Created and written by two guys whose inceptive creative goals were embedded in a desire to relive their bachelor days through television characters — for all of America to revel in — How I Met Your Mother has always enjoyed a muddled attitude on women. Not so much outright offensive as it has been simply backwards and ill-conceived, HIMYM has employed a consistent “bitches be crazy” mentality, limiting its Rolodex of recurring love interests for Ted and Barney to the flighty, the loopy, the occasionally criminally insane.
This isn’t to say that the sitcom has presented its male populace — leads or one-offs — as the pinnacle of psychological health. But Ted, Marshall, Barney, and the other Y-chromosomed individuals to brace the HIMYM mythos, are presented as just that: individuals who happen to be laced with an extra dose of kook. When addressing the leviathan of neurologically marred young women, however, it always comes back to generalities (if even subtly). “She’s one o’ them crazy ladies,” the show insists. “You know how they are.” Do we?
As such, with this position kicked up to 11 in regards to the show’s latest guest star, Jeanette (Abby Elliott), it’s a bit conflicting to declare the recent upturn in quality an indisputable triumph. After last week presented the first laugh-out-loud episode all season, this week’s “Bad Crazy” maintains its grasp on our satisfaction with another admirably enjoyable ep — in light of HIMYM’s late in life dip in the comedy department, two good shows in a row is something to write home about.
But there’s that nagging issue: should I care so much about the sexist undertones of Jeanette’s character? Am I finding problems where none exist? Am I taking the whole ordeal too seriously? I’m open to being put in my place, here — after venting all season about HIMYM’s absent effort, I should be grateful that we’re given yet another fun turn of events for Ted and company this week. So let us neglect any hint of gender affront and focus on the formidably more important issue of laughter. Because beggars can’t be choosers.
This week, Ted “attempts” to break up with Jeanette in light of his friend’s warnings. After failing with honors at the task, Jeanette locks herself in Ted’s bedroom, destroying everything that she might find personally offensive — her latest theory is that Ted is having an affair with Lily. Ted makes several attempts to end their relationship once and for all (dressed like Boba Fett, just to drive the point home), but is continually ensnared by his sexual attraction to Jeanette. While Marshall and Barney egg on Ted’s efforts (hiding from the safe distance of his living room, eyes glued on their video game, and a sandwich shop), Lily comes to realize in the end that Ted, himself a bit of a nut, should be with Jeanette… temporarily. Until she drives him to the eventual point of meeting his real soul mate. Sometimes, it feels like Lily’s been listening to Future Ted’s narration…
Meanwhile, Robin and Lily have their own silly shtick — Robin gradually reveals (over the course of 17 years, which we see through flash-forwards) to Lily that when asked to watch young Marvin for a few minutes while Lily chases after a bus, she actually let the baby roll into the street in his carriage, took him to a strip club, and had Mike Tyson (appearing as himself) watch him while she went to the bathroom. But in the end, there’s a sentimental element to the story, tied to Robin overcoming hear fears and finally holding Marvin for the very first time… which, when you think about the fact that she’ll never have kids, is a little bit bittersweet. But we can focus on the happy.
For the second time in two weeks, we get a HIMYM that revives our affection for the show. Sure, it might not be up to snuff of the glory days. Sure, it might not have the most progressive mentalities at its disposal. But what the hell — we laugh. And that’s what we want from this program.
[Photo Credit: CBS]
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.
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