How To Ruin An Entire Series

So last night, after nine seasons of waiting and wondering, we finally learned how Ted Mosby met the mother of his children. Her name was Tracy, and what little we saw of their relationship drove home the point that she was truly perfect for him. They had two kids, finally tied the knot. And then she died. That’s right. TV’s version of a mythical rom-com ended with the girl of Ted’s dreams coughing in a hospital bed. And why? So he could end up with Robin. Robin whose season long wedding weekend to Barney ended in divorce after which she revealed herself to be a pretty lousy friend. But Ted still ended up at her window with that damned blue French horn. So in short, people, this was one big long con, and the more I think about it, the angrier I get. And it’s not just because this finale was such a colossal misfire. It’s because fans have been robbed of that one bit of comfort that comes when a beloved series signs off. Because who can enjoy the reruns now?

Consider this. Some people like to reference Seinfeld as having the most disappointing series finale of all time. I’ll confess that I wasn’t blown away when I first saw it, but over the years, it’s kind of grown on me. Even if it hasn’t worked that same kind of magic on you, that final episode in no way diminishes the series as a whole, and you can go back and re-watch the adventures of Jerry and the gang and still enjoy nearly every single second of it.

HIMYM? Not going to happen. How can anyone watch Ted and Robin’s sweet courtship and logical break-up or Barney’s final play that was his proposal to Robin, or this entire final season building up to the Barney/Robin wedding and take any pleasure in any of it? This is a betrayal of St. Elsewhere-ian proportions, and the fact that Bays and Thomas might get to do it all over again is criminal. Legendary? Sure. But for all the wrong reasons, Bro.

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HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: So Robin’s the bride…

…and I could care less. Thought Marshall and Lily’s baby is cute, but unless they turn things around next season, I’m over this show.

Emmy Thoughts

Emmy Nominations announced today, boys and girls. Here are the top five reasons why I am happy and frustrated all at once:

  1. Mad Men’s writing nod for the best episode of anything of 2010: I’ve already discussed on this blog why “The Suitcase” was the most compelling hour of television offered last year. What was essentially a Don/Peggy duet is in no way hindered by a viewer unfamiliar to the complicated relationship of our two leads. It helps to know the whole story behind the screams, the laughs, the tears, the poor punches (Duck does make an appearance), and the ultimate love on display between the unraveling genius and the protegé who is more than possibly even he ever imagined. Naturally the experience is only enhanced if you know the entire backstory, but so sublime are the performances from Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss and so skilled the words making their way from page to screen, a glimpse into what makes any “most important” connection between two people work, that I cannot see how it will be denied the trophy (but of course, this is the Emmys, people).
  2. Parks and Recreation a contender for Outstanding Comedy Series: Guess the Emmys will never got on board with Community (their loss), but Parks and Recreation definitely made moves to find its own identity on NBC’s Thursday night lineup. April and Andy’s wedding, the permanent additions of Ben and Chris, Ron Swanson’s turkey burger, and Leslie at something of a professional and/or personal crossroads at the season’s conclusion added up to a show that I will be rooting for even if I think it has zero chance of claiming a title it held for more weeks than not.
  3. Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series?: Where the fuck are the Boardwalk Empire boys? Michaels Pitt and Shannon (especially Shannon) mesmerized with characters who defied expectations. At one point, Pitt’s Jimmy seemed doomed to fall into a self-loathing addiction reminiscent of Christopher Moltisanti, but he got his head together to partner with his long-estranged birth father, and he is poised to go after father figure Nucky in Season Two. And Van Alden? Van Alden?! Only the most twisted character in a world of gangsters and murders. And he’s the law! Should have both been recognized.
  4. Everybody from Mildred Pierce but…: I didn’t get a chance to properly praise HBO’s compelling mini-series, but let me express how pleased I am to see most of the stellar cast and the brilliant writing rewarded with nominations. Evan Rachel Wood is worthy for her turn as the older Veda, a budding singer who betrays her titular mother in the worst way imaginable. But Morgan Turner’s performance as the younger Veda showed the audience how and why Veda could and would go to such monstrous lengths. I adore Kate Winslet (and she will win the Emmy), but this was the highlight of an awesome collection of episodes.
  5. Where’s Jason Segel?: How I Met Your Mother has been better, but props where props are due. Jason Segel acted the shit out of  Marshall’s fear of trying to have a baby/becoming a dad, the loss of his own father, a radical change in career paths, and the news of Lily’s pregnancy in the season finale. Should have been nominated, wasn’t, so while I’m looking forward to the telecast, you can see why I’m far from pleased with today’s announcement.

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: Fingers Crossed

I love the promise of a season finale. The food poisoning (hi, Dave Foley!) and kind of aimless Ted plot aside, there’s still a lot to take in. Marshall and Lily are pregnant. You kind of saw that coming as Marshall finally got a break in a pretty awful year. So at long last a little Eriksen is on the horizon. On the other hand, we are absolutely no closer to learning the identity of Ted’s future wife. She’s at the wedding, sure. But after a season premiere that seemed to promise the answer we’ve all been waiting for, the wedding was as frustrating a psych as the blonde who received Zoey’s orchid. Still, I’ll take what I can get. The wedding is Barney’s. But is Robin the bride?

Barney already kind of sort of admitted that he’s already met the right girl prior to his night on the town with Jerry. But that offhanded remark was replaced with the wistful realization that Barney loved and likely still loves Robin. And she feels exactly the same. Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders were about as romantic as they’ve ever been in that scene. Now I know that the episode stressed out with the old, in with the new and not returning to the past just because it’s familiar. And Nora reappeared. But as Robin watched her walk away, initially happy for Barney and then all kinds of confused and sad because she wants to be the challenge that he accepts, I think we basically saw one of the main arcs of Season 7. Barney is going to court Nora. Hell, maybe Barney’s even choosing a tie for their wedding. But even if it’s at the absolute last minute, Barney and Robin will realize that they are meant to be together. Has to be. Better be. I’m choosing to be optimistic. Because if I’m being honest, the batch of episodes featuring Barney and Robin as a couple are some of my favorite of the entire series. I want more of the same. Oh, and if we meet the mother, that’ll just be the icing on the cake.

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: Buh-Bye, Zoey

For much of the HIMYM season, I have not been a fan of Zoey (although her ex is a different story.) So while I wasn’t sad to see the character (probably) gone for good, I have to say that when she charged the stage with Ted’s recorded praise for the Arcadian, Zoey finally made an impression.

Using Ted’s words against him in front of his bosses and jeopardizing both Ted’s and Barney’s jobs was all kinds of evil. Yet, Ted cared for Zoey, she cared for him, and his friends liked her (at least they said they did). So how could Zoey, whose marriage, limiting as it was, recently fell apart and who found new love and a surrogate family, throw everything away for a building? I know, I know. She grew up there. But she placed the Arcadian above the actual people in her life. And I felt incredibly sad for her in that instant. In the end, Zoey lost it all. Also kind of tragic. She never really fit in with Ted and the gang, but I think I would follow Jennifer Morrison in a similar role (in a different setting) with great fascination.

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: Role-Playing

So what did you think? When Lithgow’s Jerry first appeared, I applauded his chemistry with NPH and the years-in-the-making confrontation between Jerry and Barney. But I was not a fan of the B plot. Tonight’s episode was, for the most part, better overall. It didn’t pack the emotional punch of “Legendaddy,” and there was still a weak link in the chain. But a lot of it was near perfect.

“Crazy Jerry” gave Lithgow a chance to really cut loose before revealing that Jerry was merely acting so he could hang with his son, which gave way to Barney’s memories of what really happened (I particularly liked Jerry challenging the mannequin to a fight). Then came a series of touching father-son scenes: in handcuffs, running from the cops, fleeing the city with one of Jerry’s driving students. You know. Typical rites of passage. But it was sweet when Jerry produced the button he’d given Barney so long ago, and don’t forget the hint that Barney’s already met the right girl to settle down with (please, please, please let it be Robin!).

Speaking of Ms. Scherbatsky, remember that weak link I was talking about? Exhibit A. Robin and Ted “dating” again for Jerry’s benefit had potential, but then Michael Trucco showed up. Nothing against him; Samuel Anders was awesome. But first we saw Robin and Don then Barney and Nora and now Robin and… this guy. Just get them back together already! And Ted really had nothing to do except rock those hideous red cowboy boots.

Lily and Marshall, on the other hand, were on fire. Marshall the faux playwright discussing the “bourgeois” and “ennui” was matched by Lily going all Miranda Priestly and berating her Tony Award-winning husband for essentially loafing while she works 90 hours a week. Good stuff (and of course Lily got the five phone numbers first, but Marshall enjoyed himself, albeit quickly).

All and all, not a bad night for HIMYM. The confusion over club names was funny, but it went on way too long. Barney announcing that he and his friends had a band before the gang played the theme song? That was rich. They hit the joke and moved on. Kind of like I hope the show would with some of these detours on the way to Barney and Robin, Part Two.

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: How Barney Met His Father

At long last, Barney Stinson met his long lost dad (played by the awesome John Lithgow). Let’s get the weak bit out of the way first. Intermingled with some great scenes between Lithgow and the equally awesome NPH, we saw the other friends calling each other out for all those little things they should know as adults but somehow fail to understand. And come on! Would someone as smart as Robin not know that the North Pole is a real place (or that Jack Kennedy and John Kennedy were the same person)? Would architect/college professor Ted really not know how to pronounce chameleon? Kind of liked the gang calling Lily out on her lack of aim, but the only aspect of the plot that slightly worked was Marshall begging his friends to stop cutting him breaks because of his own father’s passing (the possum was the sight gag, but I loved Barney and Ted struggling to agree that The Phantom Menace was the best of the Star Wars series). Other than that, the subplot sagged.

Back to the A story, while it was pretty obvious that Barney’s version (name drop!) of his drink with Jerry was what Barney wanted his dad to be, Lithgow played the faux father well. But Barney’s dad is no legen-wait for it-dary ladies man but rather a driving instructor from White Plains. So Barney vows to never speak to his father again, which led to another fabulous Marshall moment (he really can’t speak to his father again; side note: don’t you think Jason Segel should get an Emmy nomination for this season’s worth of work?). Barney agrees to dinner with Jerry and his family, and what started off amusing (Barney getting into it with his newly discovered little brother, JJ), turns heavy when Barney realizes the kid got the suburban dad that he was denied. The scene at the basketball hoop? Foreshadowed and excellent. You knew Jerry would pull out a screwdriver to fill in Barney’s gap, but damn if it still worked as did Barney giving the hoop to Ted. And that’s really the story of this season. It takes awhile to get there, but more episodes than not end with a painfully poignant moment. Pretty sure we’ll see Lithgow again. Just surround the next stage of the reunion with a better B plot.

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: When Ray and Neil Taught Eric It’s Not About the Number of Lines

When last we met our heroes, Marshall received the devastating news of his father’s sudden passing. With the gang in tow, Marshall made his way to Minnesota to lay his father the rest. What followed worked for three reasons:

  1. Everyone has a role to play: Robin as “vice girl” with her Mary Poppins on an acid trip bag of tricks helps everyone make it through the day (how did she get that Crocodile Dundee DVD?), but Lily also did her part by driving Marshall’s mother to eat and sleep, and Ted and Barney were all about finding a viral clip to put a smile on their Bro’s face. Silly to be sure, but a completely accurate depiction of how we help our loved ones through tragedy.
  2. Only Small Actors: You’ve probably heard about the Twitter fight between NPH and Young and the Restless star Eric Braeden when the latter would not reprise his role as Robin’s dad because the role was “not substantial enough” (I’m on Team Neil all the way). So Ray Wise stepped in at the last moment to play Scherbatsky Sr. And he rocked it. We only saw him on the other end of a phone call, putting down Robin’s life choices before remembering to wish her a happy birthday. But in under a minute of screen time, he created a character, a history, and did more to suggest the twisted dynamic between Robin and her dad than Braeden did during his previous stint. Guess the part was substantial enough for Wise.
  3. Barney for the Win: Finally we came to Marshall blasting God for taking his father from him without so much as comforting last words (or so he thought), and Jason Segel was fantastic. But the camera kept cutting to Barney, his eyes brimming with tears. Without any words, Harris played his love for his friend, the sorrow of not knowing his own father, and the desire to make that connection even at the risk of Marshall’s pain. Just beautifully done, and in the end Barney takes the step to meet his dad at long last. And with hardly any dialogue! Take that, Victor Newman!

Great episode on all fronts.

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: With the good comes the bad

I wouldn’t say that tonight’s How I Met Your Mother was a classic. We met Barney’s doppelgänger in the form of Lily and Marshall’s fertility doctor, Robin came into contact with the odious Sandy Rivers at her new job (and we got a montage of Robin’s humiliations over the years), and Ted… well he pretty much stayed on the sidelines for this one. But that last scene, Marshall rushing out of MacLaren’s to share his good news with Lily (his boys can swim) only to be confronted with the fact that his father has suddenly died… wow. Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan were heartbreaking, and while the episode itself came and went, the image of Lily and Marshall holding each other, crying, might be one of the most moving moments of the entire series.

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: Two Out of Three STILL Ain’t Bad

Tonight’s How I Met Your Mother worked and it didn’t. Bad news first. Robin and Marshall never hang out? “Little Minnesota” anyone? Their awkward dinner was just an excuse for Marshall to explain the titular “Mermaid Theory,” which did provide the amusing sight of Barney and Marshall as horny sailors. But nothing else made much of an impact (save for Cobie Smulders as a drunken manatee about to metamorphosize).

The Barney/Lily plot fared better. At first I saw Barney’s overly emotional state as a callback to Barney learning the identity of his father. But in a clever use of fractured narrative, Future Ted finally put the pieces together and remembered that Barney offended Lily by way of her soon-to-be-pregnant frame. Bits like the ice cream cone revealed as Marshall and Lily’s unborn child and proof that Future Ted’s recollection of Barney’s magic trick actually did make sense paid off. Don’t you love it when a story comes together?

But what I liked best was Ted yachting with “The Captain” (Kyle MacLachlan, older but still hot). Even though we knew Ted wasn’t in any real danger for a second on the open sea, “The Captain’s” nervous habit of making everything sound like a murder plot exploited what David Lynch realized decades ago; the guy is brilliantly creepy. I could care less about Zoey, who was basically an afterthought in this episode. But (and I know this won’t happen) if “The Captain” could hang out at MacLaren’s from time to time, hit on Robin, spar with Barney… yeah, I’d watch that.