Archive for the ‘HIMYM’ Category

Last Forever Part One

I would issue a spoiler alert, but something has to be of value in order to spoil. Instead, we have the final episode of How I Met Your Mother, in which everything the show has been building to is tossed aside with callous abandon and the only characters to get out unscathed are Marshmallow and Lilypad.

Truly, I’m more upset right now than I was after watching the Red Wedding. Senseless violence sounds like a warm blanket after what now feels like a nine-year emotional manipulation.

Sorry, I’ll try and get it together. Let’s begin.

On May 16, 2011, the How I Met Your Mother season 6 finale aired on CBS. In that episode, fans learned that the predestined wedding where Ted Mosby would meet the future mother of his children was actually that of his best friend/wingman Barney Stinson.

In the three years that followed (THREE YEARS!) audiences watched the evolution of Barney Stinson from a philandering cad to a more mature and loving adult who was ready to commit and marry Robin Cherbowsky. Their wedding took place last week, in a very touching episode that was hopeful and nostalgic for fans of the show.

In 15 minutes, Monday’s series finale laid waste to that relationship, showing us a future in which Barney and Robin enjoy three tumultuous years before calling it quits, allowing Barney to revert entirely back to his philandering ways and rendering the progression of the last three years moot in the process. Those feels you feeled during the wedding episode? Pointless.

But that was nothing, because the minute the couple’s eventual divorce was made known, the proverbial writing was on the wall for our protagonist and the titular mother. We were already teased that her life would be cut short by disease a few weeks ago, and with Robin and Barney’s union dissolved it was readily apparent how the show would end.

In 15 minutes the writers of How I Met Your Mother undid three years of character development for Mr. and Mrs. Stinson, and cheapened a nine-year search for Mrs. Mosby.

Sure, Ted gave a lovely monologue about how much his time with Tracy (*scoff*, Tracy) had meant to him and how he valued every moment with her. It’s a nice sentiment and not hard to believe that in the reality of the show is true. But as a viewer, forced to consume a loving couple’s entire 10-year relationship over the space of an hour through a rapid-fire series of vignettes, it felt like lip service.

The Mother was not the end of Ted’s story, but another diversion on a circular road that led him right back to where we began, blue french horn in hand, looking up into Robin’s window. The final statement of HIMYM is that Ted’s journey leads to Robin, and in another life they may have arrived there 20 years earlier without the necessity of killing off a very pretty brunette bass player.

The foundation of hope that supported the run of HIMYM, knowing that no matter how many times Ted fails he will eventually find the love of his life, crumbles. In fact, it’s a lie.

Ted wasn’t searching for the love of his life, he was merely looking for a fertile vessel to sire his children. The love of his life was there the whole time, and those of us who spent 9 years of Monday nights following along were dupes to expect otherwise.

It’s especially crushing when last week’s penultimate episode offered the perfect series sign-off. We watch the Stinson nuptials, we pass through the updates on our secondary characters, we see Mr. and Mrs. Mosby sharing their perfect “sometimes you just find things” exchange under the yellow umbrella, and that kids, is how I met your mother.

Beyond the flash-forwards the viewers had already seen (Marshall’s judgeship, the first date, Barney and Robin waking up from a hangover in someone else’s hotel room) the future would exist in the minds of the viewer, free to individually create the story they saw fit. Hopeful. Legendary.

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*This is a re-posting of a review I wrote in February after attending the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in light of Liberal Arts’ current theatrical release. It has received minor revisions for the sake of historical accuracy.

Fans of CBS’ How I Met Your Mother — and casual passers-by marginally aware of the show — will notice how the cast has begun to diversify their portfolios. It started with Neil Patrick Harris becoming the default host of the world, followed swiftly by Jason Segel inching away from stoner-comedies to more mainstream box office fare. Cobie Smoulders picked up a rather decent supporting role in this year’s The Avengers and Allison Hannigan will always be the most successful thespian from the American Pie family.

That leaves “star” Josh Radnor, whose quest for his soulmate is the keystone of HIMYM’s dramatic setup and who has, for the most part, remained largely unknown to those outside of the juggernaut of CBS’s Monday comedy lineup. Turns out, Radnor has been cementing his status as “The New Zach Braff” by not only focusing on his breakout sitcom role — that of a quirky hopeless romantic everyman — but also padding his resume as an up-and-coming writer and director of Independent Film. Much like how Zach Braff had his Garden State, Radnor has given us HappyThankYouMorePlease — a 2010 Sundance award-winner that saw a modest theatrical release to mixed reviews — and now Liberal Arts, a light dramedy about the romance of academia and the unstoppable passage of time.

Radnor — again writing, starring and directing — is Jesse, a mid-30s New Yorker numbed by his job as a University admissions counselor. When he’s invited back to his Alma Mater for the retirement dinner of a friend and former professor his memories of unhindered youth and the adventure of learning are revived and in the ensuing glow he falls into an ill-advised romance with a 19-year-old sophomore (played by the Indie girl-of-the-moment Elizabeth Olsen, of Martha Marcy May Marlene).

What unfolds is a charming cautionary tale about accepting the changing times, learning to act your age and enjoying life, all personified by a small but delightful supporting cast — Richard Jenkins, Allison Janey and Zac Efron against-type as a hippie stoner.

If I were to name a fault, it would be that the plot moves forward along a natural — I hate to say “predictable” — path with few earth-shaking surprises but even that comes with a caveat: how often in life is our earth shaken? While yes, the movie stays mostly above water, resisting the urge at a number of occasions to plunge into darker depths, the result is story that from end to end would plausibly exist in the universe of a boring 30-something’s life. That he learns something and that the audience gets some well-deserved laughs is gravy on the 2-hour slice of life.
The comparison is inevitable and Liberal Arts falls short of Garden State, but Radnor still crafts a worthwhile tale that is sweet, clever, sincere and relatable to anyone who has ever been to college or who has ever aged. He avoids the pull of a lurid, hard-to-watch-romance, instead allowing his character the sense to recognize the disaster of loving a teenager, while being tortured by a believable attraction to her. What’s more, the movie is shockingly tame toeing the line between PG and PG-13 — Sundance movies aren’t rated — which, to anyone who’s been to Sundance, can be a refreshing surprise. B+

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Sorry for the Russian Nesting Doll of blog posts, but you’ll actually need to click here to see my Top 10 list. My buddy Jordan recently started a blog and asked me to come aboard as an Entertainment contributor. I was happy to oblige and while I can’t include it verbatim here on my blog, you are one click away from reading the list.

Go check it out, its a new blog so Jordan could use the clicks AND if he gets a bump in viewers than I’ll be able to take credit for it and keep contributing. Plus it’s a great list. Win-Win-Win.

And, of course, make sure to check back on Wood’s Stock in the next few days for a new (real) post.

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Fans of CBS’ How I Met Your Mother — and casual passers-by marginally aware of the show — will notice how the cast has begun to diversify their portfolios. It started with Neil Patrick Harris becoming the default host of the world, followed swiftly by Jason Segel inching away from strictly stoner-comedies to more mainstream box office fare. Cobie Smoulders will pick up a rather decent supporting role in this year’s The Avengers and Allison Hannigan will always be the most succesful actress from the American Pie family.

That leaves “star” Josh Radnor, whose quest for his soulmate is the keystone of HIMYM’s dramatic setup and who has, for the most part, remained largely unknown to those outside of the CBS Monday juggernaut. Turns out, Radnor has been cementing his status as “The New Zach Braff” by not only focusing on his breakout sitcom role — that of a quirky hopeless romantic everyman — but also padding his resume as an up-and-coming writer and director of Independent Film. Much like how Zach Braff had his Garden State, Radnor has given us HappyThankYouMorePlease — a 2010 Sundance award-winner that saw a modest theatrical release to mixed reviews — and now Liberal Arts, a light dramedy about the romance of academia and the unstoppable passage of time.

Radnor — again writing, starring and directing — is Jesse, a mid-30s New Yorker numbed by his job as a University admissions counselor. When he’s invited back to his Alma Mater for the retirement dinner of a friend and former professor his memories of unhindered youth and knowledge are revived and in the ensuing glow he falls into an ill-advised romance with a 19-year-old sophomore (played by the Indie girl-of-the-moment Elizabeth Olsen).

What unfolds is an charming cautionary tale about accepting the changing times, learning to act your age and enjoying life, all personified by a small but delightful supporting cast — Richard Jenkins, Allison Janey and Zac Efron against-type as a hippie stoner.

If I were to name a fault, it would be that the plot moves forward along a natural — I hate to say “predictable” — path with few earth-shaking surprises but even that comes with a caveat: how often in life is our earth shaken? While yes, the movie stays mostly above water, resisting the urge at a number of occasions to plunge into darker depths, the result is story that from end to end would plausibly exist in the universe of a boring 30-something’s life. That he learns something and that the audience gets some well-deserved laughs is gravy on the 2-hour slice of life.
The comparison is inevitable and Liberal Arts falls short of Garden State, but Radnor still crafts a worthwhile tale that is sweet, clever, sincere and relatable to anyone who has ever been to college or who has ever aged. He avoids the pull of a lurid, hard-to-watch-romance, instead allowing his character the sense to recognize the disaster of a romance with a teenager, while being tortured by a believable attraction to her. What’s more, the movie is shockingly tame toeing the line between PG and PG-13 — Sundance movies aren’t rated — which, to anyone who’s been to Sundance, can be a refreshing surprise. B+

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*The following grades refer ONLY to premiere episodes. In addition to a letter grades based on the quality of the single episodes, I will also suggest — based on what those episodes suggest of the season to come — that you “Subscribe” on Hulu, “Keep your eye on” for the odd episode here and there or “Kill and Bury,” which should be self-explanatory.

How I Met Your Mother


Thankfully, the boys over at HIMYM gave us back to back episodes to launch the new season. Good thing too, since Ep. 1 didn’t do it for me. Barney had some great screen time testing out pickup tactics but the rest of the gang just seemed awkwardly out of place at Punchy’s wedding. Plus, if you’re going to claim that it was the “Worst Wedding Ever” we need to see a little more of the chaos, especially for how much fun Robin and the Barnacle had with their dance number (a high point for the ep.). Individually a bad episode but I can’t wait to see where the season goes.
Grade: B-
Class: Subscribe

2 and 1/2 Men:


I hadn’t planned on watching Men but had a half hour to kill and plenty of curiosity. Chuck Lorre shows aren’t really my thing (Mike and Molly, Big Bang Theory) and Men is no different. Still, I felt the much-hyped debut of Ashton Kutcher was a pretty funny episode even if some of the laughs felt a little cheap. Good individual episode but I’ll probably never watch again.
Grade: B
Class: Keep An Eye On

2 Broke Girls


If multi-cam laugh track comedy is your thing then you’ll probably dig 2 Broke Girls. Sure, the pilot felt low-budget and dirty and the scenes could not be more obvious set pieces, but now that we have a full season pickup I would assume future episodes will be a little shinier and smooth-edged. Kat Dennings is funny and her blonde counterpart makes for some good opposites-attract feel. They lose a few points, however, for their shoddy attempts at authenticity — that NY Subway scene? Please.
Grade: B+
Class: Subscribe/Keep An Eye On

Castle


The first 20 minutes would have been gripping TV drama…if there was even the remote possibility that gun-shot-victim Beckett wouldn’t survive. So, we sat watching worried faces just waiting for the actual show to begin. When it finally did we got a new police chief –Sheri Palmer from 24, one of my least favorite actresses — and a homicide case that felt (and was) like an afterthought. Bottom line, from Kate’s flash-forward-till-I’m-better arc and the sweep-under-the-rug leftovers from last season, the episode just came off a little too tidy. That said, I love Castle and will be watching every week.
Grade: B
Class: Subscribe

Glee


Season 3 of Ryan Murphey’s zeitgeist of pop culture kicked off EXACTLY like season 2 kicked off. A hand-held documentary style introduction of what the cast has been up to over the summer (Will and Emma chastely cohabiting, Finn/Rachel Tina/Mike Kurt/Blaine together and happy, Zizies m.i.a. and new skankified Quinn, died hair and all) and the club heading out on a recruitment assignment to enlist more clubbers that goes horribly wrong (really? We’ve Got The Beat to enlist High School Students?) Glee is built on highs and lows and this episode was obviously nothing more than set up.
Grade: B-
Class: Keep An Eye On

Modern Family

Let’s break this down. The show has won best comedy two years in a row and after last year all 6 adult cast members were nominated for acting Emmy’s, two of which won. In short: this is the best show on television. I’m leery of new Lilly, but if any show can make me fall in love, it’s Modern Family.
Grade: A
Class: Subscribe

Community


First, let me take a moment to express something. If you are not watching this show regularly, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Community had an inconsistent first season, trading off between pure inspired comedy and random uncontrolled oddity. It’s second season, however, was pure pop culture comedy ecstasy. Season 3 started off with a semi-fantasy musical number that addresses the shows critics and, I suspect, maps out what we’ll see for the whole season (Annie and Jeff are going to do it, yup). This show is glorious, if you’re not watching, shame on you.
Grade:A-
Class: Subscribe all ye uncultured philistines

Person of Interest


Of all the new shows, POI is what I was the most excited for and barring a spectacular premiere of Pan Am or American Horror Story it’s in good position to be my pick of the year. Wasting the minimum time for set up, J.J.’s latest toy got us into the action with a shaved Jim Caviezal kicking butt and taking names. I suspect that as the show continues we’ll get to confront the Minority-Report-esque paradoxes of pre-emptive force but at the same time, the pilot deftly avoided that conversation by A) Having Caviezel rely on extremity shots to people’s thighs and B) proving the bad guys guilt and letting justice run its course while stopping a tragedy.
Grade: A-
Class: Subscribe

Up All Night


Repeat with me: Babies. Are. Not. Funny. This show was actually good once, then inexplicably the writers decide to drastically reformat it and now we’re left with yet another project that squanders the abilities of Will Arnett. Come on!
Grade: B-
Class: Keep an Eye on

The Office


I had sworn to Kill and Buy the office but just when you think you’re out they pullllllll you back in. The premiere was brilliant. James Spader is an evil genius (“I believe in negative reinforcement. I believe in positive reinforcement. Winners, prove me right. Losers, prove me wrong”) and the writers decision on who to promote to the new regional manager was, in my opinion, the right choice. Based on the premiere, TO looks better than it has in years.
Grade: A
Class: Keep An Eye On

Free Agents


I had low, low hopes for this one. Two likable albeit moderately attractive leads and an entire premise built on inappropriate office hookups? Ross and Rachel didn’t hook up till halfway through season 1, same for J.D. and Elliot. Castle and Becket STILL haven’t and Booth and Brennan did finally but behind our backs. Point being, where do they go from here.

Still, the episode exceeded my expectations and Giles from Buffy was pretty funny as an offensive cad. I probably won’t watch again, but for one night I was impressed.
Grade:B+
Class: KAEO/Kill and Bury

New Girl


It pains me to say it but Zooey D’s appeal is waning. And, since her show is a one-trick pony built entirely on her appeal, that doesn’t bode well. I HATED New Girl. Possibly because literally every inch was covered in the outlandish amount of promotional material, or the fact that I just didn’t think it was funny at all. By Ep 2 the show will have traded in its black guy for a new black guy (you could argue racism, but then it would be racist to have no black guy at all. Maybe if they traded him for an Asian guy?) and will have to start coming up with new jokes that haven’t been showcased for weeks during breaks of The X Factor. When the premise of your show is “we have a spunky protagonist” it’s just not enough for me.
Grade:C
Class:Kill and Bury

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Sing Hallelujah, come on, get happy. Fall TV is starting up.

Now, technically I’m 4 days late in that the premiere season began on Monday, but besides Up All Night (which, as it turns out, I’m watching while I write this) we haven’t really missed anything. Like every year there are a LOT of new shows coming out (read: chaff) and like every year 9 out of 10 will most likely fail. If not immediately, then soon. And if not soon, then they’ll be moved to Friday’s to die a sad, awkward death.

September 18

What better way to prepare for a new season than reminding yourself what was good last year. For added fun, make it a drinking game by taking a shot every time you see someone from the cast of Modern Family (hint: you’s gonna get trashed).

September 19

Monday, which means I’ll be watching How I Met Your Mother at 8:00* where, I’m hoping, Barney will re-unite with Nora and Ted will have something good happening in his life for a change.


At 9:30, I’m going to check out 2 Broke Girls. I haven’t seen the pilot yet but most of my co-workers have and they’re all pretty much unanimous that it’s the most promising new sitcom.

But really, I’m just killing time until 10:00 when the new season of Castle kicks off. I’m dying to see whether Beckett survives being shot in the chest, but not as much as I’m dying to slap the show’s writers for ending the season on such a pointless cliffhanger (like they could ever kill Becket, that would be like doing The Office without…..I mean doing 2 and 1/2 Men without……hmmm, moving on).

Note: I will NOT be watching The Playboy Club, but more on that later.

September 20

Hellooooo season 3 of Glee. It’s kind of like the Aggie Football of television in that it’s drastically inconsistent from week to week but manages to have just enough magic moments to make you believe and if you talk smack on in I will EAT YOUR FACE. Moving on.

September 21

Since I don’t see my own family any more I’ll just continue to live in a dream world where I belong to the Pritchett’s of Modern Family (at 9:00). All 6 adult cast member were nominated for Emmy’s and it’s for good reason. This show is just about as good as it gets.

September 22

By and large THE most underrated and tragically underwatched show on television, Community is back at 8:00 with the addition of John Goodman. Yes, please.

At 9:00, I’m checking out Person of Interest. Not only is it produced by J.J. Abrams (a.k.a. Zeus) but it stars Lost’s Michael Emerson and the-man-who-was-Jesus Jim Caviezel as some sort of trippy Minority Report-esque vigilante.


September 23

At the end of last season I swore that I was going to take The Office of my list of shows and I meant it. That said, I’m pleasantly intrigued by the addition of James Spader’s Robert California and hey, I believe in second chances. So, I’m going to watch it the next day On Hulu for academic purposes.

September 25

Remember how I said I’m not watching The Playboy Club? It’s not because I can’t (unlike Utah, it will be playing in New York) or that I won’t (besides the word Playboy in the title, this show is going to be tame-sauce) but rather that I believe that only one new Mad Men-era drama can survive on broadcast networks and I’m putting my money on Pan Am. Plus, I’ve always had kind of a thing for Christina Ricci, ever since Casper.


September 26

I would like to believe that Terra Nova will be good. It’s got a heavy pedigree behind it (oh hey Steven Spielberg, what’s up?) and is arguably the most ambitious project ever made by a broadcast network. So, with that in mind I believe in rewarding ambition (fortune favors the bold) and will give this show a fair treatment.

October 4

Let’s just say it, House was rubbish last year. Oddly enough I had already dropped that show year’s ago but got lured back in by a stellar season two shakes ago. Sadly it didn’t hold up and the show (literally) drove itself through a wall. So, I will watch the season premiere On Hulu out of respect and then kindly say goodbye. (I’ll miss YOU Olivia Wilde most of all)

October 5

American Horror Story. I’m still on the fence about this one, the latest from Nip/Tuck and Glee creator Ryan Murphy. This show is going to be adult (it’s airing on FX) but it’s also getting rave reviews and, frankly, I just can’t withstand the curiosity of how they’re going to sustain it in a weekly format. I’ll check it out.


I mean seriously, what the what is that?

October 12

I find it kind of ridiculous that the people behind Psych are making us wait till mid-October but by then most (seriously) of the season’s new shows will have flamed out and we’ll be able to take comfort that something good is still on TV.

October 16

I just barely watch The Walking Dead and while I may not quite agree with Dalton Ross that it’s the “Best show on television” I will say that it was pretty freaking cool. It is more cinematic than most full-production Zombie films and it’s just darned entertaining.

p.s. Just finished Up All Night and I say pass. Simply put, BABIES ARE NOT FUNNY! Also, you may notice that I did not list New Girl (starring Zooey Deschanel). I watched and hated the pilot (it’s on Hulu already). I’ll give it one more chance before I pull the plug for good.

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The Playbook

On a recent episode of HIMYM, Barney displays “the playbook,” a collection of schemes and shenanigans used to seduce women.

One such ploy was “The Ted Mosby,” named after Barney’s “Best” friend. It unfolds like this
1) Walk up to a woman in a bar holding a ring and looking forlorn
2) Explain that you were left at the alter and wait for the outpouring of sympathy
and then
3) It…is…on! (wink*)

And in case you’re keeping score, the Ted Mosby works.

If dreams came true and Barney Stinson was both real AND my best friend. I wonder what “The Ben Wood” would consist of. The best I could come up with would somehow involve my being a member of the press. For example:

The Journalist
1) Approach a woman at a bar and explain that you’re writing an article about some activity in a metropolitan area.
2) Ask about her demographics, i.e. name, age, neighborhood etc. This will allow you to have an idea of her interests to exploit and you can ascertain her legal adult status.
3) Follow with a series of basic questions regarding the phony activity on which you are “reporting.”
4) Tell her that you will need her phone number in case there are any “follow-up questions” that will need to be answered (common practice among journalists)
5) Thank her for her time and begin to leave, but hesitate and explain that although completely “unprofessional” you would like to buy her a drink/dinner/whatever and
6) It…is…on! (wink*)
*Bonus Points) Tell her your name is Lorenzo Von Matterhorn and create a number of web pages to be found on a simple google search detailing your winning of the Pulitzer price, receiving the key to the city, and your book that is being published next summer

And in case your keeping score, The Ben Wood, a.k.a The Journalist, doesn’t work…at least not yet.

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