Reviews

How I Met Your Mother

Michael Abernethy

The story of that meeting unfolds in what will surely become the longest flashback in TV history, especially if the series stays on the air beyond a season.


How I Met Your Mother

Airtime: Mondays, 8:30pm ET
Cast: Josh Radnor, Jason Segal, Alyson Hannigan, Neil Patrick Harris, Cobie Smulders
Network: CBS
Amazon

One of the unfortunate legacies of Friends is that for the next few years, every show featuring a group of compatriots will be compared to it. How I Met Your Mother fell victim before the first episode even aired, courtesy of tv critics who pigeonholed the show without reading the press packet describing its concept. But Mother isn't Friends, and it isn't trying to be. Instead the show focuses on a sole character, Ted (Josh Radnor), who is feeling pressure to find his soul mate after his best friend Marshall (Jason Segal) and his gal Lily (Alyson Hannigan) get engaged.

The opening scene of the series is set in the year 2030, as Ted's two teenage kids sit down to watch a video of their father describing how he met their mother. The story of that meeting unfolds in what will surely become the longest flashback in tv history, especially if the series stays on the air beyond a season. The fact that the kids are hearing the story via video immediately raises questions: where is Ted, and why isn't he telling them the story in person? Where is their mother? Why does he feel they need to hear this story now?

None of these questions are answered in the pilot. Instead, we get to know the characters and the ground for looks like an epic romance, as Ted's desire for love is kicked into overdrive when he meets Robin (Cobie Smulders). Ted immediately decides Robin is the woman who will become his wife. Opposing Ted's quest to win Robin is his buddy Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), who previously made him promise not to settle down until he was 30, still three years away.

Though CBS is plainly relying on tv veterans Hannigan and Harris to attract viewers (this much is clear in the ads), so far, all the characters are predictable types: Ted is lovable and slightly insecure; Barney is the ladies' man whose ego is larger than his appeal; Marshall is the bumbling, good-hearted second banana; and Lily is the sweet but slightly wild female who spends all her time with male friends. Unlike the gang in most "friends" shows, who share equal story arcs, this group acts as a counterpoint to the protagonist, with Lily and Marshall voicing Ted's "passion," encouraging him to follow his desire for Robin, and Barney articulating doubt.

Once establishing Ted's undying love for Robin and his overwhelming desire to marry her, the premiere cuts back to Ted's kids watching the video, just in time to hear him announce, "And that is how I met your Aunt Robin." So, it seems, Robin is not the great love of his life; she is the sister of the woman who will become Ted's wife. This revelation creates clear problems. First, viewers are now aware that Ted's chasing of Robin is for naught. This pursuit is continued in the second episode, as Ted throws party after party in hopes that Robin will show up. Since Smulders is listed as a regular, it is safe to assume that their relationship will develop over the series. Perhaps friendship is more interesting than marriage, given that the wife is so conspicuously absent in the narration.

Additionally, Ted's disclosure raises the questions about Robin's sister. Since the kids are about 15 years old, it could be years before Ted meets her. Is he going to have an ill-fated fling with Robin while viewers wait for the future Mrs. Ted? Will there be a love triangle? Will Ted settle for her when he can't get Robin to commit? None of these options is particularly enticing. Granted, Robin's sister's identity and whereabouts create a moderate mystery. However, the only foreseeable future involves heartbreak and disappointment, hardly the hallmarks of comedy.

The comedy that does occur in How I Met Your Mother isn't enough to compensate for its inconsistencies. The jokes are often predictable or lame. For instance, Barney's insistence that Ted dress up in a suit to go out ("Suit up!") was instantly tired. Likewise, when Barney plants a kiss on Marshall to make a point to Ted, the joke is too evident to be amusing -- look, the ladies' man is kissing another guy. With the increased presence of gays on television, the shock value of such a scene has long passed. Maybe How I Met Your Mother should have tried to be more like Friends after all.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Music

Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.

Music

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings Team for Wonderfully Sparse "Where Or When" (premiere)

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings' "Where Or When" is a wonderfully understated performance that walks the line between pop and jazz.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.

Music

Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.

Music

That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.

Books

Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.

Reviews

Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.

Music

Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.

Film

'Thor: Ragnorak' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.

Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.