CBS reruns HIMYM's Slap Bet episode tonight
Tonight, CBS will rerun what I thought was the funniest half-hour of TV in 2006: the "Slap Bet" episode of How I Met Your Mother. I'm not the only one who thought the episode was a high point of the 2006-07 television season, though: The Boston Globe thought it was the 2nd best episode of any show that aired in 2006. And Alan Sepinwall of the Newark Star-Ledger felt at the time that HIMYM made what he called "The Leap" after that episode, meaning that the ep had propelled the show to a higher quality level (though, like me, he later realized that it was more of a "high-water mark." And, also like me, he fell into the trap of comparing subsequent episodes to it).
What made the episode so great?
The main reason is that it had equally strong A and B plots. Either the "slap bet" and "Robin Sparkles" plots could have carried an episode on its own. But putting them together and integrating them like they did made for an episode where there were no dead spots. Of course, the finishing touch of the song and video for "Let's Go to the Mall," with the requisite jokes about how the '80s didn't come to Canada until the mid-'90s, was like the cherry on top of the sundae.
Also -- and god bless Carter Bays and Craig Thomas for this -- good old-fashioned physical comedy is still hilariously funny if done correctly. Jason Segel's exaggerated wind up before he slapped Neil Patrick Harris, paired with Harris' pratfall of a reaction, made what would have been chuckle-worthy on other shows into a laugh-out-loud moment on Mother. And NPH's comeback, with his short, staccato slaps, were equally inspired, as was Segel's sobbing reaction. I'm not sure if they had to do extensive choreography to get these results or it was all on the actors' shoulders, but however they got there, the outcome was worth the effort.
Even some of the small references in the episode made me smile: the reference to Willowbrook, my childhood mall, Marshall's fear of Sasquatch, Robin's fake story about her Canadian marriage. And, of course, the prospect that Barney is due five (now three) slaps that can come any time during the run of the series makes for a very satisfying inside joke for the die-hard fans.
Anyway, enough of my gushing. Turn on CBS tonight at 8 and see for yourself. If I were you I'd mark this one "Save Until I Delete" on the TiVo. It's that good.