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TV Preview: How I Met Your Mother Season Finale to Air May 24

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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.”

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About Miss Bob Etier

  • Jordan Richardson

    Propaganda, anyone?

    Anything is propaganda using the broadest definition, though. Propaganda doesn’t necessarily have to be political, especially if you define it neutrally as it should be.

    All television shows sell an “agenda,” by the way. The problem comes when you don’t “agree” with the proposed agenda they’re bringing to the fore.

  • http://hubpages.com/profile/Bob+Etier Miss Bob Etier

    There are three sides to every story–the pro, the con, and the I don’t care. I’m willing to endure every side if I don’t have to be beaten over the head with it. BTW, I don’t condemn propaganda; sometimes, though, it’s a little heavy handed.

  • Jordan Richardson

    I’m willing to endure every side if I don’t have to be beaten over the head with it.

    That’s what remote controls are for. :)

  • doug m

    If I click the next page, am I actually going to get to the preview? Not really interested in you and your stale take on the sitcom genre. It’s a disservice to readers and makers of the show.

  • Larry G

    Do you find that not watching Situation comedies inhibits your judgement as a critic of television? Sitcoms have played such an important role in the development of television, not to mention in way networks schedual their programs today. Isn’t it short sighted to cast off 30 years of an entire medium due to a trend for engaging with wider social and political issues?

    If a food critic refused to eat deseart, I doubt he or she would find their critique of a resturant listened to or even published.

    I am very interested to hear your thoughts on this.

  • http://hubpages.com/profile/Bob+Etier Miss Bob Etier

    If I were a food critic who never ate dessert, I don’t think my reviews of vichyssoise would be less valid, nor my review of the food at a restaurant (in which I would mention some of the desserts without rating them). I expect that some food writers are allergic to various food items, and there are some they don’t eat. One doesn’t have to taste everything on the menu to know if a restaurant is good or bad.

    I stopped watching situation comedies because I didn’t enjoy them, however, I was not writing reviews at the time. Since my review of HIMYM was positive, I don’t think my judgment was inhibited. Whether I’m watching a movie or a television program, or reading a book, my interest is in a good story, well presented. Genre is not an important factor. For example, I much prefer suspense over science fiction, yet “Alien” is one of my favorite films.

    Remember, reviews are opinions. When Roger Ebert says he absolutely loves a film, it doesn’t mean that everyone will. It doesn’t even mean that if you normally like his choices, you’ll like that one. If reviewers were objective, everything would get identical reviews. What fun is that?

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Yes, but in your scenario the food critic’s review of a desert after 30 years of not eating them would certainly be less valid.

    And if Ebert said “I haven’t watched a comedy in 30 years” and then reviewed a comedy, his opinion would absolutely carry less weight regardless of whether he liked it or not.

    You’ve missed out on decades of shows, ideas, and trends that have occurred in sitcoms. The episode could be cliched, have taken ideas from elsewhere, or may be repeating itself, and you might know it.

    The series doesn’t make stand-alone episodes, but has a continuity that runs through it so the fifth season finale as your first exposure seems a bit odd. It’s like reviewing the last chapter of a mystery after not having read the genre for decades.

    I don’t think readers are looking for objective reviews, but they are looking for informed reviews about the subject matter and you’ve made clear that yours isn’t.

  • http://hubpages.com/profile/Bob+Etier Miss Bob Etier

    Thank you, Gordon, I don’t think my life would be complete if you didn’t tell me I was a moron at least once a week.

    By the way, the article I wrote was NOT a review, it was a preview.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    I’m not sure his disagreeing with you equates to calling you a moron. I just followed up on what Larry wrote.

  • http://hubpages.com/profile/Bob+Etier Miss Bob Etier

    Oh, I see. Gordon, YOU didn’t say “they are looking for informed reviews about the subject matter and you’ve made clear that yours isn’t,” it was Larry. Silly me, I got the impression that he was posing several questions.

  • http://saharsreviews.wordpress.com Sahar

    I think this is a great review, and it’s fantastic that someone who hasn’t watched situation comedy in awhile is giving it a shot and sharing her experience with us. Isn’t that the point of a review, to get subjective opinions on various materials? I don’t want to only hear what the die-hard fans have to say – I know they like the stuff.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    I meant to write “I’m not sure how disagreeing…” but it seems a lost cause at this point.

    Sahar, it’s a preview not a review. Sure, it’s fantastic that Bob is starting to try sitcoms again, but that’s doesn’t address the interesting points Larry brought up. If you think die-hards fans only like the shows they watch, I am guessing you aren’t following people talk about Lost.

  • http://www.lynnvoedisch.com Lynn Voedisch

    Oh, I might as well take the gloves off. I know Roger Ebert and worked with him. I don’t think he’d have a problem with what Bob did here at all. Roger always said that each work of art must stand on its own. That’s regardless of prequels, books, or previous version on film or video. He specifically will not read a book if it seems likely to be made into film, because he wants to judge the film on its own merits. For him, each Star Wars film had be a complete fulfilling movie, regardless of what came before.
    So, although the Rog does not review television, I doubt he’d have much of a problem with someone doing a preview of a series based on a stand-alone feature.
    Your mileage may vary, but stop bringing Ebert into this.
    If you’d like to excoriate me for dropping names, go right ahead, but at least I know what I’m talking about

    Sorry, Bob, vichysoisse is not a dessert but a cold potato leek soup. So I think that 30 years of not eating desserts might affect your judgment if you dove into that thinking it would satsify your sweet tooth!

  • http://saharsreviews.wordpress.com Sahar

    El Bicho, good point, that it’s a preview, not a review; but, again, I love to read from people who are not die-hard fans. And no, I don’t follow Lost at all, but I follow Fringe talk, and I would personally LOVE to read a review of the upcoming season from someone who hasn’t watched sci-fi in a long while. I am plunged so deep into it that I might miss the obvious, while a fresh perspective from someone who is detached would definitely see the obvious.

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