Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: "Bedtime Stories"

Quick Review: If this episode is viewing that you will be choosing, then you'll find it funny, clever, witty, and amusing.

Episode Synopsis: To get his restless son to go to sleep, Marshall tells him three tales in rhyme: "Mosby at the Bat," "Robin Takes the Cake" and "Barney Stinson, Player King of New York City." -tvguide

Spoilers lurk below, so beware before proceeding
Let this spoiler warning be a caution you are heeding
Once read, this information gets quite lodged into your brain
It will never go away, alas those memories will remain
So please, good reader, take a moment, think before you leap
You may think you don't care now, but later you might weep.

Full Review: I'm a sucker for rhyme. (I do it all the time.) So this episode hit that sweet spot for me. This show often has a go big or go home philosophy with its theme episodes, and it paid off big time with this gem. They actually wrote an episode in verse, and I possibly because someone bet them they couldn't. (Challenge Accepted!) While we didn't get any Mother or any wedding development at all, that didn't matter for this one-off. It was a funny, and welcome, break from the norm.

While it won't work every time, occasionally breaking an episode up into short vignettes is very effective. Rather than have three separate plots running simultaneously, we get one complete story in a much shorter amount of time. It's what The Simpsons does every year for Halloween, and I've seen it used on Futurama, Frasier, and Malcolm in the Middle. When done well we feel like we got three episodes packed into one.

Each of these three stories worked well, but only because of the rhyming. They wouldn't have been nearly as effective without, and I wonder if some of them were abandoned plot ideas brought they brought back. After all, an episode about Robin eating a wedding cake and doing a keg-stand wouldn't be that interesting. Putting it to rhyme makes it a lot more interesting, especially when told as a children's nursery rhyme. 

The reason the rhymes added to these stories is how rhyming and humor go hand in hand. When listening to the first line of a verse, you can predict what the second line will say. At the same time, a good punchline rhyme (punchrhyme?) will fit the rhnyme scheme but also be unexpected. Humor that plays by the rules and also surprises you is very satisfying. Take the ending to Robin's story:

"And now that night's remembered not for Robin getting dumped
But as the night we took her in to get her stomach pumped."

The stomach pumping might not be so funny. But stating it in rhyme adds that unexpected twist, while remaining true to the verse. A lot of the humor from tonight's episode came from very expertly executed rhymes, and I commend the show for it. True, a few of the rhyme schemes didn't quite work, but those were few and far between. Most of them were spot on.

We also got to see the show use it's time-flexible narration to get away from The Wedding for a week and put our gang back into their old wacky hijinks. After all, it wouldn't be How I Met Your Mother without Ted striking out or Barney telling a crazy story about how he and his doppelgangers have divided New York.

Like many of us as time moves on, we often look back at our crazy adventures from years ago with nostalgic fondness. In fact, that's probably one reason Ted's taking so long to finish his story, he's relishing all his pre-Mother memories. I especially appreciated the meta-commentary about telling inappropriate stories to children. The flashforward to Ted's kids, with him admitting "I guess he had a point," was perfect.

It makes sense that the show, on it's final season, would also wax nostalgic about the crazy antics from years past, especially since we're about to move ahead into some very big changes for everyone. Sometimes you need a palate cleanser before taking the next big move forward, and this show does that quite well. I can see the show-runners fearing that will will start getting sick of The Wedding and want a short break. It's a smart move, provided we get back to our regularly scheduled program next week.

While this episode was mostly filler, it did set up Marshall being almost reunited with Lily, and what will surely be the fight to end all fights. It also set up another plot - Marshall's epic five mile walk to Farhampton. Can't wait to see what happens there.

So overall, a fantastic and fun episode, definitely one of this season's best. Keep up the good work.

Episode Breakdown

Best Rhyme: "I think that's all of them." Hey now, no need to be discordant." "It's Rocky IV" "No III" "No II" "It's really not important."

Five Most Regretted Words: "I can walk that far."

Best Maniacal Laugh: Barney, channeling his inner Doctor Horrible.

Best Callback: James Van Der Beek as Simon. He's a sucker for a jacuzz.

Best Sagat Narration: "And that kids, is the very first thing, your cousin Marvin remembers."


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