Giving It The Old College Try: How I Met Your Mother


America’s favorite pastime used to be baseball, but these days it’s making fun of stuff we don’t know anything about.  I’ve never watched an episode of The Jersey Shore, but in the right company, it’s great fun to take shots at, or, more accurately, to take shots at the idea that a show with that premise could be popular at all.

But shouldn’t we at least kind of know what we’re talking about?  If we’re going to have an opinion about something, shouldn’t we have some firsthand knowledge of it?  It seems like an obvious statement, but if you listen to recordings of your everyday conversations, you’ll realize that human beings don’t necessarily need to have written multiple scholarly papers on a subject before they feel perfectly comfortable weighing in with authoritative opinions.

So, in the spirit of making this crazy world make a little more sense, I’ve taken it upon myself to inform myself of something I have an opinion on, but have never actually experienced: How I Met Your Mother

What I know about the show I’ve only picked up from Internet Osmosis.  I’ve heard Neil Patrick Harris is great, that it’s pretty broad, that it’s a frame story about a guy meeting the father of his children, that somehow this premise is extended into multiple seasons, and that’s it.

Let’s do this.


0:19 – Wait, wait, wait a second.  This show has a laugh track?  [Quickly checks when the show came out] Two thousand and freaking five???  Is that even, you know, legal?  Any show with a laugh track instantly feels like it’s at least a quarter-century old.  And what exactly am I supposed to be laughing along with here?

Daughter: “Yeah, is this gonna take a while?”

Dad: “Yes.”


Um, what?  That’s not how jokes work.  You can’t put a laugh track behind ordinary conversation and have it become a joke.

1:08 – So, this guy had sex with his future fiance on a bunk bed while his best friend was in the other bunk?  Huh.  Interesting life choice.

1:21 – Ugh.  Voiceovers.  I’m not saying a voice-over is a lazy storytelling technique, but… no, wait, it totally is.  That’s an example of the lame kind of jokes that have been in the first two minutes of this show.  What have I gotten myself into?


1:30 – Neil Patrick Harris’s character is introduced as “Uncle Barney.”  So this is the Dad’s brother, I guess.  His shtick is immediately apparent and I’m guessing he’ll be ruthlessly hitting on everything female on the show, a la Joey from Friends, but from what it seems like, with more manic energy and slightly more creepy.

2:30 – Okay, I can see the Neil Patrick Harris appeal.  He’s like the Ferris Bueller of picking up women and general suaveness – things just seem to go his way, and it’s funny.  I can kind of get into that.

3:00 – What I can NOT get into is the laugh track going crazy for something that is NOT A JOKE.  “Hi, I’m Yasmin.”  “Pretty name.”  “Thanks, it’s Lebanese.” (Huge studio laugh).  That’s not a joke.  At best, that’s a callback.  So Barney likes Lebanese girls and this girl is Lebanese.  That’s… a coincidence?  Nice, I guess?  Whatever it is, it’s not funny.  This is supposed to be a comedy, right?


3:30 – My god, does Alyson Hannigan not age?  Maybe it’s just my mind screwing with me, and I guess this is from 2005, but she looks pretty much the same as I remember from the first couple seasons of Buffy.  That’s scary.

4:30 – Whatever’s going on with Marshall’s weird, nervous energy, it’s reaaaaaally off-putting.  The dynamic between him and Lily is stilted.  This whole champagne bottle thing is just groan-inducing.  It’s like they’re reading lines in a community theater sketch comedy troupe.  Damn it, both of these people are better actors than this.

5:30 – Aaaaaand the cork hits her.  File that one under “setting up a joke with the subtlety of Godzilla ”

6:35 – First actual noise of amusement – a short snort, mostly air – at Barney’s, “oh, yeah, you just know she likes it dirty.”  If there’s something I can get behind, it’s a Sterling Archer-type “horndog with no filter” who can pull it off.  NPH has enough charisma to make this fun, but so far, he’s the only thing working for me.

8:40 – Again, before the fade-out, Barney’s almost wounded reading of “I thought we were going to play lasertag tomorrow night!” really lands.  But then Ted’s “Yeah, we were never going to play lasertag tomorrow night,” isn’t a joke, it’s a statement.  I really hate that the laugh track tries to trick me into thinking that’s funny.  It’s a piece of dialogue, fine, whatever, but don’t try to sell it as a joke.

10:00 – Yikes.  Marshall is hitting all the wrong notes.  His little robot move when he says “it is on” is just…. so strange.  Is his “thing” supposed to be mild autism?


11:50 – So this girl is obviously being set up to be incredibly cool – when do we find out what’s wrong with her?

13:00 – The whole “do what that guy couldn’t and take the leap” metaphor thing was actually pretty funny.  Barney taking it a step further with “actually, that is a perfect metaphor” is the first piece of decent writing encountered in the episode.

13:13 – Pausing it right here at Barney’s, “All right, under one condition.”  If the next shot isn’t Ted in a suit, I’m going to be pretty surprised.  (Unpause) Oh, look at that.  FYI, “This is totally going in my blog,” again, laugh track, stop doing that.  Not a joke.

15:00 – Starting to get a handle on the show.  Constant callbacks, but on a very shallow level.  Heavy on the banter.  Kind of like if you took Arrested Development, took out cleverness and added knock-knock jokes.

18:00 – If there’s one sure sign that a show doesn’t trust its audience, it’s the immediate reminder after a cutback.  Ted’s blurted confession of “I love you” happened, what, 30 seconds ago?  The thing I absolutely do not need is a blatant reminder from mystery girl and Ted, when it cuts back to them, that that’s what just happened.  Is this show designed to be watched by people who aren’t actually paying attention to it?

18:18: AGAIN?  “I promised you these.”  “Olives, thanks.”  YES I KNOW THEY’RE OLIVES, they’ve only been talking about olives non-stop for the entire episode.  Beat me over the head with it some more, please.  “Olives, thanks.”  Jesus.  You know what the least natural reaction to someone handing you something is?  Immediately naming the thing.  “Here you go, Fred.”  (Hands Fred a sandwich).  “A sandwich, thanks.”


19:30 – The only thing I can focus on during Ted’s impassioned speech to mystery girl (I assume we eventually learn her name?) is that he has the incredibly annoying habit of slowly rocking back and forth when he talks.

End – And it’s over.  So I take it the gimmick of the show is that it continually introduces women who aren’t Ted’s wife?  That seems… hard to sustain.

I really tried to go into this one with an open mind, but pretty much everything rubbed me the wrong way.  The laugh track on its own was pretty tough to get over.  I realize that not all comedies start on the right foot – I read somewhere that you can’t really judge a show until you’re 10 episodes in – but even shows that started out notoriously slow (Parks and Recreation, New Girl) had a lot more potential in their pilot.

I feel pretty comfortable writing this off as a bland, broad comedy, unless you guys disagree…?

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  1. I disagree completely … the fact that it went on for 9 seasons and remained pretty funny up till the 8th season (the worst one imo) I think speaks volumes for what you consider to be a bland comedy show.

    I’ve already gone to bat for this show on this site a few other times…what makes it great and what I think a lot of people don’t understand going in – is that yes, you have to make it through the pilot and at least the first season as a whole (there aren’t that many episodes and they’re only 20 mins long anyways) to really get into the characters and what makes the rest of the seasons awesome. It’s the tie-ins, the call backs, the “have ya met ted?!” gimmicks and so on and so on. What you brush off as something that isn’t funny might very well be hilarious a few episodes from now.

    If you aren’t devoted enough to give this particular show your time, then I would say that yes, it’s not for you. It’s a light hearted comedy, it’s not meant to be super intellectual comedy or a dark comedy show. It’s friends going through life together and seeing how their lives change once certain events happen along the way. Ultimately I’d dare say it’s more of a love story than anything else. One that keeps you guessing for a long time.

    My wife and I have actually watched the last episode of the series at least 5 times and still have it on our DVR. I think mainly because we miss Ted, Barney, Marshall, Lilly and Robin as if they were somehow our actual friends. Anyone who didn’t get a little bit emotional on the last episode probably was never that into it in the first place.

  2. It’s really hard to judge this show off of the first episode. I personally hate the entire first season of the show, mainly because the show in the later seasons is so different from the first season in terms of style.

    The first season is a lot of 90’s sitcom crap with the stupid music when they change scenes, to inappropriately timed laugh tracks and unnecessarily bright sets. A lot of the jokes in the first episode are Two and a Half Men type jokes when it comes to the set up (eg. the stupid handsy joke Lily makes that accompanies the photo above).

    They get better at using the laugh track as they move forward and I agree with Lucas when it comes to what makes the show funny. Also, NPH is always a delight on the show.

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