Judge Dennis Prince has never met your mother, though he was seen trying to buy your sister a drink.
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 Four (Blu-Ray) (published October 7th, 2009), How I Met Your Mother: Season Five (published October 14th, 2010), 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.
Wait for it…
If you've been watching television sitcoms for any number of years (read: more than a dozen), you'll realize that today's crop of antics are generally pale retreads of what has gone before and those former exploits redressed for an unwary younger audience today often reveal themselves as less than the cream of the crop, to boot. Such is the case with How I Met Your Mother, a dutiful dalliance into the realm of young upwardly mobile persons who are struggling to find meaningful relationships in their young adult years.
Sound familiar? It should.
So stop me if you've heard this one—it's "legendary." Five friends live and languish among New York's next generation, brimming with a supposed self-confidence that is immediately betrayed by their obvious emotional impotence to exist as anything beyond social posers. What does this have to do with "your mother?" In a reach for freshness, this is a "love story in reverse" within which Ted Mosby (narrated in voiceover by Bob Saget) is telling his children, in the year 2030, how he met their mother. Portrayed on screen by Josh Radnor, twenty-something Ted is inspired to find a soulmate when his roomate, Marshall (Jason Segel, Freaks & Geeks) hitches up with pleasant-yet-not-seemingly-fully-committed Lily (Alyson Hannigan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Ted's "wingman" in woman hunting is the incorrigible Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris, Doogie Howser, M.D.), an egregiously self-assured and impeccably self-appointed cad who takes womanizing to a new low (and, when you consider the casting here, I guess this is the funniest element of the show). And this Season 3 finds Ted has broken off a promising relationship with Canadian beauty, Robin (Cobie Smulders, The Storm Awaits), though the two remain in friendly terms as both decide where they'll take their lives from here. So who will be the future Mrs. Mosby? Stay tuned…
One look and it's evident that troubles that face How I Met Your Mother aren't even needful of a couch trip but, rather, can be easily and accurately diagnosed at a psychological advice window: these characters are neurotic. Now, not the kind of funny-neurotic of the Seinfeld cast, the sort that effectively held up the mirror to the rest of us to see just how obsessive-compulsive we can be with our varied ticks and idiosyncrasies; we laugh out loud at the sheer honesty of it all. With HIMYM (as the "hey, text me" crowd likes to key in), the neuroses is not played for honesty but, rather, for cheap laughs reliant upon a non-stop stream of disconnected cynicism. Sure, each twenty-something-minute episode is rife with rapid-fire barbs and other such unprovoked berating, and you might even get a mild chuckle or two along the way, but as a whole, the show's comedic foundation and sharp-witted structure fails to be engaging after the first five minutes or so.
Perhaps HIMYM fails to engage some viewers in a meaningful way since, like the technologically overwrought culture it depicts (that's today, folks), it hasn't the patience to see its work through to completion before it's started off on its next thread of thinking. Ironically, although it's asserted this is a bland riff on the Friends success, the five characters here appear to be anything but chummy with one another, evidenced largely for the lack of genuine attention the afford one another. Each is so self-absorbed (and this is where the bucketfuls of laughs are supposed to flow from) that they rarely develop some sort of meaningful connection that an audience can really latch onto. Instead, the situation flits and flirts from intended gag to gag, but this wholly disaffected viewer found little, the situations being about as interesting as any random circle of teens at the local mega mall, they who don't speak to each other but, rather, defer interest to whomever is on the receiving end of a cell call or IM. And HIMYM (this Season 3, to be precise) doesn't get into my "favorite five" because it presents itself in such a hurry to get to the next gag or setup or punch line that it completely dispenses with the essence of comedic timing (ironic, then, Barney's key tagline is "wait for it…"; these situations never wait for the comedy to reach peak swell before prematurely releasing the payoff that never fully cashes in).
What—too much analysis for a simple-minded comedy show? Maybe. It's apparent that many others have previously weighed in citing this CBS offering as the funniest show ever and bestowing upon it such high praise that, certainly, this assessment must be woefully miscalculated and misguided. Perhaps, or perhaps this courtroom believes the viewership is worthy of a better-crafted product instead of this kool-aid concoction that operates on a cliquish youth "hipness" appeal that few would dare to question in social circles. Frankly, the up-and-coming generation of family men and women do deserve much more. It's fine and very healthy to be able to laugh at ourselves in self-deprecating manner vis-a-vis an ensemble setting like this but when there's nothing learned, nothing that can be deposited in the emotional bank account for future use, well then it's just exploitative dreck.
In this court's considered opinion, the viewers deserve more. And, since the viewers are up-and-coming adults, they deserve some adult intellect within their comedy.
Now, all this isn't to say that HIMYM is a complete misfire. Without question, Neil Patrick Harris absolutely owns the role of Barney, the former child actor having developed a razor tongue and brisk delivery that would leave most water-cooler wiseasses dumbfounded. Indeed, Harris is ready for something more substantial than a gig that plays to the one-dimensional character assaults on display here. Consider it a stepping-stone, then, as this should prove to be mere fodder in the actor's resume toward more relevant recognition—we hope. The rest of the cast play their stereotypical roles without much gusto, likely hamstrung by the tired premise at hand. But the folks are laughing, so they say, and HIMYM is the best new show to hit the airwaves in years, I'm told.
I'm still waiting for it.
Crammed into the three single-sided discs here are 20 episodes from the show's third season. The folks at Fox prove the "third time is the charm" tenet by finally delivering the anamorphically enhanced widescreen presentation of the episodes (previously released in the cropped 4:3 format in the boxed sets for Season 1 and Season 2). The image quality is good, as expected, looking every much as decent as the broadcast quality of the current Season 4. Audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix but don't think you'll get to exercise your upwardly mobile home theater system here; you'll just enjoy a bit more audio clarity for the on-screen shenanigans. Features here are rather overwhelming—even presumptuous—beginning with a bevy of audio commentaries where cast and crew assemble to slap each other on the back for being so consistently clever. Next up are several featurettes that attempt to insist you buy into the show's self-proclaimed superiority. Some behind-the-scenes footage and the unrated gag real are genuinely fun but, alas, too short. Dispensable music videos are also on tap. And, yes, this is the season that features rebounding Britney Spears in a small role as a dermatologist's receptionist ("Ten Sessions").
As vigorous as the charges raised here against How I Met Your Mother, the final analysis should bear out that the program is rather benign in its affect upon viewers. The show seems burdened to live up to the hype CBS has whipped up for it while the audience seems too frightened to proclaim it wants something better. Oh well, as long as their laughing in between peering into their cell phones, then perhaps it's working for someone, somewhere.
And so, this court administers How I Met Your Mother: Season 3 a judgment of…wait, I have another message coming in. TTFN.
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