I know, I just got finished ranting about how great How I Met Your Mother Is. Well, I lied. Truth is, I’ve kind of felt the last few episodes were lacking.
But that’s because they were Ted-centric. Now, I like Josh Radnor, who plays Ted, and I don’t mind Ted in general, but the show’s concept, that future-Ted is telling his children about how he met their mother, can get a little cloying and overly sentimental and the way Ted is always learning and caring and growing is. . . geez. He’s a bigger girl than I am. Which is why it’s nice that we sometimes get to take a road trip to Barney-land, the happiest place on Earth where you can also get laid and, based on Barney’s income, probably get taken out for a nice dinner first.
Barney’s a great character. Even if this show doesn’t get renewed (though seriously, I don’t know how CBS could overlook that it’s EASILY the best sitcom they have and if it weren’t for the Office, it would be the best sitcom on TV) Barney is quickly becoming one of the biggest scene stealers in sitcom history. He’s right up there with George Costanza. Heck, he could rival Costanza, depending upon how they handle this upcoming storyline about the girl he dated who told all his potential hookups what a horndog he is.
The reason I like this show so much is, it doesn’t go the typical route I expect it to take. For example, in last night’s bracket episode, about halfway through, I fully believed there was no girl and Lily was just making the entire thing up to teach Barney a lesson and try to make him apologize to some of the women he mistreated. That’s not a bad way to go, but it’s slightly predictable. And right up until the final scene, I assumed that’s where we were headed. But either Lily is forcing him to suffer even more, or there really is a girl who’s killing Barney’s game and she could well be the one who makes him slow down a little. But only a little. I mean, we’ve already got a Ted, amIright?
When Friends came on the scene with its wholesome mocha lattes and friendly friendships and too-clean New York, the more established Seinfeld was heard to say “on OUR show, nobody hugs and nobody learns.” Ted is like Friends. And Barney’s like Seinfeld. And together, they are magically delicious. Because while the mystery of the umbrella and the mother intrigues me, the mystery of the blonde who screwed Barney over in his unending quest for tail is cooler because Barney’s not a total wuss like Ted. And yet, you can’t really ever fully embrace him as a character because he’s incredibly one dimensional and self-involved and yeah, he doesn’t ever seem to learn or grow.
Or does he? At the end of last night’s episode, when Barney was apologizing to a woman he didn’t even remember sleeping with for a perceived wrong he couldn’t remember committing, he seemed really upset with himself. Like that was a line he never thought he’d cross. And I think that’s because Barney is, at heart, still the same smart, sweet, Peace Corp-joining, sensitive song-writing guy he always was. The fact that he uses those traits to get himself laid regular-like doesn’t mean he’s forever lost them. So there’s learning. There’s just no hugging. And the part of me that thought every Friends episode started sucking the minute things got serious and maudlin is extremely happy about that. Just as the part of me that got kind of annoyed with the one-dimensional jackasses on Seinfeld is pleased to see that Barney isn’t without shame or heart. Witness the time he appeared to not care about Lily, but in fact, flew to San Francisco and got her to come home because Marshall was driving him crazy.
Anyhoo, moving beyond Barney, the reason I think this show elevates itself over a lot of other sitcoms is because of the extra materials the creators include. One of my all-time favourite moments from one of my all-time favourite shows happened after the show was cancelled, when Veronica Mars’ writers had wannabe rock-journo Piz craft a real-life album review for a fake internship at pitchfork.com. I love it when TV messes with itself like that. And How I Met Your Mother is one of the few that knows its core cult audience is slavishly devoted and very much online. We have seen a Myspace video of Robin Sparkles, Robin’s teenage pop-star persona, the Slapsgiving countdown timer, Marshall’s Slapsgiving video and now the in-joke heavy www.tedmosbyisajerk.com, purportedly created by one of the women Barney slept with (as Ted) and never spoke to again. The form letter “Ted” left the girl is helpfully included on the site. As are several scans of Not!Ted’s porn movies (Ted Mosby: Sex Architect being my favourite), a few drawings of “terrible fates that are too good for Ted Mosby” and the best part, a 20 minute song devoted to the girl’s love/hate relationship with “Ted.”
Who sits through 20 minutes of crazy ramblings about how much Ted (Barney) sucks? Well, lots of people. Me included. You should. There’s even some clever backmasking at the end of the song which may or may not reveal the name of the mother. Just go listen to it. Trust me. If the handclaps at 8:30 don’t get you, the Cylon reference at 13:20 will.