I don’t like referring to myself as a “fan” of anything. The word leaves a bad taste in my mouth; it suggests a kind of mindless devotion that doesn’t leave room for noticing any shortcomings in the subject of one’s devotion – The legions of Twilight fans immediately spring to mind. However, if being a fan means to regularly watch, re-watch, and enjoy a show for a period of years, then I can call myself a fan of How I Met Your Mother. The show has had its high and low points, and I must admit that during season 5 I was among the critics of the show who said it’s losing momentum and maybe it’s time to wrap this thing up already. Upon re-viewing the season for this review, my position, though unchanged for the most part, has softened a bit.
For those unfamiliar with the show, How I Met Your Mother is a hold-out sitcom of a bygone era in a way; it’s among the last of the old three-camera, laugh-track sitcoms, yet it manages to inject fresh ideas and some edge into the old horse now and again. It has consistently found original ways to tell its stories and continues to utilize its greatest strength, a superb comedy ensemble.
How I Met Your Mother is centered on the character of Ted (Josh Radnor), a young New York architect, and his circle of friends, college sweethearts now married couple Marshall and Lily (Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan), late night news anchor Robin (Cobie Smulders), and power-suit wearing ladies man Barney (Neil Patrick Harris). When the show began, most episodes began and ended with an older Ted (in voice over provided by an uncredited Bob Saget) telling his two bored-looking teenage kids the story of how he met their mother. Each episode was basically a flashback, telling a story about some revelation the characters have, or a lesson learned, and the first few seasons managed to keep to this format, creating a rich backstory that the writers continue to mine successfully in episodes like “Duel Citizenship” and “Robin 101”.
The main problem with the show lately is that, while still funny, it’s relying more and more on whacky premises and bizarre behavior from its characters. The show’s core conceit of the dad sharing the story with his kids has been largely discarded (mainly because the show is now a hit and the network wants to drag this thing out until the bitter end), which is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as they find ways to move the stories and characters along in some way.
As I see it, How I Met Your Mother has two major problems that need to be overcome to maintain its momentum. The first is that it became quite obvious in season 4 that the producers have no interest in pursuing the story of how Ted meets his wife for fear of killing the hen that’s laying the golden eggs. As a result, the show often feels rudderless and at times, even desperate. The best thing that could happen to this show right now is for the writers to, Lost-like, announce an end date. Heck, the date doesn’t even have to be the end of the show. They could probably drag a few more seasons out of the courtship and early years of Ted’s marriage to the mystery lady.
The other big problem is that the show sometimes falls into the “Aren’t we awesome” trap. You know what I mean: they get successful, assume the viewers are all clamoring for them to showcase their other talents, and so we end up with, for example, lavish musical numbers. Yes, Neil Patrick Harris is a wonderful musical performer, I suppose, but the 100th episode’s big musical number just came across like one of those high school productions where the cast is having way more fun than the audience.
While season 5 may have more than its share of unexceptional episodes, there are several standouts, including some I’ve already mentioned, as well as episodes such as “Robots vs. Wrestlers” and “The Wedding Bride”. In fact, on the second viewing of the season, it seems that within one or two episodes of the writers giving their collective heads a shake and aborting the phenomenally misguided ‘Robin and Barney as a couple’ story arc, things improve and the show starts finding its feet again. Let’s hope they can keep it up in season 6.
How I Met Your Mother: Season 5 is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen. The transfer is fine but there’s nothing remarkable about it, with evident grain showing all too often, along with the occasional compression artifact. This is probably due to the decision to jam twenty-four episodes, and extras, onto a mere three discs.
The package’s audio is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital, with subtitles available in Spanish, French, and Mandarin. The audio is, for the most part, adequate, with a full sound and clean, easy to follow dialogue. Once again, however, the rear channels are underused, and by that I mean not used at all.
The set also contains three commentaries, on the episodes “Duel Citizenship”, “Girls vs. Suits”, and “The Perfect Week”. The best of the three is “Duel Citizenship”, which features Cobie Smulders and Chuck Tatham, the episode’s writer. Both are Canadian and their observations on the Canadian aspects of the show in general and the specific episode (it’s about Canadian Robin’s decision on whether to become a US citizen) are both funny and illuminating. The commentary on “Girls vs. Suits” is also quite good, but seems to spend too much time discussing the big musical number.
Bloopers (8:56): A standard blooper reel, and pretty funny for the most part.
Music Videos (6:58): Just in case you can’t get enough of the cast singing and dancing their brains out, the season’s three musical numbers are featured here to watch again and again.
Making of Super Date (2:27): And in case your hunger for musical numbers just cannot be sated, here is an up close and personal presentation of Super Date, with behind the scenes footage.
Wedding Bride Trailer – Extended Edition (2:02): The full trailer for the movie in the episode of the same name. This one is quite funny.
Behind the Scenes of the 100th Episode (8:37): A standard behind the scenes featurette about the 100th episode, with the emphasis on the making of the lavish musical number.
Series Recap (2:41): This is a song sung from Ted’s daughter’s point of view, about how bored she is with this story and recapping, in broad strokes, all the stuff she’s had to hear so far. Though it doesn’t work as an actual series recap, fans will enjoy the numerous references to the shows many highlights and catch-phrases.
While not the best season of the series, How I Met Your Mother: Season 5 has much to offer fans as well as those new to the show. The show maintains the funny, even if it sometimes flounders and has lost its sense of direction. And though I’ve heard some people say it jumps the shark in Season 5, I would disagree; I can sense it eyeing that black leather jacket and those water skis, but it hasn’t gotten in the water yet. Season 6 will be a turning point in that regard. As for this set, it is definitely worth a purchase for fans. For newcomers, while still fun and enjoyable, the show rewards long-time viewership, so I would suggest giving Season 1 a try first.