How I Met Your Mother: Season Seven (CBS, 2011)
It sort of bothers me that I am always writing mean things on the internet about How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). What rubs me the wrong way about all of the negative things I’ve said about this show is that, at the end of the day, I really do love it. I own all of the seasons on DVD. The girlfriend and I have a subscription via Zune for the newest season on my X-Box. Who doesn’t want a weekly dose of Jason Segal and Neil Patrick Harris? I really do love HIMYM.
My enjoyment – my love – of this show has always been contingent. There is much awfulness at the core of this show – often open misogyny, the jock-humor, the CBS sitcom related awfulness, the shallowness of the female characters, the more often than not “too cool for school” attitude, off-hand homophobia, the misogyny. All of that does even account for the sometimes awful writing – the Barney/Robin debacle still grates.
The double whammy season premiere brought all this to the front and center by having Barney recount so many of his racist and misogynistic pick up attempts (did they really need to bring up the lesbian one again? Ack!). But even worse, the hour long season starter suggests that the show has begun to cannibalize itself.
Call-backs have always been a standard comedic trope on this show. HIMYM’s “framed narrative” makes possible and Carter & Bays often use such call-backs to great effect (in fact the season premiere as a good set up for a couple of Marshal related ones). But the return of – SPOILER ALERT – Victoria at the end of the season opener and the recent pumpkin related announcement portents that Carter & Bays have moved beyond the call-back and begun to cannibalize their show’s own past.
The return of Victoria goes beyond the occasional return of Ted’s exes because of her place in the show’s history. Besides Robin (who shouldn’t count because she’s a main character and Cobie Smulders is awesome), Victoria is the best and most likable of Ted’s girlfriends (in fact Carter & Bays planned for her to be THE MOTHER if they didn’t get a second season). Bringing her back should mean something, it should mean that the overall story of this show is moving forward. But, I remain doubtful. Carter & Bays have promised such movement before and little has come of it (fool me once shame on me, fool me twice…).
Since, at least, the third season Carter & Bays have been promising forward movement on Ted’s character arc – that he finally will get his shit together – but again and again these promises have amounted to nothing. Instead, the show has stagnated and gradually Ted has gotten gradually more and more unlikable. Think about it; in the four seasons since Ted and Robin broke up where has his character gone? Pretty much nowhere.
Now Carter & Bays have been talking about how they are entering the “end game” of the show and the character himself has once again promised he’s going to get his shit together and move forward but it seems that the show is going to go backwards yet again. Like an abused spouse I am willing to give Carter & Bays another chance to push their show forward but, after a season where they managed to make Jennifer Morrison (who I like a lot) unbearable, I remain skeptical.
The above should not be read to mean that I hated the season premiere. I’m glad they are taking Barney out of his played-out Lothario role. The two Marshall B-plots in these episodes were hilarious. Marshall and Lily as parents promises to be both hilarious and touching. Carter & Bays have repeatedly promised good story-lines for Robin this time out.
In the end, this season has a lot of promise but sadly, because of all of the wasted potential of recent seasons, I remain skeptical.