Why would someone who never (never, ever) watches situation comedies voluntarily preview the May 24 season finale of How I Met Your Mother?
I gave up on situation comedies many years ago. When I say “many,” I mean somewhere in the neighborhood of 30. There is a long list, in the history of television, of situation comedies I’ve enjoyed, some of which I was an actual fan.
I will drop everything (and anything) to watch Burns and Allen or The Honeymooners. As I grew up, reruns of these shows were very accessible and I loved them. Later situation comedies that I found enjoyable were Petticoat Junction, Taxi, Hot-L Baltimore, E/R, and The Larry Sanders Show. I must admit, I still enjoy The Beverly Hillbillies (when I’m in the mood).
I don’t know if Norman Lear is the man to blame, but around the time All in the Family and Maude made their debuts, situation comedies changed. That’s when formerly taboo topics, like politics and abortion, were introduced. The problem was that the shows were selling an agenda; they were trying to teach viewers a lesson on the correct way to think. Propaganda, anyone?
Every story has a moral if you look for it. The “classic” situation comedies offered such broad lessons as “lying only gets you into trouble,” “jealousy is a bad thing,” and “acting stupid [doing stupid things] won’t get you anywhere.” They reinforced things we already knew by presenting characters who had never learned them. As situation comedies evolved, they became less comedic and more academic.
Even well crafted shows like M*A*S*H seemed to have a mission. Family-based sitcoms, which used to emphasis gags and laughs, became lessons on what to do should certain circumstances present themselves (e.g., a friend uses drugs, is homeless, or is abused). Of course, even the worst circumstances nearly always ended with a neat solution and a smile.
I’m not sure if it was the incessant lessons that were being pushed out of television studios, the lack of creativity in writing, or the exploitation of current societal issues that finally separated me from sitcom watching. It was probably a combination of all three. It was, for sure, the recurring thought after watching a “comedy,” “that wasn’t funny.”
I’ve heard and read good things about How I Met Your Mother and its cast. I’ve enjoyed Alyson Hannigan in the past, and wondered if Neil Patrick Harris was really as “all that” as everyone has been gushing.
I can’t imagine putting any show to a more grueling test than evaluating it at the end of a season, long after it has established itself. Could a five-year-old situation comedy which I have never seen—featuring a cast that is mostly unknown to me, following story lines that I have not been—entertain me? Okay, I was setting myself up for disappointment.
Presumably, regular viewers have been following Robin and Don’s romance, and wondering whether Marshall and Lilly will ever be ready to have a baby. Somehow I’d learned that Barney was a womanizer, and that was the only thing I really knew about the show outside of the basic premise.
The season finale, “Doppelgangers,” deals with Marshall and Lilly’s pact to try to conceive if they ever saw Barney’s doppelganger. When they do, they’re all ready to start a baby, but then—was it really Barney’s doppelganger? Or was it an elderly Asian man with a pot belly?
Robin is offered a dream job, and has to choose between the job and her current love, Don. The show is cleverly written, and it became clear to me what a monumental choice this was for Robin, even though I was totally unfamiliar with her history.
Without revealing how these things turn out, I feel safe in saying that I was happily surprised by an enjoyable program. I am not tuned into their extrasensory communications, and don’t quite understand how Barney thinks he should have a say in who moves to Chicago or has a baby and when, but knowing he’s a blogger explains a lot.
Not knowing what regular fans of How I Met Your Mother might be expecting, I don’t know if they will enjoy “Doppelgangers” or not. I do know that I did, and that Neil Patrick Harris proved to be “all that.”