by Aprille Hanson & Julian Spivey
The long running CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” comes to an end tonight and we finally get to find out the answer to how Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) met the mother and see how the storyline of one of the best and most tight-knit group of friends on television comes to an end.
While there’s good reason to believe the one-hour finale tonight will end up as one of the legen…wait for it…dary episodes of the series’ catalogue, it’s time to pay tribute to some of the truly fantastic episodes that have come before it. It’s tough to come up with a small list of the best episodes of this truly wonderful series, because there have been so many classics, but here are five that particularly stood out.
"The Naked Man" Season 4, Episode 9
Who would have thought that a creepy man who just went on a horrible date could get a woman to sleep with him by just sitting in her living room, totally naked? The writers of ‘HIMYM,’ that’s who. Robin (Cobie Smulders) goes on a date with a short, balding man named Mitch. The chemistry isn’t there, but when Ted runs up to their apartment for a quick moment, he finds Mitch in all his naked glory, chilling on his couch. The move is simple – sit there naked, surprising the date, the two laugh and jump in bed together. It works a guaranteed two out of three times. Ted leaves horrified and confused, but as the whole gang rushes back to the apartment to try and stop Robin from killing the guy, they find that the two are well … busy.
Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) has officially found his new hero and the whole gang tries their own version of the “Naked Man.” Lily (Allyson Hannigan) seduces Marshall (Jason Segel), easily. Ted goes on a date with what turns out to be an obnoxious woman, but uses the “Naked Man” trick – it works. Too bad for Barney that it only works two out of three times. Meanwhile, Robin tries to find her dignity by going on a few more dates with Mitch.
The absurdity of this episode makes it a classic and the clips of Ted and Barney striking various “Naked Man” poses including Barney’s “The Burt Reynolds,” is just too hilarious.
"Slap Bet" Season 2, Episode 9
This episode was perhaps the most important from a comedic standpoint because it spawned two running story lines: the slap bet between Barney and Marshall and Robin Sparkles. The episode starts out with a simple premise: Robin does not want to go to the mall with Ted. In fact, she won’t go near any mall and she won’t say why. Marshall thinks she was married in a mall in Canada. Barney thinks she did adult movies in a mall. With the appointment of Lily as slap bet commissioner, the slap bet is made – the winner of the bet gets to the slap the loser as hard as possible. When Robin tells Ted yes, she was married in a mall, Marshall throws his might into a slap from Barney. But, hold on now, she lied. Barney gets to hit Marshall three times.
Turns out, they were both wrong. Robin was a teenage pop star in Canada with the hit song, “Let’s Go to the Mall.” And there’s a music video to prove it.
Since Barney didn’t win the slap bet, he gets a choice – 10 slaps from Marshall in a row or five anytime Marshall chooses.
He goes for the five, giving fans years of slaps to look forward too. The episode is out-of-the-box creativity at its finest.
"The Pineapple Incident" Season 1, Episode 10
Before the concept of the movie “The Hangover,” there was “The Pineapple Incident.” After Barney, Lily and Marshall criticize Ted for overthinking everything he does, he loses his inhibitions by drinking five shots of “Red Dragon,” created by the MacLaren's bartender. He’s pumped, excited and then … black out. The next day, he wakes up next to a woman he doesn’t know, a sprained ankle, writing on his arm and part of his jacket burnt. As he spends the day piecing together the puzzle from the night before, he never finds out the biggest mystery of all – the pineapple sitting on his nightstand. In a series of flashbacks, viewers get “drunk” on this journey with Ted that will go down as the best hangover episode on the show.
"The Final Page, Part 1 & 2" Season 8, Episodes 11, 12
For eight seasons, fans watched Barney burn through the pages of his “Playbook,” tricks and schemes to get women to sleep with him. He seems however, to have left those days behind, dating a completely mismatched co-worker who Robin loathes named Patrice. Robin, who is annoyed that Patrice constantly wants to be her best friend, is ready to fire her for dating Barney, her ex, who whether she admits it or not, still has feelings for. The first part ends with Barney revealing to Ted he’s going to propose to Patrice.
The second part is the most magical play Barney ever constructed called, “The Robin.” When Ted spills the beans and convinces Robin, despite his feelings for her, to go after Barney and stop him, she decides to go.
She makes her way up to the WWN building where she finds Barney … and no sign of Patrice. The trick – which included getting shot down by Robin for the longest time and then pretending to date Patrice, with her consent of course – was genius and while deceitful, the most romantic play that Barney ever came up with. He proposed, Robin said yes and that completed the final page of his “Playbook.”
"How Your Mother Met Me" Season 9, Episode 16
For ‘HIMYM’ fans, the reveal of the mother was something that we’d been waiting for since the pilot. She had to be perfect for Ted. Not good, great, PERFECT. And she is. In its final season, the show has chronicled the weekend of Barney and Robin’s wedding, but has given us a series of flash forwards to see how Ted and the mother go about their lives together – from Ted’s wedding proposal to their children’s birth to her becoming a best-selling author. What would have been a challenge for most writers was how to incorporate all the little hints about the mother that have been dropped throughout the years: the yellow umbrella, the bumping into her at the St. Patrick’s Day party, her being a student in his class, etc.
All those questions were answered in “How Your Mother Met Me.” We meet the mother — still don’t know her name — waiting for her longtime boyfriend at a bar with friends. It’s her birthday and when he doesn’t show up, it’s quickly revealed that he was killed. It’s a dark twist that the show handled with such care and compassion it makes you root for the mother even more. After all, she’s not just some girl; she’s the girl.
It shows the scenes of their almost chance meetings from her perspective, making the storylines fit together magically. Incorporating her story, including her heartbreak, makes her three-dimensional, not just a one-dimensional fantasy for fans anymore. Even more than the big reveal, this was the episode that fans have been waiting for.
Now, all she needs is a name.
“Pilot” Season 1, Episode 1
Choosing the pilot episode of “How I Met Your Mother” for this list might seem like a copout with all of the excellent episodes over its nine seasons, but going back recently and watching it I believe it really stands out as one of the best (I will add, though, that I typically feel this way about pilots). The pilot is our introduction to a series … it’s the “will we or won’t we” fall in love with this series and almost instantaneously do we fall in love with Ted, Barney, Robin, Marshall and Lily. There are so many running bits from this series that debut in the pilot like Barney’s “have you met, Ted?” tagline to introduce women to Ted and the “Suit Up!” cry that became one of Barney’s many great catchphrases along the way. I believe the very first “legen…wait for it…dary” was uttered in this opener, as well. The first episode also introduced us to one of the great sitcom relationships in Ted and Robin, even if we knew how it would play out by the end of that episode with the shocker of an announcement that was “and that’s how I met your Aunt Robin.” The pilot was a perfect introduction to a group of friends we would welcome into our lives and cherish for the next decade.
“Arrivederci, Fiero” Season 2, Episode 17
The season two episode “Arrivederci, Fiero” is an excellent “How I Met Your Mother” episode for many, many reasons. The first and foremost reason is that it gives us the backstory on how Ted and Marshall truly became best friends over a college Christmas break road trip. These flashbacks, which really are a truly great and important aspect (along with the show’s usage of flashforwards) of ‘HIMYM,’ are among the best in the series. One of my favorite aspects of this episode is the running gag of Marshall’s Fiero having eaten his single of The Proclaimer’s ‘90s one-hit wonder “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” and it being the only song him and Ted can listen to on their trip and the ups and downs that come with that, especially their epic renditions. One of the funniest storylines of the episode is how Barney is the only one of the group who absolutely hates the car, because of a terrifying experience learning to drive in it. Overall, “Arrivederci Fiero” is one of the great bonding episodes between this great group of friends.
“How Your Mother Met Me” Season 9, Episode 16
You know “How I Met Your Mother” is truly a wonderfully written show when they can add a new character in the final season, do an episode completely from that character’s point of view, with little interaction among the principle cast and become one of the series’ classics. That’s exactly what the show did with this season’s “How Your Mother Met Me.” I, like many fans, thought that we wouldn’t get the pleasure of seeing the mother of Ted’s children until the very last scene (or at least episode) of the series. The show’s creators did the right thing in introducing her to the audience in the season eight finale and then adding her to the cast for the final season in storylines either not involving Ted or through flashforwards with Ted. After the show introduced the perfectly casted Cristin Milioti as the mother, the next logical step was to do an episode on her storyline leading up to the present time. The episode, which started with tragedy, ended in a beautiful moment where “the mother” sings “La Vie en Rose” accompanied by her ukulele playing on her hotel balcony where Ted can hear, but not see, her. One of the most beautiful scenes of a series filled with them.
“Slap Bet” Season 2, Episode 9
“Slap Bet,” from the show’s second season (which could likely be considered the show’s best), is among the show’s funniest when it comes to pure laughs. It’s also generally the highest ranked episode of this series among fans and critics alike. It includes two long-running bits that fans absolutely adore: the slap bet that it takes its title from (and was just finished up in the series’ penultimate episode last week) and it was the debut of Robin’s teenage Canadian pop star alter-ego Robin Sparkles (which I do find a bit overrated). I’m sure “slap bet” was a thing long before this series, but ‘HIMYM’ is the reason why it’s now a huge part of the pop culture lexicon. The terror Barney feels when he believes Marshall is about to slap the hell out of him is among the funniest moments in this series’ long run, as is Barney’s exuberant enjoyment upon finding Robin’s past “Let’s Go to the Mall” music video.
“The Naked Man” Season 4, Episode 9
When it comes to downright hilarious episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” it can be very hard to choose. There’s, of course, “Slap Bet” and its offshoot “Slapsgiving.” There’s the epic “The Playbook” episode that probably is the first runner-up to my list. Then there’s the hilarity of “being too old for this … stuff” in “Murtaugh.” However, for my money, the funniest episode of ‘HIMYM’ is probably season four’s “The Naked Man.” It’s such a unique and out there concept that you know the writer of this episode, Joe Kelly, has to know somebody who has done this wildly inappropriate move in the past. The wild move, known simply as “The Naked Man,” is exactly what it implies … stripping down naked and hoping your date is so taken aback or amused by your confidence that she will throw you a bone. The ingenious move is Mitch’s (guest star Adam Paul), who pulls the move during a floundering date with Robin, in which Ted happens to walk in on him in the full buff. Ted doesn’t believe that the move could possibly work, but Mitch assures him “The Naked Man” works two out of three times and when Robin falls for it Barney, Ted and Lily all end up giving it a shot. Sure, enough it works two out of three times. There are obviously more important moments in “How I Met Your Mother” history, but “The Naked Man” had me in stitches for 30 straight minutes (even laughing through commercial breaks). The funniest part of the episode is when Ted and Barney discuss which naked poses they should strike upon their naked reveal.
by Julian Spivey
I know it's just a television show and thus this might sound corny or dumb, but the finale of a favorite television show is like having a close friend move away. You may never see them again and all you'll have are the memories. Except in the case of television it's like a close friend moves away once (sometimes twice) a year. I wasn’t fully ready for Ted, Robin, Barney, Marshall and Lily to move away tonight.
Unfortunately, and I hate feeling this way, but I feel the “How I Met Your Mother” series finale was a little too underwhelming.
The finale begins just after Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin’s (Cobie Smulders) wedding and before the opening theme even rolls Ted (Josh Radnor) has been entranced by his first view of “The Mother” (Cristin Milioti), who he sees playing bass in the wedding band. Despite this, he tries to leave the party right away to catch the train for Chicago, where he’s immediately moving too. This leads to the meeting between the two at the train stop that we’ll see at the end of the episode. But, we know right away that Ted didn’t end up moving to Chicago, because we get a flashforward of him in MacLaren’s claiming that he didn’t go because he met a girl.
This is just the first of an episodes told entirely in flashforwards, which sometimes proves to be a bit overwhelming, but wasn’t surprising by any means. The flashforwards give us insight into the future of the MacLaren’s gang and it’s not all sunshine and roses, which should be expected, but doesn’t always seem pleasing.
One of the small disappointments from the finale is that it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Allyson Hannigan) except for the reveals that the loving couple is going to have a third child and Marshall eventually gets his judge position and ultimately will run for New York Supreme Court. It doesn’t really come as a shock that the happy couple doesn’t get a whole lot to do in the finale, because this is essentially Ted’s story of how he met the mother.
There were three really big reveals during the finale. One that I, and many fans alike, saw coming. One that I didn’t necessarily think would happen, but wasn’t the least bit surprised about. And, one that probably shouldn’t have taken me by surprise, but did, and left me with my biggest issue from the finale.
Believe it or not, it’s the two big reveals at the end of the episode that don’t really bother me, but the one that came at the finale’s midpoint.
The first big reveal of the finale comes before the first half hour is up and it’s that Barney and Robin end up getting a divorce after just three years of marriage. It’s surprising, but unsurprising all at the same time. It’s unsurprising, because it’s Barney and Robin and we’ve seen this before. It’s hard to see Barney as the settled down type, but believe it or not their struggling marriage has more to do with Robin’s inability to place her marriage before her thriving career as anchor of World Wide News. Maybe it’s because Robin never gets over the fact that Ted is actually the right guy for her, after it’s revealed to her that he found her precious locket in the penultimate episode.
It’s disappointing, however, because the entire final season of “How I Met Your Mother” is during the weekend of Barney and Robin’s wedding and it all seems at least somewhat pointless after the fact, and it was actually the show’s best season in a few years. It’s also disappointing, because it seemed like the two, even though I didn’t always feel like they belonged together, would end up living happily ever after just an episode prior.
The most disappointing outcome of the divorce though is how distant it, and her job, made Robin to the rest of the group for many years afterward. It’s understandable giving the group includes her ex-husband and the potential love of her life, but still somewhat unbelievable in that I don’t fully believe it’s a part of who her character is.
Barney’s storyline would be repaired a little, in my opinion, by the end of the finale as he finally finds the girl that he can love for his entire life … his daughter, who he has after a one-night stand gone wrong (which is amazing it took him this long to knock somebody up). The speech that he gives his daughter, which he previously gave in a mocking explanation of something he’d never do, was the only real tear-inducing scene of the finale, which should’ve honestly provided a few more teary-eyed scenes.
The meeting between Ted and “The Mother,” who we find out is named Tracy, was as cute as fans always dreamed it would be, especially after the series introduced Milioti as “The Mother” and we got to see her interactions with Ted in flashforwards throughout the season.
Then comes the final scene in which we realize and not very surprisingly if you’ve been following along closely and listening to finale predictions, that “The Mother” has, in fact, been dead for six years. I think that I’m OK with this fact, even though it does come off as slightly callous giving the chemistry between Radnor and Milioti and the fact that Ted obviously loved this woman with every fiber of his being. But, it leads us into the very last reveal …
Ted’s daughter, Penny (Lyndsy Fonseca), mentions to Ted that the entire story didn’t have so much to do with meeting their mother, but his feelings for “Aunt Robin.” His kids then persuade him into giving it a shot with Robin, which he does at the very end, beautifully, I might add, with the blue French horn from the show’s pilot.
I can buy the entire story being about Ted’s love for Robin, because it’s something he comes back to time and again during the series, but I would prefer to believe that his telling of how he met his children’s mother has more to do with friendship than it does his love for Robin. That’s what I gathered about the entire series, more so than anything else.
For almost the entire series I wanted to see Ted and Robin end up together and at many points truly believed they would despite the declaration of “Aunt Robin” at the very end of the first episode and many people telling me that it was already a proven it would never happen. Their relationship was among the best I’d ever seen on television and you could tell the two really cared and even belonged together. I still feel that way, but the way it eventually played out made it maybe a little bit too awkward (with divorce, death, etc.). But, maybe that just makes it more believable/realistic? I guess the way the show’s creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas laid the series out this was really the only way for us to meet the mother and have Ted end up with Robin. It’s a finish that makes sense, and could likely grow on me in the future, but was ultimately a little too awkward to really be completely cheered.
by Julian Spivey
As a huge fan of Jason Katims’ work on both NBC’s “Friday Night Lights,” for which he won an Emmy for best writing in a drama series, and “Parenthood,” which he created, I knew it was a no brainer that I’d give his new series, also on NBC, “About a Boy” a shot.
I was interested to see how Katims would adjust from extremely realistic family-oriented dramas to a 30-minute comedy. And, while “About a Boy” doesn’t necessarily show early signs of being all-time great television as “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood” were/are it already appears to bring some nice realism to the television comedy genre. It’s too be seen how naturalistic situations in a comedy are taken in by the television audience, but early on it’s been the best received new comedy of the season on NBC, and maybe the only one that will survive for a second season.
“About a Boy” follows Katims’ habit of adapting feature films into television series (although Peter Berg technically brought ‘FNL’ to TV). However, since I have not seen/read the source material for this one, Chris and Paul Weitz’s 2002 film starring Hugh Grant or Nick Hornby’s 1998 novel, I can’t discuss the differences and similarities between the two. For many television viewers the fact that this is an adaptation honestly won’t matter anyway.
The television series features an ex-band star Will Freeman (David Walton), a late 20s/early 30s man who doesn’t want to settle down and be trapped by the family life like his best friend Andy (Al Madrigal) has been. In the show’s pilot, a high strung, hippie-like single mother Fiona (Minnie Driver) moves in next door with her 11-year old boy Marcus (Benjamin Stockham). Will and Marcus strike up a unique friendship when Will tries to pass Marcus off as his own son to impress a single mother (guest star Leslie Bibb). Things obviously go array, and thankfully quickly, but a bond has been struck between the two that Will reluctantly gives in to when Marcus is embarrassing himself at a school talent show in the pilot.
The characters of Will and Fiona are polar opposites. This leads too much of the show’s humor as Marcus is very impressionable and Will is the kind of role model that the boy probably needs to learn to live a little and just be a kid from, but will butt heads with his mother time after time.
For those fans of Katims’ other current NBC show “Parenthood,” Walton’s portrayal of Will is very similar to how Dax Shepard’s Crosby Braverman was early on in that series. In fact, Will and Crosby are friends in the show’s environment, and will be crossing over at least once (Will appeared briefly on an episode of “Parenthood” this season before “About a Boy” premiered). Walton is an actor that has previously mostly annoyed me in the bits and pieces I’ve seen him in, mostly as a guest star in other sitcoms, but here he seems to have found a character that he can totally immerse himself into and is likable rather than annoying.
The most striking thing about the early episodes of “About a Boy” is the performance of young Benjamin Stockham as Marcus. The 13-year old actor has been acting for half of his life, but this is his biggest role by far and he’s proven to be one of the most talented child actors I’ve ever seen. I find most child actors (or maybe it’s the characters they play) to be annoying, but Stockham’s character is both entertaining and interesting, which is an absolute must for the series as he’s essentially one of the show’s two leads.
“About a Boy” has its hilarious moments, but its real selling point is the naturalism in the relationships between Will and Marcus and Will and Fiona. The word ‘cute’ would be the best word to sum up what “About a Boy” has been in its first few episodes and will likely continue to be. There are definitely funnier comedies on television, but this one has the makings of one that could turn out to be one of the most likable based on its characters, particular the Will and Marcus relationship, and their interactions with each other.
by Julian Spivey
Things have gotten off to a rough start for “Late Night with Seth Meyers” with the show’s humor proving to be shaky at best and non-existent at times, but if past incarnations of the show can tell us one thing it’s that it’s far too early to tell how Meyers’ version of ‘Late Night’ is going to turn out.
When Meyers’ predecessor, Jimmy Fallon, left ‘Late Night’ for “The Tonight Show” in February he had taken a show from nearly unwatchable at the beginning to one of the greatest late night television talk shows of all-time. I’m not saying Meyers’ version of ‘Late Night’ is going to follow this same path from terrible to terrific that Fallon did, but I wouldn’t put it past him.
If my memory serves correctly Meyers’ first couple of weeks actually was better than Fallon’s were when he took over the ‘Late Night’ post from Conan O’Brien five years ago. The highlight of the shows thus far have been Meyers’ extreme likability – which is something that he has in common with Fallon – and the personal stories that Meyers shares with his audience. The first couple of weeks of interviews have also been relatively interesting and surprising given the fact that Meyers seemed concerned about the prospect of interviewing celebrities before the show began in numerous talk show appearances himself.
I have no doubt that Meyers is one of the funniest comedians in the world having watched him do Weekend Update on “Saturday Night Live” for many years and having seen him do stand-up in person a few years back at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Ark. His witty, sarcastic demeanor is a style of humor that sits well with me and should prove to be a hit with audiences, especially of the younger variety, when Meyers gets more comfortable doing the show. Right now Meyers seems a little wooden or bland during his monologue, even while some of the punch lines are top notch. He seems uncomfortable doing a monologue, which is surprising given that he did something incredibly similar as Weekend Update anchor. If anything you’d think a monologue would be more comfortable or easier for him given the fact that it’s pre-taped and not live like ‘SNL.’
The worst thing that ‘LNSM’ has going for it early on is the comedy segment between the monologue and the interviews. These little sketches aren’t funny whatsoever and feature performances from the ‘Late Night’ writing staff. I fear the writing staff could be what’s holding the show back because many of these contributors are merely annoying instead of funny.
My biggest disappointment with the show in its earliest form is its incredible waste of the immensely talented Fred Armisen, who leads the ‘Late Night’ band. One of the show’s most overplayed bits (yes, it’s two weeks old and already has an overplayed bit) is when Meyers brings up one of Armisen’s ludicrous side projects. It’s the exact same joke every single night and it doesn’t give Armisen the chance to show his talents.
I sincerely hope that Seth Meyers’ version of ‘Late Night’ will improve with time and feel that it likely will. It took Jimmy Fallon about a year before his version of the show really got its footing. If you’re not really liking what you’re seeing from “Late Night with Seth Meyers” at the moment it might be best to set it aside for a little while, let it work out some of its growing pains and then come back to it at a later date – that’s what I did with Fallon’s version of the shoe and when I returned I found it had become maybe the best show on late night television. Hopefully Meyers’ version has the same kind of growth spurt.