Teevee’s a funny place. The question of How I Met Your Mother is still famously unresolved and going nowhere fast. The quality of the episodes is consistently lower than ever and the guest actors more of an intrusive nuisance – remember when Bryan Cranston was involved on a regular basis? And yet HIMYM is drawing in better weekly audiences (over 10m weekly) than at any point since its first glorious season. And yet Community remains on haitus. Not that I’m bitter about that.
Anyhow, one other HIMYM mainstay is the regular writing from co-creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, architects of some of the best episodes in the show’s run, like “Girls versus Suits”, “The Playbook”, “The Platinum Rule” and “Monday Night Football”. Researching that factoid reminded me of how many great episodes this show’s given us, formally bright and emotionally engaging. They’re also responsible for this week’s “The Burning Beekeeper”, which from start to finish feels like nothing so much as a job application to the HIMYM writing team. The title, the conceit and the execution are lame imitations of their own earlier work.
Mercifully, Kevin (Kal Penn) is absent from this one, so his incapacity to convey emotion or deliver a punchline can wait til next week. Unmercifully, Martin Short and Chris Elliott are still around. Of the two, Elliott at least seems to have more to offer as a performer, but is being given little opportunity to grow into the character, and Lily’s dad is the same guy we met at Thanksgiving three years back. Cf Marshall’s dad and Ted’s parents. There’s room for awesome side-characters in this show, guys!
“The Burning Beekeeper” kicks off with a little set-up: Lily is throwing a house-warming party, it’s important it goes well; Marshall’s boss is coming, Marshall is overworked; Mickey has ten thousand bees in the basement. Whuh-oh! I’m pretty sure this exact plotline has been made fun of in both The Simpsons and South Park but w/evs. We’re in it together now, let’s make the best of it.
The show is divided into three five-minute slots featuring the three downstairs rooms of casa Marshall y Lily, each one raising a few questions that are explained in later rooms. For instance – why is Barney concerned for his penis? Why does Ted square up to Marshall’s boss? Why does Lily stamp on the cheese? Once again, earlier HIMYMs might have gone for fewer mysteries and a more satisfying payoff: as it stands, each of these questions are answered in pretty ropey fashion. [Spoilers: i) sex ii) Robin iii) mice. /Spoilers]
Barney’s story: he is chatting up one of the Eriksen’s neighbours who is a recent divorcée and has breast implants. He is pretending to be an astronaut, which I’m sure he’s done before, and later discovers that she castrated the last man to cross her. If we look closely at that list of Bays and Thomas’ greatest hits, you may notice that they tend to lean pretty heavily on Barney being unscrupulous toward women. This can backfire though – when it works he’s a lol-factory who undermines himself at every turn, when it doesn’t he seems like a spokesman for misogyny and sex-negativity. This time he’s too lazy to be likeable.
Ted and Robin get the best of the show, and have probably the most interesting dynamic right now. She and Ted, as formerly-in-love bezzie mates are exciting to watch, and their exchange about their differing temperaments is the most memorable bit of writing in the episode. On the way to the party they pick up some kugel, pushing an old lady out of the way. Robin: “She was trying to cut in line! She was going to get the last kugel!” Ted: “She was 90 years old! It was probably going to be her last kugel.” This is nice! It’s part of an exchange that sounds good, is delivered well and gives us a little insight into both Ted, Robin and Ted&Robin. It’s wrapped up a little neatly though, I’d've liked to see her ongoing anger issues given a little more room, mostly because Cobie Smulders is at her best when filled with the barely-contained rage.
Exhibit A. Anyway, the rest of the episode wraps up very neatly – Marshall’s boss learns to have fun just in time not to fire him, Lily has her fears about being a parent and having a crisis every 30 seconds mostly allayed, the bees escape and Marshall and Lily never have a house party again. The whereabouts of the kugel are unknown. This was an episode that never really hit the right marks its laughs: it paid too much attention to the conceit at large for any of the individual bits to deliver the funny.
So next week is the Valentines-themed episode, where Lily and Marshall invite Robin and Kevin to Vermont. One thing about HIMYM, the premise is rarely an accurate indicator of the quality of the episode. Tune in next time!
For more, check out the awesome recap at TVWithoutPity. How are you dealing with this season? Has the jalopy still got some kick or after 150-odd episodes is it time to get to the point? Let us know the answer to that totally un-loaded question in the comments.