TV Review: CBS’ ‘How I Met Your Mother’

Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have churned out yet another superb season premiere, their fourth, of How I Met Your Mother (airing Sept. 22 at 8:30/7:30c on CBS), with one minor hitch: To explain anything at length about the episode is to walk a spoiler-alert tightrope!

HIMYM fans–of which there are far too few–can probably find out all the details through a rather cursory Google search if they so desire, but in the interest of preserving a little season-premiere excitement, I’ll refrain from spoiling.

I will say this, however: There are two major developments in the season premiere–and they don’t involve the identity of the title “mother” or Britney Spears, who will apparently not be returning after her multi-episode stint last season.

Here’s what’s been going on with the group since we last saw them, in the paraphrased words of Ted (Josh Radnor): Marshall (Jason Segel) is coping with unemployment while getting on everyone else’s nerves; Lilly (Alyson Hannigan) has thrown herself into her painting; Robin (Cobie Smulders) is still upholding the very low standards of Metro News 1; and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) has almost fully recovered from the bus accident we saw in the season-three finale, but something’s definitely not right about him since the injury.

And oh, right–Ted! Last season ended with him proposing to Stella (ScrubsSarah Chalke), whose decision we finally learn tonight.

That two momentous revelations are unveiled in this episode are reason enough to watch; typically the show would drag such developments out for the whole season and save their resolutions (or dissolutions) for the season finale.

It’s an encouraging sign. It’s also encouraging to see that nothing much has changed from a top-notch season three: Co-creators Bays and Thomas (both former Late Show with David Letterman staff writers) find the humor amidst the drama that is yuppie living–and they do so, in my opinion and probably only my opinion, better than Friends used to.

Of course, the acting doesn’t hurt. Harris makes his womanizing Barney hard to stay grossed-out at, mostly because Harris doesn’t take him so far into sitcom-character land that it’s impossible to believe when he comes back to reality. It’s just one reason he was nominated for an Emmy, and should absolutely win.

The rest of the actors excel at being relatable–and hilarious. Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), whose big-screen career is taking off, seems to strike that balance best, but everyone else is right there with him. As for Radnor…we all know a Ted Mosby, and that’s thanks to him as much as to the writing.

Bottom line: As far as straightaway, network-television-y sitcoms go, How I Met Your Mother remains arguably the best of the dying breed.

Grade: A-