“How I Met Your Mother” doesn’t fit the classic definition of a Comic-Con-friendly TV show, but that definition becomes less relevant with each passing year. What we have here is one of the most popular comedies on television, with a cast that includes Willow Rosenberg, Dr. Horrible and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill. Between those two factors, “HIMYM” should easily fill the mid-sized ballroom they’ve been slotted in. (Fans have been camping out in line since yesterday.) The panel will have the full cast – Josh Radnor, Neil Patrick Harris, Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segel – plus creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays and the series’ longtime director Pamela Fryman. You know that I’m incredulous that Thomas and Bays actually mean to stretch the final season over the long weekend of Robin and Barney’s wedding, but maybe the panel will shed more light on exactly what that’ll mean, and whether the wedding may just be a framing device while we visit the past and future of the gang and the Mother (new castmember Cristin Milioti). Assuming the wi-fi holds up, I’ll be live-blogging the whole thing, so check back frequently for updates.
12:01 p.m.: Should be getting underway any minute. Based on the crowd outside, the Con organizers vastly underestimated the appeal of this panel. (Then again, these are the same organizers who thought that “Orphan Black” should be in a 500-person room.)
12:03 p.m.: The moderator introduces a special video, in which the current versions of the actors playing Future Ted’s kids yell (and curse) at him for how long it’s taken him to tell the story. “I missed college! I know all the lyrics to Let’s Go to the Mall, but I don’t know who the fucking president is!” complains Future Ted’s daughter. “The only girl I’ve seen in the past 8 years is my sister – and it’s starting to make me think stuff,” complains Future Ted’s son, who produces the bucket they go to the bathroom in. They are not happy he’s told them about all “the sluts you’ve banged.” They are unrelenting. Saget asks if they really want him to wrap it up. Fonseca: “Fuckin’ A!” Meta! Self-awareness can be funny. UPDATE: CBS made that video available online; it’s embedded at the end of this post.
12:05 p.m.: Beatles on Ed Sullivan-level screaming happening right now as the cast takes the stage with Thomas, Bays and Fryman. They are getting a standing ovation, and the PA plays The Shins’ “Simple Song,” which was played in the finale as the Mother first appeared. Smulders and NPH are dancing along. Yeah, based on this response, this will be 100% adoration.
12:06 p.m.: Moderator Sandra Gonzalez asks the creators how it feels to be starting the final season. Bays: “If we had ended it last season, that would’ve been great. But to have a chance to do this final season, it feels great.” Thomas: “We love the fans so much. This season is for you guys. This is our goodbye, and our appreciation to you.”
12:08: Bays says the season starts with them heading off to the wedding. “We want to stress the word ‘framework.’ We don’t want to make people think that, ‘Oh, there’s four episodes of flower arranging.’ The structure of it is we’re telling the story of this wedding, but we’re going to – as we always do – flashing back, flashing forward. Decades will span over the course of this season and one weekend.” That is the most reassuring answer I’ve heard about this structure. If they use the wedding as a springboard to see the past and future of the Mother and the other characters, it can work. If it becomes “24: The Wedding Season,” no.”
12:10 p.m.: Harris is excited the series is ending when it is. “I didn’t want the show to just beat a dead horse over and over,” he says, “and have everyone just wishing we would go away.” Segel: “How pissed off would you have been if you’d never met the Mother?”
12:11 p.m.: Their guest star wish list? Harris: “Brit-Brit.” Thomas: “We’re in serious talks to get the pineapple back.” Bays says “the much shorter list is everyone who isn’t coming back.” Odds are any guest stars you’ve loved will come back. Harris then clarifies that he only wants Britney Spears to come back if she has the shaved head and umbrella.
12:12 p.m.: Smulders would love to have Lucy Hale come back as Robin’s sister, but is really hoping to see Robin’s mom. NPH gets in character and leers, “I’m really hoping to see Robin’s mom.”
12:13 p.m.: The slaps, of course, must be discussed. Thomas promises an episode in the middle of the season “that takes place during the course of one slap.” They’ll use the tennis cam that the US Open uses to show Roger Federer’s serve. “That’s literally the framing device for an entire episode. And that may have a musical number. We don’t know yet.”
12:14 p.m.: Segel wants to say things that the ASL interpreter has to sign. “Projectile vomit!” Thomas tries “cockamouse,” without much luck.
12:15 p.m.: Bays says “Slapsgiving may fall on Saturday in May this year.” Harris: “I don’t like the slaps. I don’t think they’re fun at all.” The first time they did the slaps, he made a deal with Segel to really slap him, not realizing how much it would hurt. “Have you seen the sign of Jason Segel’s hands? They’re mitts! They match his penis! It’s not fun – either of them!” NPH going blue! Hannigan: “And the funny thing is, everyone in here has probably seen both.” Segel: “Oh, you should’ve been watching the signing lady there!”
12:18 p.m.: What has Robin Sparkles become over the life of the show? Smulders doesn’t know where the creators got the idea that she could sing. “I think we were obsessed with Tiffany at the time, weren’t we, guys?” A defensive Thomas: “I don’t think that’s true!” Smulders praises Bays and Thomas as musicians (they wrote and perform the theme song) and felt honored to get to go to a recording studio to do the songs. She thinks it’s fun for the crew, because the videos take them out of the structure of the show. “I hope we get to do another one before the show’s end.”
12:20 p.m.: Thomas on another Robin Sparkles performance: “I can neither confirm nor deny, but it’s a wedding. People sing songs at weddings.” The crowd wants Smulders to sing, which she’ll do if the crowd sings along with her. “Does everybody know how it goes?” she asks, being silly. They have the instrumental track already cued up, and it turns out Harris remembers the lyrics better than Smulders. The crowd doesn’t know the verses, but joins in loudly on the chorus, saving the bit.
12:22 p.m.: Segel likes the fact that Marshall and Lily are a couple who publicly love each other, when sitcom married couples usually bicker all the time. “I think that’s the magic to our whole show, to be honest,” he says, noting that they really laugh at each other’s jokes on set. “When your friend says something funny, you laugh. And that’s the spirit of our show, and that shows with Aly and I. She’s the best in the world.” Hannigan: “Yeah, what he said.”
12:24 p.m.: Oh, boy. The moderator just confused Cristin Milioti with Alyssa Milano, confusing the heck out of the panel. Radnor says “There was some kind of relief when she joined the show – mainly so people would stop stopping me on the street, shaking me and going, ‘WHO’S THE MOTHER???'” The show flew her out to Los Angeles for a top-secret reading, they gave the script a fake name to look like a USC student film. Radnor saw her on stage in “Once,” and thought, “Oh, there she is.” He says they’re a very tight-knit group of five, and it’s always been hard to guest star on the show as a result. “To add in this iconic mystery person, it could’ve been not great, and it’s so great.”
12:25 p.m.: Ted says the show is “rigged in a way,” because you know Ted is going to win, despite his regular struggles. He said that helped him deal with episodes where Ted takes a beating (sometimes literally). “It’s okay, because you know those beautiful, foul-mouthed kids are sitting on the couch at the end. He really does get the life he’s dreaming about; just not on his timetable.” Harris says Radnor and Milioti filmed a scene together last week “with its own convention, and they are an amazing couple on camera as well.” (So it sounds like we’ll be getting Ted/Mother scenes, even if the actual meeting takes place at the very end of the series. I can deal with that.)
12:27 p.m.: A sweet moment with NPH leading the crowd in a round of applause for Fryman, whom he calls “the heart of the show.” The cast gets up to give her a standing ovation.
12:30 p.m.: What do they all hope that we take away from the final season? Bays calls the show “an affirmation of hopefulness and optimism… The things that always make us smile the most when we talk to fans about the show is that our show is what they use to cheer themselves up. It’s nice being that utility for people. We take that responsibility very seriously, and I think the last 24 episodes will show that.” Thomas notes that the show is also a stealth drama, and appreciates the fans sticking through the ups and downs. He praises the cast’s acting. “They’ve allowed us to write not just a sitcom, but a story, a movie, a novel. Thank you guys for being so good. You’re going to see all of those speeds in season 9. It’s going to be beautiful and funny and dramatic, and awesome.”
12:31 p.m.: Radnor recalls meeting a bartender from Majorca who had never left the island, yet began quoting obscure “HIMYM” lines at him the moment he entered. The bartender told him he loves the show “because it’s all a flashback from the future, but it’s to the present. So it helps me to realize that the past is now, and these are all my great memories. And it reminds me to enjoy my life and be present for my life, because these are going to be my memories.”
12:34 p.m.: Segel had only been parts of unsuccessful shows (or unsold pilots) before this and loves that he’s spent nearly a decade doing this show. Smulders feels honored to be part of this group. She hopes the fans enjoy the final season, “But I’m just excited to spend this time with these lovely people and our awesome crew and just absorb everything. I feel lucky that we get to say goodbye to you guys and to each other and to these characters that we’ve been privileged to play for so long.”
12:36 p.m.: Harris: “I never thought that I’d get to make out with so many chicks! I dry-humped an old lady, for more than an hour! And then I came to work.” (“That was Jason’s,” he apologizes.) He loves playing a character with a ridiculous, grand, adventurous attitude like Barney. He’d grown up playing roles that were confined by normalcy, where his co-stars were crazy, so it’s been freeing for him to be the crazy one. He’s also glad Bays and Thomas have stayed with the series for the entire run. “I will absolutely look back on this chapter as the best work experience that I will have ever done.”
12:37 p.m.: Hannigan’s also grateful to have a last season, “To thank you guys for your support. It is just so amazing that a sitcom could have fans like you guys. It’s really so touching. You guys know the show way better than I do.” She admits that when she does interviews, she’s often tempted to go to Twitter to get help with her answers.
12:39 p.m.: Fan question time! Will we get to see Ted and the Mother’s future together beyond the meeting, or will they just meet and we have to assume the rest? Bays, unsurprisingly, doesn’t want to give anything away, “But among the many reasons that we wanted to do a 9th season,” he explains, “the thing that made it appealing, at one point, the idea of the show was that the last scene of the last episode was, ‘Here’s this girl.’ Here we are eight years later, and having had this experience, we, like you want, to know who this person is. We want to see Ted happy. We want to see the great moments that are ahead of him. So, yeah. We’re going to get to know this lady and get to see the two of them.” Thomas says they wanted fans to meet the Mother before Ted gets to meet her.
12:41 p.m.: Since Marshall is a game master, is Segel good at games in real life? The answer is clearly no, but he vamps until Hannigan says what he’s really good at is “sandwich-making.”
12:43 p.m.: A fan dressed as Dr. Horrible recites his own version of The Playbook about NPH’s career and requests, “the highest of fives!” It’s so creative and enthusiastic that Harris can’t resist sprinting into the crowd (followed by several panicked security guards) to fulfill the request.
12:44 p.m.: Any more Robin and Barney dance numbers? NPH notes that they’ll have a first dance at the wedding. He suggests there may be “some lifts,” like in “Dirty Dancing.” Bays promises exploding glitter cannons.
12:45 p.m.: Since Lily has a stealing problem, is there anything Hannigan wants to keep from the set? “I should get on that, shouldn’t I?” She says last year, before the renewal deal was complete, the cast began eying the props. She’s a fan of the little red phone booth from the apartment. Fans are now suggesting props like the Intervention banner and the blue french horn.
12:46 p.m.: A fan holding a blue horn asks if there are any songs they haven’t been able to use yet that they hope to in the final season. The fans are trying to egg Segel and Harris into singing “Confrontation,” but instead Radnor notes that they tried to use the theme to “Rocky” in an episode but couldn’t get the rights. Hannigan encourages Segel to sing one of the songs he writes; he’s not interested, but agrees to sing a song from the Dracula musical from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” He says he didn’t write it for the movie, but three years before, “with no sense of irony, think I was going to do a Dracula musical that was going to save my dying career. Guess it kind of did.”
12:48 p.m.: A fan tries to connect Segel’s characters in “SLC Punk” and “HIMYM” based on their shared love of the environment. He jokes that CBS and the studio “were big fans of ‘SLC Punk’!” Hannigan mocks Segel’s attempts to claim he cares about the environment. She says they made a deal after the pilot to all get Priuses after the show ran three seasons. “We all got Priuses, except Jason! He got a Hummer!” Segel tries to defend himself, calls his costars “buncha jackasses,” insists he’s riding around on a Vespa, “Not just for the environment but for the ladies.” Hannigan says he’s too big for the Vespa.
12:52 p.m.: Last question comes from a fan who thanks them for teaching him “how to be a bro.” NPH is less excited about this idea than fan might have hoped. Fan asks how much the cast gets to contribute to the songs on the show. Bays says it varies from song to song, and suddenly Segel is leading 2000 people in a singaong of the “Bangity-Bang” song, which he wrote the melody for.
12:54 p.m.: Bays brings up “You Just Got Slapped,” and promises a new version being performed “by someone really awesome, and we can’t say who.” Thomas says “motherfuckers” in an answer, and leads the cast to focus on how the ASL interpreter translates that.
12:55 p.m.: Another standing ovation for the cast. That was a very good panel: fun, and sweet, and actually made me more optimistic about the final season than I was going into it. Maybe they can make this work.
And here’s the foul-mouthed kid video.