreverence and have replaced it with schlock designed to please people who don't like to think about things. HIMYM used to challenge and teach me things about life and relationships. It used to be incredibly, quotably funny. It used to make me want to hook up with Barney, because he wasn't a huge sexist asshole all the time, he was just someone who really liked picking up chicks and having a lot of casual sex.

Just like on Glee, the show still has its bright spots. I love the recurring Intervention poster. I liked this episode's "blind spots" storyline, although I found it entirely unbelievable that someone like Ted doesn't know how to pronounce chameleon (I will admit hearing him say "cham-a-lee-on" over and over was pretty great) and they've already tapped that source with the "encycloPAEdia" joke. Robin's insistence that the North Pole is fictional was probably the best part of the whole thing. And while I still can't get behind Marshall's dead dad storyline (especially because it is OBVIOUSLY just a way to get Barney's dad in the picture), Jason Segal is great in the role and really sold it this time around. So, you know, it's not all bad. It's just not at all as good as it was even a season ago.

HIMYM is very similar to Friends in concept. But while Friends was able to weather the years and provide realistic growth while maintaining the essence of the characters and the comedy, HIMYM has insisted on taking their show in a different and thoroughly disappointing direction. What growth the characters do show is of the boring, mature variety (NO ONE CARES ABOUT TED'S DUMB CREEPY HOUSE; I liked that they called him out about it being super-weird) or the awful sexist caricature creation that Barney has become. The great, touching, and hilarious moments that the show occasionally manages to create keep me watching, but that doesn't mean I don't long for the days of "Swarley", "The Bracket", "Slapsgiving", or even "The Sexless Inkeeper".


  1. I completely disagree, I love the direction the show is going in and if you continue watching, Barney is changing to a more mature person, so the sexual humor is a focus because he's starting to let go of that type of lifestyle, and Marshall and Lily's part revolves around their potential baby and his dead father because those are pretty important things in their lives. I didnt even bother reading the second half, so I dont have anything else significant to disagree with...but I'm sorry you feel this way about my favorite show, hopefully your opinion will change in the future.

  2. Look, I like HIMYM, it's a good show, but it just hasn't been anywhere as good this season as it was in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. I understand what you're saying about Barney, but the writers have fallen back far too often on tired, misogynistic jokes for him this year after having established Barney as a more complex character. You can read my thoughts on the season finale here:

    Also, in general it's a good idea to read an entire piece before commenting, because I say basically the same thing in the last paragraph.

  3. It's called humour! We laugh at Barney because he is so over-the-top, and the mention of the 'Vietnamese shame wheel' need not offend anyone any more than the 'Canadian sex acts'. People are way too sensitive these days.

    I'm with you Jacob, it is the greatest show going. I have only enjoyed it more as the seasons progressed. Just gotta hang out for the next season now!

  4. Completely disagree with you about Ted's house. Lots of people care, and for good reason - something like that is a huge milestone in somebody's life and a lot of people identify with his excitement. The entire point of the show is that he's moving towards having his dream family and I think you're missing that point a little.

  5. How is Vietnamese shame wheel racist?

  6. First of all, I love both big bang theory and How I met your mother. You do in fact see the characters progress over the years. Barney became more able to express true emotion through the robin storyline, and Ted has to be dating someone. I agree that the Zoey character is no good, but it just shows that he is constantly looking for love. If you look at the Lily/Marshall characters in the beginning, they were nothing but cheap characatures, and now they are starting a family and have a real dynamic. Barney saying "you're not ready" is just a funny play on the we don't really know what Barney does behind close doors, or at work theme. It's funny. and if you don't get that then you don't get comedies in general.

  7. I got confused while watching HIMYM. So I googled Vietnamese Shame Wheel and found your blog. I found it racist and annoying, too.

  8. LOL "if you don't get that then you don't get comedies in general." Such grand judgments on you, Lauren! I have to say that I stopped watching HIMYM and I can't say why, really, but it just lost my interest. I didn't care about Ted anymore, I couldn't handle Barney and Robin's back and forth, Katie Holmes was just weird, and I love Lily and Marshall but... I dunno, it just lost that magic.