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TV Review: How I Met Your Mother‘s Season Four Finale

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For four seasons How I Met Your Mother has, ostensibly, been telling the story of how one Ted Mosby met the future mother of his children to said future children.  But you know all that by know, or at the very least you should, HIMYM (as us in the know call it) is one of the funniest comedies on television and will (or at least should) earn Neil Patrick Harris, who plays Ted's "best friend" Barney, a supporting actor Emmy.  Tonight, the show will air its season finale, a finale which will, just maybe, bring us even closer to the reveal of said mother.

Having watched the episode I am happy to report to you, dear reader, that it is funny and smart and delivers everything you've come to expect from the series over the past four years, including Alyson Hannigan's Lily, who has been noticeably absent the past few episodes.  Hannigan's absence has been related to her pregnancy and completely expected, in fact, the show filmed tonight's finale several months ago so as to ensure Hannigan's availability for it.

I don't want to give away too much of tonight's episode, but fans of the series would quickly point out to those slightly less obsessed that Ted ought to be coming face-to-face with a goat in the episode.  The goat, which has been mentioned since the show's first season, is just one of the long-running jokes the series has become known for.  Though the specifics of Ted's encounter with the goat have changed over the course of the show's run (the vicissitudes of memory), the last time it was mentioned the audience was informed that the goat was present at Ted's 31st birthday party.  Conveniently — and as with so many other sitcom characters — Ted's birthday just happens to air near a ratings sweep, in Ted's case, he was born at the end of April, and Ted just happens to be turning 31 this year (hence the goat anticipation).

Other main issues that have appeared over the course of the season are also further explored tonight, including Ted's fledgling architecture firm, Mosbius Designs, and the ongoing off-again, on-again, potential romance between Robin and Barney.  Nothing on How I Met Your Mother is ever quite resolved (and those that are somehow always come back anyway), but the finale does at least takes up these plotlines.  

As for the mother, the ever-elusive, never completely seen, often referenced, once went to the same party Ted was at which is where Ted ended up getting her yellow umbrella from mother, she's… mentioned at the very least (come on, I'm not going to give that kind of thing away).  Which, again, you could pretty much expect from the show.

In general, watching How I Met Your Mother one can see that the sitcom is not yet dead.  The series, while perhaps the most ignored on CBS' Monday night comedy lineup, is, for my money, the strongest.  It is both funny in single episodes for those who do not watch on a regular basis and yet has fantastic — and fantastically subtle — payoffs for those who do.  The show consistently plays with time and memory – and uses those two elements to alter stories midway through — as one might expect from a show told in flashback form, but it never does so in a way that makes the show feel false or untruthful.  Old Ted may alter his story in the midst of telling it, as do the other characters, but watchers of the show have come to expect such changes. 

My grandfather would refer to How I Met Your Mother as a "shaggy dog" story — a story that gets longer and wilder with every telling.  The simple tale Old Ted has embarked on has now spanned a full four seasons of television with hopefully many more to come, and while Ted's life has intersected with the mother's, the two have still not actually met.  It may be an unreasonable fear for a show that has created such great humor and wonderful characters, but the only fear I currently have for the series is that the actual meeting can't match the buildup.  But then again, the goat does and the whole journey thus far has been great, so maybe I should just enjoy the trip and not worry so much about the destination.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • Travis Johnson

    I’m a little on-again-off-again with this show myself, but I was able to catch the finale tonight, and I loved it.

    Meeting the mother might pose a bit of a “David and Mattie” challenge for the show-runners. Once MOONLIGHTING’s bickering pair finally hit the sack, the show started to tank, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the show’s writers weren’t taking this into consideration.

    Regardless, I’m still going to keep my eye on this one.

  • Josh G

    I liked this show at first, the first few seasons were great, but the longer they delay meeting Ted’s wife, the less interested I get (not to mention the fact that the laugh-out-loud jokes are few and far between these days). The characters haven’t changed much over 4 seasons and I don’t know why I should care, especially after the less than surprising season finale (where we STILL don’t know who Ted’s wife is, which is supposed to be the point of the show). The producers are stuck in an old school sitcom mentality where nothing can change and all the characters stay the same (unless you have kids in the cast which forces the show to change). Audiences today don’t like those kinds of show and appreciate progression and watching characters mature and develop into different human beings. Barney was hilarious at first, but all of his plot lines are boring and predictable now. Lily and Marshal’s relationship has pretty much run its course and no longer produces anything cute, quirky or entertaining; Robin…we get it, she’s like a guy and they make jokes about her being Canadian… and Ted is neurotic and flakey, never satisfied with anything. At least some the actors are producing hilarious work elsewhere (see Dr.Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You, Man etc.)

    This show either needs a serious overhaul or to be put out of its misery. There are simply too many other comedies out there for me to be interested in this unfortunately one-dimensional never-ending saga that once had a lot of promise and is now wallowing in the depths of redundancy.