9
Nov
2009
How I Met Your Mother: Season 5, Episode 7
Rough Patch
Jordan
Two words describe the failure of tonight's How I Met Your Mother: Fat suit. As far back as I can remember, it has never been funny to put someone into a fat suit, and "Rough Patch" is no exception. I spoke last week about being nearly ready to declare the show in a slump, and this week proved it: Seven episodes in to Season Five, How I Met Your Mother has hit its very own rough patch. This season so far has been spent mangling the very promising Barney and Robin plotline, mashing Lily and Marshall into an inseparable mass of bored couple-related stories, and basically forgetting that Ted, the series protagonist and emotional center, even exists.

For the seventh straight episode the show harped on Barney and Robin's relationship and how it just doesn't work. Needless to say making that pairing the center of the show for seven episodes would lead to fatigue regardless, but I feel the blame for this tattered storyline lies with the writers. In Season Two, when Ted and Robin were together for 20 episodes straight (recall they broke up weeks before the wedding but kept it a secret until after Marshall and Lily left on their honeymoon) they were rarely the center storyline for an episode, and their relationship never took center stage for a stretch of episodes like these last several. Barney and Robin would work fine together if the writers would just leave them alone for a while and let them date in the background of some other interesting and funny storylines. Pushing them to the front has put too much pressure on their coupling to produce the conflict the show thinks it needs, and that pressure has caused them to buckle.

I have always been (since Season One when Robin and Barney Bro'd out together) a big fan of the Robin and Barney pairing, and I continue to think they make a perfect match, but even I breathed a sigh of relief tonight when I found out they had broken up. Finally the series will get a chance to focus on something else, like, say, how Ted meets the mother of his future children, for example. The fact that Barney and Robin's break-up was disappointing shouldn't be at all surprising"”the writer's have bungled their entire relationship to this point, so they might as well mess up its end as well.

It all begins with Barney giving up his porn collection, which gives us another opportunity to be reminded that the only character trait Lily has ever been able to hold onto is her eternal horniness, and ends with a solid idea for a callback in Lily "coming out of retirement" as a relationship killer to break the duo up. On paper her plan is hilarious: It involves Alan Thicke, an ex of Barney's simply known as Crazy Meg, a storm trooper, and a waiter with dirty dishes. Were the show firing on all cylinders, this would have provided a classic episode with cut aways, mix ups, and general hilarity as the plan was put into action. Instead we are left to watch Ted, Marshall, and Lily sit in a station wagon (the van was too expensive to rent, because tonight Ted is cheap) argue over whether storm troopers are robots (again, funny in theory but flat in practice) and snipe with Alan Thicke and the Lost in Space robot that arrived in place of a storm trooper.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly where this episode failed, except to say that somewhere en route, the show forgot that its supposed to be funny. I chuckled sparingly tonight, and was not even saddened by the breakup of a couple I have been rooting for since the show began. If How I Met Your Mother doesn't provide any laughs, and doesn't tug at my heart strings, I'm not really sure what it's supposed to be doing. "Rough Patch" easily makes my top five worst HIMYM episodes of all time list, and is likely a contender for the Worst Episode Ever title. Even the best players in any sport are bound to hit a slump at some point if their career goes on long enough, and this show is certainly one of the best comedies on television in the last several years.

So how does it climb out of the hole it's been digging and claw its way back to the top? The show needs to go back to the basics and remember what made it great in the first place. Everyone who has been watching from the beginning is still here because (whether or not you're a big Ted fan, as I, for the record, am) they are deeply invested in the master-plot of how Ted meets his perfect woman. Remember that most, if not all episodes of the show should at least reference this quest, and that if there are no more developments to Ted's character along his road to meet the mother it is time for the series to wind down and get to the big reveal. Remember that the classic episodes of the show play with time, either by being told in a non-linear fashion or relying on flashbacks. Remember that strong continuity breeds loyalty among the fans and reassures us that the writers are on their toes (little call backs like "Murder Train" are gravy, but can we not throw in character traits like Ted's thriftiness randomly with little precedence?). And, for the love of god, remember the laughs. With all of that in mind, I remain hopeful that How I Met Your Mother can get out of its slump and turn this season around yet.

Grade: C-

Notes:

-"It was Legend"¦wait for it"¦s of the fall. Legends of the Fall! It was ok." One of the few laugh lines of the night.

-The other big laugh came from the gag at the end where Alan Thicke references a short lived variety show he did with Robin Sparkles, chuckling "Imagine if anyone ever got their hands on that!" Barney then proceeds to turn and run out of the bar.

-I like the idea that stakeouts must be held in vans and Lily's assertion that Storm Troopers were robots in theory, but neither led to many laughs. I did like her horror at realizing that actual people died when they blew up the Death Star, and Marshall's retort, "it was called the Death Star baby, they knew what they were getting into" though even that felt a bit too derivative of Clerks.
Tags: How I Met Your Mother
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