Judge Adam Arseneau celebrates Canadian Slapsgiving.
Our reviews of How I Met Your Mother: Season One (published January 3rd, 2007), How I Met Your Mother: Season Two (published November 7th, 2007), How I Met Your Mother: Season Three (published October 29th, 2008), How I Met Your Mother: Season Four (Blu-Ray) (published October 7th, 2009), How I Met Your Mother: Season Six (published October 5th, 2011), and How I Met Your Mother: Season Seven (published October 13th, 2012) are also available.
How I Met Your Mother is the last remnant of a dated and stale comedic genre—the three-camera, laugh track sitcom—milking it for every hilarious cent. Unfortunately, in Season Five, the humor starts to run dry.
Facts of the Case
Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor, Not Another Teen Movie) is a man looking for love. A young architect in New York City, Ted is obsessed with meeting his future wife, but try as he might, he can't meet the right woman. His happily married friends Marshall (Jason Segal, I Love You, Man) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) are obnoxiously content, and his perpetually single swinger friend Barney (Neil Patrick Harris, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog) is blissfully content with bachelorhood.
Still, everything works out for Ted. Twenty-five years in the future, Ted is happily married with kids, telling them the story about how he met their mother. It's a long story…
How I Met Your Mother: Season Five contains all twenty-four episodes on three discs:
A confession: my wife is a big fan of this show. She dragged me into its fandom like a mongoose on a snake. While not my personal favorite show on television, I concede to its effortless charm and fantastic cast chemistry. If you haven't seen the show, the format is an effervescent twist on a standard sitcom: Bob Saget as the aged Ted Mosby—the textbook definition of an unreliable narrator—reminiscing on his quest for love to his teenage children, visually illustrated by excessive use of quick-cuts and chronological flash sequences, both forward and back in time as punch lines.
I knew a guy once who put twenty thousand dollars of stereo equipment into a six hundred dollar 1987 Minivan. It was pretty awesome, as long as you paid no mind to the "old and busted" elements. Nice segue, eh? How I Met Your Mother is an old-fashioned laugh track show, jazzed up around the edges with fancy editing and the occasional registration of a fake website. Credit where credit is due: the writers and producers manage to come up with some surprisingly hilarious sequences using this methodology. But when you compare it to shows like 30 Rock, Modern Family, and Arrested Development, it's hard not to think about that Minivan.
Okay, to be fair, the fake websites are brilliant. Check out the Accomplices section to get a taste.
How I Met Your Mother is a show that owes its success to its marvelous cast and their magnificent chemistry. God bless Neil Patrick Harris, because if he wasn't in this show, rest assured it would have been canceled four seasons ago. He is the comedic glue that seals things up. Jason Segal and Alyson Hannigan have their romantic timing down pat, and work together like separate hydra heads attached to a scaly body, presumably hidden off-camera. Cobie Smulders is extremely easy on the eyes, and Josh Radnor does his whiny shtick, and while the writers had the misfortune to end their relationship, they came up with another…combination.
Honestly, Robin and Barney? I can actually hear Fonzie strapping on the water skis as I type this sentence. There are only so many male/female romantic combinations a romantic sitcom can toss together, but some of them are just Bad Ideas. The Stinson/Scherbatsky combination feels awkward and gangly from the get-go. Thankfully, the writers clue into it fairly quickly and before too long, Neil Patrick Harris is in a fat suit and we're back to square one. Unfortunately, the damage has been done. Ted and Robin worked well, but the joy of Barney is his endless chauvinistic bachelorism, not seeing him pine for a lady.
Having conducted an official census of hardcore How I Met Your Mother fans (in my head) the verdict is unanimous: Season Five is not the best season. Plot lines feel stale and repetitive, jokes feel ineffective. When things get desperate, we get more Canadian jokes, Barney's Playbook and the return of Slapsgiving, which helps rebound the season. Once Ted goes house-shopping and Lily and Marshall discuss having a baby, things are back to normal, because the show works best when playing to its more wholesome themes—love, destiny and other such pleasantries. No big reveals about who Ted's future wife is so far, but if you can't stomach the occasional MacGuffin or two, you need more television practice.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen, the transfer is serviceable but lacking. Compression artifacts are easily detectable throughout the presentation. Colors are natural, but the transfer is too soft and grainy to cut high definition mustard. With eight episodes crammed onto a single disc, it's no wonder. Audio comes in a pleasant 5.1 surround treatment, which does the job well with clear dialogue and balanced bass. Alas, the rear channels are virtually mute; I can't even remember hearing them kick in once.
For extras, we get audio commentary with cast and crew on three episodes ("Duel Citizenship," "Girls vs. Suits," "The Perfect Week"), a blooper reel, three music videos ("Super Date," "Nothing Suits Me Like A Suit," "Best Night Ever"), a making of "Super Date," an extended version of "The Wedding Bride" trailer, a series recap and a behind-the-scenes featurette of the 100th episode. Not a lot of substance outside of the commentary tracks, but it's nice to see supplements included in this fifth season set. A lot of shows give it up after a few years.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Seriously…a laugh track? It is the comedic equivalent of the buggy whip. CBS is the only broadcast network doggedly sticking to this archaic formula with every single sitcom in their stable. The laugh track is a bygone relic of yesteryear programming; a time when executives were convinced beyond all logic that a show needed a canned laugh track to evoke the sensation of amusement from audiences.
For the record, How I Met Your Mother doesn't need the help in the laugh department. Still, it would be nice if the producers had that much faith.
A measurable decline in comedic fortitude, but How I Met Your Mother: Season Five still delivers the laughs for fans.
Slightly less than legen—wait for it—dary.
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Scales of Justice
• Episode Commentary
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