The How I Met Your Mother Shame Index: Episode 2

Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 29 2009 9:47 AM

The How I Met Your Mother Shame Index: Episode 2

In last week's inaugural How I Met Your Mother Shame Index , I tried to capture the powerful feeling of disappointment the sitcom can inspire in even its most committed fans. More often than not, the show is great fun, but when it misses the mark, it can miss widely, inspiring feelings of embarrassment: I made an appointment for this television? Last night's episode was full of such misses.

Shameful:

—The central conceit: That in 2009, Ted is unwittingly repeating a blind date he went on in 2002. A healthy willingness to suspend disbelief is required to appreciate HIMYM , but this strained credulity too far. At first, Ted and Jen don't remember each other at all. But once they realize they've been on this date before, a series of very specific details come right back to them. Plus, we know of several women that Ted has dated for long stretches between '02 and '09—Robin, Stella, Victoria. How many one-and-done dates has he really been on during that time frame? Barney would have forgotten this woman during his cab ride home, but not Ted.

—The cheap moral of the repeat blind date: Ted realizes he wants to hold out for a woman who does find his shellfish joke funny. Making us all a little less interested in finding out who the mother is.

—Ted and Jane watching two rotund people have sex from Ted's rooftop—a blatant rip-off of the old Ugly Naked Guy routine from Friends .

—The strip club that Barney takes Marshall to. This is CBS, not HBO, but even by network standards this joint was unconvincing. It was lit like a dentist's office.

—The gang's doppelgänger . Close call: This had the feel of a great HIMYM bit, but it didn't quite deliver. Making Robin butch wasn't a wild enough leap—she's already got a butch, hockey-loving side. Stripper Lily could have been amusing, but wasn't: The closing bit, in which Alyson Hannigan tries out an Eastern European accent, was embarrassing for everyone. Mustache Marshall—aka Senor Justicia—was admittedly kind of great.

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Awesome:

—2002 Ted's goatee. HIMYM has always done an impressive job of using hair and/or facial hair to mock its characters' former selves. Though this is also a gag that was perfected by Friends .

—Barney's use of the (annual) "Origins of Chewbacca" exhibit to lure Marshall—and previously Ted—on adventures.

—Marshall's inability to fantasize about women other than Lily unless he first imagines that she has succumbed to a chronic disease. This was the rare instance when dragging the joke out made it more funny, not less. When Lily referred to "that busty delivery girl from that one time" it was amusing; when the priest at her funeral repeated it, it was hilarious.

Is it too early to worry that the Barney and Robin relationship is going to do harm to HIMYM ? There was a conspicuous drop in awesome Barney moments this episode. Let's hope it was a fluke.

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John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.