One of my main problems with sitcoms in general is that they exist in their on worlds. What happens to the characters and their reactions would never happen in the real world. How I Met Your Mother has managed to avoid that for the most part by keeping the craziness fairly contained, but this week’s episode went over the line into the unbelievable. And yet, it came right back around into reality two minutes later and completely redeemed itself.
The big happening this week was Barney finally meeting his father. Of course, we’re only interested in meeting Ted’s kid’s mother, but I guess their quasi-uncle’s father is a good enough place-holder for the time being. And as we already knew, Barney was conceived by John Lithgow, who made his dramatic return to sitcoms. They meet up, Barney tells a story that was our narrative shift, then Lithgow tells what really happened, the gang throws in an intervention which causes Barney to have a real dinner with his dad and boom: you've got an episode.
"What gym do you go to?" -Barney
"Fourth period." -JJ
"Sounds like you're having your fourth period." -Barney
Here’s where things get interesting. Barney lies to the group about meeting his dad and that’s fine. He doesn’t want to see him again because he didn’t live up to his expectations, and that’s cool too. The rest of the gang is there to correct him on that. But then he goes to dinner and is a complete and total tool. Jeeze. It’s crazy how much of a jerk Barney can be and yet we still care about him. He insults his half brother, berats his step mother, and basically acts out all his man-boy problems (emphasis on the boy part) with his new family and tries to steal their basketball hoop.
Yet, when he finally bursts out and explains why he was acting out at the end, it's heartfelt and instantly forgivable. He sees everything his father had and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t have been a part of that. And neither does his dad. It was raw and real. That’s the key to making it work. We can forgive Barney’s horrendous dinner because it was all done in the name of comedy. But when the emotions come out, they aren’t played up or out. They’re played real. And that’s what HIMYM does best.
"I've published two non-fiction books about asparagus. And one fiction." -Barney's dad
As for John Lithgow, I thought he was decent. HIMYM can have actors playing four different versions of their characters before finally settling on the true character and Lithgow bounced easily between cocky roadie to lovable driving instructor. And he was a lot better than he was on 3rd Rock From the Sun, in my humble opinion. Of course, he couldn’t even come close to his character in Dexter, but I don’t think anything he could do on HIMYM could touch that. Actually, strike that, nothing can compare to Harry and the Hendersons. Screw Dexter.
"He's the mother of all fathers." -Barney
Meanwhile with the rest of the gang, get into their glaring gaps of knowledge with each other after they learn Barney doesn’t know how to use a screwdriver. It was fairly funny overall; it gave us some good visual gags and cutaways, but the really interesting part was that it developed these characters even more. I thought we were about out of the clear with Marshall’s dad (talk about beating a dead horse; oh, I knew that was out of line before I finished typing) but it came back; however, it did serve a good purpose when Marshall told Barney he can’t talk to his dad any more. Marshall probably had the best cutaways this week, big points for the soul patch and the adorable possum (I’m from the South where possums are both adorable and delicious). Good for the writers giving Robin a hole in her knowledge about the North Pole. It would’ve been too easy to make it about America (though her not knowing Jack and John Kennedy were the same person was forgivable). Lily’s horrible aim was more like “what could we say about her that we haven’t said yet that we can get away with.” It was stupid, but funny. This seems to be the kind of a thing that will come back into play later. Ted had trouble saying "chameleon" which was deliciously vindictive because of Ted’s snottiness. It’s always good to laugh at the main character, right?
Anyway, overall it wasn't a bad episode and it was further proof that the more HIMYM stays away from Ted (except for actually meeting the mother), the better the show is.
Also, here's my new theory of the week: we’re not going to meet the mother this season. HIMYM was renewed for two seasons and I can’t really see the show sticking around with the mother for two. I bet we’ll meet her at the end of next season.