Review: ‘How I Met Your Mother’ – ‘The Autumn of Break-Ups’

Senior Television Writer
11.06.12 76 Comments


Before we get to the reviewing, a bit of housekeeping – as in, my house finally got power, heat, cable, etc. last night, which meant we could return from our post-Sandy exile to the lovely, well-powered streets of West Hartford. There will be a podcast sometime later today (Dan and I were interrupted yesterday by the news that I could return home), and hopefully everything else will return to schedule (give or take a Nor’easter later in the week).

And now a few thoughts on last night’s “How I Met Your Mother” coming up just as soon as I channel my inner goddess…

Last Monday, CBS decided mid-day that they might be better off airing repeats of all their Monday shows because much of the East Coast was being battered by Sandy and losing power. Because they wound up airing the same episodes with the same listings last night, my DVR (like many others, based on the Twitter reaction) assumed “The Autumn of Break-Ups” was a repeat and didn’t record it. When I tweeted about this last night, several people told me my DVR had done me a favor, and that even by the standards of “HIMYM” season 8, this one was, well… a dog.

Sometimes, when I get this many warnings about a show, my expectations lower to the point where I wind up not hating it. This was, unfortunately, not one of those times.

The Ted and Victoria plot was a pretty straight-up copy of why Ross and Emily broke up on “Friends” – the only difference being, we know the end-game here isn’t for Ted and Robin to get together. And all the talk about how the clock didn’t reset, and this is the same relationship that went on pause years ago, played (intentionally or not) like some kind of meta excuse for why the writers hadn’t bothered to do anything with Victoria this season, perhaps assuming that our memories from season 1 were all we needed to make Victoria a relevant character in season 8. And that just hasn’t been the case. Victoria 2.0 became like Don, Stella, and almost every other outside love interest in the show’s history: someone to be mentioned in passing, but rarely seen except for when one of our heroes is in a fight with them. This Victoria wasn’t a character at all, and even with my memory of how and why they broke up the first time, I didn’t buy into her ultimatum about Robin because we’d seen virtually no interaction between her and the gang, or her and Robin, since she came back. Victoria was just here to mark time for part of the season, and not because anyone had any interesting ideas about one of the best non-regular characters the show has ever had.

Speaking of running gags unintentionally playing out as a metaphor for the show, we have Nick’s desperate attempt to come up with a catchphrase. I don’t know that the Barney-isms have ever been my favorite part of “HIMYM” (I remember watching the pilot and thinking the writers and NPH were trying way too hard to make various catchphrases happen), but a lot of that stuff feels incredibly forced of late, and giving Barney a canine sidekick did not open a brilliant new vein of clever.

Nor, for that matter, did the attempt to turn Marshall into a sassy, advice-giving black woman. There’s at least some precedence for that, in that we learned from the “Sandcastles in the Sand” episode that Lily has a tendency to adopt an urban patois whenever she’s around her friend Michelle. But despite Jason Segel’s best efforts, it didn’t work.

There have been some occasionally promising moments this season, but it was hard to find them last night, I’m afraid.

What did everybody else think?

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