Spoilers for last night’s season premiere of How I Met Your Mother coming up:
When last we left HIMYM Watch, your humble narrator was close to giving up. For four seasons I’d adored the show, love the characters, the quick humor, the play, the nonlinear storytelling and the commitment to Ted’s quest for love. Last season, however, HIMYM seemed to have lost the nerve to be a show that took chances, a comedy where things advanced and changed. It had Robin and perennial playboy Barney get together in an adult relationship, then got cold feet, breaking them up in the lamest of about-faces.
It became a comedy in which, every episode, things returned to the status quo. It became just another sitcom.
By the end of the season, I was thinking I might no longer regularly cover the show this season. And then the producers started saying that they knew they had made mistakes; this year, the show would be less sitcommy, we would make progress on Ted’s search for Your Mother, it would be the best season yet. Have they course-corrected? Based on the season premiere…
I didn’t hate the episode. I didn’t especially love it. And that probably would not have put me off in itself had it not been for the promises of Big Things to Come in the very first episode. Yes, we got movement in the mother search—but really, was the fact that we now know she was at a wedding any more of an advance than the naked heel, or the yellow umbrella, or Ted’s college class, or any number of other teases in the past? (Particularly when Cindy’s friend turned out to be yet another cute football for the show to yank away.”) Maybe it will become so later in the season, but the skies didn’t exactly part.
And the thing is: I don’t care so much about the Mother search, except insofar as the show makes it an issue. I do, though, want the show—besides being funny—to try to be a sitcom in which people and their lives change. Barney and Robin’s relationship was an (abandoned) example of that.
Here, Lily and Marshall’s attempt to have a baby may actually be more promising, and I have hopes for it, because they’re probably my favorite characters on the show at this point. I liked the idea of a storyline that involved Marshall’s overeager Minnesotan family adding pressure to the already fraught situation. (“Why don’t you have a baby with your dad?” “Oh, OK, Lily, why don’t you have a baby with your butt?” “What?” Arrgh! I can’t think straight!”) I didn’t though, buy Marshall’s suddenly becoming aware that his father has boundary issues, when we’d just seen him oblivious to numerous glaring examples of said boundary issues. Everything else in the story worked, though—banjo music!—and it feels like it has actual stakes, so I’ll give it that.
I can’t promise I’ll stick with HIMYM Watch all season. But here’s the thing: I still like the show. I want it to be a show I feel there’s something to say about. And it seems like the producers want to make that kind of show again. (We also had the briefest indication that Barney may continue his quest for his father.) So I’ll keep an eye on it… for now. But I can’t promise I’ll be as patient as Lily and Marshall if the efforts prove infertile.
Hail of bullets:
* The opening sequence, with Ted and Marshall outside the church, was a little glimpse of what HIMYM would be like without a laugh track. It doesn’t really seem to fit the show; I liked the bit about Ted’s nervous beer-label habit.
* Loved the aborted fake-history lesson about Sir Walter Dibs, inventor of the dib, which played with the kind of cut-away we’re used to from this show.
* Speaking of which: “Shannon, start the music.”