January 3, 2011

Episode Review: HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, "Bad News"

I have to admit that this week's How I Met Your Mother had me torn by episode's end. On one hand, I laughed more during "Bad News" than I had during most episodes of Seasons 4-6, but as a whole it was all over the map tonally and thematically.

Marshall and Lily are still trying to get pregnant, and decided to get some help from a specialist who looked a lot like Barney. While a lot of the LAME plot focused on the couple trying to figure out if Dr. Stangel was in fact a doppelganger or Barney in disguise, it also took a serious and heartfelt look at parenthood and Marshall's relationship with his father. The B-plot was the return of Robin's greatest hits (or misses) as she got acclimated to and found a place at her new job at World Wide News.

Barney was responsible for most of the laughs due to his obsession with laser tag and his doppelganger, and without him this episode might have been a dud. I've never denounced my love for Neil Patrick Harris, and I can accept the fact that Barney is the show's break-out character, but sometimes he's better in small doses like he was in "Bad News". While in a lot ways, NPH was in Classic Stinson mode, the fact that he did not dominate the episode made his role more palatable because too much Barney can wear thin after a while. This time around, almost all of his jokes landed because I wasn't suffering from Barney fatigue.

My only real gripe with "Bad News" was Robin's B-plot because it was nothing more than a clip show. I've written before that the HIMYM writers sometimes latch on to a joke and beat it to death, and Robin Sparkles has become a prime example of this fault. "Let's Go To The Mall" (music video) was an iconic moment, but "Sandcastles in the Sand" (video and episode) and Space Teens were not as funny as the creators thought they were. Even during this episode they went to the thumbs down/raspberry joke one too many times. Luckily, Robin's story was salvaged thanks to Ted and the return of Sandy Rivers, but that's not necessarily a good thing.

The major plot line revolved around Lily and Marshall's on-going journey towards parenthood, and it was a mix of cheap laughs (Marshall "blow drying his hair") and somberness (the big twist ending). Usually, I'm not a big fan of these two when they're dealing with married life mostly because they've either become boring or annoying, but I liked most of their story. Initially, I was a little put off by the big twist ending because the tone of the episode changed so rapidly, although there was some foreshadowing, but I warmed to it due to Jason Segel's amazing performance. I don't need HIMYM to morph into a dark comedy, but I wouldn't be opposed to more of these more serious installments.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • I didn't even realize there was a countdown going on until I jumped on Twitter. Honestly, I'm glad I didn't catch on because it would have been distracting, but it's a fun little gimmick although it cannot compare to what Community's given us.
  • I found myself liking Ted more during last night's episode compare to previous ones like "False Positive". The writers still need to do some damage control to make him likable again, but things are starting to look up.
  • "Put him in a body bag!" Karate Kid references are always welcomed.
I still haven't forgiven How I Met Your Mother for the awfulness of recent seasons, but there have been enough highlights during Season 6 to keep me around for a little while longer. The big moments in episodes like "Bad News", "False Positive", and "Cleaning House" had me gradually caring about these characters again, but I'm still waiting for another lackluster outing to harsh my buzz. I guess that's just the pessimist in me. All bitterness aside, I thought "Bad News" was one of the funnier episodes of late with the right mix of real emotion to make it a pretty well-rounded piece of television.


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