Introducing the How I Met You Mother Shame Index

Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 22 2009 12:44 PM

Introducing the How I Met You Mother Shame Index

How I Met Your Mother , which entered its fifth season last night on CBS, resembles Friends in its outlines. Both sitcoms follow a group of young men and women coming of age in New York City. But there's also something similar in the experience of being a fan of the two shows—namely, a suspicion that it might be cooler not to be a fan. There's no shame in admitting that you spent a night watching Seinfeld reruns— Ooh, which ones?  goes the response. With Friends , a certain sheepishness attaches. What did you do last night? Um, caught this great episode of Friends on TBS, where Ross and Rachel ... Never mind.

Being a fan of HIMYM is a bit like that, and not without reason. While the show boasts one of the best characters on any current sitcom—Neil Patrick Harris' rightly celebrated Barney Stinson—it also features one of the most frustrating: Josh Radnor's Ted Mosby, whose painfully earnest pursuit of true love can bog down an otherwise rip-roaring episode full of ribald wordplay and hysterical gags . At its best, the show is funny and heartwarming; at its worst, plain sappy. To help fans decide whether to don their MacLaren's T-shirts or keep their love undercover like Barney and Robin, Brow Beat is inaugurating a new feature, The HIMYM Shame Index. Each week, we'll enumerate the latest episode's great moments and its embarrassing ones and decide whether Mother has made us proud.

Shameful:

—Robin's use of the tired phrase " slow your roll ."

—The endless talk about "the talk."

—The episode's persistent use of Vampire Weekend's "Oxford Comma"; HIMYM 's creators seem to have a soft spot for indie rock, and while in the past they've been known to underscore a broken heart (Ted's, natch) with an apt Pavement track , this felt like a reach for hipness.

—Ted's lame dream sequence. Really, the forgot-to-wear-pants thing? You're better than that, HIMYM .

Awesome:

—Marshall chiding Lily for not using her "indoor 'woo!' " Adorable.

—Barney and Robin's use of flugelhorn as a code word for when things have gone too far in bed or, later, in their fledgling relationship.

—Barney's disdain for brunch.

—"T-Dog, you're in the wrong room bro." And just about the whole scene in the economics classroom— HIMYM is at its best when it's playing Ted's earnestness for laughs. His uncertainty about how to spell professor was particularly amusing.

—Marshall's unilateral declaration of Tuxedo Night. "Didn't we meet on a yacht?"

All in all, more to be proud about than ashamed of in this episode, plus some very good signs for the rest of the season: The Robin and Barney plotline shows promise, and Cobie Smulders and Alyson Hannigan are no longer hiding obvious pregnancies behind flouncy tops and preposterously large handbags.

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John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

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