How I Met Your Mother - Bad News
When I first started this list (which began as a Top Ten list, naturally, before swelling to include other shows I felt I couldn’t leave out), it seemed that HIMYM was going to be left out in the cold entirely. The show had been in a narrative slump for so long that I seemed unlikely I’d find an episode strong enough to make the list. And then I remembered the multi-episode stretch at the end of last season where Marshall dealt with his father’s death, and I relented.
The episode was helped (immeasurably) by Neil Patrick Harris playing an extra role: that of his German obstetrician doppelganger, the doctor helping Marshall and Lily with their infertility issues (the sight of Barney with a beard and a German accent is irresistible). But it also featured Ted in his strongest role – encouraging supporter, as opposed to douchy lead (lotta douche-Ted the past few years).
More memorably, this episode was framed by an intriguing (if distracting) visual metaphor. The show started with the number 50 visibly displayed on a pamphlet on the desk of the doctor’s office the show’s opening scene started in. As the show moved along, numbers appeared throughout the episode in various creative locations (i.e., an ad for 45¢ wings, Ted holding a book that said “The 40 Greatest Buildings In America”, the lotto numbers appearing on TV screens behind Robin), always counting inexorably down to zero.
By the time the countdown finished, I was keyed up to see what exactly the big reveal would be. Since the episode was focused on Marshall and Lily’s infertility problems, all signs seemed to point to a big pronouncement one way or another. But instead, the show pulls the rug – Lily arrives at the bar to tell Marshall his father’s gone. As Jason Segel falls weeping into his wife’s arms, his repeated pronouncement – “I’m not ready, I’m not ready” – left me abruptly misty. Segel proved surprisingly up to the acting challenge that followed, his most interesting balance of humor and drama since Nick Andopolis.
HIMYM, it seems, hasn’t lost its fastball, its just forgotten how best to use it – see the mess that was all of the Jennifer Morrison episodes from last year, or the more recent, insulting rug pull that was Robin’s revelation that the children she was relating her story to in voiceover existed only in her head. A dose of reality is necessary in a good sitcom, but HIMYM shouldn’t forget we’re also here to watch Barney put on a beard to try to pass himself off as a German doctor, too.
I could not find anything to embed for this episode, so instead, let's go back to HIMYM's heyday. Let's go the mall, everybody!