“How I Met Your Mother” is back for another season, and in case you missed it over the summer, I (and several other reporters) had a very interesting chat with Carter Bays and Craig Thomas about the show’s immediate past and future back at press tour. I’ll be talking about that in my review of the season six premiere, coming up just as soon as I have squiggly cartoon odor lines…
I will say this up front: had I not talked with Bays and Thomas back in July, my response to the end of “Big Days” would be very different. Without that interview, and on the heels of a season that was sorely lacking in direction, I would have rolled my eyes at the double fake-out – that in the present, Cindy’s attractive friend wasn’t The Mother, and that sometime in the near future, the wedding Ted was nervous about wasn’t his own – as much as I did when the big discovery in the 100th episode was what The Mother’s foot looked like. But having listened to those guys talk at length about their desire to get the series back to its roots, and about having mapped out several long and important story arcs, I let it wash over me.
That might make that interview into a smart PR stunt, and me into an easy mark. But the things they said were wrong with season 5 were things I was seeing and writing about, as were a lot of you. If they were just telling me what I wanted to hear without planning to back it up, that would be clear within an episode or five.
So, yes, the two endings smacked very much of the kind of shenanigans the show has pulled in the past – and the way that the search for The Mother has become more of a burden than a hook – and yet for now I buy that there’s a big story with an actual plan happening.
And I buy it because the rest of the episode around The Mother material was so strong.
When in doubt on “HIMYM,” put the gang in the bar for a half-hour (give or take a few hundred digressions) and odds are you’ll come up with something good. We got Ted’s attraction to the woman with the book (played by Kaylee DeFer from “The War at Home”), and Barney horning in on his plan via the lessons passed down by Sir Walter Dibs. We got Robin being super-gross, in complete contrast to her threat to seduce Ted, and we got NPH’s perfect delivery of the line, “Oh, you’re exquisite. You must let me paint you.”
We got a Marshall and Lily plot that was the gift that just kept on giving, between the banjo music for their love-making, Marshall’s grand exit from GNB (including him quoting Cyrus from “The Warriors”), Marshall being ready to burst, his dad’s inappropriate calls and more. It was funny, but like the stronger “HIMYM” storylines, there was emotion there, and it feels like Marshall and Lily’s baby-making quest will be about more than the usual sitcom tropes about thermometers and frantic phone calls.
And as for the wedding, Cindy’s roommate, etc… Well, I’ll give it a few weeks. At this point, the show probably has to do a lot to get me reinvested in The Mother, but at least this near-future framing device feels different, and like it’s actually going somewhere. It wasn’t quite the “We have to go back!” moment from “Lost,” but it’s a starting point.
Last year was problematic because the stories never seemed to go anywhere and because they weren’t usually all that funny. (This is not a coincidence, as “HIMYM” is one of those sitcoms where the story drives the humor.) “Big Days” was funny, and it at least offers the possibility of going somewhere. Not a bad beginning to the new season.
What did everybody else think?